Letters To The Editor


September 21, 2004

Malpractice crisis extends beyond a few bad doctors

I strongly agree with the main premise of the editorial "To fee or not to fee" (Sept. 14) that the current medical malpractice crisis cannot and should not be solved by imposing a tax (by any other name) on the citizens of Maryland.

However, I must take issue with the statement that "Doctors (and their Republican backers) want tort reform; lawyers (and a lot of Democrats) want to see bad doctors put out of business."

First, those who support revocation or suspension (with mandatory retraining) of the medical licenses of truly bad doctors are not limited to lawyers or members of one political party and, in fact, include most competent doctors.

Second, although those opposed to serious reform of the tort system - which is incredibly lucrative for lawyers and costly to most everyone else - would like us to believe that most medical malpractice is committed by a small fraction of incompetent doctors, statistics show this is not the case.

According to Medical Mutual, the leading provider of medical malpractice insurance to Maryland doctors, more than 90 percent of the money paid to plaintiffs and their lawyers in medical malpractice lawsuits from 1993 to 2002 was paid on behalf of doctors who had no more than two damage awards during this period.

Dr. Mark Haas


Proud to be black, not `African-American'

Kudos to John McWhorter for his informative, accurate column "Call me `Black'" (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 14). I agree wholeheartedly with his reasoning for why black Americans should not label ourselves "African-Americans."

Indeed, on every document on which I've had to check my race, I write in "black." I do not check African-American.

For generations, black Americans have not been connected with the African continent, and many Africans have no connection and want no connection with black Americans. The phrase James Brown coined, "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud," should be our battle cry.

Grace Y. Jones


Hurricanes peaked several decades ago

Global warming is often named as a possible cause for the occurrence of severe weather events such as Hurricane Ivan ("Ivan the Ordinary," editorial, Sept. 15) As a climate researcher, I wish to point out two misconceptions.

First is the erroneous claim that hurricane intensity or frequency has risen significantly in recent decades in response to global warming. The National Hurricane Center reports that in the last century, the decade with the largest number of hurricane strikes in the United States was the 1940s, with a decline since that time.

Second is the claim that a future surface warming trend would lead to more frequent and stronger storms.

In the past, warmer periods have seen a decline in the number and severity of storms. This is well-documented in scientific journals for data extending back centuries or even millennia. If the surface temperature of the planet rises further in the future, it is likely that these declines will continue.

Rather than blaming global warming for such storms - a theory for which there is little supporting meteorological evidence - an emphasis on emergency preparedness and further storm research would be a constructive response to deal with future disasters.

George Taylor

Corvallis, Ore.

The writer is Oregon's state climatologist.

Don't blame warming for ordinary storms

It was disappointing to see The Sun's editorial page try to connect the current hurricane outbreak with global warming ("Ivan the Ordinary," editorial, Sept. 15).

Those who study hurricanes at the National Hurricane Center have stated that global warming has nothing to do with the greater number of storms this year. The current upswing in hurricane activity began in 1995 and may continue for another 20 years. This cycle has repeated itself over and over as far back as hurricanes have been tracked.

Certainly we need to change our ways to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases in the future. But for now, many in the scientific community disagree about the severity of global warming.

Let's not go blaming weather events on this phenomenon when it has nothing to do with them.

Michael Summers


New regulations fit the MTBE problem

The Sun's characterization of the strict new regulations to prevent MTBE and other gasoline additives from getting into the ground water as "an inadequate halfway measure" missed the point ("Subsidizing polluters," editorial, Sept. 9). The regulations that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. ordered are essential if we want to keep MTBE and other gasoline additives out of family wells.

The emergency regulations, which could take effect as early as October, will, among other things, require more frequent and more thorough testing of gasoline storage tanks.

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