Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 20, 2005

Protecting patents as flu menace grows

While it is heartening that the Bush administration is paying attention to the serious likelihood of an avian influenza pandemic ("U.S. official has grim forecast for avian flu," Oct. 16), it is alarming that even in this situation, as in so many others, it apparently puts business first.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt has said that the government opposes suspension of patent rules to enable additional production of Tamiflu, the most effective current treatment.

Money trumps the protection of human life for the Bush administration.

Mr. Leavitt also notes that a vaccine is being developed, and that the government "might help finance some of the $100 million production burden."

Forgive my cynicism, but I personally might do the same thing myself, simply by offering one dollar.

If this isn't a time for serious commitment of government resources, what is?

David Schwartz

Baltimore

The article "U.S. official has grim forecast for avian flu" (Oct 16) is instructive for what it implies about the priorities of the U.S. government.

When an Indian company announced plans to produce generic (and hence cheaper) forms of Tamiflu, one of the most effective defenses against avian flu, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt said the United States supports the laws that bar this practice.

Considering that the government has enough Tamiflu to treat only 4.3 million Americans and that Third World countries are even less prepared, wouldn't the wisest policy be to increase production at the lowest possible cost of the necessary medicine?

Tragically, profits trump human welfare in the brewing avian flu crisis.

Michael Melick

Baltimore

Grim words on flu do us little good

Every time I read or hear a media story on the potential for an outbreak of avian flu, I want to throw something ("U.S. official has grim forecast for avian flu," Oct. 16).

Will someone at some level of government or from a health organization please tell the public how we are going to deal with a flu pandemic if it happens?

According to a subheading in The Sun, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt "says prevention almost impossible." What good is that? That's like saying, "You're stuck on the railroad tracks and there's a train coming that you can't avoid."

All we ever hear from all levels, including the clueless United Nations, seems to be that we have a problem with no solution.

Are we really that stupid, lazy or insensitive? Or all of the above?

Jack Powell

Middle River

High costs, lawyers drive away doctors

Although reporter Julie Bell's article "Symptoms of a doctor shortage" (Oct. 16) was accurate about many of the reasons for doctor shortages, she totally missed some other major issues:

Lawyers and runaway malpractice claims have discouraged private practitioners.

Malpractice insurance premiums are out of sight.

Many of the poor and underprivileged use emergency rooms as their primary care facilities.

Would you want to spend several hundred thousand dollars to study medicine and go through the grueling years of internships and residencies to work a third of the time to pay for your malpractice insurance, then be beat up by some ambulance-chasing attorney?

Frederick B. Peterson

Cockeysville

Perhaps alien race is the `designer'

Based upon the arguments posited by professor Michael Behe in defense of teaching "intelligent design" along with evolution in Pennsylvania schools, I suggest that the unnamed and unseen designer responsible for the those aspects of life he argues cannot be explained by the theory of evolution would be best attributed to alien life ("`Intelligent design' defended," Oct. 18).

That hypothesis would involve no separation-of-church-and-state issues and no teaching of creationism in schools, and - like teaching that the intelligent designer was God - it would be impossible to prove.

Sarah King Scott

Monkton

Accounting rules protect benefits

The new accounting standards described in The Sun's article "New rule may settle fate of state surplus" (Oct. 10) provide the opportunity for the government to ensure health benefits for its citizens and therefore should be adopted immediately.

A fund with the capacity to cover health benefit expenditures for retired public employees should be created because it would provide justice in two senses.

First of all, it would provide liquidity and therefore help guarantee the compensation retirees earned during their working years.

This would help to fulfill the role of the government as the enforcer of contracts, a necessary governmental function in the minimalist state.

Second, the surplus funds would thus be used for the betterment of all society, not merely to subsidize Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s re-election popularity push.

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