November 22, 2008

Clergy must work with new president

I was deeply disappointed to hear some of the statements coming from some members of the Roman Catholic clergy in regard to the election of Barack Obama as president. It was disturbing, for instance, to hear that church members who voted for Mr. Obama have put their quest for eternal salvation in jeopardy, as the archbishop of Kansas City said, or that they should confess their sins, as a parish priest in South Carolina demanded ("Catholic voters' shift," Commentary, Nov. 16).

The sanctity of life is a core principle of the Roman Catholic Church. But we must remember that it applies to both born and unborn.

Since this is the case, I wonder where the clergy's outrage has been on issues of war and poverty. I wonder whether any of these clergymen have demanded that a politician who supported the war in Iraq or policies unfair to the downtrodden be denied communion or asked to confess his or her sins.

Pope John Paul II was clear in his defense of the sanctity of life, and for him that included all life without exceptions; he expressed the same outrage about the death penalty that he did about abortion.

My hope is that the Catholic clergy in the United States will find a way to work with Mr. Obama to ensure that abortion rates are reduced and also that the church will continue to fight and advocate, as it has in the past, for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden.

Nonso Umunna, Baltimore

Insulting to portray Towson as exclusive

After reading Fee Hughes' column "Campaign brings the Towson I've always wanted" (Having Your Say, Nov. 17), I took a stroll through Towson looking for "WASPs" and "miles of blonds."

I couldn't find them, but I think I should win some of the door prizes that Ms. Hughes suggested for spotting minorities.

Oh, yes, I forgot. Since September, when President-elect Barack Obama's headquarters opened in Towson, all that has changed magically, according to Ms. Hughes.

But apparently prior to her volunteering at Mr. Obama's headquarters, Ms. Hughes had never visited East Towson, a historically African-American community. She also must never have walked through Towson Town Center and seen the people from a variety of ethnic groups who shop there.

This lady couldn't be more wrong in her judgment of Towson.

Her remarks are insulting to the community.

Anne McCloskey, Towson

Pharmaceutical firms need single standard

The editorial "Protecting pharmaceuticals" (Nov. 7) misses the point of the doctrine of federal pre-emption of state laws under which, I believe, state courts cannot hold drug manufacturers liable for uses of their product that are consistent with the drug labeling authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Pre-emption is not about immunity for manufacturers or "protecting" them. If drugmakers violate the rules governing the design, manufacturing or labeling of their products, they may be held liable.

Pre-emption is about who makes those rules - multiple juries who are confronted with injured plaintiffs but never see those who benefit from the manufacturers' products, or the FDA's medical and scientific experts, who apply rigorous standards to voluminous data and consider all prospective patients in deciding product by product about the design, manufacturing and labeling of pharmaceuticals.

No human institution is perfect. The FDA generally performs well. If it is underfunded, Congress should increase its funding.

Most significant medical products injure some patients. The pre-emption doctrine protects FDA's expert weighing of therapeutic benefits and risks from the contrary judgments that may be made by juries. It thus gives manufacturers clear standards to meet in continuing to produce medical products that save and enhance our lives.

In the case on which the editorial commented, the FDA had specifically and repeatedly approved cautionary labeling language about the procedure that was used on Diana Levine and resulted in her injury.

There is no good reason why the FDA's focused medical judgment about the benefits and risks of the procedure should be second-guessed by a Vermont jury, or why Wyeth Pharmaceuticals should be liable for what occurred in a doctor's office.

Richard M. Cooper, Washington

The writer is an attorney whose firm represents Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

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