- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

Snake oil

In the Op-Ed column “Punishing the sick” (Saturday), the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow criticizes our government’s opposition to the use of smoked marijuana for medicinal purposes.

However, so-called medical marijuana is really nothing more than a form of snake-oil medicine backed by a $500 billion international drug trafficking industry as a ruse to gain acceptance of marijuana, which serves as bait to lure children into addiction and the subsequent compulsive consumption of the drug traffickers’ lucrative evil products.

Drug legalizers have bragged that they are using the phony issue of medical marijuana as a ploy to promote their larger goal of legalizing all drugs — an idea the Cato Institute also has entertained. Drug-abuse-prevention organizations and their loyal government officials know that endorsement of so-called medical marijuana serves only to water down the anti-drug message heard by America’s schoolchildren who are tempted to smoke marijuana, endangering their own health and the safety of their schoolmates.

More than 50,000 Americans die each year from drug-related causes, including 22,000 directly from overdoses, and it’s common that the drug habits that led to overdose began with a shared joint of marijuana from a schoolmate.

We parents who are drug-abuse-prevention activists fully appreciate and support our government’s efforts to protect our children and families from the massive addiction and death that drugs inflict on our nation. We resent ivory-tower theorists such as Mr. Bandow and his Cato Institute colleagues who appear not to understand the dire need to eliminate drugs and drug-related violence from our childrens’ schools — and from their lives.

If the Cato Institute and Mr. Bandow really want to support medical use of marijuana, they should advocate that it be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for standard approval as medicine. Otherwise, it seems that they are simply supporting junkies and pushers who want full approval of their favorite dope.

DEFOREST RATHBONE

Chairman

National Institute of Citizen Anti-drug Policy

Great Falls

Help is just a click away

I would like to comment on the article “Do-it-yourself diagnosis” (Metropolitan, Tuesday.) The article starts with the case of a 72-year-old woman with long-standing gastrointestinal problems who asked to be tested for celiac disease. The doctor said such a diagnosis wasn’t feasible given her condition, but your article does not provide more detail on why that was the case.

In fact, the National Institutes of Health consensus statement on celiac states that individuals with gastrointestinal symptoms should be tested for celiac disease. It is interesting that your article, which seems critical of “do-it-yourself” diagnoses, leads with a prime example of a disease for which information available on the Internet is more up-to-date than what doctors learned in medical school. Until five years ago, the prevalence of celiac disease was thought to be 1 in 5,000; recent research suggests that the incidence is between 0.5 percent and 1 percent.

Many patients would not have been diagnosed with celiac if not for the information available on the Internet, as the vast majority of doctors are not aware of recent research on the disease. (An anecdotal case: My cousin, a medical student at George Washington University, was taught recently in lecture that celiac disease is so rare that the students would likely never encounter a case in their practices.)

I suggest that you run a follow-up article on cases in which patients were successfully diagnosed with an illness as a result of research conducted on the Internet, after years of doctors being unable to find the cause of the problem. I am certain you will find many celiac patients who fall into this category, as the average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis is 11 years. I personally know of someone who suffered severe GI problems for 35 years before he finally was diagnosed.

DONNA MALAYERI

Pittsburgh

Malpractice impasse

It is distressing to watch our state leadership deadlock on medical liability insurance reform (“Duncan raps malpractice impasse,” Metropolitan, Tuesday) even as physicians continue to make career-altering decisions driven by absurdly high insurance premiums.

Doctors’ liability insurance premiums are due by year’s end. In too many cases, premiums are so unaffordable — approaching $100,000 or even more — that doctors are opting for early retirement, scaling back their care of high-risk patients or leaving medicine (or Maryland) altogether.

Hospitals and the remaining physicians are left to keep an already fragile delivery system intact — trying to find doctors to take high-risk patients; trying to find specialists to provide emergency room coverage; trying to find doctors who can afford to accept patients with Medicaid or with no insurance; and in rural and inner-city communities, trying to keep urgently needed, hard-to-recruit obstetricians and other specialists from leaving.

The issues have been studied. The solutions are known. The task forces have made their recommendations.

There’s consensus that legislative reform with short-term solutions and longer-term comprehensive reforms are needed urgently.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch have it within their power to resolve outstanding issues and call a special General Assembly session immediately.

Action is overdue. Yes, differences remain over a funding source for a program to temporarily control liability insurance rate increases. There’s also a need to assure that there are enough tort-reform components to offer permanent savings.

Yet politics remains the art of compromise. These leaders have years of experience in negotiating political settlements. We need a resolution to this dangerous situation before the holidays so we can avoid further damage to Maryland’s health care system.

That would be the best present the governor, Senate president and House speaker could give our state’s residents this holiday season.

CALVIN M. PIERSON

President

Maryland Hospital Association

Elkridge, Md.

T. MICHAEL PRESTON

Executive director

MedChi

Baltimore

Terrorist-friendly bill

I applaud Frank J. Gaffney Jr. for exposing the truth about the intelligence reform bill (“Deforming intelligence,” Commentary, Tuesday). I believe President Bush dismissed Wisconsin Republican Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr.’s stricter immigration and border security provisions because he is an internationalist who wants wide-open borders even though this policy compromises homeland security. Consequently, the president is signing a hocus-pocus bill that only gives the illusion of a safer country.

Osama bin Laden is the big winner and must be laughing himself silly. His sympathizers can still easily enter our country, obtain driver’s licenses, roam around with impunity and perhaps even vote, all with the blessing of the president and Congress.

The American people should remember the turncoat politicians who helped pass this terrorist-friendly bill. For if another September 11 occurs, Americans then will clearly know whom to blame, and this time there will be no excuses.

MARGARET MORTIMER

Warwick, Pa.

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