- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

Stop funding 'fake diseases'

If retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf is serious about wanting to help people with real diseases, then he would begin by pressuring lawmakers into cutting the federal funding of research on, and putative treatment of, fake diseases ("Operation NIH funding," Op-Ed, Thursday). The American people have been bamboozled into believing that addiction and mental illness are literal rather than metaphorical diseases. Psychiatrists and other members of the mental "health" profession are responsible for this, which has been done in the name of caring for people. What they really care about is their federally funded salaries.

Cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease, AIDS, etc. these are real diseases. They meet the nosological criteria for disease classification. Addiction and mental illnesses are fake diseases. They are not included in standard textbooks on pathology because they do not meet the nosological criteria for disease classification. Diseases are physical. Behavior refers to something that people do. Labeling bad behavior a disease and equating it with physical disease is illogical, unscientific and cruel to people who have real diseases.

A good way to help people with real diseases is by eliminating the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The money saved could be used to help people with real diseases.


JEFFREY A. SCHALER

Silver Spring

Roasting Blackstone's chestnut

Paul Craig Roberts throws out the old chestnut of William Blackstone to justify Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan's emptying of death row: It's better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent be imprisoned ("When convictions are mistaken," Commentary, Tuesday). Such reasoning ignores the consequences of subjecting innocents to the depredations of the 10 guilty men freed along with the one, possibly innocent man.

Let's see: One innocent man freed plus 10 guilty plus, say, 100 or so innocent victims of the 10 guilty freed men. That sounds like a poor bargain for the innocent. Obviously Blackstone, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Ryan were not "A" students in math. If one accepts Blackstone's dictum, can one justify imprisoning, let alone executing, anyone?

Mr. Ryan fancies his Solomonic (sophomoric is more like it) wisdom surpasses the cumulative wisdom of the 160 or so juries that convicted the criminals whose death sentences he commuted. Sadly, such vanity is easily manipulated by advocates for the devil's spawn currently behind bars.

If one believes in God, as Mr. Ryan says he does, how can one justify to God one's willingness to fight the devil's fight by helping evil ones avoid their punishment? This punishment was earned for inflicting harm on others, behavior that would continue affecting fellow prisoners and prison guards should they be allowed to live.

If someone believes that innocent men are behind bars, then the proper solution is to form an agency to investigate cases after sentencing in order to reduce the ratio of innocents to guilty. A person who says he is wrongly convicted could apply for the agency's help after signing a waiver prohibiting use of any loophole or evidence found that does not clearly prove innocence. This stipulation would be needed because such an agency should not be used to free the guilty on technicalities.


FRANK COLONGALLARDO

Annandale

When tort court is the only option

There are major problems with the argument that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is the proper place for autism-thimerosal cases, as contended in "Trial lawyers, special interests and vaccines" (Editorial, Friday).

For starters, VICP is oriented toward acute and obvious events occurring within a very short time after vaccination hours or days and makes little or no allowance for chronic effects that may take years to manifest, such as autism. VICP also pre-empts state and federal statutes of limitations for minors, imposing a strict three-year limit from date of injury on claims, not from date of discovery of injury or discovery of causation.

With the average age of diagnosis for late-onset autism being 43 months and injury presumably occurring in the first year of life with the multiple vaccinations required by the government, most of the children affected are already "timed out" from VICP by the three-year limit before they're even diagnosed, leaving the courts as their only recourse.

By forcing all such cases into VICP, the Eli Lilly and Co. liability waivers in the Homeland Security bill effectively denied tens of thousands of autistic children outside the three-year limit any chance to be heard, no matter what evidence of causation may exist or be discovered in the future, simply by nullifying statutes of limitations for minors and extinguishing current suits. Not exactly a big endorsement of states' rights under the 10th Amendment.

VICP itself is a program that cries out for major reform. Far from being the "no-fault" system it was created to be, VICP has become as difficult to negotiate and, if possible, even more adversarial than the court system, as it is run by bureaucratic fiat, depriving claimants of many of the protections and options they have in tort court.

For example, VICP does not allow any exemplary compensation for the damages suffered by the families of the injured, such as parent's wages lost due to the intensive one-on-one care required by autistic children, or the grief and suffering they experience due to their child's condition.

In addition, if a claim is denied by VICP, then subsequent court claims can only be paid for damages that VICP would have awarded had the claim been accepted once again, no exemplary or punitive awards are permitted.

VICP may be a great way to shield pharmaceutical companies from liability and damages, but it does a lousy job of compensating victims and their families and no job whatsoever of punishing intentional negligence on the part of pharmaceutical companies.

"Proving" in a scientific sense (as compared to the obvious sense) the causation mechanism between thimerosal exposure and autism might take decades, by which time all the children injured in the 1990s will be long past even the most lenient statutes for filing claims. The causation mechanism for thalidomide took decades to establish in the scientific sense, even though both the damage and the cause were obvious, just as the accumulating evidence seems to indicate with thimerosal and autism. Demanding these families "wait for proof" in that sense is to simply say, "Sucker. Too bad, so sad, too late now, the statute's run."

It would be wonderful if we had a mechanism for handling the obvious problems with the situation as it stands, but unless there is sweeping reform of VICP including an expanded filing period and a "look-back" provision to include newly discovered causation of injuries and some mechanism to compensate the secondary victims of these injuries then tort court is the only option available for the vast majority of these children and their families.

Dismissing their claims and simply throwing them out in the cold, as the VICP filing limits and the Eli Lilly liability exemptions do, is not an acceptable answer in a civilized society.

Those who think that "homeland security" somehow requires that we abandon and discard thousands of injured children and their families in order to keep drug companies happy should heed the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," and the obvious corollary, "And neither will he receive either."


STEVEN D. ROBERTS

Wichita, Kan.

Mean streets

As a resident living on Porter Street in Cleveland Park, I am angered to know police are ticketing my neighbors who do not turn their wheels the correct way ("D.C. police ticket vehicles on hilly streets," Page 1, yesterday). In recent weeks, Porter Street has been plagued by thieves stealing the wheels of certain car models, including my own (a Honda Accord). The bandits have not stopped at taking the wheels: Close to 10 times in the last two months,reports have been filed with the police for smashed windows and stolen car stereos.

What the police need to do is catch the criminals who stole my wheels and the wheels of my neighbors, not give tickets to those who still have wheels.


TARYN HOUGHTON

Washington


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