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Letters: Dec. 26, 2005

10 minute read

The Year in Medicine

Our year-end overview of the biggest news in medical research and health care drew praise from doctors and patients alike. Some readers let us know about a few breakthroughs we overlooked. Others decried the problems faced by the millions of Americans without health insurance

I enjoyed reading “The Year in Medicine from A to Z” [Dec. 5] and appreciate that valuable update. You missed an opportunity, however, to tell your readers about the minimally invasive technique of carotid stenting for the treatment of carotid-artery blockage. The procedure became available this year, following FDA approval of the devices in 2004. Carotid stenting can be performed in even high-risk patients who are not candidates for surgery. That means perhaps 30% or more of ischemic strokes can be avoided, saving thousands of lives and averting severe physical incapacity. RENAN UFLACKER, M.D. Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Thank you for a solid overview of medical advances that have a high potential for making a significant difference in our lives. Although it is prudent to be aware of medical breakthroughs–particularly vaccines for disease prevention and treatment–it is wiser still to keep in mind that we all have within us the capacity to live fuller and healthier lives. GARY D. GILMORE La Crosse, Wis.

The item on Alzheimer’s, welcome as it was, speaks of patients. But attention must also be paid to the sole at-home caregiver–wife, daughter, husband, son–who copes with years of unceasing care for a loved one, as witness to a kind of death in slow motion. We need to better understand the impact of the relentless pressure on the health of those who attend to Alzheimer’s patients. That should be the subject of serious ongoing research. What is certain is that as people live longer, Alzheimer’s will increasingly dominate our lives. KEITH GLEGG L’Orignal, Ont.

Your article was very comprehensive but failed to mention the biggest problem plaguing the U.S.: our two-tiered health-care system. Although those fortunate enough to have employer-provided health insurance or rich enough to buy it for themselves may benefit from new drugs and technology, there are still 46 million Americans who do not have even basic health insurance. Moreover, it is precisely the new drugs and technology that are driving up the cost of health care, and a lot of that money is going into the pockets of drug-company shareholders. New tools do not necessarily translate into better health. We cannot say we have made true progress in the field of medicine until we fix the appalling inequities of America’s health-care system. ELLEN WU Oakland, Calif.

The entry on marijuana stated “research into the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis bolsters the case for medicinal use of marijuana.” The studies cited, however, involved the use of cannabis extracts and synthetic marijuana chemicals, not smoking pot, as some readers might surmise. The research suggests that there are excellent ways to utilize the active ingredients in marijuana without legalizing another lung-polluting substance. The time has come for the prescription use of cannabis derivatives. TERRY K. KAISER San Diego

I was sorry you didn’t write about intestinal ailments. Was there really nothing new to report about ulcers, Crohn’s disease, irritable-bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis? The stomach and its environs are vitally important, but I guess our plumbing has never made for particularly sexy reading. PHIL GIACALONE St. Petersburg, Fla.

Exit Strategy

RE The implications of withdrawing U.S. military forces from Iraq [Dec. 5]: American troops need to stay in Iraq until that country can take care of itself. U.S. foreign policy helped shape today’s Middle East. If we don’t take responsibility for our past actions and remain to clean up the mess we have made, we’ll have to go back into Iraq to hunt down the next wave of terrorists. God grant that we lose no more soldiers. But let’s not leave before the job is done. MICHAEL MARTINEZ Houston

The average American is simply sick of the U.S.’s spending our money and our young people’s lives for political ideals. What would Americans do if Saddam Hussein or any other world leader believed that Bush was evil and decided to trump up charges to end his term? I’m a Vietnam veteran, and if that happened, I would start making some car bombs. What right do we have to police the world? Iraq is an Arab problem and should be solved by the Arab world. CHARLES DELLING Waterford, Mich.

No matter what happens in Iraq, it won’t end the war on terrorism. We must stay the course in the 21st century, or there will be no 22nd. There is only one way to shorten this war: we must win. We must start thinking about universal service for our young folks. Citizenship simply requires that during wartime, one class of people not be allowed to pile up wealth and power while another makes the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. SGT. MILTON Y. KEITH, U.S.M.C. St. Petersburg, Fla.

It makes no difference when the U.S. leaves Iraq. The genie has been let out of the bottle. The Bush Administration has ensured a supply of terrorists for the next 25 years, extinguished any chance for a secular Iraqi state, potentially destabilized the Middle East and presented the cost in lives, personal freedom and dollars to our grandchildren. MICHAEL L. SCHNEIDER New Haven, Conn.

Border Politics

Thank you for the informative articles on U.S. immigration policy [Dec. 5]. Although I believe the government needs to reform the system, I disagree with the tactics of the Minutemen [the vigilantes who patrol the borders and demonstrate against immigrants at day-labor centers]. Perhaps the Minutemen could better channel their energies by finding U.S. citizens willing to perform the jobs that illegal immigrants are doing and assisting those Americans in getting such jobs. JAMES GATES Lake Worth, Fla.

The idea that there are jobs Americans don’t want to do is touted as a reason for allowing illegal immigrants into the U.S. There are no jobs Americans won’t do–but there are jobs they won’t do for Third World wages–and why should they? Anytime farmers or businessmen say they cannot get Americans to work for them, just ask if they are paying $40,000 a year. President Bush is going to let in as many illegals as he can for two reasons: the people who compete with illegals for jobs and wages don’t vote Republican, and Bush’s friends in business love cheap labor. JOHN MUSTOE Savannah, Ga.

Will the Minutemen work as busbuys, gardeners or nannies? Of course not. Undocumented aliens contribute more to our economy than the sum of benefits they get from local governments. The problem of undocumented aliens is a difficult one and cannot be solved by waving the American flag and espousing jingoistic slogans. The day undocumented men and women don’t work in the U.S. is the day that American business grinds to a halt. RICHARD R. REBHUN Los Angeles

Prized Paleness

Alex Perry’s Letter From Bombay, “Could You Please Make Me a Shade Lighter?” [Dec. 5], reported that the desire for a lighter skin color is a national obsession in India. But Indians are not the only people who view fair skin as an ideal. It is no secret that many throughout the world feel the same way. Indeed, most of mankind does. Some of us as children were exposed to fairy tales like Snow White, in which the wicked queen asks, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” NIZAM VIRMANI Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Car Trouble

Your article “How GM Can Fix Itself” did a fine job of enumerating the problems created by General Motors’ management [Dec. 5]. But it didn’t address why advisers say hourly workers should take cuts in pay and benefits when the automaker frequently touts the quality of its products. If the workers are putting cars together so well, they should not be the ones to suffer in a restructuring. SANDY McLENDON Marietta, Ga.

I lived in Flint, Mich., for 27 years and worked for GM. The company’s problem is simple: arrogance of the worst kind. Its management will not listen to others. GM cars are poorly designed. Corporate officials and the outdated, unionized workforce can’t get along. The result is a company with two antagonistic groups–an unhappy union and an overbearing management. LOU RIFE Nashville, Tenn.

The Book vs. the Movie

As an avid Harry Potter fan, I take issue with Richard Corliss’s view that the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is better than the book [Dec. 5]. As beautiful as the movie is, it sorely lacks the true magic of the book. Corliss noted that the film is better because it “telescopes the book’s first 100 pages into a thrilling 20 minutes.” But without the detail of those 100 pages, the start of the movie is disjointed and no doubt confusing to those who haven’t read the book. The film falls flat. As for the idea that the book is perhaps overlong, if a book is good, it can never be too long. JENNY TURCO Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

I don’t see how Corliss could pick the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire over the book. Although I really liked the movie–it was fast and action-packed–none of the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s books, this one included, have been able to fully capture the essence of Harry. The movie versions cannot put us inside Harry’s head the way Rowling so deftly does. MARIANNE L. ADAMS Diamond Bar, Calif.

Remembering Hugh Sidey

How very sad to hear of the passing of TIME columnist Hugh Sidey [Dec. 5]. Over the years I have always found his writing inspiring. Somehow, as he commented on Presidents and the office they held, he was able to show the significance of the seemingly insignificant in their lives. Sidey brought the best of what the U.S. stands for to readers. We shall miss him. DERICK BINGHAM Belfast, Northern Ireland

*You can read a selection of Sidey’s columns online at time.com/sidey

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