Today's Letters: Physicians are weary of being pummeled

Letters to the Editor
Published March 3, 2008

A state of emergency Feb. 29, story about physician shortage   

It never ceases to amaze me when people and newspapers are surprised when foreseeable outcomes arise. I refer to the shortage of specialists for emergency medicine (soon to extend to all medical care, especially primary care). Think of it as a boxing match with one underlying rule: Since nobody has lived forever, we are all biological systems with limited lifespan, which means eventually, we will meet the same end, some of us sooner than others.

In one corner you have physicians, people who, for a variety of reasons, have given up a good portion of their lives attending school, residencies and engaging in time-consuming practice to improve the human condition, with much less financial compensation than their equals in other professions or business. In the other corner you have a whole army of folks: nonphysicians looking for something that the physician should be doing or else his compensation is affected, legislators pledging that medical care is "better" if the physician is somehow punished, and a slew of lawyers who have convinced the public that good results are assured and unfavorable outcomes are "malpractice" - so here, have a Cadillac for your troubles.

Medical treatment is not like repairing a transmission in the garage. You can't always swap out the bad parts for new ones, and physicians do the best that they can. Sometimes the cancer, trauma, infection, or just old age "wins" despite all human intervention. However, there is no understanding of that, only the "what if" argument in an attempt to find somebody to "blame," often on the newspaper's front page. When that happens and we as physicians say "it's not worth it," it is not "front-page news," but rather a consequence of such news. What will happen when there are no more physicians to review, punish, or sue? Maybe the machine will move on to hairdressers or even (gasp) lawyers!

Michael P. Shear, M.D., St. Petersburg

Doctors feel lawsuit mania

I wonder if people realize how much malpractice insurance physicians need to pay. Even after retirement they are required to pay for additional years. There is going to be more of a scarcity if there are not limits placed on some of these lawsuits. Some of the physicians have left their practice due to lawsuits.

If there is gross neglect, I understand the lawsuits, but there are many that are not legit. People sue because they want to blame someone else or they have not had the perfect outcome. If the lawyers and the insurance industry were limited in their fees, the cost of medicine would be a lot less.

The insanity of lawsuits is in all parts of our society. There are such things as accidents, and not all things should involve a lawsuit. I had an accident a few years ago that was due to a man running a red light. I was not hurt but bruised. I received three letters from lawyers wanting me to sue. I refused. It was an accident, and how many people can say they have not run a red light?

N. Black, Seminole

We actually love being total idiots Feb. 24

Teachers not valued

I would like to thank Susan Jacoby for writing what I've been thinking for a long time. I, too, am appalled by the apathy and ignorance I encounter every day. And then there is the arrogance that is peculiar to Americans, who seem to think that the world rotates around our country and our people. Americans feel it is unnecessary and frivolous to fill their minds with foreign languages, literature, art and history. Our reputation throughout the world of literally being "stupid Americans" is sad.

Which brings me to my final point: This lack of respect for intellect and reason, even curiosity, is directly related to the fact that we are equally lacking in respect for our educators. It enrages me to think that the citizens of this country hold our teachers in such low esteem. In other countries teachers are important, influential figures in society, people who command respect and convey dignity. In this country, teachers are often disgruntled and underpaid. They are underappreciated by their employers and their students.

The problem of stupidity in this country will only subside if we start taking our educators, and the system in which they operate, seriously. It is time to refresh our outlook on learning.

Nikki Devereux, St. Petersburg

IRS investigates church for Obama speechFeb. 27, story

Speech was not political

The news that the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the United Church of Christ's tax- exempt status in light of an appearance by Sen. Barack Obama last June at our national meeting is disturbing to say the least.

Obama's appearance at the General Synod as part of the celebration of our 50th anniversary as a denomination was not as a presidential candidate. His invitation was made to him a full year before he announced his candidacy for president. This was not a campaign speech. It was a member of one of our churches speaking to us about the intersection of his faith and his work as a public official.

Other speakers were invited to address the intersection of faith with the arts, science, business and many other endeavors. Leaders of the church were very careful to describe this to the press and our own membership at that time, and it is quite curious that a full seven months later the IRS is investigating this appearance.

Is that timing a coincidence? This action on the part of the IRS should cause all religious bodies to pause. We are confident our actions in regard to this member of our church addressing us were proper and done with integrity. We are sure that these misperceptions will be cleared up during this inquiry.

The Rev. Kent J. Siladi, conference minister, Florida Conference, United Church of Christ, Orlando

The haloed one Feb. 24, Bill Maxwell column

Media skepticism needed

Bill Maxwell is to be admired for having the courage to write the column he did about Barack Obama. No politician is above scrutiny or criticism, especially someone wanting to be president of the United States. However, anyone who questions Obama's qualifications for the job, regardless of how legitimate the questions are, risks being labeled a racist and bigot, and if black, an Uncle Tom.

Perhaps if newspaper and television reporters did not work so hard to turn Obama into a rock star and instead treated him with the same skeptical mind-set as they've used with John McCain and Hillary Clinton, the problem would not exist. We might then actually be able to analyze Obama's experience and views for the presidency as deeply as we analyze McCain's and Clinton's.

Louis Ciardulli, Safety Harbor

Prince Harry

A good example

There is no better way of demonstrating leadership than by example. This young man has done just that. His family and his country should be very proud of him. I'm sure his men are.

Bobby McGill, Valrico