Remembering President Reagan; rights of disabled parents; GOP efforts to cut the budget
Not fan mail
Re “Ronald Reagan, the anti-Reaganite,” Opinion, Jan. 23
Jacob Heilbrunn claims that if Ronald Reagan had listened to the right wing, the Soviet Union would not have collapsed and the Cold War would have continued. This is sheer speculation and buys into the notion that the Soviet Union fell apart due to Reagan’s policies.
It seems more likely that Mikhail Gorbachev and his policy of openness led to the dissolution of a regime dependent on being shut out from Western influences. Probably the Beatles had more to do with the Soviet Union’s fall than Reagan did.
The Cold War could not have lasted forever, but those who want to canonize Reagan will persist in crediting him with great achievements.
So there were 65,000 flowers on the Rose Parade float commemorating the Reagan presidency? Not nearly enough. The float should have included one rose for every American lost to AIDS — an epidemic that could have been halved by timely and effective presidential leadership — and one forget-me-not for everyone who had to battle both HIV and ignorance furthered by the Great Communicator’s deafening silence.
Reagan’s negligence marked the first time in American history that reaction to a public health crisis was guided not by the number of people at risk but by the kinds of people at risk. Let it be the last.
The AIDS epidemic itself was not Reagan’s fault, but his approach remains a tragedy that plagues us still.
Craig R. Miller
The writer is founder of the AIDS Walk movement.
A disabled mother’s life
Re “A precious, secret meeting,” Jan. 24
As a mother to a disabled teenager, I am outraged that Abbie Dorn cannot see her children because of a disability. It seems clear that she knows the difference between “happy” and “sad.”
Attorney Lisa Helfend Meyer is correct in saying that this case may set the standard for all disabled mothers.
My daughter is a quadriplegic on a ventilator because of a car accident almost nine years ago. After reading this article, I feared that something similar could have happened to her. What if some man procreated with her and took her child away?
Dorn’s husband did not step up to honor and
cherish his wife after a doctor made a mistake. He divorced her and left her to her parents. This woman gave her life for these children, and their father is creating more harm in keeping the children from their mother.
Dorn’s children have a gift in their grandparents. Their legal battle to make certain that the three grandchildren know their own mother is courageous and clearly heartfelt. Though Dorn cannot hug them or whisper their names, she is alive and breathing and, most important, their mother.
I was 6 years old when my 42-year-old father died of a massive coronary. Pictures were taken down, we moved, and there was no further talk of my father for fear of the sadness such talk might bring up. Today, 57 years later, I still wonder about him and miss a man I barely knew.
Dorn, sadly, lives through her parents. It is their words and memories that can help children Esti, Reuvi and Yossi get to know who their mother is.
Many sides on malpractice
Re “Grief intensified by a legal fight,” Jan. 23
The most interesting part of the Cull family’s tragic story is that UCLA actually compensated them $250,000, the maximum amount allowed under California law. That is rare. More often, the medical malpractice insurance company offers substantially less, daring the plaintiff’s attorney to take the case to trial. The insurance companies know that forcing such a case to trial will be extraordinarily costly for the attorney representing the family.
Thirty-two years ago, when I started my legal career handling cases of medical negligence, the cost of litigating such cases was $2,500 to $5,000. Today, it costs $25,000 to $75,000 to pay the expert witnesses, court reporters and other costs.
That’s more risk than most attorneys can afford to take to help a family like the Culls, much as we might like to.
My adult daughter also died unexpectedly two years ago while hospitalized. Malpractice suits are not the only approach to unexpected deaths.
There are regulatory approaches. A hospital is required to report an unexpected death to both the California Department of Public Health Licensing and Certification Program and to the Joint Commission (if it is accredited). The hospital is required to do an evaluation and report on it and on any preventive measures.
The Public Health Licensing and Certification Program will do an inspection in response to a complaint. The Medical Board of California will do an investigation of a complaint against a physician and report its findings.
The regulatory measures can help prevent a repeat of a tragedy.
Ellen Alkon, MD
Rolling Hills Estates
I have been a head nurse at two university medical centers. I want to assure the Cull family that the postdoctoral fellow doing their daughter’s procedure was qualified or he would not have been doing it alone. No one wants a patient to die, and sometimes there are no answers as to why.
Lifting limits on malpractice payouts is not the answer. Too many excellent physicians are impacted by malpractice suits; they become discouraged and leave medicine or retire early.
Physicians live for many years at the poverty level before earning a solid income. They typically have more than $100,000 in debt after graduation. Increasing the ceiling for malpractice will only encourage these bright people to seek careers elsewhere.
As a parent, my heart goes out to the Cull family.
Who will feel the budget pain?
Re “Cracks show as GOP tackles budget,” Jan. 25
First, the GOP is going to have a tough sell in eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts. People need all the various forms of the arts in their lives as a stress reliever,
let alone for the enjoyment and personal creativity of it.
Second, how many of the GOP legislators are willing to watch family members and friends die of various forms of cancer because they want to cut federal funding for cancer research?
Their proposals to eliminate various government programs are simply absurd.
Gail Marie Noon
GOP strategist Kevin Madden’s quote — “We’re in an age where many voters are more inclined to side with austerity than any time in the past” — might be more factual if he said: “We’re in an age where many voters are more inclined to side with austerity for others than any time in the past.”
The Bell tolls
Re “Love, hate and Robert Rizzo,” Column, Jan. 23
I doubt that there is any love for Robert Rizzo in the city of Bell, but apparently some people feel sorry for him. It’s just not right to kick a man when he’s down? Even if this is the same man who asked the city he allegedly swindled out of millions of dollars if it would pay his legal fees? Apparently it’s OK for Rizzo to kick Bell when the city is down but not the other way around.
My only regret is that Steve Lopez did not invite me to go along with him on his interview of the millionaire parking attendant.
For better days
Re “For L.A. Unified board,” Endorsement, Jan. 24
The Times perpetuates a myth by writing, “Many students aren’t interested in college.” Really?
I went to a South L.A. public high school full of students who didn’t want to go to college. Why? Because no one ever talked to us about college. My school didn’t create a culture in which college was even an option. It wasn’t until my junior year, when I became involved in the fight to make college prep mandatory for all students, that I even began to think of college as a possibility.
Yes, schools should focus on the dropout rate, but if they aren’t preparing students for a better life — one with the possibility of college on the horizon — then how do you expect to keep students in school with nothing to look forward to but a minimum-wage job?