Letters to the Editor: A doctor’s fight against the COVID empathy deficit and fear

Doctors talk with a former patient.
UCLA surgeon Peyman Benharash, left, and intensivist Vadim Gudzenko talk with former COVID-19 patient Blanca Lopez on Jan. 26.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Much gratitude for reporter Thomas Curwen’s exhaustive piece on what it is like to fight serious COVID-19 illness — from the very real cost to patients and their families, to the toll on the physicians and nurses trying to bring patients back at any cost.

In my 70 years on this planet, several surreal moments stand out. One happened three decades ago on a foggy night in the Bronx. As I was driving home, I saw emerging from the thick mist a giraffe, two zebras and monkeys. Another is happening right now: Patients with a modicum of common sense and plenty of IQ points insist to me that COVID-19 isn’t real, and that the vaccines aren’t actually vaccines.

These strange events all have an explanation. What I saw on that foggy night in New York was the result of a small traveling circus that had been vandalized. What I am seeing now is fear of the unknown triggering a lack of empathy and understanding in an otherwise reasonable group of people.


In my own medical practice, I show these people articles and try not to lose patience when discussing antibodies and viral mutation. Above all I try to see our current challenging reality from their point of view. Slowly, I believe I am winning in the struggle against ignorance and terror of the unknown.

Curwen’s article is a godsend. It will help in this battle to achieve a new normal, where mask-wearing, distancing and kindness become standard.

Stephen Patt, M.D., Santa Monica


To the editor: Curwen brilliantly drew us into what COVID-19 survivor Blanca Lopez experienced as a hospitalized patient. He drew us into the heroics of the hospital staff by sharing some details of major medical decisions made.

Thank you for once again sharing with the public what families go through while their loved ones are hospitalized and how dedicated medical staff answer the call with compassion, empathy and support.

For those of you who still think COVID-19 is overblown, think again.

Georgette Rieck, Santa Monica