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Attending to the Legal Needs of the Poor

February 13, 1992



The editorial "Meeting the Poor's Legal Needs," Jan. 27, strikes a responsive chord. During this time of national debate regarding health care, it is disturbing that legal care is a nonissue. Most Americans would probably agree that access to legal advice and counsel is indeed an inherent "right."

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Nowhere in the editorial is mention made of the failure of the legal profession itself to provide more than lip service to pro bono service. In my professional practice, as many as one-third of office visits are either nonreimbursable or reimbursable only at a very low level. I would challenge the legal profession to recognize that the ethics of a professional preclude dispensing service strictly on the basis of ability to pay. Douglas M. De Long, M.D., Ladysmith, Wis. President Bush's health-care vision

George Bush expresses concern about the loss of consumer control in a national health-insurance program. But what do we have now?

During the last decade, when the number of Americans unable to afford medical insurance rose dramatically, the Senate Committee on Aging found that the cost of medicine increased three times as fast as other retail items. Last year alone, when United States automakers had record losses, and the average Fortune 500 company made only 4.5 percent profit on sales, 10 major drug companies had an average profit of 15.5 percent. Where's the control we might lose? Diana Morley, Napa, Calif.

The president should have felt complimented during his State of the Union speech when someone applauded in anticipation of his embracing a nationalized health system, which, alas, was not what he had in mind.

In the gloriously free-enterprise medical practice the president defends, the first question asked a patient is not, "Where does it hurt and how may we help you?" but "How are you going to pay for this?" This is true in the private medical clinic or the general hospital, and it is shocking.

As an Army family, our family was served for 20 years by a "socialized" health system while my husband served the country as a soldier. Those in the Armed Forces are glad to have such health-care services available. The doctors serve with professionalism and compassion.

The people they serve do not give much thought to which doctor may be on duty when they check in for help, but are served uniformly well (no pun intended). If there were times in our family's experience when treatment went amiss, I do not believe this was more frequent, and perhaps less so, than in private civilian systems. The system can work and it does. Ask a GI. Joy Walker Dineen, Severna Park, Md. Northern Ireland's civil war

Regarding the Opinion page article "Northern Ireland's Grim Refrain," Feb. 6: I found it disheartening to read the author's continual connection between the Irish Republican Army and terrorism without even acknowledging the terrorist atrocities committed by the IRA's Protestant counterparts.

While on several occasions the author alludes to the killing of eight Protestant workers by an IRA bomb, he makes no reference to the Ulster Freedom Fighters - a Protestant terrorist group - and its Feb. 5 machine-gun attack on a betting shop filled with elderly Roman Catholics. In that attack 10 were wounded and four were killed. Michael Twomey Greason, New York

I agree with the author that violence should not win over diplomacy. However, I feel for the Irish nationalists who want to be citizens of a united Ireland. It is my wish that the IRA put its driving motivation behind peaceful means in an attempt to be heard. The possibility of such a shift in action depends on whether the IRA is committed to its goal and is willing to try whatever it takes to reach it, or if it is violence itself to which the IRA is committed. Ryan Farrell, Santa Barbara, Calif. American cars in Cuba

Regarding the article "Cuba's Old US Cars," Jan. 31: Who says Americans don't build good cars? Take a look at these Cubans driving American cars that are 35 to 50 years old. Richard LePelley, Venice, Fla.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.