The opinion page tirade against HMOs in "The little guy v. HMOs" (Aug. 6) is a perfect example of Alexander Pope's oft-repeated dictum: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Jury awards, no matter how large, are mere pinpricks relative to total healthcare spending. By focusing on this issue, the author, Jonathan Rowe, misses the big picture entirely. Take the obstetrician, his jury found not liable for damages. Next time he will order the test or procedure he was accused of omitting to the detriment of his patient, even when his professional judgement, vindicated by the jury, deems it unnecessary. Multiply the obstetrician by hundreds of thousands of doctors, and the real cost of unfettered litigation becomes apparent.
Rowe also repeats the story about how, after Texas enacted a patients' bill of rights, there have been only a few lawsuits. He neglects to mention that federal law preempts state laws concerning healthcare financing, so state laws can address medical malpractice, but not financing issues. For example, if a patient in Texas dies because he didn't undergo an operation, the patient's heirs can sue a doctor who said the operation was unnecessary under the Texas law, but can only sue an HMO or insurance company that refused to pay for the operation under federal law, under which the heirs can recover only the cost of the operation.
The law needs to be amended to take into account vast changes in healthcare financing over the years, but not in the ways suggested.
Eric J. Klieber Cleveland Heights, Ohio
I guess I am of the old school of thought, "If you are caught doing something wrong, you need to do your time or pay the fine."
I have no problem with mechanical policing of our roads ("Smile, you're on radar camera," Aug. 8). Certainly, US highway fatalities are staggering. Thousands of lives are lost unnecessarily each year. And excessive speed is a huge part of the problem.
So what if thousands more tickets are issued each year? If only hundreds more people live into the next year as a result of speeders paying more in fines, I am satisfied with the trade-off. I live in Georgia, where speed traps have been used for years to garner income for cities. At least the mechanical "police" will be fairer when it comes to doling out fines for infractions.
Don L. Griffith Decatur, Ga.
Flow reductions in rivers and dwindling reserves in aquifers are clear warnings of limits to growth.But your editorial ("Water - as opportunity," Aug. 7) simply recommends a bandage - more planning and technological "fixes."The world's growing population and excessive consumption by those with more than enough cannot continue unabated. Increasing shortages of fresh water are just omens that business as usual cannot continue.
Allen Inversin Riverdale, Md.
Your Aug. 2 article entitled "Bioengineered food sows ethical concerns," questions the morality of genetically engineering cats without the protein that makes people allergic to them.
Making cat ownership possible for people allergic to cats certainly does help the cat, individually and as a species. I suspect that nobody interviewed is really concerned about cats. I would even conjecture that they are much more concerned about their concern for cats.
A. Ryan Johnson Litchfield, Minn.
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