Sensationalizing issue of French doctors' role

I found the headline "France debates right not to be born" (Dec. 7) on the story about the issue of French doctors' responsibilities both sensational and misleading. The issue in both of the cited cases was not a disabled child's right to "sue doctors." It was the right of prospective parents to be informed of test results and diagnoses made by their doctors. The article made clear that it was the mothers who sued in both of these controversial cases. The headline, however, disguised the fact that in both of the court cases, the mothers sued because their doctors did not fully inform them. Doctors were not sued for failing to perform abortions. Such decisions remain with the parents. I did find it heartwarming to hear of those parents who carried to term and cared lovingly for children predicted to be disabled following prenatal exams.

Jerry McIntire

Port Townsend, Wash.

As the father of a son with Down syndrome, I am saddened by the decision of the French courts to hold a physician liable for the care of the handicapped child he delivers. Even though the delivery of a handicapped child was successful, is it suddenly faulty because of a mother's disappointment? What if the child had blond hair and she wanted a brunette? Should we also be allowed to make such decisions based upon gender? What if her relationship with the father had ended during the pregnancy, altering her feelings for the child?

Christian R. Mattison

North Loup, Neb.

Women fighting fires

Regarding "Women firefighters struggle for first rung" (Dec. 3): As a retired N.Y.C. firefighter, I don't think the problem is one of the applicant being black or white, male or female, but in making sure every candidate takes the same test - both written and physical. In addition, if tests don't include the hauling of a hose and the use of ladders (as they are in fact used at fire scenes), then the concern we face is getting specific portions of the population into the fire departments regardless of their ability to perform properly. The test has to relate to actual work done on the fire ground. If a person passes, fine. If not, the problem is not with the department, but with the applicant. One test for everyone means everyone has the same chance.

Edward Richter

Port Richey, Fla.

Women firefighters will continue to struggle because of the physical requirements of the job, not because heroism "has been defined in male terms." It is not a question of hard work or patriotism; it is quite simply a matter of physical ability. If one can assume that the New York physical abilities test is appropriate and applicable to the job, there should be no "inequality." If a woman can pass the test as well as any man, she should have an equal chance at the job. I am vehemently opposed to lowering the physical requirements as well as to unnecessary litigation.

Personally, if I were in a burning building, I would rather be rescued by a 185-pound man than a 130-pound woman who got the job by way of a lawsuit.

Jane Tucker

Santa Barbara, Calif.

The problem lies in music education

My opinion on the issue raised in "Orchestras on the brink?" (Nov. 29, Ideas): The problem has nothing to do with "a 19th-century institution playing largely classical European masterworks in multicultural 21st- century North America." It does, however, have everything to do with the lack of a quality musical education in our schools. The only music most of our children hear is the pablum fed them by mass-marketing panderers.

Valerie J. Sweeney

Vincennes, Ind.

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