Letters

A Question of Lawyers
Brian Wallstin's reporting of this tragic story ["A Question of Life," February 5] is prompting me to write you. We moved from Long Island, New York, to Houston in 1993 while my wife was pregnant with our first child. At the time, a normal delivery on Long Island averaged $4,000, with a cesarean adding another $1,000. Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties presented doctors with the most malpractice suits filed in any region of comparable size, and consequently, with very high malpractice premiums. Imagine, for an instant, the stance this creates, from a system point of view, between hospitals and patients. It is barely short of antagonistic. While most doctors themselves rarely present this attitude, it is more often reflected institutionally. It was not a system I relished having to deal with, even if all turned out to be routine and successful.

Imagine my surprise, upon settling in Houston, to find that the cost to deliver our child would now be around $1,500. This was a comforting indicator that more common sense prevailed here in the people and the medical community, and it turned out for us to be primarily true. We had a wonderful Lamaze instructor, referred by the medical staff, who did not entirely trust doctors either. She was incredibly helpful, as I also share a healthy disregard for treating doctors as anything other than fallible human beings. The hospital had a Jacuzzi in the recovery room, provided a candlelight dinner (unheard of on Long Island at the time), and other than a minor disagreement over the use of pitocin, we were treated very well. And luckily for us, everything turned out just fine. We recently had a second child, at the same hospital.

Individually, all the medical personnel were terrific. And they often are, if allowed to separate from the administrators and lawyers, and to do the job they have chosen for their life's work. Wallstin's article indicates that Anna Summerfield is "the director of neonatal intensive care" for Woman's Hospital. At no time do the letters "Dr." appear in front of her name, nor the letters "M.D." after it, which indicates a lack of medical training. And yet she is the one who has the power to recite and enforce that "the hospital's policy required resuscitation and care of any live-born child weighing at least 500 grams," and to threaten to have Mark Miller removed from his wife's bedside. An administrator, as the story is told, bears the responsibility. That Columbia/HCA allowed this to happen was indeed the correct focus of the trial, and the jury was correct. I believe that the award will stand, on appeal.

However, on an interesting and possibly sad note, that wonderful hospital that I mentioned earlier, the one with competent and caring staff and affiliated doctors? That was Kingwood Plaza Hospital. Who owns it now? Unfortunately, Columbia/HCA.

Name withheld by request
Kingwood

True Class
This is outstanding: Mike Levy, publisher of Texas Monthly, is feeling a little heat from a former employee, and he responds in a fashion that is the antithesis of what we would expect from him -- bitterness [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, February 5]. A man who so often rips into people and their actions showed his true class in the way that he dealt with a little criticism from Robert Draper. The line left on Draper's answering machine, "I will get you for this," may even warrant a Bum Steer award. Way to go Levy -- just when you're feeling your oats with the sale of TM, you jump off a cliff and show what a jerk you are.

D. Ryan Monceaux
via Internet, Houston

The Green Teeth Match the Uniform
The real tragedy of the militia in Texas ("The Old Guard," by Shaila Dewan, January 29) is that it is funded at all. I have been involved with the military for over 20 years, and while the military itself has its own problems, the militia seems nothing more than a haven of military wannabes who allow potbellied, green-toothed, out-of-shape boys and girls to perform a fake mission as a pretense of genuine service to our country.

Ms. Shuffield, join the Red Cross. At least they provide real-life help for real-life problems. You'd be an asset to them.

Andy Bell
via Internet

Highly Critical
As I read your story "Critical Diagnosis" [by Michael Berryhill, January 22], it brought back so many bad memories. Families, as you stated, have been reporting the inadequate medical care in the prison system for quite some time now. We are often more aware of the problems inside the prison than the administrators are. We report medical problems over and over, and oftentimes we suffer medical problems ourselves because we have to watch our loved ones suffer and sometimes die because no one takes us seriously. We have to watch their health go downhill, and as a mother, that's a tough one to watch. People often say that inmates deserve whatever treatment they receive while they are in prison. That statement comes easy to someone who doesn't have a child in prison. Judgments are easy to make when it doesn't affect your life. Families are often dismissed as too emotional when we call, scared and begging for help for our loved ones.

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