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April 06, 2005

Open Letter to the Hon. Senator Bill Frist

Douglas MacLean: April 6, 2005

Dear Dr. Frist:
  I am very sad, and I hope you can help me become less sad.  I am enclosing a picture of myself with this letter, and although the picture was taken a few years ago you can clearly see that I am sad.  I'd like you to prescribe something - maybe an antidepressant - that would lift my mood and make me a more productive citizen.
  I'm writing to you as a last resort.  I've sent this letter and picture to many other physicians, but they all insist that I make an appointment to see them in person.  I suspect they are just after the fees they charge for office visits.  I'm pleased to know that you are not hampered by such "scruples."
  You set an inspiring example.  Most doctors I know find it a full-time occupation, but you are able to meet the demands of your job as Senate majority leader while still managing to practice your profession and make medical diagnoses to patients far removed from Washington or Tennessee. 
  I look forward to receiving my prescription in the mail.  Thank you for your attention.


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Posted by: Terrier

I just hope your picture does not reveal you to be feline. If it does, Bill will insist on laying hands on you personally! Of course, if you are any kind of non-white or non-human you may not be covered by culture-of-life medical insurance.

Posted by: Terrier | Apr 6, 2005 10:22:18 AM

Posted by: praktike

OK, that's funny.

Posted by: praktike | Apr 6, 2005 1:24:39 PM

Posted by: Literally Retarded

Well, not that funny. Many parties have crapped all over the Schiavo case, and it will take time to rake all that manure into productive discourse. All the Good Professor has done is smashed one turd with a sledgehammer.

Posted by: Literally Retarded | Apr 6, 2005 2:31:36 PM

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Judging only from Mr. MacLean's (presumably later) smiling web-page picture, it appears he found someone after all.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Apr 6, 2005 3:33:53 PM

Posted by: john t

Mr MacLean does not mention "check enclosed" in his letter. Given his antipathy to the greed of doctors I would guess he expects free treatment. Maybe Sen Frist has seen his toothy smile and decided MacLean is already cured,probably by a recent comment of Howard Dean. I remember reading articles about Frist making yearly visits to Africa and treating patients for free{ which I know liberals give him credit for }. Mr MacLean may consider doing the same thing,perhaps lecturing the natives on"Deterrence Dilemmas in the Nuclear Age", a sure winner. At the least he could tithe a large portion of his salary to a charity I'm starting up,Autistic Academics of America. I'll send him a letter on it but he'll have to pay the postage. Can't wait for this guy to post again.

Posted by: john t | Apr 6, 2005 4:34:48 PM

Posted by: Mona

Well, the GOP did not acquit itself well, at all, in the Schiavo matter. To my absolute astonishment, and near horror, I found myself agreeing with postings at sites like Daily Kos.

Please let the universe right itself.

Posted by: Mona | Apr 6, 2005 4:59:34 PM

Posted by: Stuart

Sorry, I just don't get it. What am I missing?

Posted by: Stuart | Apr 6, 2005 5:14:29 PM

Posted by: Terrier

Mona, my relatives are convinced that Schiavo is only the beginning. Hang on, man!

Posted by: Terrier | Apr 6, 2005 5:17:57 PM

Posted by: Tad Brennan

John t--

Mr. MacLean criticizes Frist for offering a diagnosis he had no business to offer, i.e. for abusing his professional credentials in practicing medicine in a way that falls far below the ordinary standard of care.

You criticize MacLean for--what? Not doing charity work?

For myself, I'm afraid I side with Literally Retarded's assessment. Although I would not phrase it as he does, I share his concern that MacLean's post does not promote constructive discourse.

Yes, Frist had no business offering a neurological diagnosis on the basis of a film-clip. But that was far from his most egregious sin in this whole affair. And Frist's own abysmal behavior is far from the most important topic to discuss in relation to the Schiavo tragedy.

Taking cheap shots at the opposition for incidental peccadillos does not seem to me the way to promote dialogue between left and right. I'm as fond of cheap laughs as the next guy, and on a site that posts a dozen new entries every day I think they work fine as part of the mix (e.g. Atrios, Kevin Drum, etc.).

But what this post points up, I think, is how well most of the authors on this site have eschewed partisan ridicule for the more important aim of provoking real discussion. I too will be looking forward to seeing Mr. MacLean post again.

Posted by: Tad Brennan | Apr 6, 2005 9:24:09 PM

Posted by: john t

Tad Brennan It was hardly Bill Frist alone who diagnosed Terry Schiavo from a distance and they seemed to have done a much worse job of it,references in polls and elsewhere about life support systems for example,as opposed to a feeding tube. Mr MacLean's post was deliberately sarcastic and the sarcasm was directed against a man who has given of himself in a continent where media coverage is slight indeed. In other words he didn't do it for the sake of image. As you post so will you be responded to. I don't know anything about Atrios but I've been to Kevin Drum's site. Let me say that if you can hold your nose and suspend your sensibility for the material that's posted there mine should at least be bearable. On the other hand{ contradiction time } I have respected your various posts and your criticism is not ignored.

Posted by: john t | Apr 6, 2005 10:03:59 PM

Posted by: David Sucher

I thought it was a funny post.

Posted by: David Sucher | Apr 6, 2005 10:32:50 PM

Posted by: Tom

I thought that I was at OliverWillis.com or something when I read the post. Pretty juvenile - but it is Mr. MacLean's first post, so I'll cut him some slack. Glad that the authors of this web site endeavor to promote constructive comments here's one of those ethical dilemmas as a counterbalance to Mr. MacLean's post:

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally. The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision.

Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous. Please scroll down slowly and give due consideration to each line.

You are in Florida, Miami to be specific. There is chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are a photojournalist working for a major newspaper, and you're caught in the middle of this epic disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless. You're trying to shoot career-making photos. There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is unleashing all of its destructive fury.

Suddenly you see a woman in the water. She is fighting for her life, trying not to be taken down with the debris. You move closer . . . somehow the woman looks familiar. You suddenly realize who it is.

It's Hillary Clinton!

At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take her under . . forever. You have two options--you can save the life of Hillary Clinton, or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the world's most powerful women.

So here's the question, and please give an honest answer:

Would you select high contrast color film, or would you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?

Posted by: Tom | Apr 6, 2005 10:43:41 PM

Posted by: Mona

john t writes: references in polls and elsewhere about life support systems for example,as opposed to a feeding tube.

In Florida, as in many other states, a surgically implanted feeding tube is, by statutory definition, artificial life support. This definition does not come from "activist judges," but rather from elected representatives.

What Frist did was outrageous, aside from the remote diagnosing. He's a cardiologist, and has zero professional expertise in neurological problems like PVS.

Posted by: Mona | Apr 6, 2005 11:31:34 PM

Posted by: MichaelM

Oh, come on. It's Terri Schiavo today, and it will be abortion tomorrow. It's not that far a stretch for politicians to associate a feeding tube with, say, an umbilical cord. Everything else is, while upsetting, only a side dish to the major issue here. Schiavo's just a pawn in some conservative testing-of-the-waters (...not to be a raving conspiracy theorist), and everything else is just show to confuse the public - and/or a publicity stunt. Either way, Frist's "findings" were obviously biased and just made this issue even more gruesomely public, when it never should've been covered by the media to begin with - if for no more than respect to the woman, and all others in similar condition yet. This was a personal matter gone public, and Frist just made it worse, while acting unscrupulously.

Posted by: MichaelM | Apr 7, 2005 2:18:55 AM

Posted by: john t

Mona Is a feeding tube a life support system by statutory definition for poll takers? I think you grasp the larger point that clearer more honest reporting was called for. Zogby,a democrat, did a poll differentiating between the two and 73% of those polled said she should be kept alive. Which by the way would at least argue against a complete PVS state. Unless you are aware of vegetables that breathe on their own,smile,make sounds,show an awareness of humans in their presence,and so on. Perhaps a poll should have been taken as to whether or not balm could have been applied to this dying women's parched,cracked lips. Would you need a neurologist for that? Could the neurologists be certain that this 13 day death process was a euphoric experience. You did hear that word didn't you? Would you care to comment on what constitutes euphoria in those circumstances,Michael's attorney had no doubts,do you?

Posted by: john t | Apr 7, 2005 9:17:55 AM

Posted by: Terrier

The scary thing is not the post - the scary thing is the realization that the Radical Republic party is controlled by charlatans who want to run everyone's life.

Posted by: Terrier | Apr 7, 2005 9:31:31 AM

Posted by: Mona

john t asks: Zogby,a democrat, did a poll differentiating between the two and 73% of those polled said she should be kept alive.

That is not the basis for the difference. The basis is that Zogby asked whether the "disabled" should have their feeding tubes removed. Prior polls referenced people in a PVS and/or with no higher brain activity. There is a huge difference. Obviously most Americans, myself included, do not think the developmentally disabled or persons such as Christopher Reeve should have their feeding removed, but that is what we think of when asked about "the disabled."

Many Americans have executed advance directives stating that in circumstances such as PVS, they would want a feeding tube removed. Because this was the overhwleming sentiment during the widely publicized Nancy Cruzan case, that culminated in a S. Ct. ruling in '90, many state legislatures, inclduing Flrodia's, passed laws explicitly defining feeding and hydration by tube as artificial "life-prolonging measures" that may be refused. They did not believe themselves to be addressing this in the context of "disability," and neither do I.

Posted by: Mona | Apr 7, 2005 1:04:49 PM

Posted by: Mona

Public opposition was high to Bush and Congress' intervention in the Schiavo matter. As a WSJ poll shows, among only Republicans, the results are this:

The Schiavo case has opened another rift. Though Mr. Bush and Republican congressional leaders acted to maximize the opportunity for reinserting Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, 39% of Republicans said removing the tube was "the right thing to do," while 48% said it was wrong. About 18% of Republicans say they lost respect for Mr. Bush on the issue and 41% lost respect for Congress. The survey of 1,002 adults, conducted March 31-April 3, has a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points in either direction; the error margin for Republicans alone is 5.2 percentage points.

Full WSJ poll results here.

Posted by: Mona | Apr 7, 2005 2:34:41 PM

Posted by: john t

Mona, First let me say that given the coverage of the case most people not living in a alleyway had a pretty good idea of Schiavo's condition,they could tell the difference between her case and Reeve's for example. I would be careful about using the term "that is what we think of" therefore. Zogby touched a few bases,"43% say the law presume the patient wants to live even if the person is receiving food and water thru a tube", "if a person is not terminallyill,not in a coma and have no written directive should or should they not be denied food and water". 79% say feeding should continue. I,m not sure how it could be any clearer. I commented on the PVS vegetable thing, on the refusal to allow balm for the womens lips, and the utterly barbaric euphoria nonsense. If you wish to be upset about the actions of politicians in this you might want to turn your investigative talents,and they are formidable, to the ABC report of a letter circulated to Senate Republicans stating this was a winning political issue,there are cracks on the wall on that one. Strangely they stuck to their guns inspite of widely circulated contrary evidence. Yes I read your linked WSJ piece,thanks. Not knowing if the questions were as clearly framed as Zogby's I'm uncertain what to draw from it but it has to be considered. Now if you'll forgive me I suspect that I may be being roasted on other posts,what's a day without a beating. If you wish to post again on this I'l make a point of reading it but I may not answer. Regards.

Posted by: john t | Apr 7, 2005 4:27:10 PM

Posted by: Mona

john t writes If you wish to be upset about the actions of politicians in this you might want to turn your investigative talents,and they are formidable, to the ABC report of a letter circulated to Senate Republicans stating this was a winning political issue,there are cracks on the wall on that one. Strangely they stuck to their guns inspite of widely circulated contrary evidence. Yes I read your linked WSJ piece,thanks.

Have you not heard that that execrable memo actually did come a senior staffer and legal counsel for Sen. Mel Martinez, (R) Florida? Whether it was widely distributed among GOP senators as some of the MSM initially reported remains subject to legitimate dispute. But Martinez' public denials that he had never seen it, denials made several times in the past two weeks until they just recently became untenable, his claims that he had no idea from whence that memo came, are literally incredible, given that it is now known he handed it from his pocket to Sen. Tom Harkin (D), by mistake.

Full story here.

Posted by: Mona | Apr 7, 2005 5:28:27 PM

Posted by: Terrier

Mona, didn't you know that Mel Martinez is a secret Democratic operative? And quite frankly, it doesn't matter how many rational Republicans reject the rantings of the Radical Republics - they control the party. They will ruthlessly push their agenda and many of them have made it abundantly clear that there will be no compromise. I just hope you and Andy Sullivan get the cell next to mine in Gitmo so you can listen to me scream.

Posted by: Terrier | Apr 7, 2005 7:15:07 PM

Posted by: john t

Mona, Your 5.28 post noted and I stand corrected. I guess we're left with the balm and euphoria.

Posted by: john t | Apr 8, 2005 9:12:13 AM

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