Letters

OPEN LETTER TO HILLARY

In response to Jason Vest's article "Hillary's Anti-Union, Slumlord Pals: Reviled Nursing Home Operators Raising Funds for Campaign" [December 21], we would like to submit the following open letter to Hillary Clinton:

As health-care workers we are very excited about your position on health-care issues. However, we have some concerns that we must express to you. On December 1, as recounted in Jason Vest's article, many of us who work at the Wingate at Wilbraham Nursing Home, and who belong to Service Employees International Union, Local 285, drove to Boston to rally in front of the Park Plaza Hotel, where you were attending a fundraiser hosted by Elaine Schuster. Ms. Schuster's husband, Gerald, is the owner of the Wingate at Wilbraham Nursing Home. We joined with other union members to protest the lack of a contract between Mr. Schuster and his workers and to speak out against the union-busting tactics he is using to thwart our attempt to negotiate our first contract.

We want to provide quality nursing care to our residents, and we are determined to improve our working conditions. We hope that in the future you and other Democrats who care about these issues will be more selective in accepting campaign contributions from union-busters like Gerald Schuster.

Frieda Post
For 55 Union Employees at
Wingate at Wilbraham Nursing Home
Wilbraham, Massachusetts


NIX ON NALOXONE

As an emergency medicine physician, I would like to respond to Maia Szalavitz's article "Heroin Hassles" [January 11], about making naloxone available to heroin users.

Unfortunately, naloxone is not a panacea for opioid overdose. Distributing it freely to opioid users could give those afflicted a false sense of security. First, naloxone's opioid reversal, though dramatic, is very short-lived; most opioids stay in the system much longer. Therefore, a person might overdose on heroin, for example, receive a dose of naloxone from a friend, perk up initially, and then slip back into a coma once its effect has worn off; if the person is not still being monitored, he or she is even less likely to get medical attention. Furthermore, giving naloxone to a person with preexisting cardiovascular disease could prove deadly, since rising blood pressure and heart rate can take a heavy toll on an ailing heart.

Finally, the possibility of poly-substance abuse is another complicating factor. Often, reversal of opioid overdose unmasks the actions of co-ingested substances: We have seen people who take a mixture of heroin and cocaine develop cocaine-induced heart arrhythmias once naloxone is given. In short, reversal of opioid overdose should be left to properly trained health professionals, who have the most experience in monitoring and correcting complications that occur after naloxone is given. In New York City, all paramedic crews are among these properly trained professionals, and they use naloxone when needed without delay.

Gary L. Berlin, M.D.
Brooklyn

Maia Szalavitz replies: Although Dr. Berlin is correct that there is a potential for problems with naloxone distribution, Dr. John Strang, director of the National Addiction Centre in London, writes in the journal Addiction (1999) that his work suggests that two-thirds of opiate overdose deaths could be prevented with naloxone distribution to addicts, provided they are educated about the risks.


CAPITAL OFFENSIVE

Nat Hentoff, at times, seems almost puerile when he so literally defends his interpretation of civil liberties. His January 4 comments on the issues surrounding the change of venue for the Diallo trial ["No Fair Trials for Cops?"] are a case in point.

While it may be that there is a conflict regarding whose civil liberties are being threatened, we must remember that the Diallo matter is as well a case, allegedly, of racism. In the column, Hentoff never mentions that the clamor over jury selection in the Bronx is a non sequitur.

It had been announced that the defendants were opting for a judge trial—hoping to find one, as Francis Livoti did in the Baez case. That an African American judge, Patricia Williams, was then assigned was also conveniently omitted by Hentoff.

It was racism all along.

Don Sloan, M.D.
Manhattan

Nat Hentoff replies: When civil liberties are not literally defended, the constitutional rights of everyone are endangered. The defense lawyers, the prosecutors, and Judge Williams all submitted questionnaires on the screening of potential jurors. Whether there would be a judge trial wasnot decided. As for the involvement of race, why don't we wait for the trial to arrive at a conclusion on that?


LIBERTY HEIGHTS

Nat Hentoff rocks! Sometimes I think my money spent on ACLU dues would've been better spent buying his works and reading them.

Alex Justice
Los Angeles, California


HOODWINKED

Thanks to Guy Trebay for a typically insightful piece on the Jennifer/Puffy controversy ["No Scrubs," January 11]. The consensus around the 'hood seems to be that when he was Puffy the multimillionaire producer-record mogul, it was cute, but now that he's been revealed as Puffy the thug-gangsta wannabe, it's time for homegirl to bust a move quick. She's gonna have to insure her ass for a lot more than $300 million if she decides to keep hanging around with him.

Two minor corrections: The nine people trampled to death in 1991 at the City College event promoted by the then relatively unknown Puffy were waiting in line to attend a charity basketball game, not a rap concert. And it was Onyx, not Cypress Hill, who proclaimed "throw your guns in the air." Cypress Hill's keynote jam was "How I Could Just Kill a Man."

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