Letters to the editor: May 31, 2019

Don’t demonize the patient

The Oregon Health Authority has rescinded a directive to doctors that all patients receiving opioids for chronic pain conditions, such as back and neck pain, be tapered off narcotics, preferably within a year. However well-intended, canceling this directive was a wise move.

America is in the grips of a horrendous opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 63,632 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2016.

The misguided emphasis on achieving high levels of pain control in the 1990s and 2000s led to over-prescription of opioids. Relaxation of oversight led to some areas becoming virtual narcotic dispensaries for anyone wanting opioid drugs.

Despite the egregious errors of the past, however, the current demonization of patients using their pain medicine as directed is unwarranted and potentially dangerous. A headlong rush to yank patients off opioids can lead to depression, restriction in daily activities, drug-seeking behavior and even suicide.

Researchers warn that we have few studies to guide us in the process of tapering patients off opioids. An article published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, “No Shortcuts to Safer Opioid Prescribing,” advised use of great caution in the initial prescribing or increased dosing of opioids. But it warned against overly rapid withdrawal of medications from patients who have been stable for long periods. 

Sadly, there are only a few families of pain medications, and many people have contraindications to entire groups, like the ibuprofen family. That leaves us with limited choices for pain management.

Pain is part of life, but it can be debilitating. When severe, it can ruin lives.

We need more pain control options. In the meantime, those using opioids responsibly should be supported, not vilified. 

Dr. Scott Gibson



Swamp deeper than ever

Ben Carson, Trump’s secretary of housing and urban development, has given the whole world something to think about.

His performance on May 21 in front of responsible legislators and the cameras of worldwide news organizations was scandalous. Are people who voted for the guy who promised to “drain the swamp” happy with this smirking man who doesn’t know an REO from an Oreo cookie?

He had to be told how many people are languishing on waiting lists for HUD low-cost housing and emergency aid. It’s well over 4 million.

Do you know of anybody who needs that kind of help? A tornado or flood victim? How about here in our town? How about those folks living in tents and broken-down RVs, the ones so many indignant citizens want to get off our streets?

If more low-cost housing were available, don’t you think life could be more civilized for the people in need, not to mention nervous homeowners? So much good could be done, but not with the power and money to do it tossed to people like Ben Carson. 

Carson is getting paid by you and me, at least those of us — I guess we’re the dumb little people — who pay our taxes.Know how much he makes? More than $800 a day! Yes, he gets more than $4,000 a week, even though he really doesn’t care and is totally incompetent.Like Pruitt before him, he’s used our hard-earned dollars to give himself some nice perks, including a dishwasher for his office at $8,000 and a dining room table at $30,000. Now, what about that swamp?

Kate Fuller



Espionage Act being misused

The 17 new felony charges brought last week against Julian Assange, many under the Espionage Act, raise questions. While the most serious issues stem from freedom of the press, I seriously question any benefit to be derived from prosecuting whistleblowers under this act.

Those of us old enough to have lived through Vietnam will remember Daniel Ellsberg. His leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, revealing Defense Department lying and misdeeds, played a major role in bringing that war to an end.

Many of us consider Ellsberg a hero, but he was charged with 11 felony counts under the Espionage Act. He would have been sentenced to up to 115 years in prison, had not Nixon administration efforts to discredit him backfired.

A White House team burglarized Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in 1971. When this was revealed at his trial in 1973, it triggered the dismissal of all charges.

President Obama brought Espionage Act charges against eight individuals.

One, Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, was convicted of providing leaked material to WikiLeaks via Assange. Another, NSA contractor Edward Snowden, released electronic copies of secret documents revealing, among other things, illegal secret surveillance.

The first to be charged by the Trump administration was NSA contractor Reality Winner, who released a classified document showing Russian efforts to hack voting machine companies during the 2016 election. Earlier this month, airman Daniel Hale, assigned to NSA from 2009 to 2013, was charged with leaking classified information on the Obama Administration’s drone war that contradicted assertions the targeting was precise.

In none of these cases were the charged individuals allowed to provide information as to their reasoning or any public benefit. At a minimum, defendants should be allowed to mount a real defense.

As it stands, whistleblowers are being treated almost exactly like enemy combatants confined at Guantanamo. In fact, many should be treated as heroes.

Les Howsden



Paying tribute

Memorial Day is a day we pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, our veterans, and the brave men and women still serving in our Armed Forces around the globe.

In a recent letter, an author expressed complete distain for these people.

Yet, because of these people, he can say and write anything he wishes without censorship or retaliation from an oppressive government. And because of these people, he can do it in English, not German, Japanese or Russian.

So, every Memorial Day, please say a prayer for those who are gone and their surviving family members. God bless the U.S.A.

Don Bowie



Phelan falsely accused

It is my home that was referred to in Nicole Montesano’s May 14th article, “County Fire Public Works Director.”

John Phelan did not use “… public funds to perform work on a privately-owned road.” Here’s what really happened.

We experienced heavy rain on February 12th. Mid-morning, I looked out my window and saw water gushing from a neighbor’s driveway, rapidly coming directly at our home and land.

Both homes lay on slopes. I thought the whole hillside was coming down.

The neighbor determined a culvert on his property was blocked, washing out part of his driveway. Several neighbors gathered to try and divert the heavy waters in an effort to protect our home.

After about two hours of mayhem, I texted Commissioner Mary Starrett, saying that we needed help beyond what we could do on our own.

She is familiar with Hidden Hills and knows that our road is not private. It is a public road owned by Yamhill County.

But this was not a road issue in the first place!

She contacted John Phelan, who phoned one of my neighbors to inquire about the problem. A few hours later, a steel plate was delivered.

It was unloaded by homeowners, and it did the trick. We were finally able to stabilize the driveway and focus on the water overflowing from the blocked culvert.

The plate was returned in a timely manner. The driver of the truck that made the dropoff was only there about 5 minutes.

All the county did was provide a sheet of metal to homeowners in a dire situation.

We are all very grateful for Mr. Phelan’s assistance, along with his care and concern for his fellow citizens. It’s what makes McMinnville great.

Kathleen Verigin



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