By Dino Drudi, Alexandria
To the editor:
While I agree with James T. Currie’s critique of Dr. Marie Steinmetz’s sky is falling screed (“Times’ recent health column included more opinion than fact,” January 16, and “Food chemicals and your brain,” November 14, respectively), I think he went too far when he concluded by wondering why the Alexandria Times “would run this as a piece that’s not marked as opinion.”
First, Steinmetz is a doctor of medicine. Medicine is not an exact science like chemistry, which is why patients are advised to seek second opinions on major medical matters. The same, self-evidently, applies to what amounts to a medical advice column.
Secondly, while major newspapers have paid science reporters on staff, a small hometown weekly can’t afford such a luxury and has to rely on an advice columnist. So long as that advice columnist has M.D. attached to her name, she’s every bit as qualified as readers have a right to expect.
M.D.’s are especially susceptible to this mentality because they can prescribe medicines effective at one ten-zillionth of a gram per liter of blood, so it seems plausible to them that a similar concentration of an alleged toxin might be harmful.
Similarly, because many physicians chafe at insurance-driven cost containment counterbalancing medical judgment, they might be predisposed to believe government standards represent a compromise between corporate cost and medical judgment.
Note that I didn’t call it “medical science,” because medicine rightly is part science and part art.
Lastly, there’s that courageous cadre of editors and reporters — armed with otherwise unmarketable degrees in literature, philosophy, communications and sociology — who, if they had the credentials to make sound scientific judgments, would be making more money in other pursuits. Only because they do not are we so fortunate to have them covering the news and editorializing against the government’s abuses on our behalf, for which we should be profoundly thankful.