Thursday's letters: House members step up in fight against TB

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Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year.

Help us choose from the nominations for letter of the month for September by visiting the website listed below by Sunday. Read through the three letters and vote on the ballot at the bottom of the web page. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly help.

To see the three nominees for September and vote, go to www.tampabay.com/opinion.

Fight against TB

House members step up

I am proud of our local representatives to Congress: Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor, David Jolly and Dennis Ross. They are all members of the House TB Elimination Caucus.

We lose sight of work being done quietly in Congress on nonpartisan issues such at the elimination of tuberculosis. And TB remains an issue in the United States, particularly here in Florida and other states that receive foreign travelers. The active form of TB can survive undetected in all of us.

The founders of the caucus noted that drug-resistant TB poses a particular challenge due to drug shortages and exorbitant treatment costs in the United States, which range from $100,000 to $300,000 per patient. Tragically, drug-resistant TB is expanding globally and very few people are accessing appropriate treatment.

By keeping TB in the public and congressional eye, the caucus helps save lives.

Ken Schatz, Tampa

Building their dream | Sept. 27

Government with a heart

Thank you, Susan Taylor Martin, for the fine reporting about keeping the American dream alive. It was heartwarming to read how some of the 99 percent can actually get their own homes. You've shown that Big Government can work and has a heart.

Tom Reid, Seminole

Kerry says Iran could help in Syria | Sept. 27

U.S. policy in disarray

This recent headline in and of itself should leave no doubt as to the current state of disarray in American diplomacy under the Obama administration. To even suggest that Tehran could be of assistance to the United States in Syria — following the disastrous nuclear treaty — is utterly ridiculous. This is the same state that regularly celebrates "Death to America" rallies, still holds four Americans captive, and has just concluded an agreement to purchase $28 billion in advanced arms from Russia, which has defied American requests to cease and desist in Syria.

Apparently the Obama administration has no conception and understanding of history, which clearly teaches that bullies only respect a firm and clear "no" to their actions.

Mark A. Taylor, Tampa

Killer at 17, hope at 38 | Sept. 27

Justice for juveniles

Anna M. Phillips' article on Lolita Barthel certainly points to the immature thinking of many young people who get involved in situations that in hindsight destroy their lives.

I correspond with such an individual who at age 14 committed a "sex" crime. Now in his 40s, he is still in prison.

I wonder how many more people like him Florida has in its state prisons — not guilty of murder, robbery or any other major offense, but sentenced to a lifetime of despair at a young age.

Perhaps the Times will pursue the issue of juvenile offenders to determine just how many are incarcerated, for how long, and the seriousness of the crime committed when they were less than adult.

Rita Lucey, Belle Isle

Hospital chaplains

Spiritual help in healing

When people are sick or hurting, they are more than the sum of their illnesses or injuries. Real caring and healing means focusing on the whole person — body, mind and spirit. When the whole person is treated — rather than just the fractured hip, diabetes complications, or even cancer — the whole person is healed. This body, mind and spirit approach is not just touchy-feely nonsense.

Research indicates that patients place a high value on their emotional and spiritual health and well-being. As highly trained members of an interdisciplinary team, professional chaplains are uniquely equipped to add the human touch, the compassionate presence, and the calm reassurance in times of crisis. They can help alleviate feelings of anxiety, fear and loneliness for people both religious and nonreligious across a broad spectrum of backgrounds.

With the proven benefits that professional chaplain services provide in hospital, hospice and other health care settings, one would think that every institution in Florida and across the United States would take advantage of this invaluable service. But surprisingly, less than two-thirds of hospitals employ chaplains, according to an annual survey of hospitals, and of those that do, staffing is often inadequate to meet patient needs.

It is time for health care institutions to not only recognize the need to address the spiritual needs of patients, but also to provide the effective and compassionate professional chaplains who can meet this need.

Dr. Mary-Margaret Atkinson, director of pastoral care and ethics, Morton Plant Mease Hospitals/Bay Care Health System, Clearwater

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