"Prescription for Murder" paints a frightening picture of the human toll taken by counterfeit drugs. Congress must keep this in mind as it debates drug importation laws and allocates funds for more rigorous enforcement. Some counterfeits are so well designed they escape notice by even the most astute health professionals.
I read "Prescription for Murder" with great interest. During my first week this year as a visiting ear specialist in Jos, Nigeria, I saw at least six teenagers or young adults with permanent, total deafness of recent onset. Each case occurred after they had taken antibiotics. The prescribed drugs were not associated with hearing loss, and my western colleague and I suspected that cheaper, more toxic medication had been substituted. The problem may be widespread, as our Nigerian colleagues were surprised to learn that acquired deafness in young people is extremely rare in the United States.
Douglas R. Myers, M.D.
John Brown's Allies
What caught my eye in "Day of Reckoning," about John Brown and his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, was the reference to John Copeland, an African-American student at Oberlin College who participated in the raid. Around 1940, while engaged in an audit of Oberlin College, I took the time to review its well-preserved historical records and found a letter from John Brown in his own handwriting to Levi Burnell, then secretary and treasurer of the institution. Oberlin was also a stop along the Underground Railroad that helped slaves flee to freedom.
Curiously, "Day of Reckoning" neglected to mention by name one black man who rode with Brown: Shields Green. An escaped South Carolina slave, Green was introduced to Brown by Frederick Douglass, who spoke respectfully of Green. "[He] was not one to shrink from hardships or dangers," wrote Douglass. "He was a man of few words, and his speech was singularly broken; but his courage and self-respect made him quite a dignified character." That dignity was unshaken as Green faced trial and death following the raid. Douglass recalled that after he had heard Brown's plan and failed to talk him out of it, he turned to go and asked Green if he was leaving with him.
Douglass was surprised, he wrote, "by his coolly saying, in his broken way, 'I b'leve I'll go wid de ole man.'" A monument honoring Oberlinians Copeland and Lewis Leary, whose widow would later become Langston Hughes' grandmother, as well as co-conspirator Green, stands today in Oberlin's Martin Luther King Park.
New York City
Each week in Harpers Ferry I pass by the firehouse where Brown holed up, the courthouse where he was tried and the house beside which he was hanged. He may always remain an enigma, but his cause was just, though his methods were perverse.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Not Just For Cops
as a retired teacher, I predict we will see Amy Herman's use of art to teach observation techniques ["Teaching Cops to See"] applied to classroom education, even at the elementary school level. Why delay developing sharper observation skills until adults are established in a profession? This could benefit children both by maximizing their learning and by helping them develop a heightened awareness of their surroundings.
Your commentary on the secret language of doctors and nurses ["UBI in the Knife and Gun Club"] left out one expression particularly relevant as we debate health care reform: "There was little we could do because the patient was BCN," or Blue Cross negative.
The bird pictured on page 60 was mistakenly identified as a red knot. It is a short-billed dowitcher.