Letters to the editor

Inmate received appropriate care

In the article “High Pressure Zone” [May 18 Xpress], I am singled out for attention regarding my treatment of an inmate in Swain Recovery Center and the Buncombe County Detention Facility. The allegation of the former inmate and the implication of the reporter is that I withheld needed treatment from the inmate.

Your reporter wrote, “Bate refused to comment.” This was the only outright lie in the part of the article referring to me. What I actually told your reporter in response to his voice mail is as follows: First, I could not discuss with him any aspect of the former inmate’s medical care without a HIPAA-compliant release-of-information form signed by the inmate; second, this set of allegations by the former inmate had been investigated internally by the Buncombe County Detention Facility and found to have no merit; third, the North Carolina Medical Board had reviewed the case thoroughly, in response to a complaint by the former inmate, and had found the complaint to have no merit.

That the reporter did not care to investigate this matter further does not make my medical care bad. I consider this reporter’s actions to be intended to harm my reputation and to impugn my integrity.

If I withheld treatment from the inmate for a serious medical condition, it would have been a violation of state and federal law, including his rights under the Constitution; it would have been medical malpractice; it would have violated the standards of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, by which body both the Detention Facility and I were certified at the time of the inmate’s incarceration; and most important to me, it would have violated the mission and core values of the organization for which I worked at the time, and for which I still work.

As it is, this inmate received appropriate medical care throughout his incarceration. It is at least as dangerous for a physician to prescribe a medication that the patient does not need, as it is to withhold one that is needed. Your reporter could have established the truth fairly easily, and chose not to. Your reporter could have written a really interesting article about the issues involved in providing appropriate health care to inmates, and chose not to.

Rather than pretend to medical knowledge and understanding that it does not possess, your newspaper could devote itself to finding and printing facts. I have been a loyal reader of the Xpress for many years, finding it a refreshing alternative to the Citizen-Times. I am exceedingly disappointed in this irresponsible reportage, which does nothing to improve our community, and which certainly does not enhance the reputation of your newspaper.

— David S. Bate, M.D.

[Reporter Cecil Bothwell replies:

David Bate did decline to comment; he said I would first need to file a release-of-information form (which is actually a records request) and told me to mail it in care of Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care Business Services. I complied, enclosing the release form (signed by the inmate) with an Aug. 12, 2004, letter addressed to Bate. In response, I received a form letter from the Medical Records Department saying they did not have the records I’d requested. There was no response from Bate.

According to my notes, files and memory, Bate did not inform me of either the internal investigation by the Buncombe County Detention Center or the North Carolina Medical Board, nor did any of the other jail personnel I spoke with. According to Sheriff’s Department Attorney Julie Keppel, the results of internal investigations are not public records (and thus cannot be accessed by reporters). And given that a court transcript records a detention-center administrator contradicting both his own testimony and jail records concerning this case, one might wonder how reliable an internal investigation conducted by jail administrators would be.

It was never my intention to harm Bate’s reputation or impugn his integrity. He was and is a stranger to me, known only through paperwork obtained from the detention center and the Swain Treatment Center. My story was largely based on such official documents.

The record indicates that Carlos Payne was denied hypertension medication for 62 days, was sent to the emergency room for radiating pain in his head and neck and a high blood-pressure reading, and was prescribed hypertension medication by a hospital physician.

Physicians can (and often do) disagree about appropriate treatment, and Bate undoubtedly had his reasons for his diagnosis of Payne. Our story, however, was not about Bate — it was about the entire medical regimen at the jail; about multiple allegations (by both inmates and jailers) of serious lapses in treatment; and about inmate deaths that may have resulted from inadequate care.

These are grave matters that demand investigation, and it’s our job as journalists to shine the spotlight of public scrutiny on them.]

Examine the deeper needs of welfare

Suppose I had an alcohol or a drug problem that cost me my job, my family and my home. Indeed, I would welcome food and a safe, warm place to sleep at night. But I’d have deeper needs that all the creature comforts in the world might not address. I would have sober moments when I would see that my habit was robbing me of my life. A part of me would yearn to be independent and able to interact meaningfully with others — and not in the role of a co-dependent charity case.

Although it is much more difficult, and takes a lot of courage and imagination, we should strive to find charitable outlets that will help the downtrodden build character so that they, just like us, can “strive for the measure of their creation,” and “be all that they can be.” We need good-hearted people (like Carl Caristo [Letters, “Ne’er-Do-Wells Are People in Need,” May 25], and not faceless government bureaucracies) to dare to go that extra mile. Ask anyone who’s been held back, underestimated, denied opportunity or otherwise overprotected, and they’ll agree with Vice Mayor Mumpower’s famous quote, “People don’t like to be treated as pets.”

As more and more people seem to be opting for the homeless path, we need to examine our welfare challenges holistically. While we’re saving people’s bodies, have we turned a cold shoulder on their souls?

— Bill Lack

The crop’s coming in

I see a Charlotte company is going to build a huge development on Mine Hole Gap off U.S. Route 74A, and this is all because there is no zoning on the land. I guess we can thank the no-zoning advocates for this unfortunate turn of events. What on Earth did they think was going to happen with no zoning? Did they think things would just stay nice and peaceful?

This Neanderthal attitude that “it’s my land and I can do what I choose” is passe. It’s not your land and never has been; it belongs to Nature. Owners of property are just temporary stewards of the land. Owners have a life of 75 years — if they are lucky — while the land will be here for millions of years. The attitude of the no-zoning proponents is selfish and myopic. Reap what you sew, people.

— Alan W. Ostmann

Taylor questions may get answered

It looks like [Rep.] Charles Taylor is finally going to be investigated. As you may or may not know, there has long been an attempt by private citizens to get him investigated concerning his dealings with Blue Ridge Savings Bank, as well as a Russian bank he owns. Several people were convicted in the Blue Ridge money-laundering schemes, but Taylor was never questioned by the FBI. The Russian bank is the first American-owned bank in that country, and is reportedly charging interest rates of up to 60 percent on its mortgages in a very depressed area (according to the Moscow Times).

As you may or may not know, the House ethics committee does not take up complaints from private citizens. Now there is a resolution passed by District 11 Democrats, and cosponsored “in solidarity” by District 13 Democrats (Greensboro and Raleigh), with U.S. Rep. Brad Miller endorsing the investigation of Charles Taylor. It’s time to see what’s really going on.

— Wes James

What’s this free speech saying?

The beauty of freedom of speech in our country: You can really say just about anything and it is OK.

After a recent workout at the YMCA in Hendersonville, one of my chores en route home was to stop at Ingles Market and pick up a few items for my wife.

When I made it back to my car, a fellow in a ragged-out ’80s “rice burner,” i.e., Japanese car — and I use that term affectingly (we have a 1990 Subaru as a third vehicle) — had parked beside me and was in the process of leaving. I noticed what appeared to be, until closer inspection, a Bush/Cheney sticker in the middle of his back window (something the N.C. State Highway Patrol might look poorly upon). But what it really said was: “BUSH IS A MORON.” On further inspection of the interior, the car seemed to be a homeless person’s dwelling, [based on] the mess inside. And I wondered: What resource of knowledge does this man have that I haven’t been aware of? What fountain?

As a defender of our Constitution, freedom of speech, and the free and open exchange of ideas, I was taken aback by this somewhat radical(?) demonstration of the idea. Such devotion.

In the recent, explosive story about the Koran down at Gitmo being inappropriately disposed of, we find out that Newsweek didn’t quite get the story on the money. Now we have pictures of the Butcher of Baghdad in his Hanes, or are those Calvin Kleins? Now that would be a story — Saddam in a Jew’s underwear. What’s next? Osama flushing a King James Version of the Bible down an industrial strength toilet?

— Fuller Moore
Mountain Home

We’re ruled by law, not whim

The conservative press claims that “liberal activist judges” have exceeded their authority by creating new laws. Conservative pundit Chuck Colson wrote: “A federal judge in Omaha overturned Nebraska’s constitutional amendment that banned same-sex ‘marriage,'” although voters approved the amendment 70 percent to 30 percent in 2000.

Colson argued for the “sanctity-of-marriage” amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His reason? “Nebraska’s concern, as elsewhere, was that same-sex couples would marry [elsewhere], come to Nebraska, and demand legal recognition.”

This is exactly the reason we don’t need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The United States is not a democracy, but a republic. We are ruled by law, not the whims of the majority. It is, in my opinion, the best system of government yet devised on the planet. The Bill of Rights, which applies to all citizens, protects and preserves our inalienable rights.

Nebraska’s voting population may refuse to recognize homosexual unions, but judges recognize that the Founding Fathers never meant the Constitution to serve as a vehicle for prejudice. As a result, courts have determined that a law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. In other words, it opposes the Constitution’s intent. The law sides against prejudice, whether based on sexual orientation, race or religion. If the “sanctity-of-marriage” amendment passes, will an amendment forbidding the practice of Islam follow?

Our Founding Fathers established a basic set of laws. Granted, we’ve changed some, but changing laws is a slow, public process, full of debate. It’s meant to be difficult. Our judges must interpret laws for today’s complex issues — issues our Founding Fathers couldn’t imagine.

Don’t lose sight of what makes our country special. We suffer diversity well. We live in multicultural, multiracial neighborhoods. We learned tolerance, sometimes at a cost. This is our future. This is what shines to the rest of the world.

— Mark H. Bloom

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