The Mail

The Mail

November 30 1998
The Mail

The Mail

November 30 1998

The Mail

Medical ethics

One important point was not mentioned in your very interesting and informative story on Dr. Nancy Olivieri (“Whistleblower,” Cover, Nov. 16). The article refers to a confidentiality clause in Dr. Olivieri’s contract with Apotex restricting her right to disclose. But there is no mention of the overriding question of public policy: under common law, any contractual clause is void to the extent that it offends public policy. Accordingly, to the extent that such a clause prohibits disclosure of information about a medicine that might reasonably be believed by a researcher to cause harm to the health of a person taking that medicine, the clause is void. Period.

Dan Soberman, Emeritus professor of law, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.

Two of my young sons are patients of Dr. Olivieri at the Hospital for Sick Children. They have a bone-marrow-failure disease known as Diamond Blackfan anemia.


should be addressed to:

Maclean’s Magazine Letters

777 Bay St.,Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7

Fax: (416) 596-7730


Maclean’s welcomes readers’ views, but letters may

be edited for space and clarity. Please supply name,

address and daytime telephone number.

Submissions may appear in Maclean’s electronic sites.

Although the disease is different from thalassemia, many of the complications are similar, including the iron buildup. Dr. Olivieri is a recognized leader in the field of chelation, and I trust her skills and ethics completely. When we last saw her, she went well beyond the call of duty to ensure our sons had all the required tests to check their iron levels, and gave us detailed information on all possible chelation options, including the new pill. As a parent, I want all doctors to have the courage to make the best medical and ethical decisions, based on the health needs of their patients, not on finances.

Lois Gair, Calgary

Hospital for Sick Children’s CEO Michael Strofolino calls Dr. Olivieri “this poor little innocent researcher.” How arrogant! He says that Dr. Olivieri and her group of supporters created the dispute to protest his management style and get him fired. How paranoid! He states: ‘We wouldn’t sell our soul for Apotex.” How hypocritical!

Sheila Granger,

Geraldton, Ont.

I appreciated your articles on the process of approving drugs for distribution in Canada (“Pressure point”). Bovine growth hormone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and is not listed as an ingredient in milk because the manufacturer, Monsanto, cannot detect it in its tests. Milk producers who do not use BGH cannot advertise that fact because Monsanto threatens legal action because it disparages their product. That has a very chilling effect on the marketplace and is presumably a sign of things to come.

Albert Smith, Seattle

Lynch-mob dilemma

Barbara Amiel seldom misses an occasion to remind us that she is a part of the international political-industrial elite (“Punishing Pinochet would imperil justice,” Column, Nov. 16). Although she makes a superficial attempt to balance her column (the image of Amiel going “to the barricades” to defend the legal rights of Fidel Castro is certainly amusing), her agenda is characteristically transparent. She hardly pauses for breath between condemning “lynch-mob” justice for former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and stating that she would have favored summary execution for

A queen and a horse

Why are we subsidizing the transport of a horse to England for the pleasure of Queen Elizabeth, a relic of a time past (“Riding high in royal company,” Opening Notes, Nov. 9)? In a time of need in our own country, not to mention Central America, I would like to see Canadian tax dollars spent in a fashion reflecting the nation’s values of social awareness and lending a helping hand to those in need. In addition, could not Maclean's have asked questions regarding the costs of this little gift from us to Lizzie, and whether we truly need an honorary commissioner of the RCMP in a country an ocean away?

Michael O'Grady, Saskatoon

the Nuremberg defendants, “without any pretense of due process.” She slams the short-lived Allende government for attempting to “smash the Chilean constitution” (for which Allende was richly and swiftly rewarded by you know who’s friends) but neglects to mention that her buddies (those pesky elite folk) left Pinochet in a decidedly unconstitutional position for almost two decades. She raps the ex-general’s knuckles for being naughty and then tries to spread the blame for “evil” to (surprise, surprise) Castro, Gorbachev and (of all people) Nelson Mandela and the “butchers” of the African National Congress. If Amiel cannot see the difference between Pinochet and Mandela, then she is blinded by her own agenda and beyond help.

Brian J. Ward, Montreal

Normally, I admire Barbara Amiel’s logic. However, in her column on punishing Pinochet, she condones Winston Churchill’s view that the war criminals should have been “hunted down and shot,” but condemns the action of a lynch mob because “the procedure is faulty and may be used against the innocent.” What is the difference between these two reprobate actions? Am I missing something?

Claudette Potvin, Gloucester, Ont.

Barbara Amiel writes that I have “not yet come to the realization that a utopian pursuit of peace and justice has proven to be the surest way to strife and bloodshed.” History has taught me the contrary, that such a pursuit has led to the abolition of slavery, the establishment of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the recent approval of the international criminal

court, all of which have contributed, or will contribute, to a more just, peaceful and civilized society. Her statement that I and people like me are essentially lawless, that the only role we see for the justice system is to further our own sociopolitical agenda and that we would set aside the rule of law is simply nonsense. With respect to Pinochet, I don’t know anyone supporting his prosecution who has suggested that the rule of law or any laws be set aside. We want him to be tried in accordance with the rule of law, which includes international treaties ratified by the relevant countries. Is Amiel suggesting that the British House of Lords or the Spanish courts would do otherwise? Furthermore, I would fully support the prosecution of any tyrant, from the left or right, who has committed similar crimes.

Warren Allmand, President, International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, Montreal

In a case where most people take it for granted that something is “black,” Barbara Amiel makes a convincing case that it might be “white.” Having considered her arguments, I still believe Pinochet’s history is a dark enough grey to justify overcoming the technicalities he has constructed for himself.

Mark Cogswell, St. Stephen, N.B.

Pride in Winnipeg

The Passages item (Nov. 9) announcing that Glen Murray had been elected mayor of Winnipeg said his sexual orientation never became an issue during the campaign. I would like the country to be aware that this was not really the case. In the weeks before the election, the fact that Murray is gay was the most talked-about issue in Winnipeg. Debates were raging in homes, churches, workplaces and social gatherings. If you turned on the radio to a talk show, hundreds of people were expressing their opinions. At every opportunity, his

opponent, Peter Kaufmann, and his supporters were mentioning Kaufmann’s strong family background and his devoted wife. Although the mainstream media never stated that Murray’s homosexuality would be detrimental to Winnipeg, many religious and other groups did. The fact that Murray is a homosexual was very much an issue in this election. Common sense prevailed, however. I can honestly say that I have never been more proud to live in Winnipeg than when I heard that Glen Murray was elected our new mayor.

Teddi Swidinsky, Winnipeg

Funding Defence

The facts are now in: current levels of defence investment cannot meet our national defence commitments (“No life like it,” Canada Notes, Nov. 16). The recent Fraser Institute report, the Commons standing committee on national defence, the auditor general of Canada and the chief of the defence staff have all sent the same message to the Chrétien government: defence is dangerously underfunded. Only the dedication and sacrifice of those who have bravely an-

swered the call to serve in Canada’s uniform have kept this open secret from becoming a national disgrace. The truth is that our Canadian Forces now face a high risk of increased casualties and decreased probability of success in meeting their commitments at home and abroad. There are not enough troops, and the equipment is antiquated and dangerous to use.

J. Cecil Berezowski, Brentwood Bay, B. C.

Honor roll nominees

Dr. John Butt, chief medical examiner for Nova Scotia, deserves to be on your Flonor Roll. His name was probably unknown to most Canadians, indeed most Nova Scotians, until the aftermath of the tragic Swissair Flight 111 crash off Peggys Cove. Through television and radio interviews, Dr. Butt has shown himself to be highly professional as well as tactful, compassionate and empathetic towards the families of the victims. He and his staff have labored long and hard, facing more horrors than most of us can even imagine.

Susan Crosby, Yarmouth, N.S.

I would like to nominate Dr. Alan Bernstein for inclusion in your 13th annual Honor Roll. Dr. Bernstein is director of the worldrenowned Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and one of Canada’s best-known and most respected biomedical scientists. His personal research has laid the molecular groundwork for much of our understanding of cancer, embryonic development, formation of the blood system and the potential of gene therapy. In addition, Dr. Bernstein is outstanding and, I believe, unique, in his contribution to establishing and maintaining the scientific enterprise both in Canada and around the world.

Anthony]. Pawson, Toronto

'Living for money'

The excerpt from Peter C. Newman’s book Titans leaves little doubt about big business’s far-reaching influence on Canadian policy (‘Titans,” Cover, Nov. 2). The Liberals’ flip-flop on cutting health and education, on keeping free trade, on putting human rights in the backseat and on maintaining high interest rates was the result of the influence of big business’s chief lobbyist on the Prime Minister, according to New-

man. The question is, why? While the largest corporations play an important economic role, following their agenda has led to eight years of high unemployment, a widening gap between the rich and the rest, falling real incomes to 1984 levels for the average Canadian family, and health and education systems starved for money. If this is what you get for listening to the Business Council on National Issues, you would think it might dawn on the governing Liberals that they could find better advice.

Robert White, President, Canadian Labour Congress, Ottawa

Today, I was reading a letter from a friend in Cuba who was telling me about his rations of rice and beans. He wrote: “I don’t know what good food is since the early 1990s and I have erased from my mind the word ‘breakfast’ and sometimes I forget the other two, ‘lunch’ and ‘dinner.’ ” Later in the evening, I picked up my copy of Maclean’s on the ‘Titans”—Peter Nygard and his $ 12million home with its electric carts to drive guests to their bedrooms and his “trying to get back to nature” and Conrad Black and his “down in the dumps” story. Poor Jean Chrétien, and his dealings with the Business Council on National Issues, surely he won’t have to worry about his next break-

fast after vacating the prime minister’s chair. How can the titans sleep at night when half the world goes hungry? How can they live for money when so many live in misery?

Ruth Larson, Labrador City, Nfld.

Pugilism and pucks

ÍÉ'TNiugs on ice” (Cover, Nov. 9) présentai, ed a superb yet disturbing exposé on the unfortunate state of ice hockey in North America. To satisfy a commercial imperative in an expanded U.S. market, the traditional skill, speed and excitement of the greatest game in the world have been subordinated by gratuitous violence. There is something terribly perverse about a scenario in which the kinds of goons and gladiators portrayed in your articles are permitted to compete in the same arena with the likes of Steve Yzerman, Paul Kariya and Mario Lemieux. Is this what a civilized society aspires to? The NHL and its associated minor leagues across North America would be well advised to heed the vision of noted demographers before forging ahead with further expansion. The baby boomers, who are the largest segment of North American society, are now reaching their

50s and loudly and clearly expressing a preference for quality over quantity—read: finesse and excitement, not more teams and a watered-down product. Those among us who have been serious hockey fans over the years are fed up with the barbarism and want to see more effort from those in charge to put the hockey back into hockey, if we are expected to remain loyal fans.

W. K. Rowe, Inver ary, Ont.

I don’t want to see a fight because the game is slow or my team is losing, but if someone “runs” Cujo (Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph) or “sticks” (star forward) Mats Sundin, then the closest player, not just Tie Domi, had better drop the gloves, no excuses accepted. And if Bob Levin doesn’t want to see a good scrap, then I suggest he stick to the golf channel (“Fight night in Canada: send in the goons,” Column, Nov. 9). Does he know who Marty McSorley is? The Great One does. Wayne Gretzky set many records with Marty ready to pound on anyone who even looked at Gretzky sideways. It’s kind of funny how all the intellectuals out there forget that delicate balance of hockey. You can score a lot more goals if you know your back (and head) is protected. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Ken Dryden, who unfortunately

runs my team, doesn’t want fighting in hockey, but he sure as hell pays Domi plenty of cash to make sure that nobody takes a shot at Sundin.

Gerard Pastorius, Dartmouth, N.S.

As a concerned physician, I feel that the true long-term effects of repeated head injuries are not fully appreciated by players or management. The tragic case of former boxer Mohammed Ali is a living testimony of the danger of this type of insult to the human brain. Videos of Ali during the various stages of his life should be made mandatory viewing for all hockey players and those who formulate the rules for professional hockey.

Dr. C. R. S. Dawes, Barry’s Bay, Ont.

Right turn south

While I was reading “Caught in the backlash” (World, Nov. 16), I couldn’t help but notice a parallel between the events happening within the Republican party and the so-called right here in Canada. “The Republicans will be preoccupied by the fight among disparate factions to chart a course after Gingrich.” Read: some Conservatives and Reformers are and will soon be increasingly preoccupied by such a fight. “The [Republican] party must combine its conservative message with more flexible tactics.” Which party might have to do that in Canada? Hint: most of its power base is in the West.

Lucien R. Duigou, St. Albert, Alta.

The chocolate lobby

Your tale about the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association using chocolate cars to drive its lobby efforts (“Capital Confidential,” Opening Notes, Nov. 9) presents a rather idyllic view of lobbying. If only it were so. After five years of staging Halloween parties for MPs and kids, our Halloween event confirms that politicians and Parliament Hill staff definitely like free candy. But the Confectionery Manufacturers Association of Canada is still waiting for MPs to remove the unfair GST on confectionery (for example, chocolate-covered wafer “cookies” are GST-free at the grocery store, but just across the aisle a package of chocolatecovered wafer “confectionery” still gets hit with the tax). Still, if we could convince everyone that lobbying by chocolate is the way to go, it might help offset the competitive disadvantage of the GST policy.

Carol Hochu,

President, Confectionery Manufacturers Association of Canada, Toronto