November 11, 2003

Letters to the Editor

Abortions in China

Emily Alpert makes a valid point about the dangers of getting your sexual education information from President Bush ("It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Syphilis," 11/7/03). However, the evidence I acquired while attending the 2001 Senate hearing on the allegedly "false premise" of U.N. complicity in forced abortions in China compellingly suggests otherwise. The evidence unveiled stories of the Chinese government demolishing the homes of the family members of pregnant women who had fled their villages to avoid physically forced abortion; infanticide for babies born without birth permits; and the marred reputation of a scholar, Steven Mosher, who dared to voice these unpopular truths. We, as a nation, were not only complicit; as the largest donor to the United Nations, we were directly implicated in this brutal violation of women's bodies and the death of infants. In my mind, that was $34 million well cut. Furthermore, in the interest of sexual health, perhaps Alpert should have mentioned that the Human Papilloma Virus, the most infectious and incurable sexually transmitted disease, is easily spread during "safe sex" and is a leading cause of cervical cancer for women.Michelle Harrington

Response to midwife debate

In the lobbies, waiting areas, and patient rooms of University of Chicago Hospitals are patient response cards. Apparently, the hospital wishes to have patient feedback on what would improve our hospital stay. When our requests are for extra pillows or more cable TV channels, perhaps they are taken seriously. But when hundreds of patients send letters requesting that the Nurse-Midwife practice be kept open, we are treated dismissively. This negative reaction sets a horrible precedent for the future of the hospital's response to the needs of the community.

Our concerns are real, not frivolous. We have the well being of our babies and ourselves at heart. As healthy, childbearing women, we do not want unnecessary medical procedures performed on us against our will. We want to be respected as agents in our own healthcare. Instead, the hospital marginalizes us, saying we are only three percent of the women who birth babies at University of Chicago Hospitals.

Actually, these numbers are misleading. In past years, a midwife has seen one out of every five new obstetrics patients at U of C Hospitals. Some are excluded from delivering with the midwives because of preexisting health problems, but fully 70 percent are excluded because they are on Medicaid, and the hospital can get higher reimbursements for them if medical residents deliver their babies. This is one of many examples of a two-tiered healthcare system at U of C that discriminates against poor women, usually women of color. Meanwhile, the obstetricians' birth statistics are artificially inflated because the attending physician gets credit for all babies delivered by residents under his or her supervision. The attending physician also gets credit for the delivery if the midwife calls him in for a consultation during the labor, or if any intervention (such as forceps delivery or C-section) is required. Thus, the midwives play a much more integral part in patient care than the hospital's birth statistics reflect.

At a time when the Obstetrician/Gynecology department has just spent several million dollars on new office furniture, it is offensive for it to tell its patients that it cannot afford to keep the midwife practice open. The midwives have made every effort to balance their books, including soliciting a generous offer from the Board of Health to expand and subsidize the practice. The hospital's response was that it would gladly accept the Board's money, but residents, not midwives, would deliver most of the babies.

We, the community, cannot tolerate this dismissal of our needs. The hospital needs to hear the message that it bears a responsibility to listen to the community it is supposed to serve. To sign a student or alumni letter to University President Randel, visit www.supportUCmidwives.org.

Jennifer Moran

Graduate Student

Committee on Genetics

Critique on Enrico Fermi

Your obituary of Telmer Peterson in the November 7 issue of the Maroon states that Peterson helped Enrico Fermi build the University of Chicago's first cyclotron.For the record, the University's first cyclotron was built before World War II—and before Fermi arrived—by the late Robert J. Moon (Ph.D., Chemistry, 1936). For example see Robert J. Moon and William D. Harkins, "The production of high velocity particles in a cyclotron by the use of multiphase oscillators," Physical Review, vol. 49, pg. 273 (1937). Although this brief paper barely hints at the truth, I was told by the late Franklin Offner (Ph.D., Physics, 1938) that Moon actually conceived of the concept of phase stability (synchrotron) usually attributed to independent work by Veksler and McMillan (1945).

Robert Michaelson

S.B. 1966

Evanston, Illinois