HEALTH CARE

Touting medical pot, long-term care coverage

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom should stick to his role: enforcing, not writing, the law ("Backstrom firmly against medical use of marijuana," Dec. 1) Perhaps his most insulting claim is that marijuana is not medicine. While it's true that marijuana has not gone through the Federal Drug Administration approval process, that's due to federal obstruction of research, not its lack of medicinal value. Studies have shown marijuana is effective at treating several debilitating conditions, including wasting, intense nausea and intractable pain. My mother used marijuana to ease the debilitating and life-threatening side effects of chemotherapy, allowing her to live for over four years post-diagnosis. She wouldn't have survived the second year without marijuana. With it, she could keep fighting and was even able to travel overseas.

A third of Americans now live in states with medical marijuana programs. Minnesota lawmakers should listen to patients who have benefited from using the drug medicinally. Law enforcement in 20 states and D.C. have managed just fine since medical marijuana passed. Our men and women in blue can, too.

KATHY RIPPENTROP, Lakeville

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Major funding for Alzheimer's disease is, indeed, long overdue, as stated by a Dec. 2 letter writer. Allocating funds now, however, will not solve the immediate problem of caring for Alzheimer's patients, whose ranks are expected to grow as the baby boomers age.

Individuals have been encouraged to purchase long-term care insurance. These policies are expensive but could be made more affordable with a favorable tax benefit. Just as contributions to retirement accounts are encouraged by allowing taxpayers to use them to adjust their gross incomes, the same should be done with premiums for long-term care insurance.

Reducing the projected cost of long-term care for seniors, including Alzheimer's patients, would more than compensate for any tax revenue lost now. Perhaps the Minnesota congressional delegation could initiate this change in our tax code.

HANNA Hill, Plymouth

SEX OFFENDERS

When going gets tough, our Legislature punts

The Dec. 3 article, "New court proposed for sexual offenders," opines that a new layer of supervision " … could be a tough sell in the Legislature, where lawmakers are reluctant even to discuss the politically charged issue of treating serial rapists and child molesters." Leaving aside the merits of the new proposal, let us examine carefully the idea that our legislators are reluctant to deal with a serious, albeit politically charged, issue. Why did we elect them, and what are we paying them for? To decide on a state cupcake? Serious issues such as public safety and civil liberties belong in our Legislature. Serious issues will always be politically charged. Isn't that why the legislators are in politics?

Elaine frankowski, Minneapolis

ORCHESTRA

Donors needed, but where will money go?

Today my mail includes a gracious request from the Minnesota Orchestral Association to remember the organization in my will. Helpful tips and examples are included on how to do this. And in grateful return, I would get to go to a yearly luncheon, receive a magazine and be helped with further notices on how I might gift the association in more and diverse ways.

But would I ever again get to hear the full and glorious sound of the musicians led by Osmo Vänskä other than on CDs?

I wonder if the rest of our community is as loath to give any kind of gift to this association, which has executed and dismembered our priceless orchestra? What are they going to use the money for? The brochure and the association's website don't really say. And, wait, is there an orchestra around to actually use the money? And how much did it cost to send out this glossy brochure, pledge card and return envelope? I am outraged that they had the audacity to do this.

LESLIE RANDOLPH, St. Paul

NEWBORN SCREENING

Processed properly, data can save lives

The stories of babies dying or suffering lifelong disability simply because their newborn screening results were delayed are heartbreaking, especially because these cases were entirely preventable ("Saving babies," Dec. 1). Though Minnesota's hospitals process results faster than the national average, there is significant room for improvement in detecting treatable disorders and saving babies' lives through this program.

Minnesota is the only state that destroys newborn screening data by legislative mandate soon after birth. Legislation enacted in 2012 requires that all test samples and results — whether positive or negative — be destroyed by a child's second birthday. This time frame has serious implications for babies and their families. Most of the actual samples or blood spots must be destroyed within 71 days, though not all testing can be completed within this time limit. And because all results are destroyed within two years, doctors have no way of verifying them when a child is critically ill. Having access to test results can also prove lifesaving to siblings of children born with or without screened conditions.

The information collected through newborn screening saves lives. We should be quick to process the data — not destroy it.

ROBERT M. JACOBSON and SUE BERRY

The writers are president and president-elect, respectively, of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

DETROIT

Bankruptcy is a way to shirk responsibility

The Dec. 4 headline read "Bankrupt Detroit can cut pensions, benefits." The city of Detroit is learning what billionaires have known for many years — you don't need to keep your promises.

GORDON KELLEY, Dundas, Minn.