For most of us, jury duty is not something we think about daily, but through television dramas, Internet articles and news coverage, we are well aware of this call to civic service and our obligations to participate when called. Why then has the process become so onerous? A brief example:

My wife has been notified that she is to serve. She planned the time to ensure no conflicts in a very busy schedule, including planning a vacation trip with friends. The planning reflected her need to be in town for jury duty. She began her first week by following the instructions, calling in at the proper times, being available for any eventuality or whim of the system. Midway through the first week, I was informed that I needed to go into the hospital for an angioplasty at the end of the week. She called in to alert the Hennepin County jury office of the situation and to report that she would not be available for the Friday call because she was required by the doctor to be in attendance when I had the procedure. (And, by the way, she felt that her obligation at that point was to her husband, not to the county — understandable I would think.) She was informed that she could not have a single day off to attend to an urgent family matter but instead must begin the entire two-week process at a later date.

We should not have to change all of our plans again simply to accommodate an inflexible and unresponsive system. If it is the public servants who are responsible for this inflexibility, then retrain them to understand that the system is there to service the public, not place unreasonable demands. If it is the system itself (rules and restrictions and procedures) that cause this dilemma, then change the system.

We are glad — no, happy and excited — to serve our fellow citizens, but not the system itself or its bureaucrats.

Paul Turney, Edina

PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS

My father was in the industry; here’s what I learned from that

There were some interesting letters to the editor last week about the cost of prescription drugs. I have some insight into the industry, at least as it was, because my father was CEO of an ethical drug company in Milwaukee, long since acquired by a larger company. His company was owned by Colgate-Palmolive — the only ethical drug company in their portfolio. Colgate simply could never wrap its mind around the industry and its very high research and development costs since consumer product companies, my career, don’t even come close to the percentage of expenses for R&D that pharmaceutical companies incur.

But here’s the deal. My father had three Ph.D. chemists on his staff that he paid more than Colgate paid him — again incomprehensible to Colgate. Why did he pay them more? It’s simple. He could run the business, but even as a man with a pharmacy degree from the University of Michigan with a number of drug patents under his belt, he could not possibly develop the complex drugs that today are no doubt even more complex on his own. He knew that the business depended on productive R&D, and he hired the best.

Lakeside Laboratories, his company, developed many of the first selective antidepressants of the day, including Norpramin, still on the market today. In fact, my mother took it. I’m 70 years old, so this was a while ago. Nonetheless, let’s talk about the obvious ways to lower drug prices. How about no advertising? I believe we are the only developed country in the world that allows it. Why? And why should we pay for it in our drug prices? How about negotiated pricing? Again, I believe we are the only developed country that doesn’t negotiate, even for Medicare. There are many solutions to the problem, but none will happen while corporate America owns our government.

John F. Hetterick, Plymouth

• • •

Perhaps the cost of prescription drugs could be greatly reduced if the drug companies significantly cut back on advertising; especially TV. I really do not understand the point of introducing this to the general public anyway. Do the companies really expect us to see these colorful TV ads and run right out to our physicians and beg to be put on these wonderful meds? Any doctor worth a diploma will have already discussed the options with you in regard to your condition. In addition, the drug companies seem to love airing the TV ads during dinnertime and nauseating everyone with the horrid description of side effects. Personally, I think I’d rather perish from the disease itself than risk these. I realize this seems to be a rather cold and narrow opinion, but really, have you listened to the list of possible side effects lately?

Susan Theissen, Chanhassen

• • •

Every day I see a new drug advertised on television. Then I turn the channel, and I see a law firm advertising legal help if I have been harmed by one of these new drugs. They tell me I could be eligible for a large cash award.

David M. Blank, Fridley

 

SENTENCING

For the best results, a different kind of thinking is needed

We appreciated the Feb. 1 editorial on life sentences for teens. The acknowledgment of the immature teen brain is helpful as it also applies to the teens in the broken Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). Knowing this, why is so much spent every year hanging on to hundreds of men, many of whom offended only as teens, without any efforts made toward rehabilitation and transitioning out to less restrictive community resources? Our grandson is one of those civilly committed young men, now age 30, who has been caged up for 15 years. No education, stimulating programming, training or rehabilitation has been offered. And the state pays MSOP $129,000 per year per “client” for what? We are certain that with good, constructive programming the state, and families, would get a much better result with its money.

Abby and Ken Dawkins, St. Paul

• • •

The editorial “Go slow on review of life terms for teens” stated that a life prison sentence “costs about $2.5 million.” At that cost, it would seem obvious that money spent on prevention probably provides a big return over time, not only in dollars but in the reduction of human suffering. Certainly sociologists must have isolated many of the factors that lead to the “chaotic, dysfunctional upbringing that can lead to young people with few inhibitions and a weak moral compass.”

There is one factor that is the basis of part of the problem — young women who have unplanned children without any of the support from a committed partner or extended caring family.

Some of our politicians fail to realize in their support for the “prolife issue” and their promise to defund planning that they will promote “chaotic and dysfunctional” families. Planned Parenthood has the mission which its name implies — it educates and provides the methods for young women to not have children they aren’t prepared to care for. Incidentally, the best way to prevent abortions is to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. The best way to have better children who have inhibitions is to have more mature parents who have wanted, not accidental, children.

John B. Baird, Oak Park Heights