Roulette and Suicide

Regarding the article purporting to compare victims of Russian roulette with others who intentionally shot themselves in the head to commit suicide {The Cutting Edge, June 9}:

The conclusion of the study was that Russian roulette victims may be seeking excitement to alleviate a depressive state.

As questionable as the purpose of such a study might be, the validity of the data is certainly suspect. The researchers noted that "all of the roulette victims died with others around them, while more than half of the genuine suicides died alone." Without others around to verify that the gunshot was received in the course of playing roulette, how else could that fact be determined? Nothing else would distinguish the scene from a "genuine suicide." Therefore, any unwitnessed cases of death by roulette would be treated as genuine suicide, and any differentiation between the two groups of individuals loses validity. Phyllis R. Anderson Bethesda

IQ Tests: History of Abuse

Your recent article "The IQ of an Infant" {Children's Health, June 9} was highly interesting, but I was somewhat alarmed by its tone of uncritical enthusiasm. Nothing in your account even alludes to the fact that IQ tests are extremely controversial morally, socially and politically.

The World War I testing of soldiers (in which culturally skewed, English language tests were administered to many non-middle class, non-native speakers) generated some of the first "scientific proof" of the supposed mental deficiency of southern and eastern Europeans, blacks and other non-Anglo-Saxons. These and other IQ studies contributed to post-World War I hysteria about the threat posed to the allegedly superior Yankee gene pool by the onslaught of "mental defectives." The IQ test thus played a role in the adoption of discriminatory immigration laws, designed to restrict the influx of "inferior" groups.

The test also played a role in the development of the eugenics movement which, until discredited by the activities of its Nazi German practitioners, enjoyed considerable influence in this country and led to wide support for such practices as the involuntary sterilization of the "feeble-minded."

More recent studies have raised questions about how teachers actually use and respond to children's IQ test results. Some research indicates that IQ tests become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with teachers unconsciously responding with limited interest and low expectations to children who have scored low.

For these and other reasons, IQ tests have been the subject of concern and criticism in many quarters. These concerns can only be heightened when, as your article indicates, scientists propose to test not adults, or even school-age children, but tiny infants and thereby to pigeonhole them virtually from birth.

I am, of course, aware that many involved in the testing field insist the test is purely diagnostic, that it serves to assist the "slow" learner rather than to stigmatize him. These tests have been misused too seriously and too many times to endorse them unreservedly. I do not suggest that this type of research should necessarily be abandoned, but given its history, it needs to be approached with a great deal more caution and skepticism than your article reflects. Janina Jaruzelski Washington

Values of the Church

I would like to comment on "Catholic Hospitals: Balancing Medical Advances and Papal Values" by Victor Cohn {Cover Story, June 9}. First, the recent document on medical ethics was not written by the pope but by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. These values are not just "papal values" but

values of the whole Catholic Church, even though there are Catholics who disagree.

The article did not give a fair amount of treatment to the viewpoint of Catholics who agree with and promote the Church's teaching on these reproductive/sexual issues. The article did not give enough emphasis to why the Church takes the positions it does. The article also fails to emphasize the harmful physical/psychological marital effects that result from the use of reproductive/contraceptive/abortive methods that the Church disapproves of. David P. Pertolotti McLean

Beds for AIDS Patients

In the article "AIDS The Growing Impact" {Cover Story, June 2}, important information regarding AIDS patient care at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore was omitted. Don Colburn quoted me as saying our AIDS clinic had reached the saturation point of more than 600 patients and is now turning people away for lack of space, money and personnel.

The outpatient clinic at Hopkins Hospital could not accept new patients in mid-January because our resources were saturated. At the end of March, however, we started to accept new outpatients once again. During these three months, the hospital continued to offer inpatient AIDS care. At this time, we provide health services through the outpatient clinic to more than 700 patients.

In the near future, the hospital plans to expand its inpatient unit from 10 to 20 beds with an ultimate goal of 60 beds by the early 1990s.Andrew Sorensen Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

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