A Lasting Memory

As a child and all my life I begged her to quit smoking {"Smokers True Confessions," Cover Story, Nov. 17}.

"I enjoy it. If it kills me, it kills me," she replied always.

One month ago my mother died. At 37 pounds she looked curiously as though she had been already dead for six weeks. It was wretchedly macabre -- that throat cancer had rendered her unrecognizable.

The pain, stench of death, the sight of this, the first person I ever knew, is imprinted indelibly in my brain.

The last words my mother ever mouthed (she hadn't been able to speak in months) were: "I'm sorry." So am I. Edi Biggerstaff Lanham

Marijuana 'Propaganda'

The so called "Update on Marijuana" {Health Issues, Nov. 17} is not an update whatsoever. It is the same propaganda that my mother was cutting out of your paper and placing on my dresser 15 years ago with the hopes of persuading me to give up grass and replace it with something safer, like alcohol.

Don Colburn writes that "a growing body of data is yielding a scientific consensus that prolonged regular use of this drug {marijuana} entails significant risks such as short-term memory loss, lung damage and possible psychic dependency." He supports this by reprinting the results of government-sponsored research. What does Mr. Colburn expect a research scientist to come up with when he is being paid by a government grant? If a scientist established that grass was beneficial, then I'm certain his study would be the last financed by Uncle Sam.

According to the article, I should not have enough gray matter left undamaged to write this response. I suppose this could be just an involuntary spasm that I'm experiencing here at my computer.

Well, I've had it with your propaganda! With the logic in this article, everyone should give up drinking because a small percentage of drinkers become alcoholics or crash their car while intoxicated. If you really want to do a study, don't force innocent apes to smoke hundreds of joints per day. Give me a call and you can check me out, as well as many of my friends who have smoked reefer for 15 to 20 years. We use it responsibly, just like folks do with their extremely toxic cocktails, to forget all about the things that occur every day that aggravate us all.

I will continue to chance jail because I believe my rights are being violated in this matter, plus the government does not have the resources to stop me. So go ahead and arrest me! There are another 16 million, according to this article, who smoke it regularly. There is a drug war going on all right, and Uncle Sam is losing it. Tomas R. Estrada-Palma Washington

Pain Relief for Infants

Dr. Gerard W. Ostheimer declares {"Sparing Infants the Agony of Surgery," Healthtalk, Nov. 10} that "we've dealt with the true surgical decisions." I submit that this is wishful thinking if it implies that unanesthetized surgery on infants is no longer practiced. People don't change that fast, especially when the change means they must face the reality of what they've been doing to their patients for years, albeit with the best of intentions. At the point of individual physicians' and nurses' internalizing the consequences of withholding analgesia for babies, there is still a lot of denial. For example, at the October Parent Care national conference, a pediatric surgeon stood up after Nance Cunningham Butler, Helen Harrison and myself had spoken and contended that he feels comfortable cutting off extra fingers and toes of infants without any pain relief.

Furthermore, nowhere is the issue of informed consent addressed. Parents faced with decisions involving surgery for their children are not told what may happen. Consent forms are not accurate with regard to analgesia. And since many medical personnel are ignorant of the practice, those few thoughtful parents who do ask (like myself) may be given incorrect answers. This issue still needs to be addressed legally.

Nurses and doctors need more education and encouragement on pain control. Influential medical associations need to be motivated to deal with this problem. If they refuse to act, the situation can be remedied from the other direction by using parent support groups already in existence to identify those physicians and nurses in their affiliate hospitals and isolate them. Recalcitrant caregivers should be denied staff cooperation and lucrative referrals. There are over 600 parent support groups associated with the 1,200 intensive care nurseries in the United States, so they could be quite effective.Jill R. Lawson Silver Spring Your article mentioned that "even premature babies hurt when they are operated upon . . ." I have also read in several other sources of information that many doctors believe that the unborn definitely do feel pain.

In this country we believe strongly in civil rights. Then why do we allow our smallest and most defenseless human beings to be torn apart limb by limb and also to be poisoned and burned by a salt solution, all the while feeling the pain? Is it because we cannot hear them scream in pain that we ignore their plight?Doris E. Snyder Springfield Letters intended for publication must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters may be edited. Although we are unable to acknowledge all letters, we appreciate the time and value the viewpoints of those who write. Send letters to Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.