My son Paul died recently at age 27 of complications of cancer. I write while our grief is fresh because the treatment he received at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health, both medically and personally, deserves notice and commendation in a time when government institutions are under attack for cheap political gains by leaders from presidents on down. Civil-servant bashing, frequently deserved, has become a national sport for politicians of many stripes, tarring all with an indiscriminate brush.

My son's medical treatment, part of a study of different protocols for the treatment of lymphoma, an aggressive but often treatable form of cancer, was of the highest order. The civil servants of the NIH Clinical Center with whom we came into contact belied the stereotype. Of course, NIH is a giant bureaucracy with all the foibles that brings -- as are most hospitals we have encountered. But especially in crisis times, the physicians and technicians were superb, often gray with fatigue from long and arduous hours. They were also patient, informative and unfailingly decent. Almost without exception they made themselves available to us for clear and frank explanations and to answer innumerable, often no doubt foolish, questions.

Our greatest tribute, however, must go to the nursing staffs of 13 East and 10D. It is difficult to imagine a group of people who would give so much of themselves to care for and care about a difficult patient whose prospects were poor.

The best medicine available could not save our son. But his death is a lesson that decency is not lost in the hundreds of people, mostly civil servants, who were involved in his care. I am proud for all of us that this government institution exists.