Reading June Bingham's article "Why Hospital Patients Need a Bedside Proxy" {Outlook, Aug. 12}, I did not know whether to laugh or cry. She was fortunate to be permitted to be with her husband at the hospital as much as she obviously was. But what if a mate does not have access to the patient? I lived through this nightmare.

For seven weeks my late husband was in the intensive care unit of the Washington Hospital Center. In the beginning I was permitted to be with him twice a day for half an hour. After his cardiologist intervened on my behalf, I could be with him every two hours for 10 minutes from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Like Mrs. Bingham's husband, mine had a tracheotomy and a breathing tube inserted in his throat, and thus he was unable to speak. I, however, was kept at arm's length, and most of the time I did not know what was done to my husband, much less asked for my consent for the countless procedures undertaken. Still I was one of those family members Mrs. Bingham speaks of who was at the hospital every day for hours on end -- which I was permitted to spend in the ICU's waiting room. Every two or three days the intravenous tubes were taken out and inserted at another place in the veins to avert infections. My husband, a survivor of Auschwitz, was simply petrified of any injection because the Nazis used to inject the inmates with air, killing them that way. My husband was heavily sedated and therefore confused, and this procedure was pure hell for him. I begged to be allowed to remain with him -- if it was only to hold his hand, reassuring him and alleviating some of his anxiety. But, no, I was ushered out.

There definitely should be somebody who speaks with and for the patient. However, if the hospital rules are such that this somebody obviously is just a nuisance, this person is powerless.

Maybe some hospitals' attitudes have to be changed drastically. LILI HAHN Silver Spring