Your reviewer found several shortcomings in my book, "The Limits of Privacy" [Style, May 24]. I will not argue about those, but one of his claims should not be allowed to stand. Robert O'Harrow writes, "He starts off in the wrong direction with an opening chapter about whether mothers can be tested for AIDS without their consent in order to help their newborns. . . . [H]e should focus more on matters that have an impact on the vast majority of Americans."
I showed in my book that the federal government has canceled a program that would allow doctors to save the lives of infants born with HIV. Many of these infants can throw off the dread disease if they are given AZT shortly after birth and their mother does not breast-feed them. Otherwise they are sure to die.
The program has been canceled not because of the costs, which are minimal, but because of pressure from civil libertarian and other groups that oppose the program because it violates the privacy of the mother and related issues. Congress walked away from the issue by asking it to be studied for five years. The study was completed on Oct. 15, 1998, but so far no action has been taken.
I suggest that saving the lives of infants, albeit not their own, is a matter most Americans care about deeply. If not, this is only more reason for me to write what I have written.
-- Amitai Etzioni
The writer is director of the Institute for Communitarian Studies at the George Washington University.