The Dec. 5 front-page article "Invisible Deaths" shows once again that the D.C. government is inept and poorly run. No wonder suburbanites like me will not consider moving to the District.

The second and more important problem is the profound lack of respect for life that we as a society have, as is evidenced by this article. The retarded individuals in this story had as much right to live in a dignified manner with care and love as any of us. Until we realize that the mentally retarded, the handicapped and the sick are gifts from God and not burdens, we will never care for them in the manner in which they deserve. We, as a society and as individuals, should consider it an honor to be their caretakers.

One of the most moving parts of the article was the listing of all the individuals by name who died. Each one was worthy of the best care we could possibly give him or her. Shame on the District.

CECILIA ESCOBAR

Silver Spring

The horrors chronicled by Katherine Boo should outrage the citizens of Washington.

The plight of persons who, in the words of Wesley Vinner (the man with mental retardation quoted), have been left to die "in programs that say they protect us," is a blight on the nation's capital. The lack of accountability--from the mayor's office to the Department of Human Services to the police department to the Department of Public Health--is deplorable.

When will the District powers that be demand that the agencies they contract with prepare the staff they hire to capably assist with the social, emotional and health needs of this largely voiceless population?

When will they stop awarding contracts to persons and agencies with histories of mismanagement, maltreatment and neglect?

Will these deaths (reportedly, at least 116 since 1993) have been in vain? Will the persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities who languish in D.C.-sponsored residences, and whose social, emotional and health needs are minimized and mocked, sense the same fate waiting for them?

MARY ANN CARMODY

Washington