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Second Opinion

Readers weigh in on obesity, nagging loved ones about their health, and mercury in vaccines.

FALL 2009
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proto cover winter 09


Not only does Proto seem to endorse the inhumane harassment of tobacco smokers, but it suggests the same be done to fat people (“The Future of Obesity?” Summer 2009). Your story even asks whether obese people should be “barred from indulging in public spaces”—what does it mean to “indulge” in public? Can I no longer patronize a restaurant because I’m not thin enough? Or should the cook be required to monitor my intake while I’m there? Are you going to ban me from the beach too? Despite my paying every dime for my own health care (I have not seen a doctor in three years!), should I be punished as part of a group because that group has been deemed a drag on the system? How can we be a financial drain if we are paying our own bills? Or is it that we all want a prettier world, and a prettier world isn’t populated by unattractive fat people?

Jennifer Brownell // Seminole, Fla.


Proto’s recent interview with vaccine expert Paul Offit (“Resistance Fighter,” Summer 2009) rightly highlights the misconception that vaccines are a direct cause of autism, but it fails to address important research on the irreparable damage that mercury may inflict on the central nervous system. When the preservative thimerosal (made from mercury) was removed from vaccines for children under the age of six, someone must have thought it posed a risk. However, mercury remains in adult vaccines. In addition, vaccines might be only one vector exposing children and adults to mercury poisoning. Other sources of mercury, such as large fish (tuna, swordfish, halibut), may also contribute to neurological injury over time. Might the fact that mercury cannot be metabolized out of the nervous system play a role in the high rates of autism in the young and in presenile dementia/Alzheimer’s disease in the middle-aged?

Eric J. Sacknoff // Chief, Urologic Services, Smyth County Community Hospital, Marion, Va.; President, Mountain Empire Chapter, Trout Unlimited


In “The Health Nag” (Summer 2009), Renée Bacher describes her constant efforts to keep her husband healthy (alive, even). Her piece carries a strong message all of us older partners need to remember. Thanks for publishing it.

Irvin Peckham // Baton Rouge

Here’s to Bacher and the nag in all of us. We can’t take our health or that of our loved ones for granted.

Catherine Heitman // Baton Rouge

Bacher’s insightful piece gets to the point with grace, humor and style.

Carlen Arnett // Port Jefferson, N.Y.


During a night on call, when science would be about the last thing any resident would want to read about, I found myself flipping through Proto. It’s just that appealing.

Eric Cheon // Surgery resident, Mount Sinai Hospital, Chicago

What’s Your Take?
Write to the editor to comment on a story—or offer suggestions for future topics.


The Future of Obesity?

obesity as a public health issue

A long campaign halved the percentage of U.S. smokers. Could a similar effort succeed against the nation’s obesity epidemic?

The Health Nag

Sometimes being overbearing can save a life.

Resistance Fighter

Paul A. Offit, an infectious disease specialist, discusses the costs of not vaccinating children for fear of autism.

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