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Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


During these near-apocalyptic times with a climate crisis, extinctions, pandemics, the ever-growing human population, resource diminution and violence, it is understandable people want to add beauty to their homes with flowers ("U-pick flower farms abloom in Minnesota," Aug. 10). Along with the ongoing crises, some now realize the need to live within Malthusian boundaries and are working to restore biodiversity with native forbs. Rather than flower farms filled with cultivars, consider planting native species.

Minnesota was once two-thirds prairie. Native prairie plants are lovely, coming in almost all colors and often have unique names like Joe Pye weed, prairie smoke and rattlesnake master. Native species provide nutritionally complete nectar, pollen and seeds for a host of wildlife including birds, butterflies, other pollinators and a few mammals. Native species are also better adapted to withstand local climactic conditions, can sequester carbon and are also perennial. To get an idea of what native prairie looks like, Tauer Prairie Scientific and Natural Area is 80 acres of prairie, never plowed, where you can see a full complement of native plants.

We are fortunate to have a number of native-plant vendors here in Minnesota. Plant enough for both you and wildlife. Once established, you may decide to just enjoy viewing the diversity of life in your yard rather than cut the flowers. We all need a boost, people and wildlife alike, so go wild and plant some prairie!

Catherine Zimmer, St. Paul


Compassion over barbarism

I am deeply disappointed that the Star Tribune would feature such an inflammatory, poorly sourced and anecdotal article as the Associated Press piece on euthanasia in Canada ("'Disturbing': Experts troubled by Canada's euthanasia laws," Aug. 11). The histrionic tone of this piece seems designed to discourage support for medical aid in dying for the terminally ill, a compassionate option available now in 10 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Medical aid in dying is not "euthanasia," nor is it "assisted suicide." Terminally ill people who opt for medical aid in dying are not seeking "to be killed" as the writer so insensitively phrases it, nor are they choosing to die; that choice was taken from them the day of their diagnosis. They are instead opting to have some agency over the depth of their own suffering in their final days.

I would invite readers to learn about and support the Minnesota End-of-Life Option Act, introduced in the state House (H.F. 1358) and Senate (S.F. 1352) in February 2021. The bill would permit — within strictly regulated parameters — terminally ill adult Minnesotans of sound mind to obtain medication from their doctor to self-ingest if their suffering becomes unbearable. More information can be obtained by visiting the website of Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit organization working to advance end-of-life options in Minnesota and nationwide. All terminally ill Minnesotans deserve the right to choose the grace of a good death after a beautifully lived life.

Tara Flaherty Guy, Roseville

The writer is a volunteer with Compassion & Choices.


Don't just quit your SSRIs

As a retired physician albeit not a psychiatrist, I agree with most of the substance of Wednesday's opinion piece regarding antidepressants: Pharmaceutical companies are overhyping benefits, and the placebo effect may be substantial ("Antidepressant benefits were overpromised. So now what?" Opinion Exchange). However, caution is necessary for anyone currently using antidepressants, as my concern is that people will abruptly discontinue medication, a circumstance that can have the potential for dire physical consequences that goes beyond the return of depression. Though 232 trials and over 73,000 patients are substantial numbers, there are many questions left unanswered by the opinion piece. SSRI antidepressants are mentioned, but were other antidepressants studied? Did all of the studies use depression as the primary diagnosis or were other conditions considered (fibromyalgia, sleep issues, some anxiety disorders)? Did the studies involve only psychiatrists, given that physicians across the board, especially primary care physicians, have the ability to utilize them? And, importantly, how many studies involving people taking antidepressants were or were not receiving concomitant mental health counseling or therapy?

Many readers may not make it through the entire article, and both the title and subtitle may mislead — and not without a risk of harm.

Paul Waytz, Minneapolis


The opinion piece by Raymond De Vries, "Why scientists cheat (and how to prevent it)" (Aug. 12), does not begin to address the role of Big Pharma in misconduct and fraud. Companies increased their payments to health care professionals from $15 billion in 1997 to over $20 billion in 2016. Such payments have been labeled as bribes by some, since multiple studies have shown that such payments increase the use of expensive brand-name medications. Worse, payments to physician editors of 35 highly cited medical journals during the years 2013-2016 were handed out to almost 64% of 333 editors, with non-research payments totaling $23 million, while research payments totaled $829,000. In other words, money for marketing, travel, etc., far exceeded that aimed at research, despite the role of editors in selecting studies, influencing areas of research and exerting a huge influence over promotions, grants and prestige. There are no standards that apply to the financial conflicts applicable to journal editors, a shocking nondevelopment.

In addition to these glaring conflicts of interest, there are multiple more subtle ways of influencing studies and the marketing of drugs. These include nonpublication of negative studies, spinning the results (such that negative findings are not noted in journal abstracts), adding guest authors who have contributed little to the research but instead are listed secondary to their prestige, thus increasing chances of publication or obtaining a grant. The influence of direct-to-consumer advertising and the rise of predatory journals that often promise publication despite little or no peer review have contributed to the flood of misleading information and the ongoing rise in drug costs, both of which I have discussed elsewhere.

Yes, De Vries was correct in noting the competitive and economic pressures of the health care system in this country, but he does not go far enough. Indeed, we have a profit-drive system that stands in opposition to any significant reforms.

Charles E. Dean, Apple Valley

The writer is the author of "The Skeptical Professional's Guide to Rational Prescribing."


Reminded all over again

Larry King once declared that "sports is the most important of unimportant things." During the COVID pandemic, I realized how unimportant sports were compared to other real-life dramas. Sport highlights became progressively less interesting as I gravitated toward epidemiological charts of morbidity and mortality. Time to grow up and put aside childish ways.

But the Aug. 11 sports article "Sportsmanship prevails after scary beaning" changed my mind. I learned of the tenacity of a young baseball player rising from the dirt while another young man stood grief-stricken on the pitcher's mound over the harm of his errant throw. I teared up reading that the player walked to the pitcher's mound to embrace him, comforting his opponent with these simple words: "Hey, you're doing great. Let's go." My heart was gladdened from this article: happy about families and coaches and communities that raise such fine young men as these two who understood one another's pain, be it physical or psychological. Yes, there was a final score posted at the end of the article with one team winning and another losing. Big deal. Victories and losses are fleeting, but noble actions are eternal. Better yet when these actions come from the young waiting in life's batter's boxes and offering hope for our future.

And so, pandemics and divisive politics and floods and whatever else be damned; I will continue to read things as "unimportant" as the daily sports pages.

John Dahl, Duluth