Hook went tabloid on ALS

Your publication deserves another award-­ for tabloid-style journalism in your coverage of the experimental treatment for ALS [February 24 cover story: "She's dying: His drug could save her" and March 10 news: "New hope: 'Conditional approval' for ALS study"].

Instead of exploring the difficult issues in depth and in a balanced fashion, you exploit a human tragedy as front page news, and you literally place the blame for the patients' inevitable demise on the members of UVa's Human Investigation Committee (HIC).

Contrary to your allegations that HIC "pulled the plug" on Dr. Bennett's study, it appears that the study ran for as long as it was approved to run. Unfortunately, one needs to read between the lines to understand that. Approval of the initial trial based on merely two months worth of animal testing safety data (compared to the years of animal testing that are usually required) is in itself indicative of the enormous responsiveness on the part of HIC to the needs of trial volunteers.

It is completely understandable that patients with ALS and their families will try every imaginable "cure." It is also clear how people in that and similar desperate conditions can fall prey to charlatans and unethical practices.

That's why this society developed FDA and HICs to protect all of us from being subjects in somebody's ill-conceived treatment or experiment. That's why some of the sufferers travel for bogus "miracle treatments" to China or Russia, where human/patient rights are a novel concept.

It is awesome that we have imaginative medical scientists like Dr. Bennett, who come up with novel approaches to disastrous disorders. However, the continuous misrepresentations of issues in your articles perpetuate the damage in misinforming the public, as is already apparent [Mail, March 17: "Money compromises lives"].

No one can blame ALS sufferers for clinging to straws of hope. Like any other sufferers of a terminal disease, they are entitled to a narrow vision. The Hook, on the other hand, has no excuse.

Moshe Khurgel