Letters to the Editor
We welcome letters. Please include your full name, address, and telephone number. We edit all letters. Send them to Letters, Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705; fax 217-753-3958; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In response to last week's article on the Sangamon County coroner's race [See "Race to the death," by Dusty Rhodes, IT, Oct. 30], I want to comment on the candidates' debate regarding the qualifications of a coroner (medical or law enforcement) and of the experts they hire to assist with the investigation. Most people do not realize that only a high school diploma or equivalent is required to run for coroner in Illinois. The county coroner system is a holdover from colonial America and is slowly being integrated with or replaced by medical examiner systems throughout the United States.
There is a longstanding debate among professionals in death investigation about the efficacy of one system over the other. Because the coroner is responsible for pronouncing death (for example, at an accident site) and determining cause of death (e.g., homicide, accidental, or natural), many professionals (myself included) feel strongly that the coroner should have a medical background. In addition, a good coroner should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of crime scene investigation, medicolegal death investigation, and state laws governing the office as well as those regarding the handling of human remains and investigations of unmarked graves.
Most people don't want to think about what might happen upon the unexpected death of a loved one. This is the main reason people don't give much consideration to the office of the coroner. If a loved one died suddenly, I would want the police detectives, coroner, forensic pathologist and any other experts to have the best qualifications they can possibly have. I would want to know without a doubt why my loved one died and, if the death was caused by someone, I would want specialists who are tops in their field to gather the evidence that catches and convicts the person responsible.
In IT's article, Susan Boone said she is "satisfied" with employing a forensic pathologist who is not nationally board-certified. How can a pathologist be an "expert" in a field if she can't pass the nationally standardized exam that serves to test her knowledge of the field?! Won't this decision be questioned in court? If Ms. Boone has no medical background besides coroner training, she should enlist a forensic pathologist who is a certified specialist!
In contrast, Jeff Lair, Morgan County coroner and president of the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association, has chosen to work with the region's new board-certified forensic pathologist, Dr. John Ralston. I have worked with various Illinois coroners during the past 15 years, and Lair is an exemplary coroner and professional. He has extensive experience in the medical field, law enforcement and forensic autopsies. I am impressed that he values training and education for all Illinois coroners. Exemplified by his effort to guarantee impartiality in a coroner's jury, Lair has worked hard for decades to improve the quality of death investigation in Illinois.
The goal of any coroner should be to treat the deceased with the utmost respect, console and communicate effectively with the grieving family and friends, and employ the most qualified specialists who will provide objective, unbiased information to aid the investigation. The coroner should willingly assist law enforcement personnel and follow state laws with a strong commitment to ethics. Unfortunately, as long as county coroner is an elected position that requires minimal qualifications, we are left to wonder if death investigations are handled appropriately or if the outcomes are biased by political ties and petty opinions.
Melinda L. Carter, Ph.D.
THE WAR TO END WARS
At the stroke of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the roaring guns fell silent. Our holiday that marks the end of "The Great War" is now called Veterans' Day, yet it's worth taking a moment to recollect when it was called Armistice Day and meant more than midnight madness sales at department stores.
Thirty million soldiers were killed or wounded and
another 7 million were taken captive in that war. Never before had people
witnessed such industrialized slaughter. Congress responded to a universal
hope among Americans that such a war would never happen again by passing a
resolution calling for "exercises designed to perpetuate peace
through good will and mutual understanding…inviting the people of the
United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate
ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples." Later,
Congress added that Nov. 11 was to be "a day dedicated to the cause
of world peace."
While it is a good thing to honor the country's
military service veterans, the original intent of Armistice Day —
promoting peace — has gotten lost over the years. One veterans'
organization is trying to recreate that original intent. Its name is
Veterans For Peace. Veterans For Peace (VFP) exists specifically to carry
out the original purpose of Armistice Day. With 120 chapters across the
country, the St. Louis-based organization has as its chief goal "to
abolish war as an instrument of national policy."
Founded in 1985 at the height of the Reagan administration's support for the "contras" in Nicaragua and death squads elsewhere in Central America, VFP includes men and women veterans of all eras and wars — cold or hot — from World War II through the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Having seen the reality of war and understanding its true cost, VFP members will tell you that war is not the answer. However, coming to that conclusion is as much a spiritual journey as a political one, they acknowledge, because making peace in your heart can sometimes be as difficult as making peace in the world.
One of the simple truths on which Veterans For Peace
is founded states, "Our collective experience tells us wars are easy
to start and hard to stop." The doughboys of WWI, shivering in the
soggy, rotten trenches of Europe in November 1918, would surely have
In response to Dona Foster's previous letter ["Credit score discrimination, Oct. 23]: join the club, honey. To anyone who seriously intends to start a career in Springfield, I'd advise them to hop their horse and giddyap on out of Dodge.
In the course of a year, I myself have applied for 200-250 jobs (lost count) for which I was eminently qualified, 85 of which were state positions. Despite setbacks that have forced me to pursue modest income from temporary clerical positions and taxi driving, I have an excellent work record that includes contractual software development with Public Aid. Diligence, competence, integrity, skills, education — these things should take precedence over anything an employer might dig up online. We all have indiscretions in our past, as well as financial difficulties which, in many cases, result from no fault of our own.
In addition to credit score discrimination (no law on the books against it all), our governor is under the delusion that he's saving taxpayers money by whittling down state personnel to a bare minimum, when in reality we shell out $61 million more a year to cover overtime for current permanent workers who are horrendously overworked. Until this situation improves, if ever, I — along with many others I'm sure — are stuck with living just above broke, have only a bicycle for transportation and subsist on just one meal a day (thank God for vitamin supplements or I'd probably drop dead).
Thomas W. Yale
In last week's paper, we misstated the title of Sarah Palin lookalike Amy Lakin. She's an associate professor (not a professor, as we stated), and Chair, Division of Arts and Letters, at Springfield College Benedictine University. Illinois Times regrets the error.