To the editors:
The Mount Sinai administrators, clinicians, trustees, and staff members who opened their hearts and minds to writer Laurie Abraham during her research for "Mama Might Be Better Off Dead" waited eagerly for the book's publication--and we were not disappointed.
Ms. Abraham offers a clear analysis of this nation's two-tiered health system, one in which poor people have few avenues to primary or preventive health services and generally receive care only after it's too late to effectively restore them to health. In the book, she describes Mount Sinai as the exception to the rule, accurately portraying our mission as a private hospital doing the work of a public facility. She describes the never-ending tragedy addressed in our Level I trauma center, as well as our community-based programs focused on health, education, parenting, substance abuse, community revitalization and housing development, and many other areas.
We therefore were horrified to read the Reader excerpt chosen from Ms. Abraham's book [September 24], a chapter taken out of context, apparently selected to portray only the scenes from the book in which the family had many difficulties bumping up against the system. The resulting unsympathetic portrayal of Mount Sinai is inappropriate given the vast range of our pioneering community-service, health-promotion and primary-care programs, as well as our commitment to treat one of the nation's most disadvantaged communities.
With few neighborhood resources, dependent almost totally on government funding (and underfunding), the staff of Mount Sinai willingly addresses problems virtually unknown in areas with more resources. The excerpt run in the Reader is damaging not only to the image and reputation of Mount Sinai, its staff and its supporters but, ultimately, to our efforts to make a difference in the lives of people with nowhere else to turn.
Board of Trustees
Mount Sinai Hospital Medical Center