Letters to the Editor: March/April 2023

On death, trauma, and Pierre Poilievre

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a breath of fresh air
I read John Lorinc’s “The Air We Share” (December 2022) in a multistorey convention centre and hotel complex filled with tens of thousands of scientists, including many air quality specialists. As I sat through talks on subjects ranging from the patterns of pollution in crowded classrooms to the persistence of wildfire smoke in affected homes, I thought about how the size of the indoor air quality community is dwarfed by the number of those studying the outdoors, myself included. This is despite the fact that, according to a 2019 study led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in the global ranking of risk factors for death, household air pollution is number nine, only three places behind outdoor air pollution. Lorinc explains the reasons for this imbalance and highlights the opportunity we have to promote healthy buildings and communities with fresh thinking on fresh air.

Rebecca Saari
Waterloo, ON

Maté on the Mind
In Nathan Sing’s interview with physician Gabor Maté in “Gabor Maté Wants to Overhaul Society,” Maté expounds on the systemic changes necessary for emotional and spiritual healing. He has taught me about the importance of a compassionate society: I was twelve years old when I started sleeping in abandoned houses, prostituting myself, and subsequently undergoing a debilitating crack addiction. Most doctors I encountered sought to remedy my trauma by prescribing pharmaceutical drugs that I couldn’t afford and didn’t want. It wasn’t until encountering Maté that I was encouraged to examine my trauma and its origins, going beyond just treating its symptoms.

Teresa Villeneuve
High River, AB

illusion of choice
In “The Secret of Pierre Poilievre’s Success” (January/February), Frank Graves and Stephen Maher provide informative and balanced insight into the Conservative leader’s rise to prominence as disinformation in our political climate abounds. However, they offer scant coverage of the conditions that could work to Poilievre’s advantage in future elections. Aside from passing mentions of “antipathy to Trudeau” and “fatigue with the ruling Liberals,” Graves and Maher pay little attention to widespread dissatisfaction with our Liberal government. Justin Trudeau’s tenure has been wrought with scandals and coverups as well as
a consolidation of power in the prime minister’s office. Part of Poilievre’s success is that Canadians simply do not have enough other options.

Edwin Enns
Abbotsford, BC

Life’s Measure
Much like Blair Bigham, the author of “The Death Dilemma” (November 2022), I am a young doctor concerned with the medical community’s treatment of death. However, I am more discomfited by Bigham’s discussion of when to withdraw care and his assertion that “there are many people coming into our hospitals who shouldn’t receive any resuscitation at all.” Medicine is steeped in, and seeps into, ableism. I have experienced this both professionally and personally, with doctors labelling me disabled and therefore less deserving of certain interventions and colleagues commenting on how they would never want to live like a certain disabled patient. Bigham, for example, juxtaposes a “full recovery” with a life “attached to feeding tubes and breathing machines,” as if these are clear diametric opposites. I am disturbed by this bias, of which so many physicians and policy makers are guilty and which shapes the policies and algorithms Bigham says help doctors make decisions about who deserves care. One can never know how quality of life is defined for someone else.

Lisa Freeman
Ottawa, ON

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter or an email (letters@thewalrus.ca) or tag us on social media. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5