I wanted to make sure you saw this one because it’s relevant to the second anniversary of the BP Oil Spill and because Joe Nocera’s tone and column were so troubling—and The Times’ response to informed criticism, absent. No Letters to the Editor were published about this column.
What follows is my Letter that didn’t get published, and a link to the original piece titled “The Phony Settlement.”
To The Editor of The New York Times
Re: The Phony Settlement by Joe Nocera March 10, 2012
James S. Gordon
In claiming the moral high ground in his critique of possibly inflated claims resulting from BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill, the usually fair-minded Joe Nocera, tramples on the truth.
According to Nocera, only “700 sought compensation” for health reasons from Kennith Feinberg at the Gulf Coast Claims facility. But the health consequences, apparently unclaimed until now, are likely to be far more extensive and far worse.
Working in Plaquemines Parish my colleagues and I have met hundreds of previously healthy people now marked by skin lesions, often wheezing and tremulous as well as anxious and depressed. And authoritative studies on the population and the toxic consequences of both the oil spill and the dispersants that were used—in The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of American Medical Association, and the Annals of Internal Medicine—suggest that more dire consequences are to come including liver and heart disease and the kinds of genetic mutations that lead to cancer.
Here as elsewhere it is the already vulnerable population—the poor and unemployed, children, pregnant women, and those previously displaced by Katrina—who will be most affected. These people, whom Mr. Nocera seems to dismiss as “runny-nose[d]” complainers, are the ones about whom we should care—who should be compensated.
James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.