THE SAGE OF BALTIMORE
While I generally find The Nation enlightening, howlers by its writers sadden me. The “famous Jewish sage” to whom Eric Alterman attributes the rejoinder “You may be right” [“Letters,” April 18] was that goyish Baltimore wit H.L. Mencken, who replied to people who wrote him with postcards on which only that was written. My grandfather, who admired the curmudgeon, was proud of having one such.
New York City
You may be right.
Alexander Cockburn asks in his April 18 “ Beat the Devil” column, “Death, Depression and Prozac”: “How many times, amid the carnage of such homicidal sprees [the Red Lake, Minnesota, killings], do investigators find a prescription for antidepressants at the murder scene?” I think a better question would be, “How many times are such prescriptions there, but investigators don’t bother to look for them, except in the most sensational murder cases?”
When my brother shot and killed himself and his wife last Labor Day in Norwich, Connecticut, leaving behind eleven children, the police couldn’t have been less interested in the contents of his medicine cabinet. “What’s the point?” they asked me. “He’s dead.”
I knew that my brother was deeply depressed and had started taking Effexor (one of the antidepressants linked to suicides in teenagers) just six days before. I spoke to him by telephone that morning, and he said he thought the antidepressant was “starting to kick in.”
Three of his children, who witnessed the murder-suicide, reported that he behaved and spoke with unnatural calmness, even taking a few minutes after killing their mother to give his children instructions about cashing his paycheck and selling his vehicles. Then he calmly and without hesitation shot himself.
I confiscated his medications and reported this “adverse event” to the FDA’s Medwatch. A week after the incident, the FDA announced that it planned to investigate the potential link between antidepressants and adult suicide. I think that antidepressants might be implicated in a lot more suicides and other violent acts than anyone knows. And as Cockburn indirectly points out in his discussion of the Wesbecker case, it is virtually impossible to successfully sue the manufacturers of these drugs, except in cases where the publicity is so awful that they will settle for “a confidential amount” just to turn the news spigot off.