I was disheartened to see that Gambit Weekly has seen fit to print statements by Edward T. Haslam ("Missing Links," July 17) in which he implies my father, Dr. Alton Ochsner, was involved in creating a cancer-causing virus, which was to be given stealthily to Fidel Castro. This preposterous assertion alleges my father guided Mary Sherman and David Ferrie in the production of a cancer virus produced in monkeys. His book, Dr. Mary's Monkey, is ludicrous, and I am shocked that Gambit Weekly would print such false statements without proper journalistic scrutiny, particularly when there are so many medical professionals within this community from whom you could have sought advice as to the truth of the story.
The article also contained numerous erroneous statements. To mention a few, Mary Sherman never performed experimental work with monkeys or any other animals. She was an orthopedic surgeon at the Ochsner Clinic and a pathologist, not at Tulane as the book suggested. Her laboratory prepared slides from bones and their pathology, from which doctors could study. Dr. Gordon McFarland, who works at the Ochsner Clinic, was Dr. Sherman's associate and close friend. He took over her laboratory after her death and assures me that there was no animal experimentation -- ever -- in the laboratory.
The article also claims a laboratory accident with use of a linear particle accelerator at the U.S. Public Health Hospital caused the death of Dr. Sherman. The U.S. Public Health Hospital in New Orleans never had a linear particle accelerator. This can be easily documented. The author is so uninformed that he states that terms such as "carcinogenic" and "cancer causing chemicals" were not a part of the American vocabulary at that time, which is ridiculous.
During the period of time in the 1960s when the story allegedly took place, I saw my father every day. I can assure you he did no experimental work during that time. He was a man who devoted his life to helping people rid themselves of cancer by surgical means. My father wrote three books on the prevention of cancer and the hazards of smoking. And, for decades, he stood alone in the medical profession teaching this theory, which is universally adopted today.
Haslam admits in the article that he is only "one man with a word processor." It is a shame how such reckless and needless damage can be caused by someone who admits he is no investigator, and yet he takes liberties to condemn innocent people like my father.
It saddens me to think Gambit Weekly would publish unauthoritative material and deprecate the name of a man who had done so much for this city, country and the world. The fact that you knew my father, his devotion and kindness to mankind is even more disappointing.
John Ochsner, M.D.
EDITOR'S NOTE -- Gambit Weekly does indeed know of the many contributions of the late Dr. Alton Ochsner. It was never our intention to besmirch his reputation. We sincerely apologize to the Ochsner family for any representations that reflected badly on Dr. Ochsner and his work.
Finish the Park
Scuttlebutt (Gambit Weekly, July 24) missed some key points in the Bucktown Marina story. The Bucktown Marina Park is reclaimed land owned by the state and leased to Jefferson Parish. The lease agreement specifically spells out that the land will be used for marina and park purposes only. Mr. Eirich, Councilman Giambelluca, and others put together a highly commercial development proposal for the park that never could be legally built. The Bucktown Civic Association uncovered and fought this attempted "stealth" commercialization of the park for over a year and prevailed. There is no breach of contract when a contract is illegal from the outset.
Building the Bucktown Marina Park boat slips was never uneconomic, and that rationale for commercialization was false. The BCA talked to several marina developers who wanted to bid on the marina slips; one called the prospects of its success a "no-brainer" from a business point of view. The marina slip development was never given a chance because of the dumb idea that the slips alone should pay for development of the entire park. This idea is uniquely absurd for a public park and is a rationale not applied to any other park in the parish. The federal grants were available without Mr. Eirich, and they were lost by inaction.
If the BCA had not fought as hard as it did at the time, today we would have an illegal, collapsed multi-story boat warehouse and the drowned hulks of shattered commercial buildings littering the park grounds. The park grounds -- unobstructed by large commercial buildings -- were used as the key support base for the Army Corps of Engineers to seal off the failed levees in Orleans Parish. This was (and is) the only land in East Jefferson available for that purpose. We are proud to have kept the park land open and available for the levee repair work and the reclaiming of western Orleans Parish. Now it's well past time for the parish Council to step up and finish the park and marina. The park is in a truly special location which should be the key feature in a revitalized lakefront -- not a muddy storage area for old sandbags.