The New York State health commissioner who served under Governors Spitzer and Paterson, Richard Daines, has died at age 60, the New York Times reports. Dr. Daines first came to my attention as an advocate of a soda tax, which I opposed. After I wrote an op-ed in the Daily News about the idea, he wrote to me:
When I was CEO at St Luke's-Roosevelt on the West Side, my habit was to buy a copy of the Sun at the news stand on 9th Avenue, read it avidly then go up the back steps from my office to that of Mike Lesch, the Chief of Medicine (and tragically deceased now), to enjoy the rational commentary, superb cultural coverage (ballet and Nordlinger in particular), fairness to Israel and intelligent contrarianism.
When I saw your Daily News piece on our proposed tax I wondered if we might engage in New York Sun type dialogue about that topic instead of firing broadsides over the horizon at each other.
It was the beginning of a friendship that included a lunch and at least a couple of dozen email conversations between Dr. Daines and me over the past year. When we saw each other, Dr. Daines insisted on greeting me with a Boy Scout handshake — we're both Eagle Scouts. On a lot of matters Dr. Daines was basically a free market guy — often he'd be emailing to express agreement with or approval of some FutureOfCapitalism item. When we had our lunch I had french fries and wanted to order dessert and he had something healthy like a salad.
It's always sort of eerie when a trim, anti-obesity campaigning public health advocate dies suddenly and unexpectedly at age 60. The Times chalked it up to an apparent heart attack or stroke. I think Dr. Daines, a Mormon, would have agreed that we can and should do what we can to increase our chances but that in the end these matters of life and death are out of any individual's self-control. He will be missed.