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March 23, 2006
from Sandy Berenbaum

Sixty people were in attendance at the first day of the hearing, brought about by charges against Charles Ray Jones, MD, foremost Lyme-knowledgeable pediatrician in the country. In attendance were parents whose children are or were suffering from this disabling disease, physicians and others. Many of these parents are leaders of Lyme advocacy groups. A tone of quiet attention was kept throughout the duration of the hearing.

In opening remarks, Dr. Jones' attorney asked that the burden of proof on the health department be raised from "preponderance of evidence" (more than 50.000001%) to "clear and convincing" (a little less than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard applied in criminal cases.) The clear and convincing standard applies to unprofessional conduct charges against attorneys in Connecticut. If the motion had been granted, it would have made it much tougher for the health department to prove its case. Although the motion was denied, the Jones team reserved the right to raise the issue again on appeal if we do not win the case before the hearing panel.

In his opening statement, Elliott Pollack, Dr. Jones' attorney, stressed that the charges against Dr. Jones arose out of a custody dispute and that both children had improved dramatically under treatment. The health department stated a number of times that this was not a case concerning the standard of care in Lyme disease. Instead they claimed that the case revolved around an initial telephonic short term prescription for the children for other illnesses while on Dr. Jones waiting list, and a telephone consultation between Dr. Jones and the children's school administrators.

The fact that the health department tried to have a local retired pediatrician named as a "Lyme expert" contradicts their assertion that this is not a Lyme case. The health department expert was disqualified as a "Lyme expert" because he had only treated 40 children over his career. A pediatrician panel member noted that he too had treated that many children for Lyme disease, but did not consider himself an expert. The pediatrician, was, however, accepted as an expert in general pediatrics and testified that prescribing short term antibiotics and consulting with the school without an examination was below the standard of care. The cross examination of this pediatrician by attorney Pollack is expected to occur at the next hearing, scheduled for May 25th. The time and location of the next hearing will be announced as soon as it is known. At this hearing, the health department should complete the presentation of its case against Dr. Jones. Subsequent hearing will focus on Dr. Jones defense against the charges.

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