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September 7, 2006
from Sandy Berenbaum

More than 60 people attended the fourth day of Dr. Jones hearing, despite the fact that it was a very busy time for parents, the beginning of the school year.

Steven Phillips, MD, was cross-examined by the health department attorney. Not surprising to any of us who have heard Dr. Phillips speak, he gave clear and concise answers, backed by substantial references to medical literature.

He discussed the low incidence of Lyme patients recalling an EM rash (22%), the well-documented ability of the spirochetes to transform themselves into cysts, the fact-based incidence of sero-negative Lyme disease. In addressing the issue of testing, Dr. Phillips discussed the low incidence of positive serology in spinal fluid. He was questioned extensively regarding the possibility that Lyme is present even when tests come back negative. Again, he supported his position regarding the limits to relying on testing in diagnosing Lyme, and the importance of treating Lyme, based on a clinical profile.

Dr. Jones testified next.. It had to be clear to everyone present how knowledgeable Dr. Jones is, about Lyme and pediatric medicine. What was also striking was Dr. Jones compassion and respect, for his profession, for the children he treats, and for the parents that raise them. I found this to be in striking contrast to both of the health department expert witnesses, Dr. Shapiro as the Lyme expert and the pediatrician that the health department called as their pediatric expert on the first day. Neither of the health department witnesses showed compassion or respect, or warmth toward the children they were treating.

On direct examination, Dr. Jones indicated that these charges resulted from a complaint to the health department by the father of two children, who was seeking custody years after being divorced from their mother. He did not have physical custody of the children.

While the children waited for their 1st appointment with Dr. Jones, to evaluate them for Lyme, Dr. Jones briefly extended antibiotics prescribed for a cough, as the cough was still a significant problem. He did not diagnose Lyme disease prior to meeting and examining the children.

When the school was close to expelling one of the children for disruptive behavior, Dr. Jones suggested that they place him on homebound instruction instead, pending his seeing the child, and beginning treatment, if in fact the child had Lyme. The school followed his suggestion, the child and his sister were later seen by Dr. Jones, diagnosed, treated, and he returned to school the beginning of the following year, with vastly improved academic performance and behavior, not a problem child, and with no history of school expulsion on his record, thanks to Dr. Jones intervention.

Having seen children suffer with school problems for years due to Lyme, it is difficult for me to think of a better scenario than the one Dr. Jones initiated with the school, and I find it outrageous that this intervention led to charges against Dr. Jones!

On cross-examination, there was extensive discussion about these children Lyme disease presentation, including co-infections. Specific treatments were discussed, including reasons for combining medications. In responding, Dr. Jones certainly demonstrated how very knowledgeable he is about treatment of tick-borne diseases. Once again, one must wonder why so much time is being spent by the health department attorney questioning Dr. Jones regarding treatment of tick-borne diseases if, in fact, this case is not about Lyme!!

Dr. Jones proved himself to be fully conversant regarding chronic Lyme, the impact on the children, and how to treat to efficacy, as he did with these patients. He discussed his many years of clinical practice, his commitment to the work of treating children, and the fact that his Lyme specialty grew out of the need he identified 30 years ago, when he opened his practice in Lyme-endemic CT. Politics are not a factor for Dr. Jones. Patient care is what this dedicated physician is all about.

Dr. Jones attorney asked to call witnesses that were parents of children Dr. Jones had treated. He cited specific reasons for calling these witnesses, and outlined what he hoped to prove. Part of his intent in calling these witnesses was to refute Dr. Shapiro's testimony. The health department objected to the witnesses being called, and the panel sustained the objection. The hearing ended with the decision that these witnesses not be called.

We were shocked and distressed that these witnesses were not permitted. In my view, their testimony is very compelling. The testimony was not being offered as emotional accolades for Dr. Jones (though clearly he deserves them), but for concrete reasons that very much address the charges against him. As the hearing continues, there is more and more evidence that this case (as the many around the country before Dr. Jones have been) is about Lyme. It is not only about the rights of our doctors to treat us comprehensively and efficaciously, but it is about our rights to access medical care for this dreaded disease.

Lyme is chronic. Chronic Lyme is disabling, debilitating, and can be life-threatening. The ever-increasing number of patients knows it. Our Lyme leaders around the country know it. Our doctors know it. When will our health departments and licensing boards know it, as well?

Sandy Berenbaum, LCSW, BCD
Family Connections Center for Counseling
Brewster, NY

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