Dr. Jones Sanctioned
Elizabeth Ellis, of Arlington, Mass., attends Jone's licensure hearing with her three children, Andrew, 9, Louisa, 7, and Olivia, 5, all of whom Jones has treated for Lyme disease. The woman in black is Susan Marra, Jones' naturopath. (Shana Sureck, Hartford Courant)
In my recent commentary, "Attack of the Chronic Lyme Denialists", I explained how there is a battle raging over the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, particularly with regard to whether Lyme related symptoms that do not resolve after 30 days of antibiotics (the currently accepted "standard of care") are the result of ongoing infection or some other undefined condition. I also described how a small but powerful cabal of academic researchers whose beliefs lie on the short term treatment side of the debate have chosen to settle the issue not through rigorous science, but rather through brute political force.
Perhaps the most insidious way such force has been employed is through the use of state medical boards to drive uncooperative clinical doctors out of practice. Successfully removing just one chronic Lyme doctor instantly puts an end to the insurance claims of hundreds if not thousands of patients, and puts and end to the need for assistance from countless local hospitals wishing nothing to do with treatment methods which they consider unnecessary and dangerous.
Such is the case with Dr. Charles Ray Jones, who has successfully treated thousands of children suffering from chronic Lyme disease. Jones has spent the last year of his life not only seeing patients 6 to 7 days a week, but also regularly commuting from his New Haven area medical practice to Hartford for disciplinary hearings resulting from a complaint filed by a divorced father seeking to gain custody of his children and avoid responsibility for medical expenses that the mother could not afford.
It was the kind of complaint which should have been easily recognized for what it was -- an attempt by an angry parent to manipulate the system for personal gain -- and dismissed. That the Connecticut Department of Public Health, which is responsible for the licensing and discipline of doctors in that state, chose to do otherwise raises serious concerns about their ability to function as an impartial arbiter of the law. It also raises serious concerns as to their relationship with Yale University, the UConn Children's Hospital, and the chronic Lyme denialists who hold sway at both institutions.
In a decision with national implications for how suspected cases of Lyme Disease are treated, a state physician review panel is recommending that controversial pediatrician Charles Ray Jones be reprimanded and put on two years' probation for his diagnosis and treatment of two Nevada children.
And what exactly is he guilty of with regard to those two children?
"Dr. Jones is being charged with improperly diagnosing and treating Lyme Disease after having treated and cured two children whose health was of great concern to their mother for years,'' said Jones' attorney, Elliot Pollack. "Instead of being sanctioned, he should be complimented.''
For close to 15 years, the chronic Lyme denialists have participated in efforts to punish doctors who refused to follow their protocols. Through those efforts, a number of highly regarded Lyme doctors were put on trial by medical boards all over the country. Some lost their licenses, some were sanctioned, some escaped punishment, and some saw what was happening to their peers and preemptively stopped treating Lyme patients. One, Dr. John Bleiweiss of NJ, a pioneer in the treatment of chronic Lyme disease, was driven to suicide. For those who chose to stand and fight to the bitter end, the costs have proven staggering with trials that extended for months and legal bills in the $100,000+ range regardless of the outcome.
The medical board investigations of chronic Lyme doctors in at least one state, New York, were so numerous and egregious that the state legislature was compelled to pass a resolution demanding that their state's licensing board, the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), cease and desist from taking sides in a medical dispute for which there currently exists no definitive answer (more information on the case against OPMC can be found here).
Dr. Lawrence Zemel, a longtime chronic Lyme denialist, and one who has played an active role in the efforts to investigate and punish chronic Lyme doctors, makes clear what the goal of these prosecutions is and has always been:
"This decision sends a message to very small cadre of physicians who do not conform to standards of care for diagnosing and treating Lyme Disease,'' said Dr. Lawrence Zemel, chief of rheumatology at Connecticut Children's Medical Center and professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.
This heinous message is not only an outrage against the "small cadre of physicians" to which Zemel refers, but againstall physicians whose treatment methods fall outside the recognized standard of care for a given illness, particularly when competing standards of care exist (as they do with Lyme disease), when such alternative standards of care are supported by published, peer-reviewed science (as they are with Lyme disease), and when related alternative treatment methods result in measurable improvements to patient health (as they do with Lyme disease). Dr. Zemel and his colleagues, rather than behaving like compassionate, dedicated scientists, are instead behaving like a pack of rabid thugs in suits, willing to kneecap anyone who has the temerity to disobey their dictates.
Ironically, on the same day that Dr. Jones' recommended punishment was announced, news broke regarding a new study published by the infamous chronic Lyme denialist, Dr. Allen Steere, which concluded that Lyme disease infection, in some cases, is not eradicated by the mainstream treatment protocols (the very same ones that Steere mandates through his authorship of the IDSA Lyme disease treatment guidelines), requiring several months additional treatment to achieve a cure.
Perhaps Dr. Steere should be the next one dragged before his state's medical board for violating the accepted standard of care. Or perhaps, more appropriately, Steere and the rest of the chronic Lyme denialists should be put on trial for child abuse. Because if Dr. Jones is forced out of his practice, there will be no pediatricians left who are willing to take on the difficult cases of children with chronic Lyme disease. He is the only one that remains.