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Lyme disease is deadly
To the Editors,
Thank you very much for showing Durango's need of a low-income
health clinic ("Homeless Struggle for Health Care"; 4/29/04).
However,a low-income clinic may not resolve the problem of treating
symptoms but not (costly) diseases. Although Lyme disease trails
only AIDS as the leading infectious disease in the U.S., low-income
clinics in Santa Rosa, Eugene, Boise, Dahlonega, Asheville and
Colorado Springs all refused to treat me with expensive intravenous
ceftriaxone (Rocephin) which the National Institutes of Health
states brings a full recovery.
Emergency rooms have stated they are not obligated to treat
Lyme disease, as it is not life-threatening and is chronic vs.
acute. But federal statute EMTALA: 42 USC 1395 dd, requiring
emergency care regardless of ability to pay, states: (1) The
term "emergency medical condition" means (A) a medical condition
manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity
(including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical
attention could reasonably be expected to result in(i) placing
the health of the individual (or, with respect to a pregnant
woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious
jeopardy,(ii) serious impairment to bodily functions, or (iii)
serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
manifestations of Lyme disease (acute encephalomyelitis, etc.) are
successfully treated with IV antibiotics, such that the absence of
immediate treatment could reasonably be considered to risk and/or
cause permanent neurological damage. Joseph Burrascano, MD, spoke
at the 1999 Bard College Conference on Lyme Disease of "untreated
and undertreated Lyme disease as cause of permanent neurological
damage including paraplegia, dementia, hearing and sight loss."
Many more examples of irreversible neurological damage could be
Besides Lyme disease is life threatening: "Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
is a disorder associated with significant morbidity and mortality"
[Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 1997 Fallon; 9(4):534-40
Dr. Liegner remarked
before the New York State Assembly Committee on Health (11/27/01):
"I have had a number of other fatalities due directly to Lyme
disease in my practice, including in a 7-year-old child (who)
died within one month of cessation of intravenous antibiotic
treatment. The world literature also contains numerous reports of
fatal outcomes in Lyme disease, but this information has not
received emphasis and public health authorities, insurance
companies and their paid physician consultants insist that Lyme
disease is not a fatal illness."
Although I maymeet all conditions for emergency treatment,
treatment is denied. A letter explaining this, faxed to the
InspectorGeneral of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
in February of this year did not receive a response. Either
because the inquiry contains small merit, or because the position
of the inspector general there is listed as being "vacant" (Congressional
Quarterly's Washington Information Directory).If the latter,
shouldn't that receive equal scrutiny?
Finally, the article
mentions of my being "proud of the fact that he has been clean and
sober since 1985." Thank you for including that. But as sobriety
was entirely a gift from God, I cannot take credit for it
personally. I give mention to it often as it doesnot fit the
stereotype of homelessness. My homelessnessis due toillegal