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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.

Acute neurological 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 provided.

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 blacklisting.

Sincerely, Bruce Deile,

via e-mail




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