A Politically Unpopular Disease

There was an interesting piece in The Washington Post (<- Click Here) by Laurie McClellan on March 5 titled, “The doctor diagnosed chronic Lyme disease, but many experts say it doesn’t exist.” It is a very interesting article, and one of the areas it explores is the fact that some “experts” deny the existence of Chronic Lyme Disease. They apparently can’t say what IS wrong, only that they’re sure that these patients don’t have Chronic Lyme Disease because it doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of whatever this disease is or isn’t called are debilitating and materially decrease quality of life for those afflicted.
Here are my thoughts:

1. Science is based on theories. As more data relating to a particular theory are available, the more refined the theory becomes. In ideal cases, it is possible to prove a theory. However, it is generally accepted that it is not possible to prove a negative. If little green men land in a space ship, we’ve proven that life exists elsewhere. In the absence of little green men, we can’t prove life does not exist elsewhere.

2. We’ve only scratched the surface on the diagnosis and treatment of disease and injury. Thirty years ago patients died because CT and MR scanners were not readily available. What will we know and be able to accomplish thirty years from today?

3. Educated and intelligent professionals in healthcare are trained to rapidly make decisions based on available data and to immediately act on those decisions. Educated and intelligent professionals in research are trained to question the meaning of available data and to look at more than a single meaning that can be ascribed to that data.

4. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus the efforts on solving this disease rather than worrying about what it’s called?

In the article, several patients and their symptoms were described. After undergoing treatment for this potentially non-existent disease, their symptoms appeared to improve. Under the concept of “First, do no harm,” withholding treatment is certainly hard to defend as an option.

If those who believe that the disease does not exist can produce better results with these patients, then I propose that they treat the Chronic Lyme patients and publish their results. If they cannot, I propose that they defer to those who are achieving some degree of help and comfort for these patients.

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