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Lyme Lies: Allen Steere's horrifying comments regarding Lyme disease in last week's commencement address

Commentary by T.L. Kittle

LOS ANGELES, May 24 /PRNewswire/ -- As some people are already aware, there's a debate going on regarding Lyme disease (it's actually more like a war) regarding who should be treated for Lyme disease and how long that treatment should be.

(Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by tick bites that can lead to debilitating symptoms, including severe neurological problems.)

Allen Steere, as a member of the IDSA (Infectious Diseases Society of America) and having spent decades studying the disease, is well regarded by many as an "expert" on Lyme disease. Therefore it is of utmost importance that he presents the facts on Lyme disease as they are currently known truthfully to the unknowing public -- especially given his stature in the medical community.

The main problem with this speech and his argument about Lyme Disease, is that he's basing the entire argument on whether or not someone who is ill with Lyme symptoms should be treated with antibiotic therapy and for how long on diagnostic testing -- presenting diagnostic testing as if these tests were 100% reliable, which is false information -- horrifying by someone who is supposed to be honoring the science.

"Diagnostic tests based on scientific studies fail to show evidence of Lyme disease in most of these patients," stated Allen Steere.

It's only true that these patients did indeed 'for sure' not have Lyme disease if it's true that diagnostic tests are 100% accurate-when in fact, Lyme tests have been scientifically proven to produce false negatives.

Therefore, Allen Steere misrepresented the facts about Lyme disease to the Ohio Wesleyan University 2008 graduates. Since diagnostic testing for Lyme disease is not 100% reliable, then this means some of these patients with negative results might have actually had Lyme disease, making antibiotic therapy appropriate.

Since he states he holds scientific facts so valuably, then why is he basing his argument on whether or not someone should be treated with antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease on a falsehood?

It is irresponsible and an insult to scientific evidence to misrepresent the evidence by leaving out the false negative rate for Lyme tests -- especially by someone who claims to be standing by the science without informing the audience that the science itself has proven not to be 100% reliable -- that it is a scientific proven fact that Lyme tests are not always accurate, making it absolutely necessary to treat some people with Lyme disease who have negative diagnostic testing-people with no laboratory evidence of the disease -- people on paper who 'scientifically' don't have it.

It seems he's throwing his weight around, using the power of the IDSA and the medical institutions he's connected to, to misrepresent the decisions behind when to treat people with antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease and for how long by omitting a discussion of the false negatives in this speech.

He's right that antibiotics can cause harm, and he's right that there's always going to be patients who get better based on the placebo effect alone -- this is *not* specific to Lyme disease --

However, there's another side to "do no harm": the harm caused when something is not given to someone who needs it (ie, not feeding one's children). Therefore, it should be the patient's decision in collaboration with their physician on how they want to proceed medically when their diagnostic tests have come back negative.

It's a shame that Steere didn't use this speech as an opportunity to talk in depth regarding how many unknowns there are in medicine-therefore, in order to care for people adequately, it is essential to listen to patient's clinical information until science has all the answers--since it is impossible to tell the 'faker' from someone who is genuinely recovering, then the medical professional has to make a choice regarding how they want to practice medicine--based on test results that have been scientifically confirmed to be faulty, or to be a physician who practices medicine based on clinical information and human compassion?

Since the tests are not 100% accurate, then test results are obviously not the only way someone should be diagnosed and determined 'scientifically' to have Lyme disease --

As Steere states in his speech, "If you ignore scientific reality, if you twist it, if you wish for a particular answer, you will miss Mars and drift in space." The message behind this statement is absolutely correct-it is absolutely vital to honor the science-which includes when the science is saying it doesn't have a definitive answer, and therefore it is impossible to make definitive conclusions regarding all aspects of the disease.

To hold diagnostic testing up as the only marker for determining whether or not someone has Lyme disease is misrepresentation of the disease.

It's amazing to think of how many people are suffering unnecessarily based on the omission of this one key scientific fact-especially since he has a ethical (and legal?) responsibility to share the whole truth.

T. L. Kittle suffers with a chronic illness in the Los Angeles area, gratefully under the care of extraordinary physicians. Kittle is in the process of establishing a medical non-profit to address issues regarding lack of access to care as well as lack of physician control over medical care.

Link to the text of Allen Steere's speech:

SOURCE T.L. Kittle
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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