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Keep an open mind on Lyme disease


Dear Sir/Madam

I was alarmed by your recent publication of a piece named ‘Lyme disease not a local-grown problem:  pathologists’.
I wonder whether Dr Graves swore an oath to ‘first do no harm’ when he was given the title before his name.  And I wonder if he has the faintest idea just how much harm his premature and inappropriate comments are doing.  His comments about testing perpetuate myths which help no-one.  And especially concerning to me is his advice about treatment at the end of the article – surely treatment decisions are made about individual patients by their medical practitioners.
Likewise, Professor Beaman’s statement that the symptoms of Lyme disease are ‘consistent with being alive’ is breathtakingly ignorant.  This  description could not be further from the truth.  And it is a comment that is profoundly insulting, in particular to those sickest patients who exist daily feeling they are the living dead.
History is littered with examples of diseases which were once dangerously misunderstood.  Examples such as H. pylori should not be too far from the memory of current practitioners.
Medical practitioners may not have the time, or inclination, to follow the debate in detail as the evidence related to Lyme disease in Australia builds, but they owe it to their patients to keep open minds.   And you owe it to your members to give information that supports an open-minded and productive dialogue, particularly taking into consideration that the CMO’s investigations into Lyme disease in Australia are far from concluded.  It is also worth noting that NSW Health has recently updated its information on Lyme disease to advise that ‘Clinicians should keep an open mind about the possibility of locally-acquired Lyme disease’.  The highest price a medical professional may pay for ignorance about this disease is a blow to their ego.  But patients are paying with their lives.
The AMA does not serve its members and their best practice by publishing this article.  It does nothing to advance the understanding of a very serious disease.  I hope that your intention is to publish another article which gives a more complete and updated overview.
First do no harm.  Please keep those words at the forefront of your minds.
Yours sincerely,
Kirsten Smith