Thomas Ross wrote an article a couple of years ago on the Oasis of Hope. A friend of mine recently shared it on Facebook. Not noticing that it was a couple of years old, I posted a comment on it, and from there have enjoyed a small debate with Thomas on some issues that matter to me.
First things first, many who know me know that my wife contracted Lyme Disease about 6 years ago. It was a life-changing event for us. My youngest son, who is now 11, has repeated the fact that he cannot remember when mom wasn’t sick. We have been blessed by the friendship and encouragement of many friends who have sustained us with kind words and constant prayer for us. This sickness has introduced us to hardships that have at times threatened to undo us. Yet we can also say by the grace of God that we are not yet overthrown. These things have introduced unspeakable blessings into our lives that we could not ever explain to anyone. We have learned some valuable lessons, and we continue to learn. As we have discussed these things, my wife and I have recognized that, prior to her sickness, we were not very compassionate people, especially towards those who are sick. We trust that God has changed us in this regard.
In Thomas’ article, I took issue with one particular statement he made:
…by rejecting the Biblically-based scientific method for unconventional “medicine” that does not work you are violating the sixth commandment by rebelliously refusing to preserve life.
Thomas has done stellar work at exposing some of the excesses of the “alternative” side of medicine. In many cases, he is correct in his view of these things, though I generally disagree with his one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. I do, however, take issue with his suggestion that the pursuit of alternative or unconventional medicine amounts to a violation of the 6th commandment.
In the course of our discussion, I posted links to a couple of articles about the controversy surrounding Lyme Disease, which led to Thomas offering an educated opinion on the controversy. You can read our entire discussion here. For the reader’s sake, I include his entire quote here:
Dear Bro Mallinak,
Thanks for the links. I do not have time to get into a discussion of whether chronic Lyme disease is what the medical consensus claims or whether thousands of doctors, insurance companies, colleges, researchers, etc. are all part of a conspiracy to suppress the existence of the disease. I am skeptical of the conspiracy thesis for reasons such as those discussed here:
While I recognize that this can be a very emotionally charged issue for many, the fact that blood tests evidence that people who claim to have chronic Lyme do not have antibodies for Lyme disease (or only residual antibodies from the previous existence of the undisputed normal Lyme disease), the fact that the treatment protocol advocated by chronic Lyme partisans does not seem to work better than a placebo, and other similar factors would appear to be much more likely explanations for insurance companies not covering the alleged disease than a conspiracy between hundreds of competitors who want to drive each other out of business, as well as non-profit researchers, medical colleges, etc.
However, as I mentioned above, I do not have time to discuss this matter at the moment, although I would be interested, as I have time, in reading your responses to the questions I asked if you wish to reply to them.
I am quite satisfied, though, that if alleged chronic Lyme is the reason for my alleged “overstated bloviation” and chronic Lyme is the proof of medical conspiracy theories, that my statement is quite able to stand, and I could in good conscience repeat my overstated bloviation again, as, to my mind, the conspiracy theories appear to be what is overstated, not the scientific consensus.
I trust that neither of us will take personally or view disagreement here as an attack on one or the other’s integrity, compassion, etc.
Thanks for your comments.
I do not know whether Thomas has any kind of medical degree or medical training, but he certainly has more of an understanding of the controversy surrounding Lyme Disease than most people I talk to – so I will credit him for that. He has a very decided opinion on the controversy as well, which is not unusual for Thomas.
After infection with the Lyme bacteria, a very small percentage of those infected will experience ongoing effects from the bacteria. The controversy among doctors revolves around this question: Are the Lyme bacteria still living and reproducing in the body, or is it simply “residual antibodies” that are present? Doctors are divided on that question. Those who consider them to be “residual antibodies” tend to identify most with the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). Those who believe the bacteria still to be alive in the body identify with the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS). Both sides include legitimate, certified medical doctors. Both claim research to support their viewpoint, and both offer very different approaches to dealing with the disease.
In the beginning stages of our battle with this disease, my wife and I went exclusively to IDSA doctors, first at our local hospital, then at the University of Utah, and finally at Johns Hopkins University. With each doctor, we experienced a different level of knowledge about the disease. Each doctor educated us a little more as to what we were dealing with, helping us to understand the disease and its effects. Each doctor recommended basically the same solution – which was pain management through a variety of techniques, including opiates, narcotics, over the counter pain relievers, counseling, meditation, acupuncture, diet, and exercise. Through the U of U doctor, my wife was admitted to the headache clinic at the U, and that doctor attempted to treat the constant, migraine-level headache that has been with her since she first contracted the disease.
We did not pursue the meditation or acupuncture recommended by our conventional doctors. The drugs they prescribed were very hard on my wife. She has never functioned well with that level of pain medication. When she took those drugs, she wound up curled up on the bed, unable to move or function at all. When she woke up, she couldn’t stop crying. The doctors told us to give it a few weeks and she would be better, but she wasn’t. She reached a level that frightened me, more than once, and we finally decided that this treatment was doing more harm than good and stopped taking that medicine. At the headache clinic, the doctor decided to wean her off one particular non-opiate, non-narcotic pain medicine, which we were happy to do. Unfortunately, the doctor took her off the medicine too quickly. For 2 weeks, my wife lay flat on her back, unable to eat, only able to trickle water down her throat. After 2 weeks, fearing for her life, I took her to a doctor to ensure that she was not dehydrated or starving to death.
After about 6 months of treatment at the headache clinic, the doctor told us that she could do nothing to help my wife’s headache. This doctor recognized that the Lyme Disease was the cause of her headache, and acknowledged that her headaches were not a “residual” effect, but were caused by the Lyme bacteria. Conventional approaches to pain management simply were not effective with this extenuating circumstance.
By this time, we had been treating my wife for about a year and a half to two years. We recognized that conventional medicine did not have a solution to the problem, and we decided that this was God’s will – we would simply submit to what he had brought into our lives and stop pursuing treatment. At that time, we had exhausted every remedy offered by conventional medicine.
As the months rolled by, my wife’s condition only worsened. While on a visit to my parents, I decided to stop by and visit with my childhood family doctor. My parents have gone to him for many, many years, and continue to see him to this day. He plays an active role in the training and certification process at Indiana University and is a well-known and respected doctor. He graciously cleared his lunch hour and visited with us for an hour and a half, explaining more about the disease and discussing treatment options. We told him everything we have done to treat my wife, and he acknowledged that we had done everything that conventional medicine has to offer. He visibly cried as he told us that he honestly did not know which direction we should go in our pursuit of relief from this disease, but that the one thing we must not do is to give up. He told us that we had to keep fighting the disease.
Because we had exhausted every option offered to us on the conventional side, we began to pursue alternative treatments, particularly antibiotic therapy. Though these treatment options have not brought an end to her suffering, they have enabled my wife to experience some of her best days dealing with this disease.
Whether those who suffer long-term from the effects of Lyme Disease are experiencing “chronic” Lyme or “post” Lyme, whether the bacteria is alive or “residual,” it is undeniable that a certain percentage of Lyme patients experience long-term damage from the disease. As the doctor at Johns Hopkins explained to us, the greatest damage caused by Lyme Disease is to the auto-immune system. Because Lyme Disease is such a powerful bacteria, it has a way of jolting the auto-immune system into hyper-drive. The doctor explained it in military terms. Suppose a foreign army invaded our country. We would send in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Forces, and Coast Guard to drive them out. That is what our auto-immune system does when we contract Lyme Disease. But as she explained to us, with some patients, long after the foreign army has been driven out, the auto-immune system continues to respond to every threat, even one as mild as a paper-cut, with an all-out assault. And that is the cause of the constant, unrelenting pain.
The most effective treatment of Lyme Disease today attempts to kill the bacteria through antibiotic therapy while at the same time attempting to focus the auto-immune system on fighting the disease rather than attacking the rest of the body. My old family doctor told us that “if anyone ever tells you that they have found a way to control the auto-immune system, get up and walk out of the room immediately.” He is right, of course. If medicine could cure a broken auto-immune system, that would bring an end to all disease. Yet in recent years, science has made significant advances in helping the auto-immune system to fight diseases, including cancer, in our own bodies. Some of these advances have come from conventional medicine paying a little more attention to the unconventional approaches to sickness and disease.
Of course, some in the ILADS community will insist that the bacteria is still alive, and that is the reason the symptoms continue chronically. I will confess that I do not have a decided opinion on which of these is correct. I will leave that to the more educated people, like Thomas. He calls it an “alleged” disease. My wife and I shared a good laugh about that. Her alleged disease is allegedly causing her a lot of pain, even at this moment.
Because Lyme Disease is not life-threatening like cancer or heart disease, and because it is not widespread, universities do not invest money into research on this disease or focus on finding a cure for it as they do with other diseases. So while IDSA doctors debate ILADS doctors on the merits of various treatment options, the patients continue to suffer. Unfortunately, many insurance companies have sided with IDSA rather than allow their customers to pursue treatment as a free market would dictate. In our case, we have been blessed to belong to Samaritan Ministries, who has graciously allowed us to pursue alternative treatments. We know plenty of Lyme patients who have traditional insurance, and who are denied coverage.
One of our IDSA doctors told us, as Thomas noted above, that “the treatment protocol advocated by chronic Lyme partisans does not seem to work better than a placebo.” He was referring specifically to antibiotic therapy. He explained that the antibiotics work because they contain levels of Tylenol and anti-inflammatories. The antibiotics can be dangerous when taken long-term, but he told us that if we went on a regiment of Tylenol and ibuprofen (also dangerous in the long-term, by the way), we would experience the same relief.
He couldn’t have been more wrong. When we stuck with his regiment of Tylenol and ibuprofen, my wife experienced no relief from her pain whatsoever. But when we began to visit a Lyme-literate doctor who put my wife on antibiotics, she experienced the most relief she has in this long battle. Over the past couple of years, in fact, this treatment has given us the best, most consistent relief of any treatment we have tried.
Our current doctor, who is a licensed Medical Doctor, told us that for many years, his patients would come to him and say, “but Doctor, I’m not better.” And he would assume that it was all in their head and they needed to get over it. But the more he treated patients, the more he recognized that many of them were not making it up. When he realized this, he also realized that the limitations placed on him by “Best Practices,” the standards conventional doctors are held to, did not always allow him to treat his patients the way they needed to be treated.
I believe in science. I believe in the scientific method. I believe in conventional medicine. If you have cancer, I would plead with you – please, don’t go for all the kooky nonsense treatments that are out there. Use the tried and tested.
But I also believe in free markets, and modern-day conventional medicine is not necessarily friendly to this. Doctors who treat Lyme patients in particular, when they use alternative or unconventional methods, have wound up losing their licenses. At this point, a handful of states (I think about 13) have passed laws in order to grant doctors a little more liberty in their pursuit of treatment. That is a good thing.
I am not a medical doctor and have no medical training. I do not have Thomas Ross’ research abilities, and I have no doubt that he can refute much of what I say. I only know that my wife has suffered much, and as her husband, I must attempt to help her however I can. Antibiotics have helped her where the narcotics and opiates prescribed by conventional doctors did not.
I cannot make judgments about Thomas Ross, about his compassion, or about his motivations for writing what he does. He certainly does his homework, and he is very passionate about medical issues. I do not say that his arguments are without merit. Nor do I pretend to know what he would do were he in my position. I cannot pretend to know what he has had to deal with personally as far as health and medical treatment is concerned. Should God allow a similar circumstance into his life, I would assume that he would do everything in his power to relieve the suffering of his loved one.
Whether he would take the route that I have taken or not would be his decision. If he decided that the conventional route is the only route, I would not accuse him of violating the 6th commandment. I don’t think such a sweeping condemnation is appropriate. On my part, I sometimes believe that if I were to stop pursuing alternative treatments, that may very well be a violation of the 6th commandment.