Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Good Doc, Bad Doc

I was driving past our pediatrician's office a few days ago and saw that there was a sign soliciting letters in support of the office of Dr. Weitz (that's not his real name). When I returned home, a short internet search revealed that Weitz was being charged with medical negligence. According to prosecutors, he failed to counsel the mother of one of his young patients not to breast-feed her child even though Weitz knew that the woman, Nora Jenkins, was HIV-positive. All hell broke loose when child died some time later, apparently of complications stemming from AIDS.

But wait, there's plenty more sordid details to go around: though well-educated and accomplished, Nora Jenkins is a somewhat infamous figure. She spearheads a group which vehemently denies the almost universally-held belief that HIV causes AIDS, and presents her own HIV-positive/AIDS-free immune system as Exhibit A in her argument. Jenkins is in a heap of legal trouble herself, naturally enough, but is fighting her cause with everything she has. Recently she hired a credible expert to study the coroner's report, re-examine her daughter's body, and poke holes in the conclusion that the girl died of AIDS. According to Jenkins' expert, the child was AIDS-free at the time of death and instead died from an adverse reaction to an antibiotic prescribed by another doctor, who -- just to add to the intrigue -- did not have license to practice medicine in California, and, not to be left out of the fray, has a resulting Gordian legal snarl to untie all to himself.

Now I've never seen Nora Jenkins -- whose name I've also changed, incidentally -- in action, but she sounds like a regular Lady MacBeth. She's adept at getting well-established, professional men to do her bidding, even at the peril of their careers, and despite the dubiousness of her cause, she's managed to make quite a fat living on the sketchy HIV/AIDS-denial-speaking-circuit.

In a way, to 90% of this, I say, whatever. It's quite apparent that Nora Jenkins is bad news all around, a narcissist crackpot whose entire existence seems geared towards spreading hatred, mistrust, and chaos. We've seen her kind before, in the form of jocular Holocaust deniers who are ever holding demonstrations in Jewish communities, ruining the lives and reputations of every sad-sack dupe they pull into their web.

The truly scary part is that Dr. Weitz is no sad-sack dupe. He's a distinguished physician, and I was very surprised to hear that he may have made such a shocking misjudgment. Even if, as he has been quoted as saying, he could be "convinced either way" about the connection between HIV and AIDS -- a rather troubling statement in itself -- it would seem standard practice to assume that infection WAS possible and to therefore make every effort to safeguard against the transmission of the disease to Jenkins' child. So on one hand I'm convinced that Weitz blew it, and we should take our daughter somewhere else when she has the sniffles.

On the other hand, this is a sizable media frenzy we're talking about here, and it's a centered on a personality whose job description for many years was "Professional Spreader of Untruth." My daughter's health is my number one priority, of course, but close behind it is my desire to maintain a healthy skepticism for sensationalism and hype attending a case where the facts aren't entirely known.

I'm being coy about names and identities here because I'd just as soon not have my humble little get-in-shape fitness site pop up on search engines about this topic, and add even a droplet of my own to the media deluge. For me, the pressing question is a simple one: keep my daughter with this doctor, or no?

My impulse is to wait for the facts to emerge and then decide.

But I honestly don't know. Common knowledge suggests that the HIV/AIDS link is pretty well proven -- but does suspecting otherwise automatically relegate you to nutball status? I'm speaking of Weitz here, not Jenkins, who is a card-carrying nutball with dues paid up through this century.

Comments welcome and encouraged.

Medical malpractice, infanticide, AIDS. Sunny topics for the 4th of July!



Bob Devlin said...

That's a really tough call. Is this woman pursuing a case against the doctor for not advising her? Seems kind of against what she believes in if that's the case. She knowingly breast fed her child while having HIV. Has she been brought up on any charges?

Andrew said...

Yes, Jenkins is in legal straits as well. The action against Weitz is a criminal charge, not a civil one, though; she's way too committed to her cause to charge Weitz with any wrongdoing--she'd be implicating herself anyway, since she was the one doing the breast-feeding. No, Jenkins is convinced that the doctor who (illegally) prescribed the antibiotic killed her child. Bottom line, no one's coming out smelling like a rose on this one, Bob. --Andrew

mamacita chilena said...

Well is it a FACT that the doctor did not warn her against breast feeding? Because if this lady is as big of a nut job as you say, it wouldn't be that out of the blue for her to, say, make something up against a poor unsuspecting doctor to dredge up a media frenzy to further her own cause.

If I were you, I'd wait and see. More facts are bound to come out that should shed some light.

Anonymous said...

The comparison to Holocaust denial is not fair. There are credible scientists who believe HIV is not the cause of AIDS. They are not crackpots or bigots.

Andrew said...

That is possible; I confess I haven't looked into it much and that's why I ask about it above. However, I don't believe an ethical scientist would disseminate such a controversial, potentially dangerous theory in as reckless and opportunistic a manner as Jenkins--who is deciedly NOT a scientist--has done.