Homeopathy As Murder

I believe that the worst event in anyone’s life must be the death of a child. More specifically, your child. Of course there are diseases that scinece based medicine have yet to solve. We all know that there are thousands of scientists around the world working to eradicate diseases from HIV to cancer. I applaud those men and women working selflessly in their fields, bringing hope and a cure, where once there was only a sentence of death. Today, people live longer lives because of the strides of science in the last century.

Then there comes along a story like this one. An 18 month old with an ear infction that could have easily been remidied by a quick trip to a doctor’s office where the appropriate antibiotic may have been applied. Of course, these parents didn’t believe in vaccination or “other aspects of modern medicine”. So what did the child die from? Here’s the salient part of the story:

Dr. James A. Terzian performed an autopsy at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, and determined that the child died of streptococcus pneumonia meningitis, which caused a cerebral abscess and terminal cerebral edema.

“The meningitis originated in a left ear infection, which was reportedly left untreated by conventional antibiotic therapy,” Terzian wrote in his report.

A simple antibiotic to treat the ear infection would have saved the victim’s life, Terzian added.

A child, who must have been agonizing pain, was treated at home with homeopathic remedies and herbal therapy. Remedies? Therapy? In what world would any parent, with a suffering child, resort to magic, as that child’s condition worsened? Unfortunately, it seems we see it all too often as there are parents like these that don’t believe in conventional medicine and then there are those, for religious reasons, will not have their children treated by a doctor. Magic over science, in the 21st century.

It’s heartbreaking to read stories like this one. There’s absolutely no reason this child had to die. Of course the parents also gave another reason:

Both parents indicated another reason they didn’t seek medical treatment sooner was financial concerns.

Unbelieveable. Any emergency room in this country will treat any person, regardless of ability to pay. They do this all the time. Emergency rooms around the country find themselves in dire financial straits because lack of payment for services. Still, they continue to help people.

Of course, this death has been ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, as is approriate I believe. I don’t know the laws in the state where this occurred, but it is my hope that these two receive the maximum sentence allowed by law.

I’m horrified. I’m angry. Why is it that in this country we allow garbage to be sold over the counter as “remedies” or “therapies”? Let’s stop electing people at the state and federal level that support magic over science.

There is absolutely no reason an 18 month old little girl had to suffer and die because of the obsitnance of her parents.


4 thoughts on “Homeopathy As Murder

  1. What a horrible situation.

    I’m going to take a position more sympathetic to the parents, though that’s made challenging by reading another news account that said the mother tried CPR at home for 30 min before the father came home & they took the child to the Emergency Department. (On the other hand, she might not have had transportation with him away.)

    It doesn’t sound like they willfully neglected their child, refusing to take her in for evaluation & treatment even though they knew they should – but instead that they, or at least the mother, had been exposed to extremely biased information (including that which she sought out for herself) and believed that the health system in the U.S. was actively harmful.

    As reported at http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/06/16/whats-the-harm-a-preventable-death-from-an-ear-infection/ this quote comes from a source linked therein:

    [The mother] said her views against modern medicine stem from her childhood as she was raised without taking pills or receiving shots.

    She told police she has done her own research on vaccinations and found they can be related to death, SIDS, autistic disorders, immune disorders and shaken baby syndrome. While her views are not religiously motivated, she said she does feel God is the ultimate healer.

    “If doctors expect people to trust them, they need to become trustworthy,” Delozier said. “People are a lot healthier in countries where doctors aren’t paid by patients.”
    With tears streaming down her face, she went on to say, “I believe the medical community is at least the third, maybe the first, leading killer in the United States.”

    The media may share some blame here – they commonly report stories in which people were harmed, for example came out of a hospitalization with a new infection – which happen. My theory is that of the 4 aspects of biomedical ethics:
    1) health care workers most value beneficence, feeling we are doing good so all else is less important;
    2) the media most values non-maleficence, not doing harm, so tends to report violations of that;
    3) the general U.S. population tends to value non-maleficence and autonomy, the patient’s (or parent’s, to a significant extent) right to choose what care to refuse (media also like to report on possible violations of autonomy); and
    4) what the U.S. health care system really needs is distributive justice but that’s just not in our political will.

    Regarding finances: It looks like this took place in a state that had accepted Medicaid expansion, increasing the chances that if the family had been in contact with any aspect of the allopathic health care system they might have been connected to a government insurance program. Your comment about Emergency Departments having to treat anyone is true – due to the unfunded mandate EMTALA passed in 1986 any ED that receives federal funds has to at least do a “medical screening exam” on anyone who comes in seeking care – but it does not mean the ED or hospital would not CHARGE the family big $$ for any care provided – they would, unless the ED was part of a hospital in a state that required the hospital have a process for providing some portion of their care as Charity Care. It looks like this did take place in a state with a Charity Care law. On the other hand, if the family didn’t know to ask about Charity Care, it’s possible that their potential candidacy for it might not have been caught by the hospital’s billing department.

    So, I agree that this is a horrible, preventable tragedy. I don’t see that the parents did anything out of “cold blood”, but instead out of anti-scientific background & beliefs, distrust of the health care system, and possibly concern about health care costs – all very American traits, unfortunately here all rolled up into one toddler’s death.

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    • I as well don’t believe the parents were “cold blooded” in their response. What I do know, from experience as a parent, is that something like an ear infection is incredibly painful for a child. This is not something that is remedied by water drops but requires some sort of antibiotic (I’m not an M.D. as you know).
      I sway toward having an M.D. evaluate. I’ve always trusted doctors (to a point of course) and have never had a reason not to trust a trained medical professional in evaluation or treatment.
      I find it incomprehensible the excuse of that the parent has never had an inoculation as being any sort of defense. She was lucky. As my parents were, born in the 1920’s, there was no such thing as MMR, Polio, etc., when they were maturing. Then again, my parents didn’t grow up in urban areas where child death rates were high during those years.
      Today we can’t expect that just because we don’t live in urban areas that our children will be fine. People today are much more mobile and as I’m feel certain you know, childhood diseases are very communicable.
      Hell, the primary school my daughter attends seems like a bacteriological cesspool to me. Parents send there kids to school sick, and of course whatever that sickness is passes to other kids, simply because they’re lazy(my opinion) and won’t take a few hours off work to have their child treated.
      Lastly, I’ve read about people in hospitals contracting some infection which they didn’t have when they entered treatment. Can doctors, nurses, orderlies do better to prevent the spread of these infections? Yes, they can but it’s not just the doctors, etc., it has to be the hospital administration taking, if necessary, extraordinary measures.
      We also need better education for people. I’d like to see that coming from the government, BTW.

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  2. Better education for people (including for those who run for government), with government’s involvement – hallelujah!

    I don’t know where the parents were from, but if they’d been home-schooled that could’ve explained them having little exposure to mainstream knowledge about the health care system, and potentially less exposure to the infection distribution centers that day care & schools can become. The borough in which they live or lived has a population of 596, possibly less exposure to certain communicable diseases. (I recall a physician my age in a rural area once telling me, “We don’t believe in the flu shot out here.” That’s anecdote but that doc might not be the only one who feels that way.) It’s possible that someone in one or both of their families had had a bad outcome of treatment in the past (whether due to the condition itself or bad luck or an error) and had actively “spread” mistrust of the health care system to them & others.

    Even in unvaccinated populations, it’s usually a minority of people who contract a clinically apparent case of any given infectious disease, or who suffer long-term effects. For example, polio is a highly contagious and devastating disease, but the ratio of cases with no to mild apparent infection, and those paralyzed, ranges from 100:1 to 1000:1 – it’s nowhere near 100%.

    Hospital-acquired infections are a real thing. Those & other causes of harm in the health care system were the focus of the groundbreaking 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, To Err is Human, which “concluded that between 44,000 to 98,000 people die each year [in the US] as a result of preventable medical errors”. Quality improvement has been a big focus of the Dept of Health & Human Services and hospitals, with financial consequences for hospitals that perform less well on specific measures. There are all sorts of factors on the hospital side of things. Part of the situation, too, is that people for the most part go into a hospital when they’re sick, and no treatment is without any risk (including risk of superinfection with Y when on antibiotics for X), and at least some attempts to quell infectious diseases are essentially a form of “natural selection” for them.

    Of course I agree that she should have been taken to see someone or some place where her condition could have been evaluated and treated before it became so advanced, then fatal. And may there be a day in the future when the factors which led these parents not to seek evidence-based medical care for their sick child will no longer hold sway over life & death medical conditions.

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    • I think I recall reading that 26 states still allow parents to “opt-out” of vaccinations due to “philosophical” reasons – like these parents in the story. If I’m not mistaken, 48 states allow exemption for religious reasons. Although we believe in “religious freedom” – and I do support that ideal, there’s a difference when your religious freedom impacts the health and welfare of others.

      Not vaccinating, or providing basic science-based medical care for your child is criminal and I’m glad to see more and more states prosecuting – even on the basis of religious belief – nowadays.

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