MANDATORY MEDICINE?

I spent this past weekend in Cambridge, Mass., where I spoke about covering reproductive health issues at a conference called Women, Action, Media. During the question and answer session at our panel (which also featured Emily Douglas of RH Reality Check, Kiki Zeldes from Our Bodies, Ourselves, and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health), the audience really wanted to talk about Gardasil, Merck's HPV vaccine. Gardasil provides protection against cervical cancer, and is currently recommended for girls and women between the ages of 11 and 26. Some school systems and states have tried -- and failed -- to mandate the vaccine for middle-school girls. Opposition to mandatory vaccination comes from both the left and right; conservative parents often fear that vaccinating their daughters against an STI tacitly condones sexual behaivor, while many on the left are skeptical of any new drug pushed by a pharmaceutical company after only short-term trials.

But the controversy hasn't stopped the federal government from requiring Gardasil vaccination for immigrant girls and young women applying for U.S. citizenship, a policy opposed by the Latina Institute. In addition, Merck is currently pushing the FDA to approve the vaccination for boys and young men, and for insurance companies to cover vaccination for women into their thirties.

I have been optimistic about Gardasil (I'm vaccinated) and enthusiastic about giving the series of three injections to boys. Nevertheless, a policy of mandatory vaccination for immigrant girls and women, but no one else in our society, raises my eyebrows. And HPV/cervical cancer is not the only public health issue currently subject to a debate about mandatory medicine. A rash of states are now requiring HIV tests for pregnant women, a policy I support, since, with the proper precautions, the rate of HIV transmission between mother and child can be cut to 2 percent. Now Rhode Island is debating allowing doctors to test any patient for HIV without his or her explicit consent, as part of a battery of blood tests. The ACLU opposes the proposed legislation, as does Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Boston-based group. They are concerned about patients' rights to refuse treatment and to keep their HIV status confidential. Yet in the past, the public health effects of mandatory testing have been strikingly positive. The Providence Journal reports:

...when the law was amended regarding pregnant women the participation rate jumped from 52 to 92 percent. ... Rhode Island’s rate of children born with the virus dropped from sixth-highest in the country to nil...

That's pretty powerful evidence in favor of testing. Are you convinced?

--Dana Goldstein

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David Summers, a 37 year old MS patient from Murfreesboro, Tennessee was a score of 8.0 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) when he had the Combination Liberation Therapy and Stem Cell Transplantation at CCSVI Clinic in March of 2012. Having been diagnosed in 1996 he had been in a wheelchair for the past decade without any sensation below the waist or use of his legs.
“It was late 2011 and I didn’t have much future to look forward to” says David. “My MS was getting more progressive and ravaging my body. I was diagnosed as an 8.0 on the EDSS scale; 1 being mild symptoms, 10 being death. There were many new lesions on my optic nerves, in my brain and on my spinal cord. My neurologist just told me: ‘be prepared to deteriorate’. I knew that he was telling me I didn’t have much time left, or at least not much with any quality.” David had previously sought out the liberation therapy in 2010 and had it done in a clinic in Duluth Georgia. “The Interventional Radiologist who did it told me that 50% of all MS patients who have the jugular vein-clearing therapy eventually restenose. I didn’t believe that would happen to me if I could get it done. But I have had MS for 16 years and apparently my veins were pretty twisted up”. Within 90 days, David’s veins had narrowed again, and worse, they were now blocked in even more places than before his procedure.
“I was so happy after my original procedure in 2010. I immediately lost all of the typical symptoms of MS. The cog fog disappeared, my speech came back, the vision in my right eye improved, I was able to regulate my body temperature again, and some of the sensation in my hands came back. But as much as I wanted to believe I felt something, there was nothing below the waist. I kind of knew that I wouldn’t get anything back in my legs. There was just way too much nerve damage now”. But any improvements felt by David lasted for just a few months.
After his relapse, David and his family were frustrated but undaunted. They had seen what opening the jugular veins could do to improve him. Because the veins had closed so quickly after his liberation procedure, they considered another clinic that advocated stent implants to keep the veins open, but upon doing their due diligence, they decided it was just too risky. They kept on searching the many CCSVI information sites that were cropping up on the Internet for something that offered more hope. Finding a suitable treatment, especially where there was no known cure for the disease was also a race against time. David was still suffering new attacks and was definitely deteriorating. Then David’s mother Janice began reading some patient blogs about a Clinic that was offering both the liberation therapy and adult autologous stem cell injections in a series of procedures during a hospital stay. “These patients were reporting a ‘full recovery’ of their neurodegenerative deficits” says Janice, “I hadn’t seen anything like that anywhere else”. She contacted CCSVI Clinic in late 2011 and after a succession of calls with the researchers and surgeons they decided in favor of the combination therapies.
“I went to CCSVI Clinic in India without knowing what to expect” says David, “but I basically had one shot left and this was it. I was becoming pretty disabled, and I couldn’t think very clearly”. David was triaged with a clinic intake of other MS patients and had the liberation therapy on March 27, 2012. They also drew bone marrow from his hip bone in the same procedure. When he woke up from the procedure, he again felt the immediate effect of the widening of the veins. “In case anyone doesn’t believe that the liberation therapy works, I can tell them that this is much more than placebo effect.” The MS symptoms described earlier again disappeared. Four days later he had the first of the stem cell injections from the cultured cells taken from his hip bone during the liberation therapy. The first transplant was injected into the area just below his spine. Over the next 4 days he would receive about 100 million stem cells cultured in specific growth factors for differentiated effect.
He was not quite prepared for what happened next. A few hours after the first transplant, he was taken back into his hospital room and was transferred to the hospital bed. “I’m not completely helpless when it comes to moving from a chair or a bed”, says David, “One of the things I can do for myself is to use my arms to throw my leg into a position to be able to shift the rest of my body weight over to where I’m going. But this time to my amazement, I didn’t have to pick up the dead weight of my leg and throw it. It moved on its own, exactly where my brain told it to go”. Shortly after his first stem cell transplant procedure, some motor function in his lower body had returned. “This was the first time in 10 years I had any sensation or motor function below my waste so it was quite a shock.”
In the next month, most every motor nerve and body function has either returned or is on its way to recovery. “It’s been over a decade since I’ve had any power over my elimination functions. Now it’s all come back. I have total bladder control”. He’s also working out every day, following the physiotherapy routine given him by the clinic. “For years, I haven’t been able to work out without getting sick for a couple of days afterward. Now I have muscles popping out all over the place where I haven’t seen them since my MS became progressive…and I can work out as hard or as much as I want. With my ability to do the hard work my balance is improving each day and I’m able to take steps unassisted. I’m definitely going to be coming all the way back.”
Dr. Av Gupte, the neurosurgeon who has now done over 2000 adult autologous stem cell transplants for various neurologic disease conditions says that the stem cells in David’s body will continue to work their healing process for the next year. “With the incredible progress I’ve seen so far, I won’t need a year”, says David. “It’s only been a little over two months and I have most everything back. I can’t wait to get up each day to check out my improvements. My right hand is completely back to normal without any numbness and the left is on its way. I have good strength in my legs now and I’m working on the balance”.
Other MS patients treated with the combination therapy over the past 18 months have seen similar improvements but none have been as disabled as David. “If I can come back from where I was, most everyone with MS could too. For me, CCSVI Clinic has been my miracle and I can’t say enough about the doctors, researchers and staff who are helping me to recover. For me, MS was my previous diagnosis”.For more information please visit http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/?p=904

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