Sunday, September 25, 2005

HIV Denial: the tragic price of a delusion

Red State Moron: A simply tragic story.

It's a tragic story well worth reading.

Christine Maggiore, a wealthy and fairly healthy HIV positive woman, writes a book denying the reality of AIDS/HIV. She breast feeds her two children and declines their immunizations. Her co-conspirators include a set of quack physicians -- among them Dr. (Heidi-father) Fleiss and Los Angeles child protective services. (Case law, established in the care of Christian Scientist and Jehovah's Witness children is reasonably clear that the state has an obligation to intervene on behalf of a child in these circumstances.)

Recently, following a brief illness, her young daughter dies of AIDS associated pneumonia. She is devastated but remains convinced her daughter's death is unrelated to HIV infection. (The children's father is not mentioned in the story.)

This lies in the perplexing intersection between cultural beliefs, faith, and mental illness. Ms. Maggiore's beliefs have a delusional quality, but they are not so different from those of Christian Scientists and many alternative medicine practitioners. It is not a simple matter (witness a very well done book on a Hmong child's illness and her care in Minnesota), but here the state failed this child. We have very effective therapies for HIV disease in children. This child should never have been infected, but once infected she should not have died [1]. The state should protect Ms. Maggiore's remaining child from the actions of her loving but misguided mother. Ms. Maggiore, unfortunately, has the legal resources to ensure that will be very difficult.

Her physicians, with the exception of one who noted his own failings, should be removed from their specialty societies and their licenses revoked.

Great reporting in the original story by the way.

[1] Update 9/26/05: On reflection, I'm getting this opinion via the newspaper article. I suspect our treatments are in fact not universally successful.

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