Friday, May 25, 2012

Vermont Bill S.209 - Rosemary Jacobs

Rosemary Jacobs
Oral Testimony Before
Vermont House Health Care Committee 
Hearing On Bill S.209
April 11, 2012

When I arrived at the hearing, Ben from the Vermont Medicine Show blog, was already there video taping the event. Hinda Miller had spoken and left. Lorilee Schoenbeck, ND, representing the Vermont naturopaths (NDs), Madeleine Mongan of the Vermont Medical Society and Craig Jones, MD from the Vermont Blueprint for Health were about to speak.

I got the feeling that although the committee members all smiled at me that they were hostile, annoyed that they had to listen to my talk when they wanted to be somewhere else and that their minds were already made up. Ben felt the same. In fact, they wouldn’t even let him speak even after he told them that he had emailed the committee clerk a few times asking to be put on the agenda without ever getting a reply adding that he had made a 150 mile roundtrip in order to attend the hearing and requested that they give him five minutes to address them. They refused. 

The state has spam filters that are hard to get passed so Ben definitely should have phoned and asked to be on the agenda when he didn’t get a response to his email requests, but IMO, it was really rude of the committee to refuse to hear him and it showed that they had already decided how they would vote before the hearing commenced.

Representative Fisher, the Committee Chair, and Representative Pearson left as I was about to speak and returned after I had finished. Neither heard a word of what I said about aluminum, uh, sorry, silver. (A sarcastic reference to Fisher’s question to Lorilee, 

I didn’t stick to my outline responding instead to specific things previous speakers had said. Although I hadn’t been there to hear Miller, listening to the tape showed that she had said all that I expected she would. My talk did ramble a little and I wasn’t clear in places. I’ve tried not to edit it for clarity so that you can hear what the committee heard with all its warts although I have added a few clarifications inside parenthesis in a few places.

This is a summary of my oral testimony. It is available from the Legislative Council, tel. 802-828-2424, recorded on CD 164,  House Committee On Health Care, April 11, 2012. The CD costs $1.

I was hit in the face by some of the things that I heard here today. This is not about freedom of choice. Vermonters who want to already do see naturopaths. It is about entitlement, about being given rights not earned. 

Naturopaths can spend lots of time with patients because, unlike MDs, they have so few of them. They are actively seeking patients. 

When I had cancer, the most valuable thing I had was time. If I had gone to an ND, like one in Vermont who says she offers “science-based” cancer therapy, and then found out that her treatments were not scientific or evidence-based, that she had wasted my time, I would have been furious. 

Health care delivery today is robotic and impersonal because third party payers won’t pay for the services of psychologists and sociologists (I meant social workers. My comment was meant for Mr. Pearson who has a BA in psychology and, I believe, brought up the need to include NDs in the Blueprint because of these kinds of holistic services which they offer. I cannot hear Mr. Pearson on the CD, but believe that that is what he had said before leaving.) NDs want to get in the backdoor. They claim that they have the training to treat your mind, body, spirit, that they are shrinks, healers and preachers. These are three different disciplines. NDs don’t want to be held to the same standards as those other professions. They want everyone to take their word for it when they say that they are qualified to practice all those different things. That is deceptive and that is what bothers me. 

Madeleine Mongan mentioned an analysis done in Colorado of the exam given to NDs by their schools which found it wanting. In Colorado the bill to license NDs has been repeatedly defeated because of the efforts of traditional naturopaths who say that if it passes they, the traditionalists, will lose the freedom they have now of seeing patients and the patients who want to see them will lose the right to do so. The traditional NDs proudly call themselves drugless healers insisting that they are not MDs and that NDs never have been medical doctors. They are not trained to use pharmaceuticals. Like me, the traditional NDs don’t believe that the education naturopaths get in their 4 year schools is equivalent to that of medical doctors or that NDs who have graduated from those schools deserve the privileges MDs have. 

At this point the Vice Chair, Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, who was conducting the meeting, stopped me and told me that I was off topic and that I should stick to the merits of the bill. (After listening to the CDs, I think that I was sticking to the topic. I was addressing the very points others had made like freedom of choice, the need to have a system that takes the emotional needs of people into account, the claim that Vermonters need the bill passed in order to have access to NDs. The difference, of course, was that unlike the others who had raised those points, I wasn’t advocating for NDs. I also noticed that when Senator Miller’s phone rang while she was speaking no one had chided her.)

I complained about Hanzas’s admonition saying that I was doing what the committee had permitted the NDs and their advocates to do and that I wanted equal time. “If they can do it, I can do it.” The members smiled more broadly then before. (I’ve been discriminated against most of my life by people who don’t like the way that I look, and I don’t take it lying down.)

I noted that if third party payers are forced to reimburse for NDs services, more patients will be endangered and a ton of money will be wasted. I believed this based on my experience with NDs and silver. I told the representatives that I had submitted written testimony electronically and hoped that they had seen it, but I did have hardcopy of two copyrighted articles that were unavailable electronically. 

VT NDs have a formulary that includes silver for IV use and colloidal silver for use in the eyes. They are now saying that they don’t use silver, but why is it in their formulary then?

The other thing that really bothers me is their attitude. I was given silver in nose drops when I was a child by an MD. If he had read his medical journals instead of the fraudulent ads from drug companies he never would have prescribed the drug that disfigured me. Silver was used before the advent of antibiotics; it didn’t work although it discolored many people. 

As an experiment, I was dermabraded in 1978. In medicine we don’t assume. We test. (I meant that it was only by testing, not speculating or assuming, that we could learn what effect dermabrasion or anything else would have on argyria.)

In Oct. 2010 Arline and I went to an alt med conference sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders that many NDs attended. We asked them why silver was in their formulary. Didn’t they understand “this is what it does”? (Pointing at our faces. The relevant link with Arline's photo was included in the material I had previously emailed the committee.

Silver is not in the pharmacology books. It is in the toxicology books. MDs haven’t used it internally for over 50 years. Many MDs & NPs (nurse practitioners) have apologized to me over the years for what someone in their profession had done to me. Some tried to find a lawyer to sue the MD who had disfigured me. When I told them that that MD had been a nice caring person who had made mistake they replied that that wasn’t true that he had been an incompetent doctor and that at that point in time (the 1950s) he should have known better then to have used silver internally. 

NDs, on the other hand responded, “No. We don’t do that,” and they wouldn’t talk to me. Not 1 or 2 NDs but many. I’ve had a webpage for over 15 years. People write all the time to say an ND told them to use silver. I had always assumed that the NDs they were referring to weren’t the ones who had gone to ND schools. I didn’t think that the naturopaths who ran those 4 year schools could be ignorant enough to use dangerous snake oil. I found it very hard to believe that NDs didn’t use silver and that many of them didn’t believe it was a “natural remedy”. After finding it in the VT Naturopathic Formulary, I asked the next person who said an ND told her to use it if the ND had gone to a 4 year ND school since she was in a state that doesn’t license NDs. She said that she had said that she had and that she wouldn’t have gone to her otherwise.

If NDs want to be considered the equals of MDs, they have to practice evidence-based medicine, EBM. If they don’t want to do that, it is their right and privilege, but they have to be honest and tell people there is evidence MDs tell them about showing that some things work and some don’t and that some are dangerous but that they disagree, that that is not their belief. Then they have to ask patients if they want to see why they believe things those who practice scientific medicine don’t believe. They have to either show people their evidence or admit that they have none, that their medicine is belief based, not evidence based. Only then will patients be able to make informed decisions. 

I added that the thing that bothers me the most is the NDs’ lack of honesty. I’ve heard so often “our education is the same as that of an MD”. In that case how do they fill in all those hours with all the other stuff they study too? (What I had meant was if they studied all the things that MDs study and if they took approximately the same hours of classes that MDs took, how were they able to fit in so many hours of courses in subjects that MDs don’t take like homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, etc.)

Continuing I added that I can’t believe anyone who has learned pharmacology would not know that silver is a natural toxin and not a natural remedy. Anyone who had the most fundamental knowledge of pharmacology would know to check the substances they wanted included in their formulary in pharmacology and toxicology textbooks and in the journals indexed in PubMed. If they had done so, they would have discovered that there is nothing indicating taking silver internally offers benefits and a lot showing that it causes harm. 

In conclusion I noted that people who have gotten argyria recently from silver supplements are being treated with laser therapy. I’ve corresponded with a dermatologist abroad, where as with all the industrialized countries in the world except the US, there is a national health care system. Since the doctor has a patient with argyria, I told him about laser therapy. He responded that his patient couldn’t afford it and the government system will not pay for it. IMO, that is the way all the national systems work. However,  in the US people are getting insurance companies to pick up the tab. I believe it is a cultural thing. Americans today expect 3rd parties to pick up the tab for everything they want. This is entitlement, not freedom, not equality. 

There were no questions. My talk was 16 minutes long.

Vermont House Health Care Committee; naturopaths; Michael Fisher; Christopher Pearson

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