Feud Over Children Rages On At Hearing Lyme Disease Doctor Facing State Medical Hearings Over Antibiotic Prescription April 20, 2007 By WILLIAM HATHAWAY, Courant Staff Writer
The eighth hearing before a state panel on whether to revoke the medical license of Dr. Charles Ray Jones on Thursday was more like Jerry Springer than a sophisticated medical debate over how to diagnose and treat Lyme disease.
The case against the Hamden doctor was triggered by a long-running feud between ex-spouses in Nevada over the education and health of their two children - acrimony recounted before the state Medical Examining Board during the hearing.
But the board's decision on Jones' professional fate will have major repercussions on how the tick-borne disease is diagnosed and treated in Connecticut and across the country, doctors and Lyme disease advocates say.
The Department of Public Health says Jones violated standard of care practices by diagnosing Lyme disease and prescribing antibiotics to two Nevada children he had not yet met and continued long-term antibiotic treatment, despite test results which did not show evidence of infection of the Lyme bacterium.
However, dozens of Lyme disease advocates who turned out to support Jones on Thursday and hundreds of others who have donated to his legal defense fund believe otherwise. The case has attracted national attention because advocates for Lyme disease patients believe that existing diagnostic tests are flawed and that the medical establishment has ignored evidence that antibiotics can eradicate debilitating neurological symptoms associated with chronic Lyme infections.
Much of the testimony Thursday involved messy details of a decade of strife between Jeff and Robin Sparks following their 1996 divorce. Jeff Sparks, whom the DPH flew in from California to testify, told the panel he was particularly angry at his ex-wife's decision in the spring of 2004 to home school their then-11-year-old son, who was exhibiting behavioral problems in school.
His ex-wife, Robin Sparks, who had been flown to Connecticut from Nevada by the Jones defense team for an earlier hearing, testified that her son not only had a dramatic drop in his grades but also experienced a host of symptoms like joint pain, night terrors, nose bleeds and sensitivity to light. Believing her son might be suffering from Lyme disease, she eventually sought help from Jones.
Jeff Sparks said, however, that his son exhibited none of those symptoms during his twice weekly visits with his son and daughter. Yet in March 2004, Jones wrote a letter to school officials in Carson City, Nev., suggesting the child might have Lyme disease and might benefit from home schooling.
Jones did not examine the boy until May of that year.
Backed by dozens of supporters in a crowded conference room at DPH headquarters in Hartford, Jones testified that his diagnosis of Lyme disease was provisional and that the letter was intended to suggest home schooling would be appropriate if the diagnosis was confirmed.
Sparks would later file a complaint against Jones with DPH, prompting the hearings.
Jeff Sparks also told the panel that his wife had previously claimed to be suffering from a host of ailments such as the rare blood disorder lupus, brain tumors and late-stage ovarian cancer - all of which ended up to be false claims. She also incorrectly said their son was suffering from epilepsy and even breast cancer, Sparks testified.
Attorneys for Jones asked Sparks about his ex-wife's allegations of child abuse, lack of child support and refusals to pay medical bills for his children.
Sparks denied those allegations Thursday.
DPH says Jones diagnosed the boy as having Lyme disease without having seen him and later prescribed long-term antibiotic therapy without evidence that the boy had been infected with the Lyme bacterium. Jones also prescribed antibiotics to the daughter, again without having examined the child, the DPH alleges.
Jones said Thursday he did extend an existing prescription by phone for an oral antibiotic for the son, who had a lung infection. However, Jones said, he only began treatment for Lyme disease after examining the boy in May. Jones' lawyers contend the boy got dramatically better after receiving antibiotic treatment.
Jeff Sparks acknowledged his son did perform better in school after antibiotic treatment but suggested it was for a different reason. He and his wife attended school with their son for several days a week for more than a month, and his behavioral problems abated, he said.
Lawyers for both sides expected to have a final hearing on the Jones case next month before the medical examiner's board begins its deliberations on Jones' license.
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