Bill To Help Lyme Disease Sufferers Faces Unexpected Hurdle
Unnecessary amendment could derail plans to provide more treatment options
Augusta – A bill designed to help expand access to treatment for Mainers suffering from Lyme disease is now in danger of being killed due to a potential amendment that would curtail the original intent of the legislation.
LD 422 would prohibit the Board of Licensure in Medicine from disciplining a physician or revoking or suspending a physician’s license solely for prescribing, administering or dispensing long-term antibiotic therapy to a patient with acute, persistent or chronic Lyme disease. Though some physicians in Maine are currently treating Lyme sufferers, they do so in the shadows. Although this treatment isn’t illegal, it is only embraced by a minority of physicians. There are others who would be willing to treat but don’t dare for fear of disciplinary action from the board.
With a work session on the bill scheduled for Thursday, an amendment put forth by the Board of Licensure would require informed consent prior to administering “specific treatments.”
Informed consent requires a doctor to advise the patient of any potential risks and also the benefits of a particular medical procedure or treatment in writing.
The intent of this particular piece of legislation was to provide protection for physicians who are legally and responsibly providing care. The amendment would add more cumbersome hurdles to the process not less. A physician treating for Lyme disease may likely run through a plethora of treatment options before finding one that works for a particular patient.
“This amendment makes no sense in this bill,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Deb Sanderson (R) from Chelsea. “We’re trying to make access to treatment easier not put an unnecessary burden on a physician trying to help patients who are stricken with Lyme disease. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. As much as it pains me to do it, if this amendment goes forward I will ask the committee to kill this bill. It undermines the entire point of the legislation; making access to care easier.”
Hundreds of people took the time out of their days to show up to the public hearing in support of this bill without this amendment. Many of them are long-time sufferers of Lyme disease themselves.
As reported in the Bangor Daily News, Dr. Beatrice Szantyr of Lincoln a leading consultant on Lyme disease in Maine said of this particular amendment: “It creates a whole new obstacle for treating the person. … It’s just not necessary. If it serves as an obstacle or stumbling block, then it defeats the purpose of this legislation in the first place.”
After an intense debate, the bill was tabled at a work session Thursday afternoon in the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.