- For anyone out there who still swears that HIV does NOT
cause AIDS -- this LOS ANGELES Times article (September 24, 2005) is required
- Christine Maggiore is a well-known activist whose book
"What if everything you knew about AIDS is wrong?" has sold 50,000
copies - and she is a firm believer that HIV does NOT cause AIDS. She herself
- Now her daughter, age 3, is dead from the "gay pneumonia
" (a lethal fungal infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia), characteristic
of untreated HIV infection.
- The child was never tested for HIV even though Christine
herself has been HIV+ for years.
- To make the story even more weird and unbelievable, the
child was examined shortly before death by Paul Fleiss MD, and several
other pediatricians. Dr Fleiss is also apparently unsure as to whether
HIV causes AIDS (read article).
- One wonders how people can be so ignorant and so strong
in their beliefs (and so popular!)
- - and even sacrifice their own children on the altar
- After a quarter-century of AIDS - and 20 million deaths
from HIV/AIDS and 40 million more infected ...you would think people would
comprehend that HIV is indeed a lethal factor in AIDS.
- Alan Cantwell MD
- A Mother's Denial, A Daughter's Death
- By Charles Ornstein and Daniel Costello
- LA Times Staff Writers
- Christine Maggiore was in prime form, engaging and articulate,
when she explained to a Phoenix radio host in late March why she didn't
believe HIV caused AIDS.
- The HIV-positive mother of two laid out matter-of-factly
why, even while pregnant, she hadn't taken HIV medications, and why she
had never tested her children for the virus.
- "Our children have excellent records of health,"
Maggiore said on the Air America program when asked about 7-year-old Charlie
and 3-year-old Eliza Jane Scovill. "They've never had respiratory
problems, flus, intractable colds, ear infections, nothing. So, our choices,
however radical they may seem, are extremely well-founded."
- Seven weeks later, Eliza Jane was dead.
- The cause, according to a Sept. 15 report by the Los
Angeles County coroner, was AIDS-related pneumonia.
- These days, given advances in HIV care, it's highly unusual
for any young child to die of AIDS. What makes Eliza Jane's death even
more striking is that her mother is a high-profile, charismatic leader
in a movement that challenges the basic medical understanding and treatment
of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
- Even now, Maggiore, a 49-year-old former clothing executive
from Van Nuys, stands by the views she has espoused on "The Ricki
Lake Show" and ABC's "20/20," and in Newsweek and Mothering
magazines. She and her husband, Robin Scovill, said they have concerns
about the coroner's findings and are sending the report to an outside reviewer.
- "I have been brought to my emotional knees, but
not in regard to the science of this topic," said Maggiore, author
of an iconoclastic book about AIDS that has sold 50,000 copies. "I
am a devastated, broken, grieving mother, but I am not second-guessing
or questioning my understanding of the issue."
- One doctor involved with Eliza Jane's care told The Times
he has been second-guessing himself since the day he learned of the little
- Dr. Jay Gordon, a Santa Monica pediatrician who had treated
Eliza Jane since she was a year old, said he should have demanded that
she be tested for human immunodeficiency virus when, 11 days before she
died, Maggiore brought her in with an apparent ear infection.
- "It's possible that the whole situation could have
been changed if one of the doctors involved - one of the three doctors
involved - had intervened," said Gordon, who himself acknowledges
that HIV causes AIDS. "It's hindsight, Monday-morning quarterbacking,
whatever you want to call it. Do I think I'm blameless in this? No, I'm
- Mainstream AIDS organizations, medical experts and ethicists,
long confounded and distressed by this small but outspoken dissident movement,
say Eliza Jane's death crystallizes their fears. The dissenters' message,
they say, is not just wrong, it's deadly.
- "This was a preventable death," said Dr. James
Oleske, a New Jersey physician who never examined Eliza Jane but has treated
hundreds of HIV-positive children. "I can tell you without any doubt
that, at the outset of her illness, if she was appropriately evaluated,
she would have been appropriately treated. She would not have died.
- "You can't write a more sad and tragic story,"
- It is a story not just about Maggiore and her family
but about failures among child welfare officials and well-known Los Angeles
- Among the physicians involved in Eliza Jane's care was
Dr. Paul Fleiss, a popular if sometimes unconventional Los Feliz pediatrician
who gained some publicity in the 1990s as the father of the notorious Hollywood
madam Heidi Fleiss. He was sentenced to three years' probation for conspiring
to shield the profits from his daughter's call-girl ring from the IRS,
among other things.
- "I don't understand it," Fleiss said of Eliza
Jane's death, "because I've never seen her sick or with anything resembling
what she supposedly died of. I don't believe I could have done anything
to change this outcome."
- Fleiss, who said he could be "convinced either way"
on whether HIV causes AIDS, has known the family since before Eliza Jane
was born. In 2000, the county Department of Children and Family Services
investigated Maggiore and Scovill after a tipster complained that Charlie
was in danger because he hadn't been tested for HIV and was breast-fed.
- The department found no evidence of neglect, based partly
on reassurances from Fleiss, according to an official report reviewed by
- Now, with the death of Eliza Jane, authorities say they
are poised to act.
- Los Angeles police are investigating the couple for possible
child endangerment, said Lt. Dennis Shirey, the officer in charge of the
child protection section. DCFS officials say they have opened an investigation
to determine whether the parents should be forced to test Charlie, now
- Maggiore said that she has spoken with police and expects
to meet with the child welfare agency early next week. Scovill would not
comment in detail.
- Before Eliza Jane's death, Maggiore said she had tested
neither of her children. Since then, in anticipation of the visit by child
welfare officials, she has had Charlie tested three times, and he was negative
each time, she said.
- "Would I redo anything based on what happened?"
she asked rhetorically during an interview this week. "I don't think
I would. I think I acted with the best information and the best of intentions
with all my heart."
- 'Doing a Good Thing'
- Maggiore said she once bought the standard line.
- HIV would evolve into AIDS. And AIDS, she firmly believed,
would kill her.
- For months after her condition was diagnosed in 1992,
she was depressed and reclusive. Then she plunged into AIDS volunteer work:
at AIDS Project Los Angeles, L.A. Shanti and Women at Risk.
- Her background commanded attention. A well-spoken, middle-class
woman, she owned her own clothing company, with annual revenue of $15 million.
Soon she was being asked to speak about the risks of HIV at local schools
and health fairs. "At the time," said Maggiore, a slight woman
who looks years younger than her age, "I felt like I was doing a good
- All that changed two years later, she said, when she
spoke to UC Berkeley biology professor Peter Duesberg, whose well-publicized
views on AIDS - including that its symptoms can be caused by recreational
drug use and malnutrition - place him well outside the scientific mainstream.
- Intrigued, Maggiore began scouring the literature about
the underlying science of HIV. She does not know how she became HIV-positive,
but she came to believe that flu shots, pregnancy and common viral infections
could lead to a positive test result. She later detailed those claims in
her book, "What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was
- Maggiore started Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives,
a nonprofit that challenges "common assumptions" about AIDS.
Her group's website and toll-free hotline cater to expectant HIV-positive
mothers who shun AIDS medications, want to breast-feed their children and
seek to meet others of like mind. One of her tips: Mothers should share
their wishes only with trusted family members and doctors who will support
their decision to avoid HIV/AIDS drugs and interventions.
- She has stayed healthy, she said, despite a cervical
condition three years ago that would qualify her for an AIDS diagnosis.
In a 2002 article for Awareness magazine, she facetiously refers to it
as "my bout of so-called AIDS," saying it coincided "perfectly
with the orthodox axiom that we get a decade of normal health before our
AIDS kicks in."
- During a March interview in her orderly, well-lighted
home, Maggiore seemed, if anything, an exceptionally devoted mother. She
served homegrown vegetables and fresh pasta to Eliza Jane, listening attentively
as the healthy-looking little girl chattered happily about her two imaginary
friends. At one point, when Eliza Jane wanted to swipe away a spider, her
mother urged respect for the tiny creature. "He is part of our family,"
- What set Maggiore apart became clear only when she talked
about her views on medicine.
- She didn't vaccinate either child, believing the shots
did more harm than good. She rejected AZT and other anti-AIDS medications
as toxic. "I see no evidence that compels me that I should have exposed
a developing fetus to drugs that would harm them," she said.
- Maggiore hired a midwife and gave birth to her children
at home; Charlie was born in an inflatable pool on her living room floor.
She wanted to avoid being tested for HIV or pressured to use AZT in a hospital,
although technically neither is required by California law.
- She breast-fed both children, although research indicates
that it increases the risk of transmission by up to 15%.
- Scovill apparently shares her beliefs. Last year, he
produced and directed a contrarian documentary, "The Other Side of
AIDS," which won a special jury prize at the AFI Los Angeles International
- Maggiore estimates that 50 HIV-positive women have come
around to her point of view. The Times interviewed nine who said she helped
them plot medical and legal strategies to avoid being forced to have their
- Lori Crawford, a child welfare worker in Tempe, Ariz.,
said Maggiore helped her avoid an HIV test in North Carolina when she was
pregnant with her daughter three years ago. Crawford said Maggiore informed
her that North Carolina didn't have mandatory HIV testing for pregnant
women and suggested she decline the test if health authorities in that
state recommended it.
- "Christine and her book saved my life," said
- A Big Victory
- In the 25-year history of AIDS, there have been many
advances but few victories. Prevention of infections and deaths among young
children is one.
- "This is one of the biggest public health and medical
successes in the United States," said Margaret Lampe, a health education
specialist with the division of HIV/AIDS prevention at the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The number of children found to have AIDS continues to
plummet, even as the overall number of new AIDS cases in the United States
remains stuck at more than 40,000 per year.
- In 2003, only 59 children under age 13 nationally were
found to have AIDS, according to the CDC. That's down from 952 cases in
1992, officials said.
- Health officials attribute the decline to regular testing
of pregnant women and the use of antiretroviral drugs, such as AZT, during
pregnancy and childbirth.
- A 1994 study found that one quarter of pregnant HIV-positive
women passed the virus to their babies when they did not take AZT. Subsequent
studies found that the risk could be lowered to less than 2% when mothers
received prenatal care, took a combination of antiretroviral drugs during
pregnancy and labor, and allowed their infants to be given AZT in their
first six weeks.
- Federal health officials and AIDS experts say that HIV
unquestionably causes AIDS, although it can take more than a decade to
develop. HIV tests detect antibodies to the virus and are accurate predictors
of who is infected, they say.
- Dr. Peter Havens, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology
at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said that contrarian HIV theories
promoted on about 400 websites are "bogus baloney."
- "It's all pseudoscience," he said. "They
choose one paper and deny the existence of 100 others."
- Crumpled Like a Doll
- The first hint that Eliza Jane was ill came at the end
of April, when she developed a runny nose with yellow mucus, Maggiore told
a coroner's investigator.
- On April 30, Maggiore took her daughter to a pediatrician
covering for Fleiss. That doctor found the girl had clear lungs, no fever
and adequate oxygen levels, the coroner's report said.
- Five days later, Maggiore sought a second opinion from
Gordon. In an interview, Gordon said he suspected an ear infection but
believed it could be resolved without antibiotics. In a follow-up call,
he said, Eliza Jane's parents told him she was getting better.
- Maggiore then asked Denver physician Philip Incao, who
was visiting Los Angeles for a lecture, to examine her, the mother told
the coroner's investigator. He found fluid in Eliza Jane's right eardrum.
- On May 14, Incao examined her again and prescribed amoxicillin,
Maggiore told the coroner.
- Incao is not licensed to practice medicine in California.
- The next day, Eliza Jane vomited several times and her
mother noticed she was pale. While Maggiore was on the phone with Incao,
the little girl stopped breathing and "crumpled like a paper doll,"
the mother told the coroner. She died early the next morning, at a Van
- Fleiss, Gordon and Incao all are known for their unconventional
approaches to medicine. Gordon and Incao are staunch opponents of mandatory
vaccination of children; Fleiss is a vocal critic of male circumcision.
Incao did not return repeated phone calls this week.
- Alerted to the case by The Times, several medical experts
said that doctors who knew Maggiore's circumstances - that she was HIV-positive,
hadn't been treated during pregnancy and had breast-fed her children -
should have pushed for the child to be tested.
- If she refused, they should have referred the matter
- According to interviews and records, Gordon and Fleiss
have long known Maggiore's HIV status and that she breast-fed her children.
- Experts also said that when the girl became ill, any
doctor who saw her should have treated her as if she were HIV-positive.
That would have meant giving her a stronger antibiotic, such as Bactrim,
instead of the relatively low-powered amoxicillin.
- "If you look away from something you're supposed
to be looking for, that's called willful blindness," said Michael
Shapiro, an ethicist and law professor at USC, "and willful blindness
is one aspect of determining the negligence."
- In an interview this week, Fleiss said it would have
been wrong to force Maggiore to test her daughter. "This is a democracy,"
said Fleiss, who has treated the daughter of pop star Madonna.
- Gordon said he wishes he had tested Eliza Jane when she
was ill in early May, but he doesn't believe he had sufficient reason to
test her earlier.
- "When it comes to HIV testing, I think that it's
still legally a gray area," he said, depending on whether one believes
the child's life is in danger. In Eliza Jane's case, he said, he did not.
- David Thornton, executive director of the Medical Board
of California, said his agency probably would investigate to determine
whether the doctors erred, for example, in failing to report potential
- "If I would punish anybody," said Nancy Dubler,
bioethics director at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, who learned
of the case from The Times, "I would punish the pediatricians."
- The Focus Turns
- Now that authorities have settled on the cause of Eliza
Jane's death, the focus has turned to the parents and their remaining child,
- Even when a child dies because he or she did not receive
adequate medical treatment, the law is not at all clear about who, if anyone,
should be held responsible. There are few precedents, and courts traditionally
give parents and doctors wide discretion.
- In two U.S. cases involving HIV-positive mothers who
refused testing and treatment - neither of which involved a child who died
- the courts appear to have issued conflicting opinions.
- "There's no easy answer," said Dubler.
- What is clear is that child welfare authorities had been
told that Maggiore was HIV-positive in 2000 and that her son was at risk
for the virus, according to agency records.
- An investigator from the Department of Children and Family
Services visited the home, according to a copy of the case report reviewed
by The Times, but she did not have Charlie tested for HIV or talk to outside
experts. She instead relied on her own observations and the assurances
- "Parents appear appropriate and extremely focused
on child's well-being in every aspect," caseworker Rebecca McCauley
wrote in February 2000.
- Dr. Charles Sophy, medical director for the DCFS, acknowledged
that his department may have erred.
- He said the caseworker tried to do her job but relied
entirely on Fleiss because the department, at the time, did not have its
own medical experts to consult. But even with Eliza Jane's death, Sophy
said, it's not entirely clear that Charlie is being neglected.
- Legal experts said the problem lies in the official definition
- "DCFS is used to your prototypical neglect case
where the house is filthy and the mother doesn't care," said Thomas
Lyon, a USC law professor and expert in child abuse litigation. "They're
just not accustomed to the kind of neglect where you have an otherwise
healthy, good parent."
- Word Is Getting Out
- Since Eliza Jane's death, Maggiore and her husband have
kept a relatively low profile, her friends said. But word is slowly reaching
HIV dissidents around the country.
- Though shaken, most of them say they continue to support
Maggiore and her contention that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.
- For her part, Maggiore said that her daughter's death
has taken a toll on her health; she's had trouble eating, sleeping and,
this past summer, simply breathing. She's treated her symptoms with Chinese
herbs, walked five miles a day and practiced yoga, and is now feeling better,
- She went to a sympathetic doctor, she said. "If
I had gone to a regular AIDS doctor and told them I was HIV-positive, I
have no doubt they would have blamed it on that."
- In the weeks after Eliza Jane's death, her parents created
a website, http://www.ejlovetour.com , in her memory. Maggiore wrote lovingly
of her daughter, wavering between despair at her loss and acceptance that
Eliza Jane had simply chosen, as Maggiore put it, to "go home."
- She struggled most with the whys.
- "Why our child - so appreciated, so held, so carefully
nurtured - and not one ignored, abused or abandoned?" she wrote. "How
come what we offered was not enough to keep her here when children with
far less - impatient distracted parents, a small apartment on a busy street,
extended day care, Oscar Mayer Lunchables - will happily stay?"
- Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
- FOUR WOMEN AGAINST CANCER
- From Alan Cantwell
- Mr L Martinez:
- Did you read the article in the Los Angeles Times????
These are not my conclusions but the Times author and the LA coroner's.
Of course, you are free to ignore or disregard them.
- The Times article (not me) clearly states the cause of
the child's death was AIDS:
- "The cause, according to a Sept. 15 report by the
Los Angeles County coroner, was AIDS-related pneumonia."
- You are certainly welcome to your opinion re HIV, but
I happen to take infection from that virus and its consequences seriously.
And it is indeed unfortunate that Ms Maggiore did not - nor did the pediatricians
who treated the child. I personally think this is a tragedy that MIGHT
have been prevented if Ms M had recognized the seriousness of her own HIV
infection and its potential threat to her daughter. And she did NOT.
- Alan Cantwell M.D.
- On Sep 26, 2005, at 3:21 PM,
- firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
- Dr. Cantwell,
- Your commentary about Ms. Maggiore's child was incredibly
irresponsible and unethical. Ms. Maggiores' child was healthy shortly before
her death and there is no confirmation that her baby died of anything related
to AIDS as per the question mark accompanying the article. To make such
an unfounded accusation when a woman is in mourning is unconscionable and
- The bigger question would be why the medical profession
would choose to believe that HIV causes AIDS when that issue has already
been debunked by Dr. Duesberg and others? Have you read the original papers
that Dr. Gallo based whis claims on? I have and I can guarantee you that
they don't even come close to proving that H.I.V. causes AIDS. Even the
claim of that the AIDS diseases are caused by immune suppression is highly
dubious. The signature disease of AIDS, Kaposi Sarcoma, is now believed
to be completely unrelated to H.I.V. This acknowledgement came after the
C.D.C. claimed it had killed more than 30 % of AIDS patients at one time.
The AIDS tests themselves have been discredited as unreliable as well.