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Christine Maggiore

Christine Maggiore spoke a lot about HIV and AIDS over the years as an HIV-positive woman, first as a mainstream activist, and then increasingly questioning the dominant paradigm. Nothing has been as difficult as discussing the death of her own daughter, Eliza Jane, at the age of only three and a half. Her death in December, 2008 was a tragedy. Predictably it was blamed on AIDS by her enemies but a report completed almost a year later by Dr. Mohammed Al-Bayati reveals that she died of an adverse reaction to an antibiotic, just like her daughter, a doubly and bitterly ironic tragedy.

Christine always called for justice and fairness for people with HIV, no matter what their choices. Whether they wanted to take AIDS drugs, use alternative therapies, or just live their life without change, not accepting HIV as a fatal diagnosis.

Since the LA coroner’s report came out Christine found herself having to defend herself, her husband, and their beliefs and choices. Christine, like many other people, did not accept that Eliza Jane died of AIDS-defining pneumonia. An allergic reaction to the penicillin-like antibiotic amoxicillin, makes much more sense.

Through Christine’s own words you can understand her pain while realizing that this was a woman highly educated in the science of HIV and AIDS, whose opinions should still be given serious consideration.

The Death of Christine MaggioreDr. Mohammed Al-Bayati
 A report on the December 2008 death of Christine Maggiore by pathologist Dr. Mohammed Al-Bayati. He concluded that she died of kidney failure due to gentamicin and other antibiotics, drugs and compounds she was prescribed.
AIDS Myth and the LA County CoronerKeidi Awadu, Christine Maggiore
 Keidi Awadu of Black Liberation Radio hosts a 125 minute conversation with Christine Maggiore. Hour one focuses on fallacies about HIV testing and what's wrong with the AIDS paradigm…
Radio Show on Lawsuit with LA County CoronerChristine Maggiore, Attorney Robin Perry and show host Debo Kotun
 Christine Maggiore appears on KPFK radio’s The Courtyard with host Debo Kotun and Robin Perry, the attorney representing Jose and Rocio Gonzalez, a young couple falsely accused by LA County Coroner James K Ribe of killing their infant son. The program taped three days before final arguments were heard in a civil suit filed by the Gonzalez family who spent several months in jail and lost their three year old son to foster care before Dr Ribe admitted he was wrong.
An Interview with Christine MaggioreKim Collins, MotherHood Magazine
 Like most people, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about HIV and AIDS. The issue hadn’t touched me personally, nor anyone with whom I’ve worked as a birth doula and childbirth educator. I had no reason to question the accuracy of HIV tests nor to contemplate the consequences of an HIV positive diagnosis. Then I was asked to interview a mother dealing with the death of her child for this issue of the magazine, and I was introduced to Christine Maggiore, author and mother of two…[more]
Christine Maggiore Challenges Dr. Peter FleggChristine Maggiore and Peter Flegg
 Dr Peter Flegg wrote a letter of comment to Elle magazine in reponse to Elle’s article on Christine Maggiore and the death of her 3 year old daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill (September 2006, “The Believer”). Dr Flegg’s letter, published in the November 2006 issue of Elle, suggested EJ died as result of Maggiore’s “denial.” After reading Flegg’s letter in Elle, Maggiore looked up and called Flegg to clarify and discuss his views. After a pleasant exchange, Flegg and Maggiore engaged in an email correspondence which ended with her questions to Flegg left unanswered and a promise by Flegg to send on a document he wrote in support of the LA County Coroner’s decision left unfulfilled.
Christine Maggiore’s Letter in ELLE MagazineChristine Maggiore
 After extensive negotiation ELLE magazine allowed a letter by Christine Maggiore to be published in the November, 2006 issue of the magazine. Also included is a short defense of the LA Country Coroner’s autopsy report by the magazine and a letter highly critical of Christine Maggiore by Peter Flegg, a British AIDS doctor.
Ashland Daily Tidings Incorrectly Diagnoses Me with AIDS
 Dear Sirs,
It appears that someone at the Ashland Daily Tidings had trouble sticking with the facts in the rerun of a story about me taken from a report in the LA Times.
Your publication’s headline erroneously describes me as a “mother with AIDS” when in fact, I have never been diagnosed with AIDS. I enjoy normal health despite having tested HIV positive 14 years ago and taking no AIDS medications.
The headline also incorrectly states that “LA County dropped charges of criminal neglect” against me when in fact, no charges were ever filed.
It’s hard to imagine that the interests of readers are served by news headlines that contradict or editorialize about facts contained in an article.
I look forward to seeing the damaging remarks made about me corrected.
With appreciation,

Christine Maggiore

LA Times Reporter Charles Ornstein talks to Christine Maggiore
 LA Times reporter Charles Ornstein phoned Christine Maggiore to obtain information for an article following the announcement by the LA County Coroner that they were closing their file on the death of Eliza Jane Scovill. The interview is available in Windows Media format and as an MP3. Both are about 8 MB in size.
L.A. County D.A. Won't Act in Girl's AIDS-Related DeathCharles Ornstein, LA Times
 The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said Friday that it would not file criminal neglect charges against prominent HIV skeptic Christine Maggiore, whose daughter died last year of what the county coroner ruled was AIDS-related pneumonia.

But in a separate development, the Medical Board of California filed an accusation this week against one of the 3-year-old girl's doctors, citing gross negligence in his treatment of her…[more]…

LA Coroner Ends InvestigationChristine Maggiore
 On the anniversary of the release of Eliza Jane’s autopsy report, as I was watering the Bougainvillea plant immortalized in Elle magazine, Charles Ornstein of the LA Times phoned requesting an interview on today’s announcement from the District Attorney's office about charges in the EJ case.
My heart began to pound. “What announcement?” I asked, wondering if these would be my last words before squad cars rounded the corner and I was handcuffed and hauled away with the hose still running.
Instead, I learned from Ornstein (who always seems to know more about my life than I do) that the District Attorney closed the criminal investigation against me today with no charges filed.
After all I've been through, I had only one thought in mind: Get a tape recorder.
The conversation I taped with Ornstein will post to the JusticeForEJ.com web site as soon as I can figure out how to do that, so at least one uncensored, unedited, unadulterated version of the facts will exist in the public record.
I have no idea what will appear in the LA Times tomorrow, but get the feeling it will focus on what Ornstein told me when he called back an hour later: Dr Paul Fleiss – our honest, brave, and kind hearted pediatrician – has been charged with negligence by the state medical board for his handling of Eliza Jane's non-existent pneumonia.
Robin and I are devastated to learn of this horrific new injustice and hope that those of you who know and love Dr Fleiss will join us in supporting him and his courageous support of informed choice.

Thank you,

Christine

Annotated version of the Elle article (PDF file, 700k)
 An annotated version of the Elle article has been provided with the errors identified by Christine Maggiore marked on a copy of the actual Elle article.
Christine Maggiore Responds to "Elle" MagazineChristine Maggiore
 Christine Maggiore identifies a large number of errors in a recent Elle magazine article and submits them to the magazine’s legal department.
A Daughter's Death, A Mother's SurvivalCelia Farber, LA City Beat
 The L.A. Coroner insists little Eliza Jane Scovill died of AIDS, and treatment activists have crucified her mother, turning the death of a child into a battleground over the theory that HIV causes AIDS…
Christine Responds to Poz MagazineChristine Maggiore
 To the editors
Poz Magazine

I wish POZ had published the article Lucille Scott had described during our many interviews: a factual and balanced report on AIDS rethinking that would not make opportunistic use of my daughter Eliza Jane’s sudden death. Instead, we have “Dead Certain,” a fanciful tale of my daughter’s demise by Bob Lederer that places me in invented scenarios acting like the “denialist” he imagines. Since correcting these mistaken ideas takes an entire article (see “POZ Flaws” at www.JusticeForEJ.com), below please find a few crucial facts missing from Lederer’s story.

In five visits with three separate pediatricians, Eliza Jane had no symptoms consistent with life-threatening pneumonia and was breathing normally according to an oxygen meter. A series of chest Xrays taken at the ER provided no evidence for the coroner’s decision four months later that she succumbed to PCP, a decision that contradicts the coroner’s own findings at autopsy: no inflammation of the lungs. Pneumonia is universally defined as “inflammation of the lung caused by disease;” without inflammation, there is no pneumonia, and microscopic findings of PC (the microbe) alone are not indicative of fulminate, fatal PCP (the disease). Further, Eliza Jane had an unusually high lymphocyte count when the opposite is associated with the immune suppressed state that allows PC to develop into PCP.

Lederer also fails to mention that seven months after the release of my daughter’s autopsy report (and despite numerous requests from our attorneys), we are still waiting for lab evidence of Eliza Jane’s HIV status. And speaking of HIV tests, Lederer leaves out another perplexing situation: my husband remains HIV negative despite a decade of unprotected contact during our relationship.

Rather than risk the questions and uncertainties that might arise from a real report on the issues, Lederer filters out the complexities and uncomfortable realities to feed readers a simple tale that leads to only one conclusion: “denialism = death.” But I wonder, if this equation is so obvious and immutable, why deny the facts in trying to prove it?

Respectfully,

Christine Maggiore

Since letters to magazines are limited in length, Christine has also provided a more detailed response here.

Dead Certain?Poz.com
 Poz magazine contacted Christine and promised to write an article on dissident thoughts, and not focus on EJ’s death. You can guess what happened. Christine responded with the above letter and with a more detailed analysis on this site at justiceforej.com/POZ-Flaws.html.
Christine Corrects Prime Time Recap, Reveals Coroner’s Edited RemarksChristine Maggiore
 As Christine notes, there’s an error of substantial significance in the otherwise superb Zenger's article. Maggiore corrects the misunderstanding that pediatricians did not know her HIV status and shares some of the shocking comments by LA County Coroner James K. Ribe omitted from the television broadcast. She also replies to insinuations of negligence: “The only negligence I see is on the part of the coroner’s office in determining a cause of death that defies their own findings at autopsy and disregards the established medical literature.”
Our Experience with PneumoniaChristine Maggiore and Robin Scovill
 Robin and I recently spent two weeks helping care for a friend with pneumonia. By care, I mean providing him with three (and more) meals a day, arranging and taking him to doctor appointments, cleaning his room and bathroom, changing bed sheets and doing laundry, taking shifts staying with him on particularly dicey nights. In other words, we were in close contact on a daily basis.
His brother took him home to San Francisco and checked him into a hospital the day after he left Los Angeles. Once our friend was gone, we realized that he had given us a graphic lesson in what a serious case of pneumonia is like. We wanted to share what we learned from this experience for the record.
As opposed to our daughter who was agitated, our friend slept most all day and night. He also ran a high and near constant fever unlike Eliza Jane. Also unlike EJ, he had a cough, especially at night. And he had coughing fits, not just a cough, and during those fits his face would turn bluish purple. The night before his brother arrived, our friend's fingers started turning blue at the tips and when he'd lay down, his ears turned purple. The visiting nurse caring for him told us that if we ever saw that symptom, we should take him to an ER immediately. We tried to take him to the hospital but he wouldn't go voluntarily, so we took turns and stayed up all night with him in case he needed an ambulance before his brother arrived.
He could not speak a full sentence without having to stop for breath in between words.
Once back in San Francisco, our friend finally agreed to go the hospital, but not until the next day. He wanted a good night's sleep at home first! At admission, he informed the hospital personnel that he had pnuemonia on and off since before Thanksgiving. In assessing his situation, the medical personnel told our friend that he was mere days away from being in very serious trouble. They upgraded his condition to "life critical" the following day and put him on oxygen.
In summary, even with all those terribly obvious and deeply concerning symptoms and having had pneumonia on and off since November of 2005, our friend was still able to breathe on his own and make it to a hospital on his own terms.
Knowing now what pneumonia is like–and what the tell tale signs of worsening and serious pneumonia are like–we can fully understand why our pediatricians did not see any signs of pneumonia in EJ–it wasn't there. How could anyone even suggest that three competent and caring doctors and two loving, attentive parents missed or ignored the type of symptoms we saw in our friend? And it's incredible to us that with all the dire symptoms, our friend still made it to a hospital alive, breathing without assistance, full of piss and vinegar, and with an admonition about being days away from serious trouble.
Letter to Dr. VintersChristine Maggiore
 Dear Dr. Vinters,

I am contacting you with regard to an interview you gave to Benjamin Ryan of Gay.com this past December on the subject of the death of my daughter Eliza Jane Scovill.

I would very much appreciate clarification of some remarks attributed to you in that interview in order to better understand your interpretation of my daughter’s autopsy report.

Currently, a transcript of the interview is posted online and contains a note that I called your office back in December seeking clarification but to date have received no response. I’m hoping email is a more effective way to reach you and that you will take a moment to reply to the three questions below. The answers are of interest to me personally, and I would also like to post them online. Below please find your quotes and my questions.

Benjamin Ryan: “Dr Harry Vinters reviewed the autopsy and he told me that he found the pathological finding ‘very well described’ and that it was ‘a very thorough report.’ He also said ‘the HIV encephalitis was extremely severe and the PCP was extremely severe as well.’”

  1. Approximately how much time did you spent reviewing my daughter’s autopsy report?
  2. To what do you refer as evidence of “extremely severe” PCP? My understanding of the autopsy report is that there was no inflammation of the lungs and there is only microscopic evidence of PC rather than evidence of a fulminate case of PC pneumonia, and no evidence of death by asphyxiation.

    On the same topic, Benjamin Ryan states: “Vinters said it’s possible to have a low amount of inflammation but still have PCP.” In my daughter’s case, however there was *no* inflammation noted in the autopsy report. Were you correctly quoted by Ryan?

  3. To what evidence do you refer in your statement that “the HIV encephalitis was extremely severe?” My daughter’s spinal fluid was clear at the ER and remained clear after many weeks of attempts to grow any microbe in culture. A CAT scan performed at the ER shows no swelling of her brain and medical records show no symptoms that would correspond with “extremely severe” encephalitis such as high fever, head pain, or loss of mental acuity.

I look forward to receiving your reply.

With appreciation for your time and cooperation,

Christine Maggiore

As of today, no reply has been received

Recap of Prime Time Segment on Eliza JaneMark Gabrish Conlan Zenger’s News Magazine
 Zenger’s News Magazine offers its take on Christine Maggiore’s appearance on the ABC-TV news show Prime Time: “In what was perhaps the most moving portion of the Prime Time show, Maggiore told Cuomo that she could not directly answer the question of what she thought killed her daughter, but said through tears, ‘I believe that the unfortunate irony in this situation is that the one time we were asked to, and we complied, with mainstream medicine, we inadvertently gave our daughter something that took her life’.”
Christine Maggiore Interviewed by Benjamin Ryan of Gay.comChristine Maggiore (CM) and Benjamin Ryan (BR)
 In December, Christine was interviewed by Benjamin Ryan, an HIV testing counselor turned AIDS journalist. We are posting the transcripts of the interview so that you can compare it with the article that actually ran.
The Los Angeles Times Run AroundChristine Maggiore
 

Dear Christine,

The letters department [of the LA Times] forwarded to the readers’ representative office your letter because, as before, it alleges errors (“omissions and misrepresentations”) in the Dec. 9 article. The letters department did not publish your previous letter because editors in that department do not publish letters that dispute facts. If facts in an article are wrong, a correction would be published. However, no correction is warranted in this case. As we discussed before, your letter can present your perspective, but letters are not forums for disputing facts, so in its present form, the letter cannot run.

Jamie Gold, Readers’ Representative

Our Thoughts: Once again, the Los Angeles Times has refused to publish a letter from Christine Maggiore, the subject of three articles that include errors, omissions and misrepresentations.

As occurred with Maggiore’s previous attempts at drafting an acceptable letter following the Times’ September 23 article “A Mother’s Denial, A Daughter’s Death,” Reader’s Representative Jamie Gold cites the policy that silences challenge. In the above email message to Maggiore, Gold reminds her that the paper does not “publish letters that dispute facts.” And as with the last run around, facts are defined by the LA Times as any claim or statement contained in the article itself or a reporter’s notes, whether or not the notes or the article is correct.

In this case, Maggiore was informed her letter of reply could not mention the fact that Dr Al-Bayati’s review of her daughter’s autopsy had been accepted for publication by a medical journal with an editorial board of some 20 medical doctors and scientists because reporter Daniel Costello felt “the journal exhibited an ideology opposing mainstream medical thinking.” Apparently, Costello’s opinion of the journal renders the fact of its publication of Al-Bayati’s review a non-fact or, worse, a fact that disputes the LA Times’ notion of fact.

I suppose this circular logic makes sense in the world according to Daniel Costello, Charles Orenstein and the Los Angeles Times...

Does a Bioethicist Have an Ethical Duty to Respond?Christine Maggiore
 

Bioethics is the study of the moral and ethical choices faced in medical research and in the treatment of patients. Dr. Nancy Dubler is the Director of the Division of Bioethics at the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. As part of the ABC Prime Time segment on Christine Maggiore that aired December 8, 2005, Dubler made the following statements regarding Maggiore’s decision to not subject her children to HIV testing:

“I would say that the next time a child is born to an HIV-positive woman and that woman refuses to have the child tested and treated if positive, that the state has a moral obligation to proceed immediately…There are only three choices in this kind of situation: Take the child, take the child, take the child.”

Read about the lack of citations to back these comments up…

Letter to the LA TimesChristine Maggiore
 Consistent with previous articles about me appearing in the Times, your December 9th story contains several striking omissions and misrepresentations. To cite one example, Dr. Mohammed Al-Bayati’s review of my daughter’s autopsy did not necessitate viewing of pathology slides since the slides are not in dispute, a point explained to, but apparently ignored by Costello and Orenstein as part of efforts to insinuate negligence.

In their desire to depict Al-Bayati as biased, Costello and Orenstein fail to mention that his analysis of my daughter’s death has been published in a medical journal whose review board consists of 20 physicians and scientists with no association to Alive & Well.

Further obscuring the facts, your dynamic duo suggest Al-Bayati’s work resulted in the conviction of a Maryland babysitter when in fact his autopsy analysis in this case was commissioned two years after the woman’s incarceration and is being presented as evidence in her bid for a new trial. I encourage readers feeling dizzy from all the spins to stop in for a check up at www.JusticeForEJ.com.

Eliza Jane's Story on ABC PrimetimeChristine Maggiore
 Christine Maggiore and Robin Scovill were contacted by ABC Primtime shortly after the LA Coroner’s report came out. However, until Dr. Al-Bayati’s report was complete, and had been thoroughly reviewed by others, they did not feel ready to talk. Now they are ready and the show, which will include opposing views, is scheduled to air on December 8th…
Response to Peter ChowkaChristine Maggiore
 Hi Peter,

Although I promised myself I would not read what others are saying about me (all those uninformed, angry, judgmental, over-steppers-of-any-authority-they-might-actually-have others), I did log on to your web site and read your article about me and my family.

Thank you for your open and sharp mind, your understanding of the larger issues, your eloquence in expressing them, and for taking the time to put your thoughts on our situation in such a kind and intelligent article. It’s a dark and difficult time and the light your words shine is greatly appreciated.

We are a week or so away from the final version of the independent pathology report on my daughter’s autopsy. I cannot make any comment on record until our attorney signs off and we decide on our strategy, but I do want to assure you that things are not as they seem and the story is far from over. I'd like to think that the media will give equal coverage to the findings and that once the facts are known, all the hypercritical experts and uninformed opinion spouters will deal gracefully with what could prove a hard landing from their big, bold jump to conclusions.

First Words on Eliza Jane: Christine Speaks to KPFK Radio [MP3 audio file]Christine Maggiore and KPFK Radio
 Christine Maggiore speaks publically for the first time since the Los Angeles Time's condemnatory September 24 article, “A Mother's Denial, A Daughter's Death.” While on air, Maggiore discovers the questionable reputation of LA County Coroner Dr James K Ribe and begins piecing together the inappropriate working relationship between the coroner's office and the LA Times.
What Really Happened to Eliza Jane?Christine Maggiore
 On Saturday September 24, 2005, The Los Angeles Times ran a front-page story on the death of my three year-old child, Eliza Jane Scovill, under the condemnatory headline, “A Mother’s Denial, A Daughter’s Death.” My reply to the extensive article, as yet unpublished, was restricted to a 150-word letter to the editor.

Below please find my 149 words on the subject followed by the full text of my original letter to The LA Times.

Shortened Letter to the LA TimesChristine Maggiore
 Re: ’A Mother’s Denial“ (Saturday September 24)

In response to your article “A Mother’s Denial,“ medical records show my daughter did not exhibit symptoms consistent with pneumonia. On her last doctor visit, Eliza-Jane had no cough or respiratory congestion. After collapsing the next day following antibiotic administration, ER doctors performed a series of chest X-rays that revealed nothing. After careful examination of her lungs during a May autopsy, the coroner found no apparent cause of death.

One month and no cause later, the coroner’s office called her pediatrician demanding to know if he knew about my book and HIV status. Despite their discovery, it took three more months for the coroner to decide my daughter died of AIDS-pneumonia.

Is Eliza-Jane’s a diagnosis by association? Unlike her father and brother, did she actually test HIV positive? While we wait for the conclusion of an independent investigation, interested readers may follow our side of the story at ejlovetour.com.

Full Letter (too long for the LA Times)Christine Maggiore
 “A Mother’s Denial,” your article on the death of my daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, breezed past a number of crucial facts in its rush to publication and judgment.

Medical records show my daughter did not exhibit symptoms consistent with the coroner’s determination of pneumonia, AIDS-related or otherwise. The three pediatricians who examined Eliza Jane in the days before her death all noted clear lungs. At a doctor visit on May 14, the day before she died, no cough or respiratory congestion was evident. When my daughter collapsed at home the next evening following her fourth dose of antibiotic, she did not have the blue lips or fingertips suggestive of life-threatening pneumonia.

After being transported to a near-by hospital by ambulance, emergency room doctors took a series of chest X-rays that revealed nothing to account for her dire condition. All other tests run that terrible night left ER doctors without an explanation for my daughter’s death. For this reason, Eliza Jane was brought to the Los Angeles County Coroner for an autopsy.

During an autopsy performed on May 18, my daughter’s lungs were carefully examined, weighed and measured. The coroner released her body to a mortuary the following day having found no apparent cause of death.

Just before Eliza Jane’s memorial service on May 29, my husband contacted the coroner’s office for an update on our daughter’s case and spoke directly with the medical examiner. She informed him they had yet to discover what took our little girl’s life, and having eliminated the common and obvious, they would now go through a check-list that included investigation of such unsettling possibilities as chemical toxins and poisons. That same week, a curious friend phoned the coroner’s office and asked if HIV tests were routinely administered in cases of unexplained death. He was told that “the symptoms of AIDS are so obvious” it’s not necessary to run HIV tests on all patients referred with no apparent cause.

On June 28, one of my daughter’s pediatricians received a call from the coroner’s office demanding to know if he was aware of my book and HIV status. Before hanging up, the doctor was threatened with a subpoena. Despite the apparent new awareness of my HIV positivity and controversial book, it still took three more months for the corner to decide upon a diagnosis of AIDS-related pneumonia.

Given the circumstances, we have questions about the medical and scientific basis for the coroner’s conclusion. Did Eliza Jane get a diagnosis by association or is there incontrovertible clinical evidence for AIDS-related pneumonia? Did our daughter, unlike her father and brother, actually test HIV positive? We won’t know until the conclusion of an independent investigation in three weeks. In the meantime, my family must not only endure the pain and devastation of our horrendous loss, but the world’s speculation and scrutiny. We only hope that when all the facts are in, the LA Times will rush to publish the rest of our story.