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Charges Dropped Against EJ’s Doctor, Investigation into Coroner Continues

Marsha Gold

A report in the October 9th 2007 edition of the Los Angeles Times announced the Medical Board of California has dropped charges of gross negligence against one of Eliza Jane’s three pediatricians, Dr. Paul Fleiss, after a year-long investigation into the highly publicized case.

According to the news item by Carla Hall, “The board did not find [Fleiss] grossly negligent in the care of any patient,” including Eliza Jane Scovill, and “acknowledged in its decision that it was flooded with over a hundred letters from generations of patients and parents in support of Fleiss.”

As part of his defense, Fleiss shared copies of Maggiore’s book, “What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?” with attorneys, medical board investigators, expert witnesses and judges involved in the matter. He also gave copies of The Mother Hood, a parenting magazine featuring a cover story on Maggiore, to patients wanting to know more about the case.

Unlike EJ’s other local pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon, who turned against her family after the Times first article on the case appeared in September 2005, Fleiss maintained unwaivering support for the child’s parents along with the position that he saw no signs of sickness beyond a cold and ear infection at EJ’s last office visit two weeks prior to her death, and had never seen her seriously ill.

According to the Times report, the result of Fleiss remaining steadfast before the medical board, enduring about-faces by colleagues and receiving harsh criticism from AIDS treatment activists is unbridled support from patients and a burgeoning medical practice.

Today’s announcement is sure to leave one particularly vociferous AIDS proponent disappointed. In an angry missive to The Mother Hood following their spring 2007 interview with Maggiore, Dr. John P. Moore of Cornell University expressed his hope the investigation would “reveal how Eliza Jane became yet another victim of the AIDS pandemic,” and incorrectly predicted “the inevitable and certain conviction of Fleiss by the California Medical Board.” Apparently, the evidence necessary to sustain Moore’s wishes was not found in EJ’s medical records as no such revelations were made, and rather than a conviction, Fleiss received a sanction only for inadequate record keeping.

In an interesting turn of events not mentioned by the Times, LA County Coroner Dr. James K. Ribe became the new focus of a medical board investigation for gross negligence with recently published photos of Eliza Jane’s pneumonia-free lung tissue slides prepared by the coroner himself presented as primary evidence in the case. The board’s investigation into Ribe was prompted by a letter from an LA Times reader who noted a number of anomalies in published reports including the fact that, according to a lymphocyte count taken at the emergency room, Eliza Jane had a fully functioning immune system.

With the Maggiore-Scovill family’s lawsuit against LA County moving toward trial early next year, Moore and other AIDS activists who relish in the coroner’s conclusion EJ died of AIDS face the possibility of more disappointment as the facts of what really caused the sudden and unexpected death of the three year old girl are finally brought to light.

Click here to read the full LA Times report by Carla Hall on the medical board decision.