Lyme Disease Death

lyme disease death lyme disease defence for murder

Lyme disease has been used by some as a defence for murder

Death from Lyme disease remains relatively rare, at least in terms of being listed as a cause of fatality. According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 114 records of Lyme disease death between 1999 and 2003, with the reports covering those deaths listed in 45 US states. In the majority of those case there were multiple other health problems besides Lyme disease and only 23 records showed the condition as being the underlying cause of death. The CDC states that of those 23 records, only one was consistent with the known clinical manifestations of Lyme disease; a case where respiratory failure occurred following long-term neurological complications of Lyme disease.

Unlisted Lyme Disease Deaths

The relative rarity of Lyme disease-associated deaths does little to reassure those suffering with chronic symptoms of Lyme disease however, and the controversy over the existence of ‘chronic Lyme disease’ continues unabated. The CDC estimates that up to 5% of untreated patients have chronic neurologic complaints such as paraesthesia, memory deficits, and problems with concentration and states that a ‘small percentage’ of patients treated with Lyme disease antibiotics continue to report symptoms months or years after treatment. There are no estimates as to how many fatalities involve Lyme disease infection without the condition being listed in the causes of death however, with some speculating that many deaths from heart failure, neurological conditions, and other causes may actually be contributed to or even triggered by Lyme disease.


CDC Reporting Questioned by ILADS

The President of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), Dr. Robert Bransfield, questioned the methods used by CDC in reporting these statistics. He noted that the CDC only looked at the cause of death actually listed by doctors and made no attempt to identify Lyme disease deaths listed under another cause. How this would actually be attempted is not addressed by Bransfield however. The argument that generalizing from the reports that Lyme disease deaths are rare does appear shaky and perhaps bears revision to a statement only that Lyme disease is rarely listed as a cause of death. One of Bransfield’s arguments is that a cause of death which may be related to Lyme disease is unlikely to be listed as such, namely suicide. A psychiatrist by profession, Bransfield believes that suicide may be a major way that Lyme disease is fatal, but admits that this is based largely on speculation due to the paucity of statistical evidence on Lyme disease deaths and suicide risk.

Violent Death and Lyme Disease – The Lyme Disease Defense

Another possible cause of death associated with Lyme disease is that of violent death following psychiatric disturbances in a patient untreated for the infection. The so-called ‘Lyme disease defense’, has been cited in at least two murder trials, one involving the shooting of an Illinois pastor, and one in Connecticut. In neither case did the defendant succeed in attributing their violent actions to Lyme disease, with Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a Yale University Lyme disease specialist, saying that “Lyme disease doesn’t cause people to shoot people”. Psychiatric disturbances are not thought more common in areas where Lyme is endemic, and the general consensus appears to be that Lyme disease deaths resulting from psychosis are extremely unlikely.

Continue Reading –> Unreported Lyme Disease Deaths