By Karl Grossman
“We were just totally overwhelmed by it that we didn’t want to wait for the full festival to show it,” explained Jacqui Lofaro, founder and executive director of the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, to a full audience at LTV Studio 3 Cinema in Wainscott last month to see “Under Our Skin.” She added: “It peels away the layers of what is an epidemic.”
The documentary is about Lyme disease.
It’s powerful, the winner of 20 film festival awards. The New York Times called it “heart rending” and stressed how it “takes aim at the medical establishment.” It takes aim and scores a bull’s-eye hit.
“Under Our Skin” is a kind of health counterpart of “Inside Job,” the 2011 Academy Award-winner for best documentary. “Inside Job” depicts the economic crisis we’ve undergone as a colossal crime perpetuated by greedy Wall Street corporations linked to and protected by figures in the federal government. “Under Our Skin” depicts a similarly colossal crime involving health care.
It documents how desperately needed treatment for long-term Lyme disease sufferers is being discouraged by health insurance companies linked to figures in the medical establishment —including physicians with whom they are connected financially.
Not only do these forces take the position that extended care of Lyme disease victims is unnecessary, holding that a few weeks of treatment with antibiotics is all that’s needed, but the film exposes how dedicated doctors who have provided needed long-term care have ended up being severely punished by the medical establishment.
It shows how the health insurers don’t want to pay for long-term care of Lyme sufferers, so our medical system has been twisted to claim such care is not needed and doctors who provide it have been losing their medical licenses. A huge scandal is exposed.
If Lyme disease is detected early, several weeks of treatment with antibiotics will, in most instances, take care of it. But, as the documentary relates, early detection is problematic. About half of people bitten by a tick carrying Lyme don’t develop the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite. And tests for the disease are often unreliable.
Thus many people end up with chronic Lyme disease.
“Under Our Skin” presents a variety of long-term sufferers. The documentary follows the history of these victims, from their excruciating physical circumstances—“Pain, pain, pain, relentless pain!” exclaims one—to their care by the brave doctors who treat chronic Lyme sufferers. And, most importantly, it shows how through this long-term care they beat this hellish disease.
The documentary, produced and directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson, provides interviews with many of these doctors and presents footage of medical board proceedings to take away their medical licenses.
It examines what is behind this outrage including focusing on a panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America which issued a key report calling for no long-term antibiotic therapy for Lyme. This report has been used by medical boards and other entities of the medical establishment to penalize doctors who provide care for chronic Lyme sufferers. The documentary notes the fiscal connections of six on this 14-member panel to health insurance companies and other conflicts of interest involving members.
After the 86-minute film was screened, there was a panel discussion at the LTV Studio on September 16 that included Dr. Joseph J. Burrascano, Jr. of Water Mill. He had been a top Lyme disease physician on Long Island providing treatment to chronic sufferers at his office in East Hampton, and is featured in the documentary. New York State health authorities took action — unsuccessfully — against Dr. Burrascano for his caring for long-term Lyme victims. His office is now closed. But he has gone on to be a major figure nationally and internationally in Lyme disease research.
Dr. Burrascano commented that Lyme is not only a medical malady but also a “political disease” considering the “corruption” involved in the push against proper treatment when it becomes chronic.
For more information about “Under Our Skin” — including obtaining an inexpensive DVD copy for yourself — visit www.underourskin.com