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HIV-Positive Woman Whose Daughter Allegedly Died of AIDS-Related Causes Without Having HIV Test Appears on TV to Plead Case

December 9, 2005

An HIV-positive woman whose daughter allegedly died of AIDS-related pneumonia appeared on ABCNews' "Primetime" on Thursday to defend her reasons for not testing her daughter for HIV, maintaining that she died of an allergic reaction to antibiotics, the Los Angeles Times reports (Costello/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 12/9). Christine Maggiore, who has tested HIV-positive and breastfed both of her children, does not believe that HIV causes AIDS and is the founder of Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a not-for-profit organization that challenges "common assumptions" about AIDS. Maggiore was investigated for possible child endangerment after her three-year-old daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, died in May of what the Los Angeles County coroner said was AIDS-related pneumonia; however, Maggiore has retained custody of her eight-year-old son. Prior to the girl's death, her parents did not have her or her brother tested for HIV. Three results from tests conducted earlier this year showed that the boy is HIV-negative. Maggiore said her daughter's death has not changed her views on HIV, and she and her husband, Robin Scovill, have questioned the coroner's findings. The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the parents on possible criminal charges for their handling of their daughter's health care (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/30). The Medical Board of California is investigating the care provided by three doctors to Eliza Jane in the weeks preceding her death. Both agencies on Thursday said it is too early to comment on or release their findings.

Findings, Reaction
In the "Primetime" interview, Maggiore said a 44-page report by toxicologist Mohammed Ali Al-Bayati shows that Eliza Jane died from an "acute allergic reaction" to the antibiotic amoxicillin, which she had been taking for an ear infection. According to the Times, Al-Bayati is a member of Alive & Well's advisory board, the author of "Get All The Facts: HIV Does Not Cause AIDS" and is certified by the American Board of Toxicology and the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology but is not a medical doctor and therefore not certified by the American Board of Pathology. He reviewed Eliza Jane's medical records but "did not perform an autopsy or look at the coroner's pathology slides" when writing the report. Maggiore said that Al-Bayati goes "where the facts lead" and is "not afraid ... to speak his mind, and that is the kind of person [Maggiore] needed here." She added that the report's findings made "more sense to [her] and [her] family and the people that saw Eliza Jane every day than the coroner's determination." At the Times' request, Harry Vinters, chief of neuropathology at the University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center, reviewed the coroner's findings and Al-Bayati's report and said that Al-Bayati's report "probably is incomplete." He said he believes the coroner was right in ruling that Eliza Jane's cause of death was AIDS-related pneumonia, adding that the diagnosis "is really quite straightforward" (Los Angeles Times, 12/9).

The "Primetime" profile of Maggiore includes comments from Al-Bayati; Nancy Dubler, a bioethicist at Montefiore Medical Center; Jay Gordon, a Santa Monica, Calif., pediatrician who treated Eliza Jane; Philip Incao, a holistic physician and Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives board member; Maggiore; James Ribe, senior medical examiner for the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner; and Ed Winter, head of investigations for the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner ("Primetime," ABCNews, 12/8). The complete transcript is available online. A video excerpt of the segment is available online in RealPlayer.

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