To the editors:
Dr. John P. Quinn's letter (in the February 26 issue) criticizing the January 22 article on environmental illness and candida is a classic example of the proverbial blind men examining the elephant, each with his own slant, finding what he is familiar with. When will such doctors stop hiding their ignorance behind obfuscatory language, condemning an extensive amount of clinical evidence simply because it does not come within their purview? I would instead expect that a true physician would treat sufferers with compassion and respect, rather than scorn and contempt ("cling ferociously to any oddball theory emanating from the . . . National Enquirer"). I would expect him to be glad that thousands of patients have been helped by clinical ecology, a form of medicine that functions without prescribing most modern medications, many of which have done more harm than good (and the results of which are sometimes referred to as "iatrogenic," or doctor-induced, disease).
Contrary to what he said, almost all of us with environmental illness have been seen by a variety of traditional first-line doctors and second-line doctors (specialists, including psychiatrists), none of whom were able to help us with our worsening symptoms. As Dr. Robert Marshall said in the environmental illness/candida article, they are simply not looking for the right clues. When we finally make our way to third-line doctors, such as clinical ecologists, we find we have reached someone who looks at the whole picture, especially the environment, also worsening daily, as those who saw the recent series on Channel 5 ("Food and Pesticides") and Channel 2 (on cancer incidence in the Calumet area) realize. At that point we do not need another physical examination; we have already been poked, prodded, bled, and given a dozen or more exotic and expensive tests, and have had prescribed the entire armamentarium of modern medicine. In my case, for example, none of this helped my severe and frequent headaches and nausea; only when I found out from a clinical ecologist what chemicals in the environment I must avoid, did I get better.
I call Dr. Quinn's attention to a recent "Annals of Medicine" in The New Yorker (January 4), by veteran medical writer Berton Roueche, which vividly describes a doctor's experience with her own pesticide poisoning and which ends thus: "I'm just beginning to realize that the world is a very dangerous place. It's something nobody really wants to think about. I mean the thousands and thousands of toxic chemicals that have become so much a part of modern living. I mean the people who use them without really knowing what they can do. I mean the where and how and why they use them. It's frightening. I think I'm pretty much recovered now. I haven't had any trouble for over a year. But you never know. The only thing I'm sure of is that I'm going to have to be very careful for the rest of my life." The doctors she consulted did not look for the right clues.