30 April (MEMPHIS, TN) – Shortly after midnight on a weekday last winter, Morris Scott parked his car at the curb of a rainy suburban street in Memphis, Tennessee. He ducked his head as he approached his brother’s home as several other cars and a moving van quietly parked beneath the street lights.
The house was dark – except for a single lamp in the living room. As he stepped onto the porch, his brother Calvin opened the door. They hugged briefly and Morris kissed his sister-in-law softly on the cheek. The children were asleep.
During the next few hours, Morris, friends and family carried and loaded boxes that Calvin and Sarah (not their real names) had spent two weeks packing. Before the sun rose that morning, the Scott Family had left Tennessee behind them.
Calvin and Sarah didn’t want to move. They had created a good life in Memphis and their children had developed strong bonds at church and school. But now they had to find a new home, far from the hospital, doctors and county bureaucrats that threatened to poison their children and destroy their family.
Their story began several years earlier, when Sarah expected her first baby. Her obstetrician urged the young black woman to take an HIV test and, trusting her doctor, she agreed. Doctors said he was dying from AIDS.
When Sarah’s test came up positive, she was not told that pregnancy (58, 53, 13, 43, 36, 85, 92, 97), flu shots (30, 11, 3, 20, 13, 43, 72, 76), and African genetics (38, 34, 40) are known to cause false positive test results. Nevertheless, she was referred to HIV/AIDS specialist, Edwin Thorpe MD, who happened to be one of the principal investigators recruiting patients for a clinical trial at the University of Tennessee Medical Group. The trials were funded and sponsored by the Division of AIDS (DAIDS) — the chief branch of HIV/AIDS research within the National Institutes of Health.
This was the same experimental program that killed Joyce Ann Hafford.
Shortly after she began taking the drugs, Sarah and her daughter became very ill. But unlike Hafford, Sarah sensed that the sickness was caused by the drugs. Her intuition proved correct when she stopped the drugs – both quickly recovered. Sarah eventually met and married Calvin, who fathered four more healthy children with her.
When Sarah was expecting her fifth child, Dr. Thorpe said that because of her HIV status he would have to administer AZT to prevent HIV transmission to her baby. When Sarah refused, Dr. Thorpe asked why. When she said that AZT was a known carcinogen and mutagen, Dr. Thorpe said, “Where did you hear that?”
Despite further attempts to change her mind, Dr. Thorpe relented and delivered their healthy baby boy without infections or complications.
But Thorpe wasn’t finished yet. He notified the hospital administration, which notified county child services officials who visited the family a few weeks later.
Although the children were healthy and asymptomatic, county officials threatened to relocate the children to foster homes unless Sarah and Calvin promised to administer the deadly toxins to their allegedly HIV+ children. To ensure compliance, county officials made repeated visits to the family and remained in contact with the local clinic.
The family contacted OMSJ who found an attorney. For the next year 16 months, he kept the family together while OMSJ investigated the case.
A review of the medical charts revealed not only that there was no evidence that Sarah or her children were ever competently diagnosed as infected with HIV; but language in the charts also suggested that they had been subjected to medical trials and drug experiments – not unlike those that caused the rash that killed Joyce Hafford. Prominently missing from the medical chart was the patient waiver form that would have authorized her doctors to perform medical experiments on Sarah and her children.
While some other US jurisdictions might have protected this family, Tennessee legislators passed a law several years ago that protects the local medical “standard of care.” The law essentially allows local medical standards to prevail over state or national standards. So if a large Tennessee hospital like Saint Jude dispenses rat poison to the babies of low income black parents for experimental purposes without their permission – protocols that would not be approved by medical doctors and hospitals in other states – the local standard of care could theoretically prevail – a decision in line with the NIH decision that leaves vulnerable patients on their own.
While the US Constitution guarantees a citizen’s right to sue major corporations for their injuries, industry-funded lobbyists paid legislators to cap lawsuits under the pretext of tort reform. As a result, victims who sue are quickly buried under a mountain of motions, pleadings and filings by billion-dollar hospitals and drug companies, leaving their victims with years of litigation and negligible compensation. The arrangement does little to dissuade hospitals from targeting vulnerable patients – especially the poorly educated and low-income blacks.
Because of malpractice caps and the explosive revelations of the Scott case, their attorney withdrew from the case, alluding to concerns that the controversial case threatened his career and that of his doctor-wife – along with their ability to send his children to college. With the reputation as one of the most corrupt medical boards in the country, the Tennessee Medical Board was not likely to question the reputation of one of Tennessee’s biggest hospitals either.
With few resources and five children, Calvin and Sarah could not risk losing their children to foster parents who are typically paid twice as much to poison other people’s children. Hours before the Scotts were ordered to report to their clinic, they packed their rental and left the state. OMSJ has not heard from the family since.