Documentary Opens Pandora's Box Of Lyme Disease

Disease Becomes A Lens For Foibles Of Modern Medicine In 'Under Our Skin' *** ( 3 Stars)

July 10, 2009|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,michael.sragow@baltsun.com

Under Our Skin is a documentary wake-up call.

This compelling account of the explosive growth of Lyme disease grows to encompass all the peculiar politics, corruption and inertia of American medicine.

Everyone agrees that the tick-borne disease is "the great imitator," mirroring a multitude of ailments, including fibromyalgia and Parkinson's disease.

But the ideas that Lyme disease can be chronic and that its treatment should go on for months or years have become points of controversy for physicians, insurers, and research funders.

They have also become matters of life and death for patients whose doctors close their practices in the face of professional threats and punishments.

Wherever you fall in the debate, you should find Under Our Skin a troubling group portrait of confusion and anguish. It makes a persuasive demand for more flexibility and real-life documentation in the definition and tracing of the disease.

Lyme disease has proved hard to diagnose and treat even in its most flagrant, short-term form. To flesh out its symptoms for novices - and to offer the comfort of shared knowledge for its victims - director Andy Abrahams Wilson has interviewed Lyme disease sufferers of all ages, from every part of the country. Many testify to the success of physicians who prescribe long-term regimens that include intense antibiotics.

Wilson gets at what's infuriating about the public discussion of Lyme disease. Academic and institutional authorities stigmatize patients as psychosomatics and condemn dedicated medical professionals as mercenaries or showboats for believing in a chronic form of Lyme disease. Journalists often fail to note the connections of these same authorities to companies that might prosper from the disease through the development of new vaccines and tests.

Although Wilson has been criticized for portraying the glory of the American countryside from the Hamptons to the Rockies, the visual beauty of the film underlies its most haunting theme. The closer humans get to nature, the more sensitive they must become to its hidden dangers. Under Our Skin details a medical nightmare. The movie only looks like a sun-kissed dream.

Under Our Skin

(Shadow) A documentary about Lyme disease by Andy Abrahams Wilson. Exclusively at the Senator.

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