A Dartmouth woman with multiple sclerosis claims she is being denied a check-up with a vein specialist in Nova Scotia after undergoing a controversial treatment in Europe.
The health minister says it shouldn't be a problem for her to see someone, but Karen Clarke said she feels punished by the medical community.
These days the 59-year-old says she has renewed energy, one of the benefits — she credits — of a controversial treatment for MS.
"The numbness is gone out of my feet…I died and went to heaven. It's just fantastic," she said.
In September 2011, Clarke flew to Brussels where she spent her inheritance, $15,000, on what's been dubbed "liberation therapy."
Doctors made an incision near her groin, and inserted a balloon to open her jugular vein. It's an unproven and contested procedure.
Clarke said she knew she’d be running a risk back in Nova Scotia.
"I was told that when I came back I wouldn’t be able to see any doctors about my procedure. If I went to a neurologist they would look at me as though I was some sort of weirdo."
But almost a year and a half later Clarke asked her doctor to refer her to a vascular surgeon for a checkup.
"There is a possibility that your veins can close again and I just want to get that checked out," she said.
Clarke was denied and told to see a neurologist.
"Why would I go see a neurologist about a vascular condition? Why would I go see a foot doctor to see about my heart?" she asked.
Health Minister David Wilson said she should be able to see a vein specialist.
"I don’t think it's a problem. That’s why an individual needs to discuss this with their physician," he said.
Clarke said she fears MS patients are getting blowback from the medical establishment.
"We’re being punished because we went from what they said and what they are against and did it on our own," she said.
Clarke said vascular specialists should be honouring a doctor's oath to care for patients.
The University of Buffalo recently reported that a study of 30 MS patients showed the treatment had no benefit on numerous measures of symptoms, disease progression and quality of life.
Through MRI scans, researchers also showed some patients had increased brain lesions, one of the hallmarks of the progressive neurological disease, after undergoing the vein-opening procedure.
New Brunswick is the only province that provides funds to help MS patients get the treatment.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba committed funding for clinical trials, while Newfoundland and Labrador commissioned a study of patients who sought the treatment that found no measurable benefits from it.