Advancing Neurology in Africa

A neurologist and attorney, James C. Johnston, MD, JD, is the founder of Global NeuroCare, a nongovernment organization (NGO). Global NeuroCare was established by Dr. James C. Johnston to improve neurological services in developing regions. Dr. Johnston and one of his Ethiopian colleagues Dr. Mehila Zebenigus, serve as Directors of this organization.

Holding Special Consultative Status with the United Nations ECOSOC, the highest status granted to an NGO by the UN, Global NeuroCare has engaged in a long-term collaborative partnership with Addis Abada University Department of Neurology to advance the training of physicians in Ethiopia. The Neurology Residency Training Program has been an outstanding success, substantially increasing the number of practicing neurologists in the country, leading to the treatment of more patients. These neurologists are also teaching a new generation of doctors to manage common neurological problems which represents the most effective was to improve healthcare in regions with a severe shortage of doctors and other healthcare providers.

On behalf of Global NeuroCare, Dr. Johnston and one of his Ethiopian colleagues Dr. Mehila Zebenigus have discussed the medical, ethical and legal aspects of advancing healthcare in developing regions at several meetings over the recent years including the United Nations High Level Political Forums, World Congresses for Medical Law and American Academy of Neurology conferences. They have highlighted the serious concerns of short term medical missions which fail to provide any substantive benefit to the host nation, and may cause significant harm to the local population. An additional concern is that developing nations have inherently vulnerable populations that may be intentionally or unintentionally exploited by these types of brief self-serving medical missions.

Drs. Zebenigus and Johnston presented the Ethiopian model to demonstrate that effective capacity development requires increasing the recruitment, training and retention of medical staff, which mandates stable long-term collaborative North-South partnerships focused on establishing local training programs, staffed by local physicians, to address the particular local community needs. They recently published a white paper for the UN on this topic, and will be present those recommendations at the 26th Congress Meeting of the World Association for Medical Law.

Global Neurocare Works with the UN to Combat Neurological Disorders

A prominent neurologist and medical law specialist, Dr. James C. Johnston has been in private practice for nearly 30 years. In addition to his work as a neurologist, James C. Johnston, MD, JD, also serves as a partner with Global Neurology Consultants, where he is mostly concerned with improving health care quality and access in developing regions. To further this vision, Dr. Johnston founded Global Neurocare, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing patient care and increasing medical training and research in developing countries such as Ethiopia.

Neurologists are scarce and resources limited in these developing regions, resulting in the needless deaths of those suffering from neurological disorders every day. Global Neurocare was granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations in 2013, the highest status granted to a non-governmental organization. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Committee at the United Nations looks at numerous applications to find non-governmental organizations that coincide with the aims and purposes of other United Nations programs.

Members of organizations granted Special Consultative Status are able to serve as UN delegates at sessions in various locations around the world. Global Neurocare’s status with the UN allows it to raise public awareness, implement international trade agreements, and provide expert analysis on relevant issues, among other benefits. Neurological disorders are recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the greatest threats to public health, and organizations such as Global Neurocare are poised to help with the crisis.

GLOBAL NEUROLOGY REPORT: WORLD ASSOCIATION FOR MEDICAL LAW MEETING 2018

Topic:  Electronic Fetal Monitoring in Developing Nations – A Public Health Threat

The 24th World Association for Medical Law (WAML) Congress was held in Tel Aviv, Israel on 2-6 September 2018.  Leading international experts discussed topics related to Global Health, Medical Law and Bioethics, with a focus on Public Health concerns.

James C. Johnston, MD, JD, reviewed the use of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) in Africa, and presented a paper co-authored with pre-eminent medical malpractice attorney Thomas P. Sartwelle, renowned medical ethicist Professor Dr. Berna Arda, and leading neurologist Dr. Mehila Zebenigus from Ethiopia.

Dr. James C. Johnston raised the concern that EFM has no proven efficacy in childbirth yet it is being increasingly employed in sub-Saharan Africa in a misguided approach to reduce perinatal morbidity and mortality.  In fact, EFM has a 99.8% false positive rate, and does not prevent or predict cerebral palsy or any other neonatal neurological disorder.  It does cause significant harm by dramatically increasing the cesarean section rate with all of the attendant risks and complications of that procedure, as well as increasing the risk that babies born in this manner may have a higher incidence of developing chronic diseases such as juvenile arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurodevelopmental problems.

After reviewing the overwhelming evidence against EFM, Dr. Johnston discussed the recent trend of developed countries to stop this procedure through specific guidelines published by birth-related professional organizations in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  For example, the United Kingdom National Institute for Health and Care Excellence states “Do not offer electronic fetal monitoring to women at low risk.”

Dr. James Christopher Johnston

The 24th World Association for Medical Law (WAML) Congress was held in Tel Aviv, Israel on 2-6 September 2018. Leading international experts discussed topics related to Global Health, Medical Law and Bioethics, with a focus on Public Health concerns.

And yet, EFM is rapidly increasing throughout sub-Saharan Africa due to a combination of intense marketing from the EFM manufacturing companies, and the failure of the medical community to understand that the procedure causes more harm than good to mothers and babies.  Dr. James C. Johnston provided specific examples of the marketing, including the Allied Market Research ‘Global Fetal Monitoring Report’ which concluded that the fetal monitoring market is expected “to reach USD 3.6 Billion by 2022,” that the market in “developing countries is lucrative,” and there is a “perpetual need” for these EFM machines.

Dr. Johnston and his colleagues concluded that the WHO should establish guidelines stating that EFM is an experimental procedure that is not scientifically reliable, the standard of care does not warrant EFM in low risk pregnancies, and it should not be performed.  This will allow local health boards in each country to adopt the guidelines, and ensure the medical community stops harming mothers and babies through this procedure.  Then, the resources wasted on EFM can be properly allocated to provide additional training of midwives and healthcare workers, and provide care for children with cerebral palsy and related conditions.

Global Neurology Report: WHO List of Essential Diagnostic Tests

On 15 May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the first Essential Diagnostics List, providing a catalogue of tests that are necessary to diagnose many common conditions as well as a number of global priority diseases.

This represents a crucial step to improving global healthcare since many people are unable to access diagnostic services, and others are incorrectly diagnosed due to poor quality or improper testing.  As a result, these people do not receive proper treatment and, in some cases, may actually be given the wrong treatment due to a misdiagnosis of their condition.

The list details 113 tests – 58 for common conditions such as diabetes, and the remaining 55 focus on priority diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis and syphilis.  Some of the tests are designed for primary health facilities in severely resource limited areas, and do not require electricity or trained laboratory technicians.  Other tests are more sophisticated and will necessarily be used in better equipped medical settings.

This Essential Diagnostics List will serve as a reference for countries to develop or update their own protocols within the context of local conditions, ensure appropriate supplies and equipment, and train personnel for the testing.

WHO intends to expand and update the list to incorporate additional non-communicable diseases, neglected tropical diseases, antimicrobial resistance and emerging conditions.

Drs. Mehila Zebenigus and James C. Johnston serve as Directors of Global NeuroCare®, an NGO accredited by WHO and in Special Consultative Status with the UN ECOSOC, and strongly support this initiative.

The full document may be accessed through the following link:

http://www.who.int/medical_devices/diagnostics/EDL_ExecutiveSummary_15may.pdf

GLOBAL NEUROLOGY REPORT: A CRITIQUE OF ELECTRONIC FETAL MONITORING

 

The Surgery Journal recently published a peer reviewed critique of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) by neurologist James C. Johnston, MD, JD and leading healthcare attorney Thomas P. Sartwelle.

These authors, Thomas P. Sartwelle and Dr. James C. Johnston, along with pre-eminent medical ethicist Professor Dr. Berna Arda, have repeatedly advised that continuous EFM should not be performed in routine labour due to a 99.8% false positive rate, and the fact it does not predict or prevent cerebral palsy or any other neonatal neurological injury.

EFM does increase the caesarean section rate, with an increase in maternal and newborn deaths and birth complications as well as devastating long term complications. In fact, these very concerns have led Australia, New Zealand and the UK to advise returning to intermittent auscultation (IA) instead of EFM, and in 2017 the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology finally provided a long overdue recommendation that women be given an informed choice between IA and EFM.

Unfortunately, there are EFM apologists continuing to defend the procedure, and journal editors suppressing scientific debate on the topic. This most recent Surgery Journal article exposes one example of these harmful practices, and should raise serious questions about those EFM proponents recommending a procedure that causes more harm than good to mothers and babies alike. But perhaps the more disturbing aspect is a medical journal editor determined to stifle scholarly debate.

This open access article is available through the following link:

https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0038-1632404

The authors have also published their concerns in the Journal of Child Neurology, Maternal Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, British Medical Journal, Neurologic Clinics, Journal of Pediatric Care, Maternal Health Neonatology and Perinatology, Medical Law International, Surgery Journal and several other journals and books. These articles are available at James C. Johnston’s ResearchGate.net site:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/James_Johnston6/contributions