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    Speaking from Ignorance

    January 31, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    If there is one thing that truly annoys me, it is doctors waxing eloquent concerning subjects about which they are not authorities. Even worse, when they are speaking from ignorance. A lot of folks do this sort of thing, but when doctors do it, they speak to their patients in such a way that their word is taken as gospel truth.

    But it is often not much more than speculation based on anecdotal evidence, which means they may or may not be correct.

    This little rant is, by the way, being brought to you by the letter V and the article on autism that appeared in the January 28, 2008 issue of Parade Magazine.

    But before I tear up the vaccination portion of the article, allow me to share an anecdote of my own. We no longer vaccinate. We made this decision for ethical reasons {which you can read about here and here if you are interested}, though we also suspect there may be some long-term health benefits as well.

    When I told our doctor our children would no longer be vaccinated, she seemed angry to me. She immediately accused me of reading “antivaccination websites” and doing all my research on the internet. {Of course, she later encouraged me to read certain articles written by government employees that were on the internet, so apparently the internet isn’t completely incredible.} Her next pointed question was very interesting to me; I will never forget it: “Is this because of autism? Because vaccinations don’t cause autism. We don’t know what causes autism. I think researchers will eventually find that there is a gene that is turned on by a childhood virus.”

    Now, let’s put on our logic hats and think about this statement. We don’t know what causes autism, but vaccines are not the cause. If we do not know the cause, how can we possibly say that something is not the cause? I suppose the only way that statement could be made, scientifically speaking, is if there was a controlled, double-blind study that proved, beyond doubt, that vaccines do not cause autism.

    I have yet to discover such a study. {If you know of one, by all means email it to me.} Now, I have found an interesting article by a physician who claims that none of his wards have autism because he does not vaccinate them. Of the 30,000 to 35,000 patients his organization has seen over the years, they have never seen a case of autism in an unvaccinated child. He, by the way, fully admits that his evidence is only anecdotal. Generation Resuce’s survey of 9,000 boys in California and Oregon found that vaccinated boys had a 155% greater chance of having a neurological disorder like ADHD or autism than unvaccinated boys. Of course, this sounds to me like they proved that vaccination is only a contributing factor. If being vaccinated only increases the chances of autism or another neurological disorder, then vaccines are probably not a primary cause.

    But do you see how my physician had no right to say what she said? In fact, when I explained our ethical reasons against vaccination, she acted like I was completely insane. This means that she is vaccinating children out of ignorance–she has no idea how vaccines are made, what they are made from, or why someone might question the ethics behind the system.

    So back to the Parade Magazine article. In answer to the question, Do vaccines cause autism? Parade says:

    Parents in these groups have reported a sudden and dramatic social disconnect—including loss of language—in children who previously seemed to be developing normally. The change occurred soon after the children were given the first dose of the MMR vaccine {to prevent against measles, mumps and rubella}, typically at around 12-15 months. These parents adamantly believe that their children’s autism was caused by something in the MMR vaccine or in combination with other vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. They insist that the timing of the onset of autistic symptoms is not a coincidence.

    While some physicians and scientists support the vaccine-autism link, the overwhelming majority of medical professionals and mainstream medical organizations maintain that vaccines do not cause autism. This is the position of the Institute of Medicine {IOM}, National Academy of Sciences, CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and NIH. After reviewing the research, the IOM concluded that the evidence “did not support an association between autism and the MMR vaccine.”

    In fact, even autistic children who never received the MMR vaccine first show symptoms at around the same age as those who are vaccinated.

    I would love to see an independent study that “reviewed the research.” After all, these governmental organizations have a vested financial interest in being able to say that vaccines do not cause autism, among other problems. If vaccines cause a problem, they have to pay each child. That is the purpose of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program directed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    To say that vaccines are perfectly safe, by the way, is to deny that such an organization exists and pays money to children who are injured by them.

    Now, to clarify, I am not saying that I know for sure that vaccines cause autism. I certainly do not know what causes autism, though a new friend of mine, who cured her severely autistic child of autism {he is no longer anywhere on the spectrum}, will tell you quite seriously that many children diagnosed with autism or PDD actually have childhood Celiac disease. I am simply tired of doctors and governmental agencies saying something is fact when, to my knowledge, there are no double-blind scientific studies proving the case to be one way or the other.

    So if you ask your doctor a question, and your doctor says that “x is not true,” ask for research that you can read. Sometimes, even a doctor speaks from ignorance.

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    5 Comments

  • Reply Brandy February 4, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Kim,

    The book you are reading is on my to-buy list! It sounds wonderful, and I have been thrilled with Seroussi’s other book. She is probably a great teammate for Dr. Bock!

    I liked what you said about parents becoming experts on specific issues. I think this happens a lot with medicine. We even see this with parents of kids with cancer, or some sort of rare disorder. They get depth when the doctor (at least, the general practicioners and pediatricians) usually has the breadth. And breadth is handy in its own way, but it needs to know when to at least defer to depth. 🙂

    I completely agree with you: a doctor who says “I don’t know” and then does research is preferable to a doctor who thinks they already know, even though they haven’t actually studied the issue.

    A friend of ours, who is a new doctor, told me last week that he feels inadequate, like he doesn’t know enough and needs to become a better doctor. I told him that I think that is exactly what will make him a good doctor, and the moment he feels like he knows enough is the moment patients will begin to complain! 🙂

  • Reply Kim February 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I think more and more doctors are going to have to face the vaccine issue. Too many parents are becoming educated on the subject. Doctors have a great wealth of knowledge about so many things, but parents are becoming experts on specific issues (like vaccines). I don’t think we can expect doctors to know everything about every subject in the medical field, but I have appreciated doctors that have said, I don’t know and then they go research the issue.
    I’m reading a great book called The New Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Bock and he does go as far as to say that vaccines cause these diseases. He also links them to antibiotics as well. It’s a great book that summarizes many of the theories out there and pulls it all together (vaccines, antibiotics, diet, environment). And Bock, a doctor, gives parents praise for working so hard to find a cure for their children, something very rare in the medical profession.

  • Reply Kimbrah February 2, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Brandy-

    I had planned on trying to stay up but I have had a migraine since yesterday afternoon and it did me in about 9:30pm, about the same time the picture went out on our tv. 🙂

    I plan on catching it online sometime this weekend. I forgot to ask Eddie if he stayed up and watched it. He may have.

  • Reply Brandy February 1, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Kimbrah,
    I was trying not to go too many different directions in my post, but my own research would agree that waiting, or using one of the modified vaccine schedules that are out there (developed by doctors who have done research) seems to help in avoiding autism.

    I really did consider watching Eli Stone, especially once I read that a group of doctors was asking ABC to pull the episode for being “irresponsible.” But I just can’t keep my eyes open that late at night any more!

    Did you wach it? Was it good?

  • Reply Kimbrah February 1, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Brandy-

    I don’t know if I ever mentioned it but our pediatrician down south told us that if age were not a factor, she would say that there is no proof that vaccines (namely MMR) cause autism. But from all the research that she has done, she will not give the MMR to a child who is younger than 18 months and she prefers to wait until 24 months if possible.

    I did feel like she made it a point to be informed on all things concerning pediatrics. We really miss her.

    So are you planning on making an exception to watch “Eli Stone” tonight in support of it’s “question vaccinating” message? Just wondering… 🙂

    Kimbrah

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