Respectful Insolence

Run, don’t walk, away from these Doctors

I’m happy to say, I’ve never watched an episode of The Doctors, at least if the episode segment I’ve just been sent is any indication of the quality of the science and medicine discussed on the TV show. The episode, which aired on December 11, featured a segment on autism featuring an old “friend” of the blog. The fact that he was featured on a television show ostensibly designed to discuss medicine and make it accessible to a general audience tells me that not only the producers but the physicians who do the show are utterly without a clue. No, it wasn’t J.B. Handley or Jenny McCarthy, but it was almost as bad. Take a look:

Here’s segment one:

Here’s segment two:

Yes, it’s Dr. Jay Gordon showing up spread his antivaccine nonsense far and wide. Not only that, but he’s introduced as a “leading expert.”

The stupid, it burns supernova.

An abbreviated transcript of the show can be found here. It’s truly disturbing reading, just as parts of this segment are truly disturbing viewing. In fact, this segment shows everything that’s wrong about reporting about medicine in the media. You’d think that having a bunch of physicians doing the show would to some extent inoculate it from such nonsense. You’d be wrong. This show falls into the same trap that reporters fall into when discussing any form of manufactroversy about dubious science or even rank pseudoscience, be it creationism, antivaccination myths, and “alternative medicine” quackery. This segment from The Doctors is no different than putting Ben Stein on stage next to an evolutionary biologist. It’s no different than putting Jenny McCarthy on stage next to Paul Offit. It’s no different than–well–putting Dr. Jay Gordon on stage next to a science-based physician, in this case apparently Dr. Harvey Karp.

One thing I hadn’t been aware of is that Dr. Jim Sears is a regular on The Doctors. Dr. Sears’ brother Robert, who is also a pediatrician, is the author of a book making the rounds called The Vaccine Book. From what I can tell about it, the Sears brothers are in essence Dr. Gordon lite. They don’t trust the standard vaccine schedule either, so much so that Robert has developed his very own “alternative schedule,” with which Dr. Jim Sears apparently agrees. Unlike Dr. Gordon’s “alternative schedule,” however, Dr. Sears’ schedule appears to involve actually giving vaccines. Remember, Dr. Gordon has openly said and written on many occasions that he “doesn’t give a lot vaccines” and that he reluctantly gave vaccines, implicitly admitting that he tries to talk parents out of giving vaccines and acquiesces and “respects the parents’ wishes to vaccinate” only apparently if they are persistent. In that area, the Drs. Sears are more credible when they claim they are not “anti-vaccine,” although they both end up parroting antivaccine canards while intoning that they “do not support not vaccinating.” (Come to think of it, any time you hear someone saying either “I’m not antivaccine” or “I don’t advocate not vaccinating,” you can be fairly sure that antivaccine canards will follow immediately afterward.) For example, one area where Dr. Sears seems to be in complete agreement with Dr. Gordon is that vaccines can cause autism in “sensitive” or “susceptible” children. He also gives a whole lot of vague advice on dietary methods to “boost your child’s immune system,” the favorite haven of boosters of unscientific medical modalities. Here’s a flavor:

Minimize other chemical exposures. The small amounts of chemicals in vaccines are unavoidable. But there are other areas of life where we can control this exposure, and that is in the foods we feed our kids. Serve organic foods as much as possible, beginning with baby foods. A little baby’s growing brain and developing immune system are very susceptible to chemical influences. Eating organic fruits, veggies, grains, and meats is a good way to help insure a healthier brain and body.

This is dangerously close to the “toxin” gambit. In actuality, the “chemicals” in vaccines are tiny in amount, with no evidence that they cause any toxicity, and that even includes the mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be in vaccines. It’s also unclear just what Dr. Sears means by “chemicals.” After all, everything is made up of chemicals, including–yes–those organic foods that Dr. Sears recommends as so superior without any real evidence that they are. Moreover, no one would argue against a healthy diet including vegetables, grains, and fruits, but it’s not necessary to use just organic foods in order to have a healthy diet. It sure is more expensive, though.

Such is the pediatrician on The Doctors. He, along with some incredibly photogenic young doctors like Dr. Travis Stork (who really should be an obstetrician instead of an E.R. doc, given his name, and who should be told that wearing scrubs outside of the E.R. or O.R. in order to shout “I’m a doctor, dammit!” to the world leads only to contempt and laughter from his fellow physicians–especially surgeons like me) and Dr. Lisa Masterson (who really is an obstetrician), joined by an older but nearly equally telegenic doctor named Dr. Drew Ordon, a plastic surgeon and apparently the elder statesman of The Doctors, are supposed to be the Dr. Phils of medicine, I guess.

On to the episode. What’s really annoying about this episode is that, mixed in with some accurate information is a bunch of infuriating false “balance” and Dr. Gordon’s antivaccine stylings. The parents (Dan and Lori) featured in the segment have seven children, with another one on the way, and four of their children are autistic. I don’t know about you, but to me that fact alone would strongly suggest a genetic component, but naturally these parents blame vaccines for their children’s autism.

Of course.

It’s the vaccines. To antivaccinationists, it’s always the vaccines, because it’s always all about the vaccines themselves and the concept of vaccination, no matter how much they tell you it isn’t, that it’s a concern about “too many too soon,” or that it’s about any individual ingredient in the vaccine, metal or otherwise. Don’t believe me? Ask parents like Dan and Lori what, specifically it would take to persuade them that vaccines are safe enough that they will vaccinate their baby after it’s born? Their answer will be so vague as to give them an excuse not to vaccinate no matter how safe vaccines are, or the bar will be set so high (100% safety, for example) that no medical intervention can possibly reach it.

Let’s see what Dr. Sears has to say about it:

We do know–over the years we’ve learned–there’s definitely a genetic factor here. There’s something in the genes of your kids that make them a little vulnerable to a trigger, and we still don’t know what that trigger is. It could be some viral infection; it could be something in the environment, a toxin, like a heavy metal–like lead. You guys had lead in the house. There’s other chemicals. Maybe there’s something that happens during the pregnancy. There’s a lot of theories, and I am looking forward to the day that we do know for sure. Until then, we’re kind of at a loss.

It turns out that there actually is an infection that, if it happens during pregnancy, can cause autism in the child: rubella, at least if the mother has no preexisting immunity to it. Whoops! That’s one excellent reason for universal MMR vaccination to prevent autism. Sorry, Dr. Sears.

In any case, I share Dr. Sears desire to see the day when we understand the causes of autism. However, there’s no evidence that heavy metals, be they mercury or lead, cause autism in “susceptible” children or otherwise, Dr. Sears’ assertion notwithstanding. There’s no evidence that there is a genetic predisposition to heavy metal poisoning that leads to autism in response to tiny amounts of exposure to mercury or aluminum in vaccines or in the environment. Dr. Sears’ blather about there being “a lot of theories” is nothing more than another instance of false equivalency. Not all those hypotheses–not theories, by the way–are of equal validity, and certainly the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism, either in general or in susceptible individuals does not have any scientific support worthy of the name. There are a lot of “theories” about the diversity of life or what happened on 9/11, too. That doesn’t mean that creationism is a valid theory, or that 9/11 Truthers have a plausible “alternative” version of what happened on that horrific day.

Then it gets worse. Dr. Stork introduces our old friend Dr. Gordon:

Because there’s so much confusion we’re bringing in some leading experts today. We have Dr. Jay Gordon. He’s a leading pediatrician who believes strongly that vaccines are a major contributing factor in autism. He treats the son of actress Jenny McCarthy, who’s a major advocate for this cause.

“Leading expert”? “Leading pediatrician”? “Believes strongly”? More burning stupid.

Personally, I don’t give the proverbial rodent’s hind end what Dr. Gordon (or any other scientist or physician) “believes strongly.” When it comes to questions of medicine or science, I care what the evidence and the science say. If a physician or scientist can convince me that what he says is backed up by science and evidence, then I’ll take him seriously. If he can’t (like Dr. Gordon), then I won’t. It really is just that simple. Remember, Dr. Gordon is the physician who values his own personal clinical experience over science and epidemiology, believing that his personal impressions trump everything else. Indeed, in my arguments with him, I get the distinct feeling that he’s insulted by the observation that anecdotal evidence easily leads people–even pediatricians–astray. His hubris knows no bounds in this, as he seems to think that he, alone among humans, can overcome the cognitive quirks and biases that all humans have and that, indeed, the very scientific method was developed to compensate for. And he proves it again here:

Vaccines as they are now formulated can cause autism and other problems.

Got any evidence for that? Nope:

And there’s nobody here who disagrees that all childhood medications, including vaccines, should be as safe as they can be. And nobody disagrees with that. Right now they’re not as safe as they can be. I would plead with you: Do not vaccinate your new child. You have a genetic, a familial disposition to children developing autism. All children who get vaccines don’t get autism; all children who are autistic are not autistic because of vaccines. But with a strong family history, honestly, after a second or third child, I think a pediatrician who continues to give vaccines is practicing very bad medicine. Please do not vaccinate this new child.

And I plead with Dr. Gordon: Please, please, please, stop advocating malpractice on national television. Yes, I said it: malpractice. In my opinion (and not just my opinion but the overwhelming medical consensus), it is unforgivably irresponsible and bad medicine to advocate not vaccinating children, particularly for such a flimsy reason with no science behind it. Once again, if Dr. Gordon sees this, I want to know upon what scientific evidence he bases this recommendation. I’ve asked him this so many times that I might as well be blue in the face, metaphorically speaking, and he can never answer the question. There is no scientific evidence that vaccinating the siblings of autistic children will increase the risk that they, too, will become autistic. On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that autism has a strong genetic component. It’s possible that there might also be an environmental component, but existing evidence does not support that component being vaccines or heavy metals, the quack industry designed to “detoxify” those heavy metals and “repair vaccine injury” notwithstanding.

No doubt if Dr. Gordon becomes aware of this, he’ll show up to whine again about how “mean” I am, how “unfair” it is of me to refer to him as being anti-vaccine, and now how vicious I am to call his advice to Dan and Lori malpractice. There was a time when such complaints might have made me wonder if perhaps I’ve been too strident or if I’ve been too hard on Dr. Gordon. Once. Right now I no longer care, especially after hearing Dr. Gordon’s answer to a followup question by Dr. Stork about what, given what that he’s advised parents with autistic children not to vaccinate any additional children that they might have, he would say to parents without any family history of autism:

To think very hard. To find a doctor you trust. To get yourself very much informed. To look at your family history. Do you have a family history of autism or a strong family history of childhood depression or other illnesses? Autoimmune diseases. The very serious neuroimmunologists are now saying autism is a neuroimmune disorder. I really think that it doesn’t make any sense to give five or six shots to a little baby whose immune system and central nervous system are still a little bit questionable and extremely immature. Wait six months, wait a year. Get counsel, read as much as you can. But the way that vaccines are manufactured can cause autism; the way that they’re administered can cause autism, and they should be much, much safer.

Ugh. It’s the same “too many too soon” crap I’ve debunked time and time again here. I do wonder if Dr. Gordon’s learned a bit from his previous encounters here, where he was so thoroughly slapped down for decrying formaldehyde in vaccines, apparently ignorant that formaldehyde is a normal product of human metabolism, that the amount in the human body is larger than in any vaccine, and that we humans are routinely exposed to far more formaldehyde from household products and pollution in cities than from any vaccine. Notice how now he’s being a lot more vague. He’s no longer mentioning any specific “toxins.” Instead he’s subsuming the “toxins” into complaints about the “manufacturing process.” I guess he is educable, but in the wrong way, alas. He also goes right back to spouting the same old conspiracy mongering antivaccine canards when faced with Dr. Karp, who is described as “agreeing with” the studies that find no link between vaccines and autism, as if his opinion of the studies were based on faith rather than a sober consideration of their merits–and thus equivalent to Dr. Gordon’s dismissal of those same studies. (I do particularly like the look on Dr. Gordon’s face when Dr. Karp says that when he claims vaccines cause autism he’s “got to show the data.” Precious. And at around 6:55 on the video. Don’t miss it.) All Dr. Gordon can come up with is:

The studies were not done well. The studies were done, often funded by the manufacturers of the vaccine. I don’t vaccinate against any illnesses that pose anywhere near as much a threat to your family as autism does. I admit that if we stop giving certain vaccines some illnesses might return. I admit that there’s no proof that vaccines cause autism. There’s no proof; there’s evidence. I think that all of the data, all of the studies can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I don’t have any proof that vaccines cause autism; I have a strong suspicion that they contribute. But I’d love to move on from that discussion and talk about what we could do to show that they dont’ cause autism.

Ack! It’s basically the god of the gaps argument, very much like the disingenuous one that is used by “intelligent design” creationists to argue against evolution. Basically, what Dr. Gordon is saying is “We don’t know; the studies are inconclusive; there’s no proof; but I think vaccines cause autism anyway.” Why? Because he’s Dr. Gordon and he knows better than all those pointy-headed scientists. Of course, the studies are not inconclusive; they are very strong. All Dr. Gordon has to go on is his belief and his excessive faith in his personal ability to make clinical observations. Certainly he has no science to go on. He even admits it.

Dr. Karp’s slapdown that comes next is the only good part about this segment:

Before you recommend–and I know you recommend immunizations should be delayed six, twelve, or even 24 months before kids get it, you’ve got to have the proof; you’ve got to have science behind you. It’s not just “you have strong beliefs”–I appreciate your beliefs, and beliefs are important to guide research–but we need the research proof before we start jiggling around with something that we absolutely know has helped to prevent millions of cases of disease.”

Yes! All Dr. Gordon can do is try to change the burden of proof by saying:

It’s not our job to prove that vaccines are dangerous, it’s the researchers’ and manufacturers’ job to prove that they are safe. They haven’t been adequately tested for safety.

This is denialism, pure and simple. Vaccines are extensively tested for safety and efficacy. When informed of this over and over and over again, Dr. Gordon simply sticks his fingers in his ears and says, “La-la-la-la, I can’t hear you!” just like a little child.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sears chimes in:

I do not want everybody to stop vaccinating, because then we’re going to see polio come back, and kids are going to start dying of measles again,” he says. “In my office, I try to look at each child individually. I want to get them eventually fully vaccinated, unless they have a lot of risk factors for autism. If your [Dan and Lori's] family was in my practice, there’s no way I would vaccinate your kids, but I would also talk to you about how to minimize your risks of catching those important illnesses. I encourage my patients not to blow off vaccines, but I want to do it as safely as I can…Some of the more controversial ones, we wait until later,” he says.

You know what? I called Dr. Sears “Dr. Gordon lite” early in this post. I now change my mind. Dr. Sears is Dr. Gordon. He spouts the same science- and evidence-free nonsense about not vaccinating children with a family history of autism. Once again, I emphasize that there is no evidence that vaccinating children with older siblings with autism increases their risk of being autistic too. And Dr. Sears is a regular on a television show that millions of people watch every day.

Clearly it is very difficult to make a television show that is both entertaining and scientifically accurate. Very few can pull it off, and fewer still on a regular basis. The problem is that what constitutes good television often conflicts with what is good science. For one thing, good television often demands conflict. There have to be two sides. The problem is that in science and medicine, while there may be two sides to a medical issue (as in the antivaccine movement versus science- and evidence-based medicine), that does not mean that the two sides are equal–or even remotely close to equal. However, simply having scientists explain why vaccines are safe and refute the misinformation being pushed by antivaccine advocates wouldn’t make good TV. Sure, I’d enjoy it, and so, I daresay, would many of my readers, but to the vast majority of the public it would be boooooring. So, as in the two segments above, the two sides are represented as though there is a legitimate scientific controversy when there is not.

Finally, one thing that The Doctors demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt is that having physicians involved in the making of a show about medicine and medical controversies is no guarantee that the resulting show will be science-based. Any Doctors that treat Dr. Gordon as a “major expert” in anything other than pandering to the antivaccine movement and have had antivaccine activist Barbara Loe Fisher on their show for any purpose other than to debunk her antivaccine pseudoscience are doctors you should run, not walk, away from.

Comments

  1. #1 skepticpedi
    December 23, 2008

    I missed this episode but had caught the prior one which directly dealt with vaccines. It, as you mentioned, featured Fisher and the mother of an autistic child. They were placed prominently on stage while the representative from the CDC was sitting in the audience. The hosts allowed, in the classic Larry King style, for the true expert to be shouted down. The hosts were utterly clueless about basic anti-vaccine misinformation.

    I have met many people who watch this show. I am concerned that people actually turn to it for medical information. I knew Travis Stork in residency. He was a nice guy and he may even be a decent ER doc, but his being held up as some kind of expert is humorous. He completed residency in 2006 and has spent more time writing books on dating advice and appearing on television than practicing medicine. I have no doubt that he is not current on any of the controversial topics that are sometimes covered on this program. I imagine he goes off of an information packet given to him by the producers. The quality of the other doctors goes down from there.

  2. #2 Orac
    December 23, 2008

    Actually, I find Dr. Stork the most annoying. He’s like a frat boy in over his head, and, shockingly, his delivery isn’t even that good. He’s not smooth on TV, and his voice grates.

  3. #3 sophia8
    December 23, 2008

    What the bleedin’ blue blasted frak is a “neuroimmune disorder”?

  4. #4 FreeSpeaker
    December 23, 2008

    One thing that they all have in common is that Dr. Phil has them on as experts. We should address Dr. Phil’s spreading of manure.

  5. #5 Chad
    December 23, 2008

    Any chance anyone heard the new This American Life this week? It had a segment on a measles outbreak last year in California and talked to a number of people involved. One of the people they interview: Dr. Bob Sears. However, that segment of the show is actually quite good, but it did confirm my worst fears: most anti-vaxers will never change their minds. Ever.

  6. #6 Republic of Tariqistan
    December 23, 2008

    “I admit that there’s no proof that vaccines cause autism. There’s no proof; there’s evidence.”

    Is Dr. Jay aware that there’s evidence for the existence of Santa Claus, too? No proof – but there is evidence.

  7. #7 Mu
    December 23, 2008

    There’s great evidence – every year my kid finds presents under the tree. His dad would never give him anything but coal (so by now that might be a future proof investment).

  8. #8 Badger3k
    December 23, 2008

    You might want to be careful with all this “Santa Claus” – has he been proven to be safe? Maybe we’re giving our kids too much Santa too soon, and need to slow down. How many children get Santa’d each year – and how many of them get sick or stupid and watch shows like this? Huh?

    oh, wait, I forgot the caps. Let’s see, that’s: How many CHILDREN get SANTA’d each year!!!!!!111!!!! How many get SICK or STUPID!!!!1111!!!! HUH! SANTA-SCHILL!!!

    WHO pays for you!!! Do you get PRESENTS under your tree????!!!!!!!!!!! It’s all part of the Santa-Industrial Complex!!!!!!

    So there! Aach – I forgot! You are REPRESSING me!!!! The TRUTH will get OUT!!!!!!!

    How’s that?

  9. #9 skepticpedi
    December 23, 2008

    Don’t get me wrong ORAC, I said he was nice and that he may be an adequate physician in and ER setting. But to be honest, I don’t think he could doctor his way out of a paper bag.

  10. #10 Dangerous Bacon
    December 23, 2008

    Wonder how long it’ll be before Dr. Jay gets a book deal (“Stick It To ‘Em – A Maverick Pediatrician Takes On The Big Pharma-Medical Complex”) or starts selling his own line of nutritional supplements.

    He doesn’t strike me as the sort of guy who’ll be content with Celebrity Pediatrician status and making the occasional TV appearance.

    And when the health of his patients (and the rest of us who are exposed to their preventable infectious diseases) suffer as a consequence of his foolishness and ego, he’ll find someone else to blame.

  11. #11 Dan G.
    December 23, 2008

    Chad, I also heard the radio report about the measles outbreak. I liked the comments from the mother of the child who almost died as a result of the outbreak. She was so angry she couldn’t even discuss the subject with her anti-vax friends and neighbors (or they wouldn’t be friends anymore).

    When asked if she thought parents had the right opt out of child vaccinations she said “yes” provided they never took them to schools, doctors, public places etc.

  12. #12 Prometheus
    December 23, 2008

    One of my favorite quotes:


    Minimize other chemical exposures.

    Is he suggesting that people should avoid “chemicals” whenever possible? Should they stop eating, drinking and breathing? After all, oxygen is a “chemical”, as is water and every food.

    It is the misuse of “chemical” as a “scare word” that marks these “experts” for what they really are: pseudoscientists.

    I hate to say it, but getting an MD or DO degree does not equate to having an understanding of science – not even an understanding of biology.

    Second most favorite psudoscience marker quote:


    “…boost the immune system…”

    Anyone who thinks that “boosting” the immune system is an unalloyed “good” obviously doesn’t know much about the immune system.

    I’d also say that anyone who thinks that vaccinations are capable of “overwhelming” an immune system that wouldn’t be “overwhelmed” by the usual viral and bacterial exposures a child (or adult) receives is also too ignorant about the immune system to be giving advice.

    Unfortunately, people who “buck the system” get a lot of attention and admiration in the US, even when they are dead wrong.

    Orac, thanks for the reminder of why I don’t watch broadcast television.

    Prometheus

  13. #13 Scott
    December 23, 2008

    When asked if she thought parents had the right opt out of child vaccinations she said “yes” provided they never took them to schools, doctors, public places etc.

    From an ethical perspective, I’d have to disagree with her on that one. As a practical matter it may be inevitable, but as I see it, not vaccinating is at best skirting the ragged edge of child neglect and reckless endangerment. Ignorance and gullibility are not legitimate excuses in my view.

  14. #14 Joe
    December 23, 2008

    They’re baaaack! More quackery in mainstream media. I missed the “Dr. Phil” connection, if any.

    As for wearing scrubs, that was the first thing I noticed. I was once introduced to two doctors in a restaurant, they were in scrubs. One is left to wonder if they were introducing hospital pathogens in the restaurant, or if they were returning restaurant pathogens to the hospital. I think they were responsible; however, if they changed before leaving the hospital and upon returning, that is a waste. They could have worn their civies without the intervening scrubs discarded or re-treated.

  15. #15 Natalie
    December 23, 2008

    The scrubs thing sort of reminds of me of people who insist on being referred to as Dr. So-and-so, no matter how unnecessary it may be. One of my office buildings has a psychologist/psychiatrist (not sure which) office run by a married couple. I was reminded the other day that we absolutely have to address all correspondence to this couple to Dr. John Smith and Dr. Jane Smith, or the Drs. Smith. A couple of years ago one of them called the office and yelled at the brand new (at the time) receptionist because a bill had been address to John Smith and Jane Smith.

  16. #16 perceval
    December 23, 2008

    I know the sears – they are famous as the main proponents of attachment parenting, quite crunchy granola. To their credit, they do a lot of good in that community. They promote AAP and WHO breastfeeding standards and are relatively vaccine friendly compared to other related writers. However, they do tend to be into woo. Dr Karp is highly esteemed in parenting circles he has written a fascinating book on soothing kids called happiest baby on the block. Glad to hear he is evidence based.

    Perceval, mum of two

  17. #17 MKandefer
    December 23, 2008

    Does anyone have a clip of this episode with the commercials? I’m curious which companies sponsor this irresponsible program.

  18. #18 Phorun
    December 23, 2008

    I’ve only watched the show twice, more or less out of curiosity. It’s GARBAGE.

  19. #19 Emp
    December 23, 2008

    Seconding Prometheus: As a biochemistry student, I am offended by the frequent abuse of the word “chemical” as a scare tactic by woo-meisters. It’s as if Dr. Gordon doesn’t even have any background knowledge in science – pathetic for a doctor.

  20. #20 tim gueguen
    December 23, 2008

    And of course the flip side to the use of chemical as a scare word is the abuse of the term natural. Blowfish toxin is natural, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t eat any.

  21. #21 anonimouse
    December 23, 2008

    When asked if she thought parents had the right opt out of child vaccinations she said “yes” provided they never took them to schools, doctors, public places etc.

    I always thought this was more of an ironic statement this woman was making – sure, if you want to put your kids in a bubble and never let them leave the house, you don’t have to vaccinate them. The irony is that if you talk to the majority of anti-vaxers, they would suggest that such restrictions on their lives would be grossly unfair. In other words, they really, truly, don’t give a crap if your kids get sick as a result of their ignorance.

  22. #22 Jim
    December 23, 2008

    I couldn’t agree with you all any more than I already do. That said, I’ll refrain from repeating commentary and just say that one of the things that struck me was the host calling the parents “saints.”
    No disrespect to any parent of Autism or any other horrible ailment, but lets face it if you have a high risk to a disease and 4/6 of your kids have such an ailment, then stop having kids. You are reproductively reckless and unfortunately I think that such a condition is a big a problem as any of our other major problems (medically speaking).

    I for one would not procreate if I knew there was a significant chance of having a genetically linked condition and i certainly would not condone procreating if I had already had just one child with such a condition. Its cruel to your potential offspring and its cruel to society.
    They are not saints, they are irresponsible and reckless.

  23. #23 Rogue Epidemiologist
    December 23, 2008

    Anyone else think using the title “Dr. FirstName” is silly? Makes for a decent quasi-nym. Everyone on that show is “Dr. Travis, or Dr. Jim, or whatever. If you’re gonna be formal, then address them as “Dr. Surname” following the usual conventions.

    @MKandefer
    I didn’t see a tv commercial, but the banner add suggests this is underwritten by CVS. PharmaShills!!! WHARGARBBBBL!!!

    As for all the stuff about eating organic, I’ve got a friend who works on a carrot farm. He tells me the carrots are all grown in the same field using the same method (which abides by USDA organic standards). It’s cheaper that way, and it takes less effort because you only follow one farming protocol instead of two. The only difference is that half the carrots get slapped with the organic labeling, and the other half get the regular labels. Then the supermarket jacks up the price on the organics.

  24. #24 Dangerous Bacon
    December 23, 2008

    “The scrubs thing sort of reminds of me of people who insist on being referred to as Dr. So-and-so, no matter how unnecessary it may be.”

    Exactly. Those who are unsure of themselves or know (at least subconsciously) that they’re engaging in pseudoscientific feces-flinging, naturally try to protect themselves with some sort of armor (though scrubs are a pitiful choice, given how many people who don’t even seem to be health profession-affiliated are wearing them these days. It’s like flaunting a pager).

    Dr. Jay did the “see-how-many-letters-I-have-after-my-name-so-I-must-be-right” thing in this thread:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/10/dr_jay_gordon_pediatrician_warrior.php

    You’ll notice he initially signed off on his posts as Jay Gordon, MD, FAACP. After a couple of us mocked him for it, he reverted to plain old “jay”. :)

  25. #25 zayzayem
    December 23, 2008

    I love (??) how Dr Gordon and Dr Sears just happily peddle their quacktastic “I have no proof, but you should think about it” claims – while in the background the parents of teh children keep saying how they did not give one of their autiostic kids MMR.

    MMR is a “suspicious vaccine” that should be avoided in “at risk” families according to these quacks. Yet while being presented with facts that no MMR-autism link has been established, and that direct evidence that avoiding MMR won’t stop your baby getting autism, they just go on their “la-la-la-la” chant.

  26. #26 Dr Benway
    December 23, 2008

    Parents make me read awful books. Today I was given something about “The Starving Brain.” I don’t have time to formally and politely and specifically poop all over the bad clams or claims within.

    We need a loud buzzer. Let’s call it the FAIL buzzer. When a doctor says, “There’s no proof however in my clinical experience…” we go, “BZZZZ!” Then we say, “Oh dear, supposition’s not good enough now is it?” or whatever snarky thing conveys the point that someone’s brain just stopped working properly.

  27. #27 Dr Benway
    December 23, 2008

    Hi Dangerous Bacon,

    I read your link. So Dr. Gordon has seen kids have neurological problems shortly after getting vaccinated.

    As a developmentalist, is he not aware that the communication delays typical of autism become evident somewhere between the first and second birthdays –a period overlapping the vaccine schedule?

  28. #28 Chris
    December 24, 2008

    zayzayem said “MMR is a “suspicious vaccine” that should be avoided in “at risk” families according to these quacks.”

    What is really ironic is that the crunchy moms/dads who are afraid of the MMR have not actually seen what mumps and measles are really like, because they all have had the MMR (at least those born in the 1970s and later). Because the MMR was approved in the USA in 1971, there is a very good chance that anyone under the age of 38 has received on jab of the MMR.

  29. #29 skepticpedi
    December 24, 2008

    I’ve always had a problem with pediatricians adding the FAAP after their name. All it means is that they have passed the boards and paid to join the AAP. Most pediatricians are in the AAP because of all the CME possibilities and the journals/learning materials they throw in. I am not renewing my membership in protest of the AAP endorsed review of pediatric CAM by Kathi Kemper that stunk up the December Pediatrics.

  30. #30 Michael
    December 24, 2008

    Wow, suddenly I qualify as an autism expert. Who knew?

  31. #31 Orac
    December 24, 2008

    I’ve always had a problem with pediatricians adding the FAAP after their name. All it means is that they have passed the boards and paid to join the AAP.

    In surgery it’s a bit different. I don’t have a problem with surgeons who add FACS (Fellow, American College of Surgeons) after their name. I do it myself sometimes.

  32. #32 Ranson
    December 24, 2008

    Great. Another outlet for these quacks to spread thier manure. It almost makes me want to take my kids in and ask for any extra vaccines they have lying around, just to reassure my doc (whose entire practice manages to project sincere concern about the health of my family and I, while delivering great care). I like the practice we go to, if for no reason other than they’ve managed to look us in the eye in more than one occasion, and admit they didn’t know what was happening. Fortunately, it was for nothing serious, but seeing an older GP look at a bump on my kid’s arm and say, “Hell if I know” was somewhat reassuring. It indicated that he wasn’t an arrogant ass just trying to get rid of me. When our doc doesn’t know, we get good referrals.

    Oh, and on the idea of people that insist on the “Dr.” before their name, there was at least one case I know of where nobody minded. At my college, we had a prof affectionately known as “Uncle Jim”. He insisted on the moniker, but also earned it through sheer likeability. When he completed his doctorate, he became “Doctor Uncle Jim”. In public, he convinced his kids to call him “Doctor Daddy”. Of course, every bit of it was purely good natured, and I can’t remember anyone who didn’t indulge him on it.

  33. #33 Militant Agnostic
    December 24, 2008

    These clowns wearing their scrubs in the TV studio remind me of something I heard when I had a sumer job in road construction. “He’s the kind of guy who wears his hard hat into the bar.” It was not a positive comment.

    The more someone flaunts some attribute or qualification, the less they posess of it. People who go ot of there way to tell you they are Christians are usually unethical slimeballs, people who proclaim their Mensa memberships are usually idiots etc.

  34. #34 DuWayne
    December 24, 2008

    Am I the only one who noted that this couple has seven kids? Four of whom are autistic? And they’re pregnant with number eight?

    What the hell are they thinking? Seriously. This is absolutely insane, especially as I would be very surprised if she’s not into her forties, which I’m given to understand slightly elevates the risk of autism. When it’s obvious that these folks really don’t need to elevate the risk of autism at all.

    Not to detract from the stupidity of the “experts,” but that couple is absolutely insane.

  35. #35 Rogue Epidemiologist
    December 24, 2008

    DuWayne, if they’re not insane, they’re in a profound state of denial. 4 out of 7 kids autistic? The rest of us see an obvious genetic component. But they’d sooner blame the vaccines instead of recognize that they created kids with a genetic “flaw,” which implies that they too aren’t of the “right” genetic stock. They would rather fault an outside factor than point to themselves.

  36. #36 I am so wise
    December 24, 2008

    “The more someone flaunts some attribute or qualification, the less they posess of it. People who go ot of there way to tell you they are Christians are usually unethical slimeballs, people who proclaim their Mensa memberships are usually idiots etc.”

    Hey now, my name is 100% accurate.

    I am so wise

  37. #37 Brian X
    December 25, 2008

    My parents watch this show regularly, and the funny thing is my dad is constantly complaining about Dr. Stork. The thing that gets me, though, is I’ve noticed how they seem to be less than critical about woo, and while they do provide good information as well, they seem to suffer from a garden-variety case of Compulsive Centrist Disorder, Medical Variant, and they don’t really challenge the woo. Sort of wrecks the point of the show in my opinion — experts deferring decisions that require an expert’s judgement to make to a lay audience? What’s the point?

    Me, I’d rather be watching Food Network…

  38. #38 Jennyj0
    December 26, 2008

    Since the anti-vaccinists are so fond of anecdotal evidence, I thought to give them some.

    I live in the Netherlands. The youngest daughter of our queen Beatrix, princess Christina, is practically blind, because her mother, the then queen Juliana, contracted German Measles during her pregnancy.
    When I was little, we had a girl in our class who was blind, also because of her mother having contracted GM during pregnancy. Her hearing was also impaired. She later went to a special school for the deaf&blind.
    A cousin of mine contracted GM herself when she was five, she died of the resulting complication, meningitis. I can still remember vividly how upset everyone was and how terrified we always were when someone we knew of was ill with ‘spots’. We were not allowed to go to school and to play outside or have children come over to play until everything had definitely blown over.
    A girl living in our streets had braces, because she had contracted polio. Her parents were against vaccination on religious grounds. I always took her to school on the backseat of my bicycle.

    All people of my age in the Netherlands (I’ll be 57 March next year) can tell you wonderful, happy, cosy anecdotes like these.

    In the Netherlands, vaccinations against MMR were added to the standard vaccination programme in 1987.

    I also read somewhere that many people believe there is a relation to vaccination and SIDS. We have a very high vaccinaton rate in the Netherlands and I believe the lowest rate of SIDS in the world. But then, these are facts, not anecdote, so that makes it unreliabele information by definition I guess. :-)

    That vaccination against whooping cough gives less protection than the other vaccinations – against other diseases I mean – has alwyas been known, at least I knew of it and so do all my ‘co-mothers’. Since 2005 a new vaccine is used in the Netherlands, in the USA as well I suppose. But I don’t understand why less protection should be a reason not to vaccinate at all. Whooping cough is absolutely terrible, no one would want their child having to go through it my opinion.

    I think it’s awful, the way these anti-vaccination doctors manipulate clients no to have their children vaccinated, because they ‘feel’ or ‘have the impression’ that it ‘might’ cause this or that. Someone here called it malpractice, I totally agree with that.

  39. #39 Jennyj0
    December 26, 2008

    Since the anti-vaccinists are so fond of anecdotal evidence, I thought to give them some.

    I live in the Netherlands. The youngest daughter of our queen Beatrix, princess Christina, is practically blind, because her mother, the then queen Juliana, contracted German Measles during her pregnancy.

    When I was little, we had a girl in our class who was blind, also because of her mother having contracted GM during pregnancy. Her hearing was also impaired. She later went to a special school for the deaf&blind.

    A cousin of mine contracted GM herself when she was five, she died of the resulting complication, meningitis. I can still remember vividly how upset everyone was and how terrified we always were when someone we knew of was ill with ‘spots’. We were not allowed to go to school and to play outside or have children come over to play until everything had definitely blown over.

    A girl living in our streets had braces, because she had contracted polio. Her parents were against vaccination on religious grounds. I always took her to school on the backseat of my bicycle.

    All people of my age in the Netherlands (I’ll be 57 March next year) can tell you wonderful, happy, cosy anecdotes like these.

    In the Netherlands, vaccinations against MMR were added to the standard vaccination programme in 1987.

    I also read somewhere that many people believe there is a relation to vaccination and SIDS. We have a very high vaccinaton rate in the Netherlands and I believe the lowest rate of SIDS in the world. But then, these are facts, not anecdote, so that makes it unreliabele information by definition I guess. :-)

  40. #40 Jennyj0
    December 26, 2008

    I’m so sorry, I accicentally made two comments with practically the same content.

  41. #41 Barbara
    December 29, 2008

    Any chance that you would appear on the show?

  42. #42 Uncle Dave
    December 30, 2008

    Orac wrote;

    “The parents (Dan and Lori) featured in the segment have seven children, with another one on the way, and four of their children are autistic. I don’t know about you, but to me that fact alone would strongly suggest a genetic component, but naturally these parents blame vaccines for their children’s autism.”

    A component the continues to baffle me as to why it is ignored by many, especially parents. You would think that after two children with autism they would start to become curious as to;
    What was wrong with uncle Bob or great uncle John, or why did Aunt Margaret live with grandma and grandpa etc etc.

    Another Theodoric of York episode…
    Family history? Naaaaaa…..

  43. #43 Jennyj0
    December 30, 2008

    But uncle Dave, everyone knows that autism has nothing to do with genetics, so why in the world should a person have to be curious about their family? That would just be a waste of energy, for which these parents apparently have better use.
    :-)

  44. #44 Jennyj0
    December 31, 2008

    @ Barbara,

    I’d be happy to! :-)

  45. #45 sue
    November 2, 2009

    I was so grateful when my son’s pediatrician told me, outright, during my initial interview with her: “Mrs. Sue, I understand there are parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. However, if that is your wish, I must tell you I can’t be your son’s physician. I fully support and follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics in regards to vaccination.” She followed up with the whys and wherefores. We’ve had a great relationship ever since (13 years).

    It was refreshing because many doctors waffled on the subject, just to get the business. This was especially true in the more affluent beach communities where you have a plethora of ‘health’ nuts.

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