Respectful Insolence

Farrah Fawcett: Dead of cancer at age 62

Unfortunately, I saw this coming, although I had thought that it might be a few more months. Farrah Fawcett has lost her three year battle with anal cancer:

Farrah Fawcett, an actress and television star whose good looks and signature flowing hairstyle influenced a generation of women and bewitched a generation of men, beginning with a celebrated pinup poster, died Thursday morning in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 62 and lived in West Los Angeles.

Her death, at St. John’s Health Center, was caused by anal cancer, which she had been battling since 2006, said her spokesman, Paul Bloch.

To an extraordinary degree, Ms. Fawcett’s cancer battle was played out in public, generating enormous interest worldwide. Her face, often showing the ravages of cancer, became a tabloid fixture, and updates on her health became staples of television entertainment news.

In May, that battle was chronicled in a prime-time NBC documentary, “Farrah’s Story,” some of it shot with her own home video recorder. An estimated nine million people viewed it. Ms. Fawcett had initiated the project with a friend, the actress Alana Stewart, after she first learned of her cancer.

Because I’ve written extensively about this on two occasions, first a year and a half ago when I learned that Fawcett had turned to woo after her anal cancer, which had seemingly been treated successfully, recurred; then again two months ago when she was admitted to the hospital due to a complicationr from the therapy she was undergoing in Germany, including alternative methods; and then finally when I realized that my speculation of what therapy Fawcett had undergone in Germany was way off and I had to admit a rare mistake

None of that really matters anymore..

I didn’t see Fawcett’s special documenting her decline and her pursuit of “alternative” methods in order to assess just how badly off I had been in some of my speculations. She clearly did undergo dubious therapies with no science to back them up, but her treatment by Professor Thomas Vogl in Germany struck me as being experimental but not quackery. In essence, it appeared to be nothing more than using a different method to ablate tumors with laser, a method that appears to be no more effective than other ablative techniques, like radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation. Somehow it was portrayed as “alternative,” even though it was not like the other “alternative” therapies Fawcett was reported to have tried.

In any case, seeing the photos of Fawcett back in April, I knew instantly she was in bad, bad shape and that the protestations that she was going to beat her cancer were, sadly, never going to come true. Few solid tumors that metastasize are curable. Exceptions include colorectal cancer that metastasizes to the liver and can be resected and testicular cancer. Lance Armstrong, after all, had brain metastases, and he beat his cancer. Unfortunately, anal cancer is not one of those exceptions.

When something like this happens, one can’t help but wax a bit nostalgic. This time around, it’s because Farrah Fawcett was an icon of my teen years back in the 1970s. Although I never owned a copy of her infamous poster, several of my friends did. Even though I didn’t watch Charlies’ Angels (even at 14, I saw it for the crap that it was), still I couldn’t escape her presence. No one could. She was just that famous at the time.

And now she’s dead, and will no longer be giving any testimonials for various therapies.

Comments

  1. #1 MadScientist
    June 26, 2009

    “radiofrequency ablation”? Is that electrocautery with a different probe? Or is it the old “radiotherm” (microwave) machine with a different cover on it?

    It’s interesting how people run away from the USA looking for cures when the bulk of research is being done in the USA. Well, at least she didn’t go to the Philippines for “psychic surgery” (although a psychic surgeon was recently reported to have died – apparently he can’t operate on himself – but he did receive treatment from real physicians rather than other psychics – you have to wonder why).

  2. #2 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 26, 2009

    THIS IS AN ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL THREAD! ANON SERIOUSLY DESTROYS THE “ANTI-CHOICE” CONTINGENT AND IT’S WORTH REPOSTING.

    Best,

    Jay

    Posted by: Whitecoat Tales | April 8, 2009 6:06 PM
    10
    anon,

    The problem is that I fear that her movie, whether she lives or dies, will be a paean to dubious therapies “integrated” with scientific medicine.
    Why did you have to do that? Here I was thinking you were humbled, and perhaps even human.

    He is human. He just doesn’t appear to see any reason to expect the pack of jackals, that make up the alternative medicine field, to not try to make money off of this in whatever way possible.

    This is the way these snake oil salesmen make their money. This is a marketing opportunity for the mountebanks.

    It would be incredibly naive to believe otherwise. Of course, they prey on the naive. They live off of the incredibly naive.

    Orac tries to educate people to protect them from abuse. You suggest that this is not being human. Trying to prevent people from being sacrificed to these barbaric cults is not human? You do not know what you are writing about.

    The anti-vaccine crowd parade autistic children around as if the vaccines had something to do with autism. Vaccines do not cause autism, but Jenny McCarthy causes exploitation of autistic children.

    Let us know when any of these frauds admit any mistake. They line up to defend Dr. Wakefield – the quack, liar, and fraud. His lies encourage parents to harm their children. Where is the humanity of this pro-disease movement?

    These anti-science vermin do not admit their mistakes. They just make excuses and blame others for their problems. These charlatans give bad medical advice. These quacks convince people, who should be treated by real doctors, to make the wrong decisions about their health. Decisions that shorten the lives of those, who trusted the witchdoctors. Where is the humanity of the fake medicine movement?

    Have you witchdoctor worshipers no shame?

    Human sacrifice is not humane.
    .

    Posted by: Rogue Medic | April 8, 2009 8:21 PM
    11
    Rogue Medic,

    He just doesn’t appear to see any reason to expect the pack of jackals, that make up the alternative medicine field, to not try to make money off of this in whatever way possible.
    There are unscrupulous people everywhere, alternative medicine or otherwise.

    It would be incredibly naive to believe otherwise. Of course, they prey on the naive. They live off of the incredibly naive
    Whilst I think I understand what you are saying here, can’t the same be said of those that question the conflicting authority of a body that is responsible for not only maintaining vaccine uptake but ALSO ensuring safety? Why is this a stretch?

    Let us know when any of these frauds admit any mistake. They line up to defend Dr. Wakefield – the quack, liar, and fraud. His lies encourage parents to harm their children. Where is the humanity of this pro-disease movement?
    I think anytime a person realises error, they are wise to correct it. Why would you think no one that opposes your viewpoint admits error? No offence, but I’m not sure this kind of sensationalism helps matters.

    These anti-science vermin do not admit their mistakes. They just make excuses and blame others for their problems. These charlatans give bad medical advice. These quacks convince people, who should be treated by real doctors, to make the wrong decisions about their health. Decisions that shorten the lives of those, who trusted the witchdoctors. Where is the humanity of the fake medicine movement?
    Honestly, I understand your passion. The problem, is that you cannot take the free will of those you are meaning to convince. A person that opts to take a nutritional approach, or an approach based on *more than one* opinion, and is old enough to understand the risks and benefits associated with their choices may be someone you feel to be misguided… but it’s really none of your business. As it relates to infectious disease transmission, your comment seems to imply that vaccinated people don’t spread disease… sorry… but they do.

    Posted by: anon | April 8, 2009 9:03 PM
    12
    anon,

    There are unscrupulous people everywhere, alternative medicine or otherwise.
    That is true. The difference, between the scientific community and these anti-science cults, is that the scientific community will report their own errors publicly. The scientific community will check on the work of others to look for problems. The scientific community will not accept fraud, although they may be temporarily deceived by it.

    The anti-science cults behave in exactly the opposite way. They cover up anything negative, because it is all a sham. They pretend to have all of the answers.

    Whilst I think I understand what you are saying here, can’t the same be said of those that question the conflicting authority of a body that is responsible for not only maintaining vaccine uptake but ALSO ensuring safety? Why is this a stretch?
    A body that requires use of any product, but does not insist on oversight, is irresponsible. There is clear evidence of the overwhelming benefit and safety of vaccines. Compare the death and illness rates from before the introduction of vaccines with after their widespread use.

    Millions of lives are saved by vaccines each year.

    I think anytime a person realises error, they are wise to correct it. Why would you think no one that opposes your viewpoint admits error? No offence, but I’m not sure this kind of sensationalism helps matters.
    Provide some evidence of error correction on the side of anti-science. One of the reasons they are anti-science is that they do not learn from their mistakes. They keep repeating the same errors. They may modify tactics, but they do not use good science. They do not recognize good science.

    Sensationalism is the method of the anti-science cults. I am just pointing out the harm – crippling illnesses and deaths.

    Honestly, I understand your passion. The problem, is that you cannot take the free will of those you are meaning to convince. A person that opts to take a nutritional approach, or an approach based on *more than one* opinion, and is old enough to understand the risks and benefits associated with their choices may be someone you feel to be misguided… but it’s really none of your business. As it relates to infectious disease transmission, your comment seems to imply that vaccinated people don’t spread disease… sorry… but they do.
    If I see someone preparing to release a poison in public, I should ignore it? That is what you are telling me? There is only a difference of degree. You are defending reckless and irresponsible behavior.

    All people spread diseases. Vaccinated people spread far fewer diseases than unvaccinated people. There have been too many cases in the news, lately. The unvaccinated have been causing outbreaks of diseases that were not a problem with higher vaccination rates. People, who have not vaccinated their children, have caused the deaths of children. You think nobody should criticize this?

    Posted by: Rogue Medic | April 8, 2009 10:24 PM
    13
    As for the lack of anesthesia: could this possibly be something she asked for? Aren’t there some people who are afraid of general anesthesia and will avoid it if possible?

    Posted by: sff | April 8, 2009 10:31 PM
    14
    Pheo wrote;

    “This morning, someone brought up Farrah Fawcett in our tumor board and our radiation oncologist who was trained at UCLA said, “Celebrities often get poor medical care.” What he meant was that medical professionals sometimes get star struck and fail to advocate for the patients’ best interests.”

    “Sometimes people ask me to give special attention to a specimen from a VIP, and I tell them that I give the best care to everyone, and that if I deviate from my usual routine, the person may get substandard care.”

    That’s and interesting insight into human nature. I had never realized that there “could” be a “VIP Factor” in administering treatment to patients.

    “As much as I hate to admit a mistake, I was probably wrong about the cause of Fawcett’s recent complication. It probably was not due to woo, at least, as far as I can tell based on more research.”

    “Either my mad Google skillz failed me, or I was just too lazy to scroll through a sufficient number of screens to find additional information that would have brought the most likely answer.”

    See, this Google really can stimulate the A.D.D. trait in all of us. As information technology advances we become less and less patient and sometimes careless.

    You had the answer, then you started looking for the information to support it.

    To err is human…
    Posted by: Ben Dover | April 8, 2009 11:29 PM
    15
    Whilst I think I understand what you are saying here, can’t the same be said of those that question the conflicting authority of a body that is responsible for not only maintaining vaccine uptake but ALSO ensuring safety? Why is this a stretch?
    Actually, it’s mostly the FDA that’s responsible for the vaccine safety since they handle the licensing.

    Posted by: Joseph C. | April 8, 2009 11:51 PM
    16
    Ben Dover,

    There have been several papers written on VIP medicine. All that I have seen have focused on the problems. There was an excellent paper by a flight surgeon. I don’t remember the name of the doctor, but it was a military journal. I had saved it to a computer, but that computer died and I had not backed it up.

    He wrote about several cases. One was an officer (General, or equivalent in another service), who went for physicals, but was considered to be of too high a rank to be put through the discourtesy of a prostate exam (digital rectal exam). A while later, after the prostate cancer had metastasized, he had symptoms that caused him to be referred to a specialist. At that point, there was nothing the specialist could do to significantly change the outcome. An earlier prostate exam, while unpleasant, could have been life saving.

    This is the biggest problem for VIPs. They are not treated the same as everyone else. They are sometimes treated worse. The fear of offending, or inconveniencing, or over-scheduling, . . . . Not that VIPs are any better at listening to medical advice, but sometimes they are deprived of what the average person takes for granted. Because they are too good for that.

    When President Reagan was shot, he tried to put everyone at ease about treating him. If he had insisted on special care, things might have turned out much worse for him.

    The deaths of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley have been attributed to having care provided by doctors no longer familiar with the then current care of bullet wounds. the doctors caring for them were more involved in trying to do something. If these presidents had not been VIPs, they would have been more likely to have received care from someone much more familiar with then current trauma treatment. Some speculate that all would have survived, although Lincoln probably would have had severe neurological deficits.

    There are patients who will insist that the doctor start their IV. many doctors have not started an IV since they were residents. They start central lines, but that is a very different technique. The nurse will generally do a better job at starting the IV. We have this need to have the best, we just do not really know how to evaluate what is best. We assume that best at one thing means best at everything.

    It is often when we deviate from the routine, that we run into problems.

    Posted by: Rogue Medic | April 9, 2009 1:58 AM
    17
    Rogue Medic,

    The difference, between the scientific community and these anti-science cults, is that the scientific community will report their own errors publicly. The scientific community will check on the work of others to look for problems. The scientific community will not accept fraud, although they may be temporarily deceived by it.
    I don’t know that I entirely agree with the word cult in this context. Most of the people that I encounter all appreciate Science. I think we’d be a bit naive if we hoist Science upon some sort of pedestal as if those that actually apply Science regularly weren’t subject to compromise by conflict.

    There is clear evidence of the overwhelming benefit and safety of vaccines. Compare the death and illness rates from before the introduction of vaccines with after their widespread use…Millions of lives are saved by vaccines each year.
    Most of the risk benefit analyses I’ve seen relate to cost. I do not disagree that some vaccines are fairly effective at reducing illness that is endemic. Disease incidence is a tricky thing, and this kind of statistic is ripe to be abused. Mortality, to a degree, is as well. But at least prior to vaccine use this statistic can actually be measured somewhat accurately, and in most cases mortality was declining prior to the introduction of the vaccine (too many variables to isolate the reason for this). Your last statement is a bit of a strawman… and a lot of conjecture.

    Provide some evidence of error correction on the side of anti-science. One of the reasons they are anti-science is that they do not learn from their mistakes.
    I’m not even sure how to address your request. I think plenty of people are bull-headed and incapable of letting go of their beliefs. When people project their beliefs upon another, if they are presented as beliefs, they needn’t be based on fact.

    If I see someone preparing to release a poison in public, I should ignore it? That is what you are telling me? There is only a difference of degree. You are defending reckless and irresponsible behavior.
    We are talking about how someone, responsible for their own decisions, cares for themselves. The difference is rather exponential. I’m not defending reckless behavior, I’m defending a person’s right to choose the modality they see fit to treat themselves. Trying to control the free will of others is more than irresponsible, it’s reprehensible – it’s not another’s decision to make… doesn’t matter whether you agree with it or not.

    All people spread diseases. Vaccinated people spread far fewer diseases than unvaccinated people. There have been too many cases in the news, lately. The unvaccinated have been causing outbreaks of diseases that were not a problem with higher vaccination rates. People, who have not vaccinated their children, have caused the deaths of children. You think nobody should criticize this?
    Vaccinated people simply don’t show symptoms, due to the vaccine. Being subclinical is not the same as NOT spreading disease. If an attending ER physician is met with a child that is not showing classic pertussis symptoms, they won’t look for it and sometimes won’t even consider it due to vaccination status. That’s irresponsible and reckless, somehow this appears to be ok. Outbreak of disease happens in both populations of the herd and always have. Vaccine failures occur all the time. You seem to be under the impression that vaccines don’t cause injury or death in susceptible populations (that appear to be growing due to numerous confounders)… and people don’t seem to care about any of those children. Do you think [other] people shouldn’t criticise this?

    @Joseph

    Actually, it’s mostly the FDA that’s responsible for the vaccine safety since they handle the licensing.
    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=c1305c860d37147d5485b0236ae5d630;rgn=div5;view=text;node=21%3A7.0.1.1.1;idno=21;cc=ecfr
    Regulatory oversight is codified in the CFR Title 21. The word safety is defined as “the relative freedom from harmful effect to persons affected, directly or indirectly, by a product when prudently administered, taking into consideration the character of the product in relation to the condition of the recipient at the time.”

    Purity is defined as: “relative freedom from extraneous matter in the finished product, whether or not harmful to the recipient or deleterious to the product. Purity includes but is not limited to relative freedom from residual moisture or other volatile substances and pyrogenic substances.”

    Pretty ambiguous no?

    Adverse events are outlined in 600.80, and waivers appear to be granted during all phases of study and beyond while the vaccine maker gets to choose whether the adverse event that occurred was actually due to the vaccine. Without knowing which manufacturer applied for a waiver, especially during the post-marketing surveillance, it’s fairly impossible to determine with any degree of accuracy what adverse events may or may not follow. AND, those events are anecdotal… leaving the coincidental door open indefinitely does not help convince the masses that these products are well tested.
    Posted by: anon | April 9, 2009 10:32 AM
    18
    To Rogue Medic

    Interesting, thanks for the feedback.

    Ben Dover

    Posted by: Ben Dover | April 9, 2009 1:06 PM
    19
    anon,

    Most of the risk benefit analyses I’ve seen relate to cost. I do not disagree that some vaccines are fairly effective at reducing illness that is endemic. Disease incidence is a tricky thing, and this kind of statistic is ripe to be abused. Mortality, to a degree, is as well. But at least prior to vaccine use this statistic can actually be measured somewhat accurately, and in most cases mortality was declining prior to the introduction of the vaccine (too many variables to isolate the reason for this). Your last statement is a bit of a strawman… and a lot of conjecture.
    I have not looked at the financial cost of vaccines. What price do you put on health? Vaccines are the safest route to preserving health.

    You claim that the incidence of disease was declining prior to the introduction of vaccines. Polio was clearly not declining, but increasing. We can only speculate at what direction the polio rate might have headed without the introduction of vaccines.

    The number of cases per year from 1944 to 1973 was:

    1944 – – – 19,029

    1945 – – – 13,624

    1946 – – – 25,698

    1947 – – – 10,827

    1948 – – – 27,726

    1949 – – – 42,033

    1950 – – – 33,300

    1951 – – – 28,386

    1952 – – – 57,879

    1953 – – – 35,592

    1954 – – – 38,476

    1955 – – – 28,985 Salk vaccine licensed.

    1956 – – – 15,140

    1957- – – – 5,485

    1958- – – – 5,787

    1959- – – – 8,425

    1960- – – – 3,190

    1961- – – – 1,312 Sabin vaccine licensed.

    1962- – – – – 910

    1963- – – – – 449

    1964- – – – – 122

    1965 – – – – – 72

    1966- – – – – 113

    1967 – – – – – 41

    1968 – – – – – 53

    1969 – – – – – 20

    1970 – – – – – 33

    1971 – – – – – 21

    1972 – – – – – 31

    1973- – – – – – 8

    After 1973 there were never more than 34 cases on a year.

    The current rate in the US is zero.

    Jenny McCarthy says she wants to change that. She doesn’t think that the vaccines are safe enough. She is dangerous to children everywhere.

    From the CDC:

    table of notifiable diseases 1964-1973
    .

    table of notifiable diseases 1954-1963
    .

    table of notifiable diseases 1944-1953
    .

    I do not see any reason to expect that incidence of this illness would suddenly decrease at the same time as the introduction of the polio vaccine. Look at what the polio vaccine does to the human body. It creates antibodies. Antibodies protect against the spread of disease.

    While Dr. Salk did state that after 1961 most of the cases of polio in the US were due to the vaccine. He was referring to the live vaccine. The live vaccine did cause cases of polio. We went from tens of thousands of cases of polio per year without a vaccine to tens of cases with the vaccine. Eventually the Sabin live vaccine was eliminated in the US. While polio is a horrible side effect from a vaccine, what parent make the choice to avoid the vaccine and have a much greater chance of a natural polio infection? There have been about 2,000 cases of polio in the US, in the almost 50 years after 1961. That is fewer than any single year before that.

    How many of these cases were due to the live vaccine? I do not know. Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin were very critical of each other. Did Dr. Salk exaggerate? Maybe. As a parent, you could get the killed vaccine, get boosters, and not have to worry about the remote possibility of infection from the live vaccine.

    Look at the rest of the world. The only places that have cases of polio are places that have problems with vaccination. These problems are due to people discouraging the use of vaccines. Polio should have been eliminated years ago, but those preaching against vaccines have prevented polio eradication.

    There are still a few thousand cases of polio each year. This is due to the anti-vaccine movement. The preaching in these countries is not about autism, but about decreased fertility and about infection with AIDS. Why don’t the anti-vaccine preachers in the US use these claims? Just different politics. Fertility and AIDS are much more politically sensitive concerns for parents there. Here autism is the big politically sensitive concern, so Jenny preaches autism. Jenny makes a lot of money preaching autism, too.

    There is no science to support the belief that vaccines cause AIDS.

    There is no science to support the belief that vaccines cause decreased fertility.

    There is no science to support the belief that vaccines cause autism.

    There is a lot of money to be made preaching that vaccines cause autism.

    What about smallpox. There is an unimportant disease that was going away on its own. While Dr. Jenner did not test the vaccine in a way that was even close to ethical, the result is not something to discard, just because of unethical origins. If you are looking for a vaccine with danger written all over it, smallpox is your vaccine. The process is nasty. It leaves a scar. The side effects are so severe that the anti-vaccine crowd would be ranting and raving about the extreme dangers.

    They would be partying like it’s 999, or some other date from the Dark Ages. Well, those that would not have been killed off by diseases would be partying. Then again, maybe they would realize that these risks are really not so bad, considering what they protect against.

    Life expectancy back in 999? A time which Jenny McCarthy seems to think is better than now. Jenny McCarthy has already lived beyond the average life expectancy for that time. Part of the reason for her long life, which is not long in modern terms? Vaccines.

    It is only in the current everything must be risk-free world that we make the mistake of choosing to avoid the protection from disease, because of a risk that is not real.

    Posted by: Rogue Medic | April 9, 2009 2:00 PM
    20
    Pheo wrote: “What he meant was that medical professionals sometimes get star struck and fail to advocate for the patients’ best interests.”

    I think the problem is more that the woo doctors know how to prey on the celebs (with their deep pockets) by playing up the “what I do is special, what the other doctors do is common”.

    It’s the same way that high-end spas sell their snake oil. “Angelina Jolie, you simply *must* try our mongoose pus facial!”

    If you want the big bucks from celebrities, as a doctor or a massage therapist, you need to cater to their vanity and self-importance.

    Posted by: Jon H | April 9, 2009 10:51 PM
    21
    Anon,

    That bait and switch won’t work with me. In fact, your link just gives further detail to what I said: The FDA regulates vaccine safety.

    Conspiracy theory fail.

    Posted by: Joseph C. | April 10, 2009 12:44 AM
    22
    Rogue Medic,

    I have not looked at the financial cost of vaccines. What price do you put on health? Vaccines are the safest route to preserving health.
    I’m referring to the numerous cost/benefit analyses that discuss economical suffering (work missed, hospital usage, etc…) I’ve not tried to put a price on health, have you a suggestion? Can you please support your final statement with evidence?

    You claim that the incidence of disease was declining prior to the introduction of vaccines.
    No, I did not. I stated that *mortality* had declined. Incidence is open to interpretation, best I can tell.

    Polio was clearly not declining, but increasing. We can only speculate at what direction the polio rate might have headed without the introduction of vaccines.
    There is more obfuscation, smoke/mirrors and downright confusion surrounding polio than can even be addressed in a single post. Bringing it up says an awful lot to those paying attention… not to mention, it’s a stellar strawman.

    Jenny McCarthy says she wants to change that. She doesn’t think that the vaccines are safe enough. She is dangerous to children everywhere.
    I have no opinion of her. Amplifying another’s inadequacies is probably not the best approach to reach the public.

    As for the rest of your post, well, you’re all over the place. Bouncing from stats, to history, to polio, to smallpox… I don’t see how this somehow puts your opposing view into the Dark Ages? Context. Confounders.

    Humans have undergone a wide variety of changes over the last 20,000 years. The life span of the ancient human revolved around whether or not he’d wake to one less limb in the morning. Reducing the entire human race to unlimited vaccination based upon the unintended, and rather harsh, consequences of domestication is about as unscientific as you can get.

    @Joseph,

    Bait and switch? Please… do elaborate. You stated that the FDA regulates safety. I supported your assertion for you, and outlined the problems therein. To bait, would be your original post… to switch, would be your second.

    Posted by: anon | April 10, 2009 1:52 AM
    23
    anon,

    No other means of attempting to preserve health prevent as many instances of disease. Historical Comparisons of Morbidity and Mortality for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the United States.

    You want mortality data? Here is mortality data.

    There is more obfuscation, smoke/mirrors and downright confusion surrounding polio than can even be addressed in a single post. Bringing it up says an awful lot to those paying attention… not to mention, it’s a stellar strawman.
    How is vaccination against polio not a tremendous success?

    To those paying attention, bringing up polio should demonstrate the effectiveness of vaccines. You prefer to ise innuendo to suggest that there is a problem, when there is not.

    How is describing this success a strawman? A stellar strawman? Do you even know what a strawman is?

    Jenny McCarthy says she wants to change that. She doesn’t think that the vaccines are safe enough. She is dangerous to children everywhere.
    I have no opinion of her. Amplifying another’s inadequacies is probably not the best approach to reach the public.
    No opinion? :-)

    When the ridiculous person is endangering others it is necessary to point out the problems with the source of the dangerous information. She is certainly not relying on science.

    As for the rest of your post, well, you’re all over the place. Bouncing from stats, to history, to polio, to smallpox… I don’t see how this somehow puts your opposing view into the Dark Ages? Context. Confounders.
    I showed some of the successful history of vaccines.

    I showed some of the ways the anti-vaccine movement is reversing that history.

    I referred to Jenny Measles McCarthy’s quote about bringing back diseases. Of course, you state that you have no opinion of her.

    Humans have undergone a wide variety of changes over the last 20,000 years. The life span of the ancient human revolved around whether or not he’d wake to one less limb in the morning. Reducing the entire human race to unlimited vaccination based upon the unintended, and rather harsh, consequences of domestication is about as unscientific as you can get.
    You criticize me for bringing up history, then you go back 20,000 years? You seem to view our current living conditions as worse than 20,000 years ago. Average life expectancy was what? 25 years?

    The life span of the ancient human revolved around whether or not he’d wake to one less limb in the morning.

    See one less limb in the morning? They did not have limbs wander off on their own. Are you referring to infection, animal attack, accident, . . . ? What is this supposed to do, other than distract from the absence of valid scientific criticism of vaccines?

    There is no reducing through vaccination. Vaccination is an improvement. Vaccination helps people to be healthier. Vaccination strengthens the immune system. Why do you want people to have inadequate immune systems? Opposing vaccination endangers people. Opposing vaccination kills people.

    We have evolved the ability to use our minds to protect us from illnesses. The prodisease movement is discouraging us from using that intelligence to help people.

    …immunization can be credited with saving approximately 9 million lives a year worldwide. A further 16 million deaths a year could be prevented if effective vaccines were deployed against all potentially vaccine-preventable diseases.

    Vaccines save millions of lives.

    Posted by: Rogue Medic | April 10, 2009 11:59 AM
    24
    Rogue Medic,

    I’ve seen the 2007 JAMA/Roush piece. Do you have a different one that’s not affiliated with the CDC? I mean, the CDC is responsible for ensuring uptake, and within that piece are numerous suppositions that are not entirely supported.

    A strawman is the deflection or verbal attack of a topic (such as the decline of *non-specific* disease incidence) by creating another… (a specific disease decline), that cannot be proven, as a diversion. Especially when that disease carried with it a shift in diagnostic criteria that effectively changed history with the stroke of a pen.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have an opinion of Jenny McCarthy, there appear to be more than enough people to make up for me lacking though don’t you think?

    You criticize me for bringing up history, then you go back 20,000 years? You seem to view our current living conditions as worse than 20,000 years ago. Average life expectancy was what? 25 years?
    Apologies, perhaps you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I was addressing the vast array of topics you were covering… if in fact you are going to address history, you have to address all of it. You are assuming poor health (or lack of access to vaccines) is the reason for the reduction in life expectancy. Evolutionary speedbumps do in fact catch up with you sooner or later. The introduction of foods that had not been available, the domestication of humans, predators, etc… I simply asked that you keep it all in context, because you aren’t.

    Vaccination is an improvement. Vaccination helps people to be healthier. Vaccination strengthens the immune system. Why do you want people to have inadequate immune systems? Opposing vaccination endangers people. Opposing vaccination kills people.
    You cannot demonstrate that vaccinated people are healthier than their non-vaccinated contemporaries. You cannot demonstrate that vaccination strengthens the immune system any better than natural exposure, or that vaccinated people have stronger immune systems than their unvaccinated peers. You cannot demonstrate that unvaccinated people pose any more of a danger to people than vaccinated (I’d prefer a proper presentation of symptoms…as opposed to an atypical response). Please explain how the use of a mathematical model fits within an evidence based position?

    What is this supposed to do, other than distract from the absence of valid scientific criticism of vaccines?
    I’m not sure I understand what you mean here. I was referring to a nocturnal predator. All too often people discuss how short lived our ancestors were, forgetting where their presence was on the food chain and how humans began to change the environment. (Artificial light, agriculture, etc…) If we are to accurately address the growing susceptibility of the human race, these factors cannot be ignored, to do so would be unscientific.

    Of course the human brain has evolved, did I imply it hadn’t? It’s also grown in size and results in neonates being born gestationally early (I’ve seen it published that gestational maturity should be 21 months)… yet we seem content to vaccinate a human infant during those first 21 months pretty excessively.

    Posted by: anon | April 13, 2009 1:26 PM

  3. #3 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    June 26, 2009

    Did anyone else notice that there is no possible way to prove the numbers that RM uses at the end of his last post?

    “Science” has given us HRT and other mistakes by the thousand. Research papers found to be fabrications and corrupt every single year. Scientific conclusions overturned the year after they were published.

    And yet here at “scienceblogs,” the word and concept carry a mystical infallibility which prohibits rational discussion of ideas and experiences not provable by “science.”

    Best,

    Jay

  4. #4 Michael Ralston
    June 26, 2009

    No, Dr Jay, I can’t see Rogue Medic’s last post there, because you completely mangled the formatting, -and- didn’t indicate where this thread was.

    Which means that all you have provided is a mangled wall of text combining what several different people have said, and no way to tell who said what.

    So, no, I didn’t notice anything, except that you are as incompetent with technology as you were with your understanding of chelation.

  5. #5 Chris
    June 26, 2009

    What was that display of cut and paste insanity supposed to convey?

    Dr. Gordon, you are a pediatrician, not an oncologist, surely you have not had to deal with the Fawcett/Ryan family for several years (their son is an adult)… why the outburst?

    I am going to speculate that it is one of two things:

    1) You are very upset at the loss of a friend.

    2) Someone is pretending to be you, with ill intent.

    It has been a sad couple of week for many of us who are baby boomers. First it was David Carradine, then the woman posted on many a dorm wall; Farrah Fawcett… and finally Michael Jackson… who many of us baby boombers remember when he was a talented Motown black artist.

  6. #6 Richard Eis
    June 26, 2009

    You really need to put word limits on your posting Orac…and i’m certainly not going to read anything that long after having to put up with Happeh recently.

  7. #7 LW
    June 26, 2009

    Here is the post from which Doctor Gordon cut and pasted the comments.

  8. #8 LW
    June 26, 2009

    Interesting that Doctor “I’m not anti-vaccine” Gordon focused on the anti-vaccine comments that he found so exceedingly convincing (I don’t find them so, but then I’m not anti-vaccine), but he didn’t have anything to say about this topic, also discussed in those comments: “medical professionals sometimes get star struck and fail to advocate for the patients’ best interests.” Not that I know of any medical professionals like that, of course.

  9. #9 Rogue Medic
    June 26, 2009

    anon,

    Rogue Medic,

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I did not notice this reply. That does not mean that you made any sensible arguments in your comment.

    I’ve seen the 2007 JAMA/Roush piece. Do you have a different one that’s not affiliated with the CDC? I mean, the CDC is responsible for ensuring uptake, and within that piece are numerous suppositions that are not entirely supported.

    The CDC is the agency that deals with epidemics. There is no reason not to accept this study. The CDC are the experts.

    Do you have any studies that refute the data?

    What suppositions are not entirely supported? You make vague accusations, but do not provide anything to support these claims. How about some data?

    A strawman is the deflection or verbal attack of a topic (such as the decline of *non-specific* disease incidence) by creating another… (a specific disease decline), that cannot be proven, as a diversion.

    Using information on a specific disease as an example of something that happens in other specific diseases, which together make up *non-specific* disease incidence, is not a straw man, it is an example.

    Creating a false argument to knock it down, that is a straw man. That is what you are doing.

    Especially when that disease carried with it a shift in diagnostic criteria that effectively changed history with the stroke of a pen.

    Are you suggesting that polio is still a problem in the US?

    Are you really suggesting that the absence of polio is due to a change in diagnostic criteria?

    Or are you suggesting that polio was not a real disease, that is was just something that was due to different diagnostic criteria? Please provide some evidence that polio was not a tremendous success for vaccination.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have an opinion of Jenny McCarthy, there appear to be more than enough people to make up for me lacking though don’t you think?

    No. We should all oppose her dangerous nonsense.

    You criticize me for bringing up history, then you go back 20,000 years? You seem to view our current living conditions as worse than 20,000 years ago. Average life expectancy was what? 25 years?

    Apologies, perhaps you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I was addressing the vast array of topics you were covering… if in fact you are going to address history, you have to address all of it.

    First, I am including too much information, now I am not including enough.

    You are assuming poor health (or lack of access to vaccines) is the reason for the reduction in life expectancy.

    You do not know if I am assuming anything. You do not know what I am thinking. Vaccination is one important reason for the improvement in life expectancy.

    Science in general is the main reason for the improvement in life expectancy. Improved sanitation, such as the use of sewage systems to avoid diseases transmitted in drinking water. Cholera is the main example here. Cholera was blamed on miasma by the 19th century equivalent of the anti-vaccine mob. They ignored the evidence that it is a water-borne illness and blamed it on bad air.

    The miasma believers fought against changes to the drinking water and delayed measures that would have prevented thousands of deaths. Just as the anti-vaccination mob do.

    One of the prominent miasma proponents, William Cheswick, actually ordered that human waste be dumped into the Thames, where some of the water companies obtained their drinking water. This led to the deaths of thousands, who would not have acquired cholera otherwise, by spreading what should have been just a local outbreak of cholera.

    Perhaps the modern equivalent would be Dr. Gould with his irresponsible preaching of anti-vaccination anti-science to parents. Eventually, some of these parents will come after Dr. Gould in court and it will be clear to all but the craziest of the anti-vaccine mob that vaccines are good for children. Avoiding vaccines kills.

    Evolutionary speedbumps do in fact catch up with you sooner or later.

    Evolutionary speedbumps?

    Have you been listening to Jenny explain science?

    What is an evolutionary speedbumps?

    Do we need to slow evolution down, when approaching one of these?

    The introduction of foods that had not been available, the domestication of humans, predators, etc… I simply asked that you keep it all in context, because you aren’t.

    You were the one criticizing me for giving too much information. Now you want to criticize me for not giving enough. I never denied that science was important in improving the life expectancy of humans. One of the important parts of science is the prevention of disease. Some of that is through the use of vaccines.

    Smallpox used to kill. Not any more.

    Smallpox didn’t just kill a little bit, but an outbreak would kill large percentages of the population.

    Sanitation?

    No.

    Antibiotics?

    No.

    A change in diagnostic criteria?

    No.

    None of your means of misdirection and innuendo will help you explain this away. Where are the current smallpox cases? Enough people have been vaccinated, that we no longer have to use the vaccine. All of you vaccines are evil people need to accept that your actions increase the amount of time that people need to take vaccines. Your spreading of disease delays eradication of diseases.

    You are killing children by your lies.

    Vaccination is an improvement. Vaccination helps people to be healthier. Vaccination strengthens the immune system. Why do you want people to have inadequate immune systems? Opposing vaccination endangers people. Opposing vaccination kills people.

    You cannot demonstrate that vaccinated people are healthier than their non-vaccinated contemporaries.

    Vaccinated people are infected with vaccine preventable diseases at a much lower rate than those who are not vaccinated.

    Those who are not vaccinated are protected from the risks of vaccination, but that risk is tiny compared to the risk of the actual disease.

    You cannot demonstrate that vaccination strengthens the immune system any better than natural exposure,

    The vaccine does not strengthen the immune system more than natural exposure, so you may mislead people into thinking that means that immunization does not strengthen the immune system better than natural exposure.

    Of course vaccination strengthens the immune system better than natural exposure.

    Natural exposure has a risk of death that is thousands of time higher than vaccines.

    Thousands of times higher.

    or that vaccinated people have stronger immune systems than their unvaccinated peers.

    The immune system that has antibodies to more illnesses is stronger.

    If you believe that natural exposure is better, remember that the risk of death is thousands of time higher. Then there is the risk of permanent disability. That does not even include the inconvenience to the child. Who tortures their children by sickening them? Why do you defend this abuse?

    You cannot demonstrate that unvaccinated people pose any more of a danger to people than vaccinated (I’d prefer a proper presentation of symptoms…as opposed to an atypical response). Please explain how the use of a mathematical model fits within an evidence based position?

    Nice doubletalk.

    Outbreaks depend on the drop in the level of immunity below a certain level. That level is different for each disease. Read the newspapers. Read the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report). These describe the recent outbreaks.

    Outbreaks are due to a lack of vaccination.

    What is this supposed to do, other than distract from the absence of valid scientific criticism of vaccines?

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean here.

    There is no valid scientific criticism of vaccines.

    I was referring to a nocturnal predator. All too often people discuss how short lived our ancestors were, forgetting where their presence was on the food chain and how humans began to change the environment. (Artificial light, agriculture, etc…) If we are to accurately address the growing susceptibility of the human race, these factors cannot be ignored, to do so would be unscientific.

    Vaccines are an important part of the increase in life expectancy. Or are you going to pretend that vaccines do not save millions of live each year?

    Of course the human brain has evolved, did I imply it hadn’t?

    Of course you did. You suggested that we ignore the improvement in disease prevention that is vaccination.

    This is progress due to the evolution of the brain.

    You fight progress.

    It’s also grown in size and results in neonates being born gestationally early (I’ve seen it published that gestational maturity should be 21 months)… yet we seem content to vaccinate a human infant during those first 21 months pretty excessively.

    Golly gee.

    We don’t stay in the womb long enough. We should all be dead due to the shock. Or due to the lack of amniotic fluid. Or some other silly nonsense. This is ridiculous.

    Children receive many vaccines at a young age because the desire is to protect them before they are exposed to vaccine preventable diseases.

    Children would not need to be vaccinated as much if the anti-vaccination anti-science mob would stop lying to parents about the risks of vaccines.

    There are risks.

    The risks are much less than the risks of not vaccinating.

    The risks do not include autism.

    Even if autism were a risk, autism is not worse than death.

    Vaccines are much safer than disease.

  10. #10 AnnR
    June 26, 2009
  11. #11 Orac
    June 26, 2009

    Dr. Jay,

    The next time you want to do something like that, please try to make sure that it’s easier to differentiate which is the quoted text that you are responding to and what is yours. I gave up reading that gamish of quotes from two months ago and your responses. I have no idea why you went through to do that, but it’s damned confusing and your arguments are, if anything, even less coherent than in the past.

  12. #12 Orac
    June 26, 2009

    “Science” has given us HRT and other mistakes by the thousand. Research papers found to be fabrications and corrupt every single year. Scientific conclusions overturned the year after they were published.

    And yet here at “scienceblogs,” the word and concept carry a mystical infallibility which prohibits rational discussion of ideas and experiences not provable by “science.”

    Ah, yes, the “science was wrong before” canard:

    http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/11/science_wrong.html

    http://www.skeptics.org.uk/article.php?dir=articles&article=science_has_been_wrong_before.php

    Dr. Jay, here’s the problem. Science may be wrong, but it is self-correcting. As I’ve said before, it may take a lot longer than we would like, but ultimately science corrects its mistakes in the face of new evidence.

    This is in marked contrast to the alternative medicine movement in general, and the antivaccine movement in particular, and you specifically. No matter how much evidence we present, no matter how many times we tell and show you how easy it is to be mislead by anecdotes and personal clinical experience, you continue to believe that your personal observations trump science, clinical trials, and epidemiology. Nothing changes your mind, or, if it does, it doesn’t change your actions.

    In fact, let’s test that. You said that you were starting to appreciate that chelation therapy for autism had no evidence to support its efficacy and could be dangerous. Have you started telling that to the parents of your autistic patients who say they’re chelating their children? Have you started advising them against it? Have you stopped pandering to their fears and stepped up to the plate to advise them as a doctor should?

  13. #13 Mu
    June 26, 2009

    Dr. Jay is switching to WWI tactics; just throw so much at them that they get overrun. In this case, not because we run out of bullets but because we get bored trying to take his incoherent and inconsistent posts apart. So he gets to have the last word and “wins”.

  14. #14 Dangerous Bacon
    June 26, 2009

    I was disappointed (sort of) to see that Mike Adams and the loon crew over at Natural News haven’t yet jumped to exploit either Farrah’s or Michael Jackson’s death. As compensation, though, we get an incoherent outpouring from Dr. Jay.

    Whatever are you on about? There’s not enough coffee in the world to make it feasible to sift through all that for relevancy.

    Except that “science has been wrong before so I’m going to toss out the parts I don’t like and substitute anecdotes” is no more valid now than it was before.

    Have you posted your change of heart about chelation on your website yet?

  15. #15 Basiorana
    June 26, 2009

    Orac, I know you usually don’t delete opposing viewpoints and I respect that. But can you make an exception for Dr. Jay’s one very long post– not because it’s in opposition, but because it seems to be irrelevant to Fawcett’s death or her alternative cancer cures (hard to tell from the length) and because it’s so long that it makes reading these comments very challenging? Even just changing it to a link to the comments thread in question would be great, so people could still read what he wanted to say but we wouldn’t have to scroll down over it in this unrelated thread.

  16. #16 Raging Bee
    June 26, 2009

    “Science” has given us HRT and other mistakes by the thousand.

    Okay…so what alternative to “‘science'” can you offer that gives us better results without the mistakes? And what corrective or self-corrective measures does this alternative employ for quality control?

    The above quoted sentence is, basically, nothing more than the obstinate protests of a spoiled child who takes all the good things he sees for granted (to the point where he doesn’t really see them at all), thinks the bad things are all that exist, and hates life for sucking so much.

  17. #17 D. C. Sessions
    June 26, 2009

    Oh, wowsers.

    I think we’re witnessing a process we’ve discussed but not actually documented previously: the descent from crackpottery into full-blown qurankery [1].

    [1] You read it here first: it’s a portmanteau neologism combining “quack” and “crank.”

  18. #18 bluefoot
    June 26, 2009

    D.C. – you forgot “wank”

  19. #19 Mu
    June 26, 2009

    Would that make it Quwankery?

  20. #20 D. C. Sessions
    June 26, 2009

    It looks like linear spelling isn’t going to be enough.

    Maybe it’s time for a Respectful Insolence crossword? I wonder if there’s a crossword wiki that we could collaborate on. Google Spreadsheets, maybe?

  21. #21 PsyberDave
    June 26, 2009

    Dr Jay,

    Regarding
    “Science” has given us HRT and other mistakes by the thousand. Research papers found to be fabrications and corrupt every single year. Scientific conclusions overturned the year after they were published.

    And yet here at “scienceblogs,” the word and concept carry a mystical infallibility which prohibits rational discussion of ideas and experiences not provable by “science.”

    You seem to imply (and clarify if it isn’t what you are implying) that the products of science (or science altogether) should not be trusted or should even be discarded because there have been mistakes in the past.

    If this is what you are saying, my question is, what would you use instead? Presumably you would replace it with something you think is better. What is better?

    If you are saying that scientific findings should not be revered as absolute truth because they are fallible, then you will not get argument here. But that is also so painfully obvious to scientists that it isn’t worth mentioning. It seems like something a non-scientist, or anti-scientist would say.

    Regarding “ideas and experiences not provable by ‘science.'”, I find this to be a highly suspect notion. Sure there are topics that cannot readily be explored by the scientific method, but they aren’t usually in the realm of medicine. It is usually the realm of supernatural where the claim is that a phenomenon cannot be detected (but somehow people know about it anyway). If a medicine has an effect, the effect can be measured. If no effect is observed, it may be because the test wasn’t sensitive or the effect was measured incorrectly or the effect doesn’t exist.

    Non scientists who cling to claims that are unsupported sometimes resent science for failing to detect that which they claim exists. They say it exists, but science can’t be used to detect it. Maybe. But probably not, especially if the investigation has been earnest and thorough. Mostly, I think it is an excuse and a means to preserve a belief they want to maintain.

    Why should a person know something to be true through casual experience, but then they cannot find the same knowledge though careful, controlled study? After all, it can be said that that is all science is; careful observation with steps taken to minimize falsely accepting that something exists when it in fact does not.

    I think many people do not understand science. Some seem to think that doing things scientifically somehow makes phenomena disappear or that science can’t be used to make observations that a regular person can make. Frankly, Dr. Jay, you sound like one of them when you talk about things that are “not provable by science”. I am curious what you think is not provable by science.

  22. #22 Patient
    June 26, 2009

    It is sad that this beautiful woman is dead, and all this egotistical maniac Dr. Jay can do it hijack a posting devoted to honoring her memory and providing a bit of insight into the tragedy of her circumstances.

    By their actions you shall know them– and NOT by their “theories”.

    RIP Ms. Fawcett and thank you, Orac for you coverage of her case.

  23. #23 Dangerous Bacon
    June 26, 2009

    Maybe we can reserve the term “qurankery” for woo practiced by Muslim alties.

  24. #24 Rogue Medic
    July 1, 2009

    Dr. Gordon,

    Did anyone else notice that there is no possible way to prove the numbers that RM uses at the end of his last post?

    Please, be a bit more specific about the numbers you are referring to. I am not great at cut and paste, either. Please do something to point out your point.

    “Science” has given us HRT and other mistakes by the thousand. Research papers found to be fabrications and corrupt every single year. Scientific conclusions overturned the year after they were published.

    And the reason you are aware of this is because science corrects its mistakes. The wonderful wackiness of Wakefield would be nothing more than a rumor, if we were to rely on the anti-vaccination mob to correct their errors.

    Science self-corrects.

    Anti-science covers up its mistakes and changes the subject.

    And yet here at “scienceblogs,” the word and concept carry a mystical infallibility which prohibits rational discussion of ideas and experiences not provable by “science.”

    Science is not infallible, but continually corrects its errors, so that the errors are minimized.

    Anti-science is not infallible, but covers up its errors. Anti-science tries to ignore its errors and the only way anti-science minimizes errors is by pretending the errors are unimportant or that they are the result of some conspiracy.

    Science is a conspiracy.

    Science is a conspiracy of people working to minimize bias and a conspiracy of people working to learn the truth, regardless of what that truth is.

    Anti-science is also a conspiracy.

    Anti-science is a conspiracy of ignorance and a conspiracy of deception.

    The difference is important.

    The difference kills.

    Anti-science kills

    Best,

    Jay

    How can you wish people the best, when you are actively misleading them?

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