OK, the title is inaccurate. Kirby is not bound by the same code of ethics as researchers and doctors, so perhaps he’s not unethical. But his latest rant in HuffPo encourages unethical behavior. Honestly, I’m getting tired of writing about this guy, but he just keeps bringing the stupid, and something about that just calls out for a response.
So what’s so horrible about his latest hunk of drivel? Well, first he starts with a blatant misinterpretation of the truth:
It is not accurate for members of the media to report that the link between vaccines and autism has been “disproven.”
Actually, it is quite accurate. Study after study, all well done, have failed to show a link between vaccines and autism (except that they both involve children and Kirby).
But where he really brings the pain is in his call for a study of “vaccinated vs. unvaccinated” kids. First of all, the study has essentially been done, in that we can compare our current statistics with pre-vaccination stats, and we can compare ourselves to countries with poor vaccination rates. Even more useful is the falling vaccine rate and rising disease rate in England, the U.S., and elsewhere, especially with regard to measles. Add that to the studies that show no causation or correlation between autism and vaccines, and it’s a done deal.
More important that that, however, is the horribly unethical nature of the suggestion. A study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children is almost certain to be an ethical nightmare. If you intentionally randomize children to an unvaccinated group, it’s ethically akin to assigning them to a no-seat belt group. If you simply try to enroll groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated children, there are still ethical problems, but also technical problems with validity. If validity problems can be overcome, the final problem will be this: if the results fail to show the results that Kirby, et al wish, they will simply dismiss the data as somehow flawed, just as they have with every other study that has refuted his claims.
His shameless self-promotion is a threat to public health. He should be ashamed.
But of course, he has no shame.