Tag: alternative medicine

Who’s Who in the Anti-Vaccine Movement – 2019 Edition

We know that there will always be some folks who won’t vaccinate their kids.

“Although many may characterize all individuals who eschew vaccines as “anti-vaccine” or “vaccine deniers,” in reality, there is a broad spectrum of individuals who choose not to have themselves or their children vaccinated.”

Tara C Smith on Vaccine Rejection and Hesitancy: A Review and Call to Action 

Who are these people?

Who’s Who in the Anti-Vaccine Movement – 2019 Edition

We used to conveniently call them anti-vaccine, but that doesn’t really work.

Well, it still does, as long as you understand who you are talking about.

The thing is, the folks who don’t vaccinate their kids exist on a spectrum, from those who just need a little extra reassurance (the worrieds) or a lot of extra reassurance (parents who are on the fence or vaccine-hesitant), to vaccine refusers (will likely vaccinate during an outbreak, etc.) and deniers who likely aren’t vaccinating their kids in any circumstance and who might try to persuade others to avoid vaccines too – the vocal vaccine deniers.

So you don’t really want to bunch them all up one big anti-vaccine group, especially when you are typically talking about the vocal vaccine deniers, many of whom believe that they have a child who was injured or damaged by a vaccine.

We are still missing some folks though…

No, I’m not talking about those who like to claim that they are pro-safe vaccines, pro-choice vaccines, or vaccine skeptics, just because they don’t want to be labeled as being anti-vaccine.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Remember when Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?”

We need to talk about the:

These are the folks who push misinformation about vaccines that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Who's to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?
Who’s to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?

Do you know who I’m talking about it? Have you noticed that these folks never seem to face any consequences?

Who else do we need to talk about?

I remember speaking with my mother about vaccines, and at one point in our discussion, she claimed a link existed between vaccines and autism. In response, I presented evidence from the CDC which claimed directly in large bold letters, “There is no link between vaccines and autism.” Within the same article from the CDC on their official website, extensive evidence and studies from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) were cited. Most would assume when confronted with such strong proof, there would be serious consideration that your views are incorrect. This was not the case for my mother, as her only response was, “that’s what they want you to think.”

Ethan Lindenberger

There are also the folks who are pushing an anti-science agenda, making you think that mainstream doctors are bad and that anything holistic and natural must be good. Until the damage these folks are doing is seriously addressed, it won’t matter if we get a few anti-vaccine folks off of Amazon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Learn to be more skeptical. Do real research. Vaccinate your kids.

More on Who’s Who in the Anti-Vaccine Movement – 2019 Edition

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Who do you turn to for health advice?

Even if it’s your pediatrician, with the rise of holistic pediatricians, that doesn’t mean that you are getting good advice.

In general, if the advice you are getting lacks evidence that it is safe and effective, relies on anecdotes and testimonials, and is labeled as ‘alternative,’ then it is a safe bet that it is bad advice.

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Some folks seem to be drawn to this type of advice though.

Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.
Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.

As long as they think it is natural, holistic, and is the opposite of what mainstream health experts say to do, some parents will jump at the chance of trying the latest fad, even if it has no benefits and lots of extra risks.

Take giving your kids raw milk for example. Health experts have been warning about the dangers of drinking raw milk for years and even work to keep selling it outlawed in most communities, but some parents still give it to their young children. This is despite the fact that it has no health benefits and isn’t even fortified with vitamin D!

Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?
Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?

What’s worse than giving your kids raw milk? How about skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot? Although it has no major risks, parents of many anti-vaccine and holistic type Facebook groups on the internet are often encouraged to skip this shot.

The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding because they skipped his vitamin K shot.

How come they never warn folks that their baby might die in agony if they skip the shot? After all, there is a very good reason that we started to give all babies vitamin K shots – to stop vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Just like there is a reason that we started to pasteurize milk – to keep us all from getting critically ill from contaminated milk.

And why we take antibiotics for severe infections, and not essential oils.

“If one gets a cancer diagnosis, they need to detox the toxins that have accumulated in the body, minimize further exposure and boost the immune system to fight the cancer. This is done NATURALLY. Traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system.”

Brandy Vaughan for Learn the Risk

And why we take chemotherapy for cancer, and not coffee enemas.

Mud wraps don't cure liver cancer.
Mud wraps don’t cure liver cancer.

And why most of us don’t think to try chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, reflexology, or other non-evidenced based therapies when our kids are sick.

Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn't need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn’t need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?

Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Why don’t people get rabies very often any more? It’s not because folks are no longer at risk, although the risk is less because dogs and cats are now vaccinated. It is because the vast majority of people get treated if they are exposed to an animal that might have rabies.

Remember when the six-year-old boy in Florida didn’t after touching a rabid bat? He died.

It’s just like the reason kids don’t get stuck by lightning very often. It’s not because lightning doesn’t happen anymore. It’s because we get a lot of warnings about thunderstorms and we know to go inside at the first sign of lightning in the area. Lightning strikes are rare because we take steps to reduce our risk of getting hit.

Why don’t folks get tetanus that much anymore? Again, most people are vaccinated, and they get boosters if they have wounds that puts them at extra risk. While we know what happens when unvaccinated kids are exposed to tetanus and don’t get treated, that isn’t a risk that you will read about on anti-vaccine websites or Facebook groups.

They also don’t tell you that kids in the US still die of diseases like Hib and rotavirus. And there are still measles deaths in the US.

That’s why the great majority of us get vaccinated, because we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and that skipping or delaying any vaccines simply puts our kids at risk to catch one of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent.

What to Know About the Risks of Following Bad Advice

You might get lucky and have a good outcome when you follow bad advice, but you should at least understand the risks of what might go wrong if you truly think you are making an informed decision.

More on the Risks of Following Bad Advice

The New Medical Kidnapping Panic

Adults have the right, both morally and legally, to make decisions about their medical care.

What about kids?

Until they become adults, or are close to becoming adults, their parents or legal guardians have the right to make those decisions for them.

Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

There are situations in which a parent’s rights to make medical decisions for their kids can be contested. In general, you can’t make decisions that will obviously harm or put your child at extra risk.

“In most countries, parents have a legal right to make treatment decisions on behalf of their young children. Such rights are normally rebuttable: they can be set aside by courts where parents’ decisions pose a significant risk to the life or well-being of the child.”

Tim Dare on Parental rights and medical decisions

For example, if a parent continues to refuse antibiotic therapy and hospitalization for a life-threatening infection, like meningitis, then the child’s doctor will likely contact child protection services and get authorization to treat the child anyway.

What if you refuse a meningitis vaccine? Although a bad idea that puts your child at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease, unless your child is in the middle of an epidemic, it is very unlikely that anyone would call child protective services on you. In the situations in which courts have gotten involved in getting kids vaccinated and protected, it was because an unvaccinated child was in foster care for another reason, two parents disagreed about vaccines, or rarely, there was an epidemic and the parents refused to either get vaccinated or stay in quarantine.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that all children deserve effective medical treatment that is likely to prevent substantial harm or suffering or death.”

AAP on Religious Objections to Medical Care

Why do these cases come up, cases which certain folks call medical kidnapping?

“Parents are free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow that they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

Prince v. Massachusetts

It may be that the parents:

  • refused treatment because of religious objections
  • thought that the risks and side effects of the treatment were worse than their child having the disease
  • want to pursue alternative treatments for cancer or other life-threatening conditions, instead of chemotherapy and other standard therapies, especially in situations in which standard therapy has a good chance of success
  • don’t believe the diagnosis is real and are pursuing other treatments that are harming the child
  • want to continue treatments that doctors think have become futile
  • have lost custody of their kids for reasons that have nothing to do with the child’s medical issues and so a legal guardian, which might be the state, is making those decisions now

Fortunately, these situations are not very common, no matter how much some folks try to scare parents that the state is coming to kidnap kids away and force them to get vaccinated or get other treatments. Yes, courts do sometimes have to step in and do what they think is right for a child over a parent’s wishes, but there is no epidemic of doctors or child protective services kidnapping kids.

The New Medical Kidnapping Panic

Although you can sometimes challenge the decisions a parent makes when their kids are sick, and in some cases, ultimately treat their kids in ways that those parents might not agree with, again, you can’t simply take or kidnap a child and do whatever you like.

“Physicians have both a moral obligation and a legal responsibility to question and, if necessary, to contest both the surrogate’s and the patient’s medical decisions if they put the patient at significant risk of serious harm.”

AAP on Informed Consent in Decision-Making in Pediatric Practice

Except in emergencies, overriding a parent’s wishes is usually a long process, involving second opinions, an ethics panel or team, child protective services, and the courts. In most cases, a judge, sometimes after several appeals, decides what will ultimately be done, looking at all of the evidence from both sides.

That the process takes time is evident when you look at the timeline from the legal battle for Alfie Evans. Although most people likely think everything began when the tragic story finally made headlines, a few weeks before his death, it was at least four months earlier that the hospital began “liaising directly with the family after disagreements over his treatment.” And it was four months before that, when Alfie was 13-months-old, that the hospital had first started talking about withdrawing life-support treatment.

It took a hearing before judge in the family division of the high court, three court of appeal judges, a review by supreme court justices, and a review by the judges at the European court of human rights for Alder Hey Children’s hospital to withdraw Alfie’s life-support treatment.

That the process took so much time was missed by those who push the idea of medical kidnapping. These same folks, in the case of Alfie Evans, are also pushing claims of vaccine injury, a plot to illegally harvest organs, a plot to cover up a misdiagnosis and medical neglect by the hospital, a plot to kill him with a lethal injection, and that others had a plan to help him get better.

Many of the same issues were raised in the case of Charlie Gard, an infant who was taken off life support at another UK hospital against his parent’s wishes.

Other cases have included:

What about when doctors disagree on a diagnosis and plan of care? Can parents simply pick which one they prefer?

In most cases you can.

Doctors have different styles and there are often different treatment plans for the same condition. The trouble typically comes when a parent chooses an alternative type treatment that has been shown to not work or is known to be harmful. Or provides treatments a child doesn’t even need.

Tragically, we often don’t hear about these cases until it is too late and the child dies before doctors and courts ever have a chance to intervene. When folks talk about medical kidnapping, they don’t seem to mention kids like:

  • Ezekiel Stephan – died at 19-months because his parents treated his bacterial meningitis with natural remedies, including “water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root”
  • Madeline Kara Neumann – the 11-year-old who died because her parents relied on prayer instead of modern medicine to treat her diabetes
  • Ryan Lovett – the 7-year-old who died with a Strep skin infection that his mother had been treating with “holistic remedies,” allowing it to progress to pneumonia, meningitis, and multiple organ failure
  • Louise Le Moaligou – an 11-month-old who died because her parents treated her pneumonia with “cabbage and clay compressions”
  • Gloria Thomas – died at 9-months because her parents pursued homeopathic remedies for her severe eczema, even as she developed malnutrition and sepsis.
  • Isabella Denley – a 13-month-old with severe seizures who died after her parents opted for alternative treatments over anti-convulsant medications, including a “vibrational kinesiologist, a cranial osteopath and a psychic who told them Isabella was suffering from a past-life trauma.”
  • Cameron Ayres – a 6-month-old who died with a likely inherited metabolic disorder that was treated by a homeopath with vinegar and honey
  • Eliza Jane Scovill – died of AIDS-related pneumonia at age 3-years. Eliza Jane was the daughter of Christine Maggiore, an HIV denialist who advised HIV positive moms to not take preventive antiviral drugs during their pregnancy, the one thing that would have kept Eliza Jane from getting HIV in the first place.
  • Alex Radita – the 15-year-old with diabetes who died because his parents wouldn’t treat him with insulin
  • Aidan Fenton – the 6-year-old with diabetes who died after undergoing slapping therapy by a Chinese healer, therapy that also involved fasting for “days on end.”
  • Garnett Spears – a 5-year-old who supposedly had multiple medical problems, but instead was poisoned by his mother, who was adding a lot of extra salt to his g-tube feeding bags
  • Gypsy Rose Blanchard – after a lifetime of being told she was “sick,” including having leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and seizures, Gypsy and her boyfriend stabbed her mother to death
  • the 6-week-old in South Texas with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who never received vitamin K prophylaxis at birth and died after developing brain bleeding and seizures
  • the 3-week-old in Indiana with late onset vitamin K dependent bleeding who was born in a birthing center and whose “parents signed a waiver to forego vaccination and prophylactic therapies,” and required an emergency craniotomy to evacuate braining bleeding, prolonged intubation, and difficult to control seizures
  • Tom, Roger, and Chrissy Williamson – the three children were taken to over 500 doctor appointments, put on medications for epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, etc, and had unnecessary surgeries because their mother made doctors think they were sick
  • Amina Krouser – a 14-year-old who died after a neglected sore throat led to a life-threatening brain infection, for which her mother refused emergency surgery.
  • Christopher Bowen – an 8-year-old who had 13 major surgeries and 323 visits to the hospital because his mother fooled doctors into thinking he had a rare genetic disorder
  • the Oregon mother who’s three kids had unnecessary surgeries and were put on high dose “cocktails” of medicine, including one that she was trying to put in hospice

Trouble can also come when a child gets diagnosed or re-diagnosed with a more controversial condition. That seems to be what happened with Justina Pelletier, a teen who was kept and treated at Boston Children’s Hospital against her parent’s wishes. The doctors there doubted her original diagnosis, that she had a mitochondrial disorder.

“Unfortunately, mitochondrial genetic disorders can be difficult to diagnose, and many affected people may never receive a specific diagnosis. They are often suspected in people who have a condition that effects multiple, unrelated systems of the body.”

NIH on Mitochondrial genetic disorders

Similar to mito disorders, there are other conditions that are often difficult to diagnose, including Ehlers-Danlos, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuro-Psychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS).

Getting diagnosed or treated with these conditions wouldn’t usually be an issue, except that some alternative, holistic, and integrative health care providers take advantage of them. They might even stretch the disease definitions to make them fit almost anyone with vague symptoms and use treatments that many others would consider harmful, or at least unnecessary. It isn’t hard to see that even when a child gets a genuine diagnosis for one of these conditions, it might get questioned because they might have seen others that turned out to be misdiagnosed.

To be clear, these are all very real conditions that are almost certainly under-diagnosed because many doctors still don’t understand them. If you suspect that your child has one of these conditions, or any other rare condition, try and seek out a true expert to confirm the diagnosis. Does everyone who comes to the clinic get a diagnosis and list of supplements to buy? Then that likely isn’t the “expert” you want your kid to see.

Did you know that many of the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctors that once pushed biomed treatments to “cure” autism are now some of the same doctors continuing to push autism biomed treatments, but are now also diagnosing and treating kids with mito disorders.

And remember when all of those kids in LeRoy, New York developed tics for no good reason? One doctor, who actually runs a PANDAS institute, diagnosed many in the cluster with PANDAS.

It shouldn’t be surprising that many of these DAN doctors, including many who are not actually medical doctors, are also in the PANDAS Physicians Network Practitioner Directory.

Are they all cutting edge doctors helping to diagnose and cure kids when no one else can? Or as in the case of their autism biomed treatments, are they taking advantage of people looking for hope wherever they can?

Complicating matters further, some providers also diagnose kids with conditions like adrenal fatigue and chronic Lyme disease that most doctors don’t even think exist!

“Government should not get involved when doctors disagree about a diagnosis or course of treatment, the doctors have full knowledge of the child’s medical record, and a parent chooses one doctor’s opinion over another’s.”

Maxine Eichner on The New Child Abuse Panic

Government should not have to get involved when doctors disagree, but quack doctors shouldn’t be out there taking advantage of people either, especially to the point that it is going to harm a child. When they do, someone needs to step in and protect those kids.

And when you hear a story about a “medical kidnapping,” remember that you typically just get one side of the story. Because of privacy laws, the doctor, hospital, and CPS likely isn’t going to release any details that will help you understand why they felt the child was at risk.

Even more importantly,  when folks tell you that medical child abuse isn’t real and doesn’t happen, tell them about about the victims named above.

What to Know About Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

Challenging and taking away a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their child is something that is typically only done in extreme situations.

More on Challenging Parental Medical Decisions

Who Is Dr. Taz?

Dr. Taz is on a mission “to transform the way we do medicine and empower and equip you with the best tools so you can live your healthiest life.”

While that sounds very nice, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that she seems like every other anti-vaccine quack we run across these days.

Who Is Dr. Taz?

Dr. Tasneem Bhatia MD (Dr. Taz) describes herself as a nationally recognized “wellness expert” who became a “pioneer and trailblazer” after overcoming her own personal health problems.

With multiple office locations and membership packages, Dr. Taz is pleased to offer many non-evidenced based services for you and your child, and she will even file your claim forms from your insurance company, although, as expected, she doesn’t actually participate in any insurance plans.

What about vaccines?

“My journey in medicine began with pediatrics, so I am well aware of the importance of vaccines and the incredible history and success of vaccination programs in reducing infant and child mortality.

Yet as my journey continues, I have had to listen to patient after patient describe a change or a shifting in their children once vaccines were administered. I experienced this as a parent. I will never forget the day that my son received a combination vaccine. Within 24 hrs., his mild reflux became severe, his weight gain over the next few months slowed and we continue to play catch up, trying to analyze our next steps. My son, however, is not autistic. He is brilliant, hilarious, and an absolute charmer.

My patients and my own children have forced me to rethink this vaccine controversy.”

Dr. Taz on Back to School Survival Series Part Two, The Vaccine Debate Continues

Of course, there is no vaccine controversy, except the one that folks like Dr. Taz have created. Like many other vaccine-friendly pediatricians, anecdotes became evidence and quickly overcame years of learning.

And shame on Dr. Taz for implying that autistic kids are not brilliant, hilarious and charmers!

That’s the vaccine controversy. Continuing to push the idea that autistic kids are vaccine damaged and not understanding the simple concept that correlation doesn’t imply causation.

“Red flags for parents that may justify an alternative schedule include”

Dr. Taz on Back to School Survival Series Part Two, The Vaccine Debate Continues

While there are true contraindications to getting vaccinated, she doesn’t list any of them, instead pushing anti-vaccine talking points about skipping or delaying vaccines if your child has reflux, colic, or delayed milestones, etc.

But there’s more.

During a visit with Dr. Taz, you can also get your child:

  • a Zyto scan
  • Meridian testing
  • a brain boost evaluation
  • sports optimization testing

And parents can get a detox screen “which will directly correlate with your child’s early ability to detox and process chemicals.”  That’s probably just MTHFR testing, which you don’t need and which doesn’t correlate with much of anything, besides homocystinuria.

Selling supplements is big business for integrative, holistic, and anti-vaccine folks.
Your diagnostic tests and evaluation, whether it is the Zyto scan or detox screen, likely helps them scare convince you into buying more supplements.

Dr. Taz also offers:

  • acupuncture and Chinese medicine
  • aromatherapy
  • Ayurveda (Indian medicine)
  • energy healing
  • essential oils
  • craniosacral therapy (osteopathy)
  • homeopathy
  • IV therapy

Now, I understand that these types of holistic docs push the idea of “pulling from conventional, integrative, holistic, functional and Chinese medicine to create the best customized treatment plans possible,” but if any of these alternative therapies worked, whether it was acupuncture or Ayurveda, or homeopathy, then why do they need to integrate them all?

So what services does Dr. Bhatia offer to bring her patients to “whole health”? It’s a veritable cornucopia of quackery. Homeopathy? Check. Acupuncture? Check. (Obviously.) IV vitamin therapy? Check. Oh, and of course Dr. Bhatia offers thermograms. She even offers mobile thermograms. Never mind that thermography remains an unvalidated test for the early detection of breast cancer, much less for all the other conditions for which Dr. Bhatia recommends it, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, back injuries, digestive disorders, “and more…”

A commercial for acupuncture masquerading as news

And how does someone go from teaching medical students and residents at Emory University to being one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop experts, along with Kelly Brogan?

Dr. Taz was a pediatrician who said that vaccines were safe and necessary.
It wasn’t so long ago that Dr. Taz was a pediatrician who said that vaccines were safe and necessary.

Or from saying vaccines are safe and necessary and that parents shouldn’t expose their kids at chicken pox parties to a few years later saying that we shouldn’t judge Kristin Cavallari because we need more vaccine research.

What motivates these folks?

What to Know About Dr. Taz Bhatia

Dr. Taz promotes herself as an integrative medicine expert who pushes many unproven treatments and has alternative and dangerous views about vaccines and autistic kids.

More on Dr. Taz Bhatia