Dr. Suzanne Humphries and the International Medical Council on Vaccination: Antivaccine to the core

A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of fun with a position statement by the International Medical Council on Vaccination (IMCV), which I called, in my own inimitable fashion, The clueless cite the ignorant to argue against vaccines. That’s exactly what it was, too, some truly clueless anti-vaccinationists arguing against vaccines and bolstering their argument with a hilariously pathetic list of signatories, among which were noted anti-vaccine activists, chiropractors, homeopaths, and other dubious practitioners totaling only between 80-90. Among those signatories was a woman named Suzanne Humphries, MD. We’ve dealt with Dr. Humphries before when she expressed anger at being called a quack and warning us pharma shills and minions that the “revolution has begun.”

Oooh. Scary.

This time around, Dr. Humphries has decided to tell us A Few Things I Know. Unfortunately for her, those “few things” she knows are precious few, and they are all wrong. But before we can deal with what Dr. Humphries thinks she knows, we first have to deal with her naked assertion of her medical credentials. In essence, Dr. Humphries begins with an argument from authority:

I am a Medical Doctor with credentials in internal medicine and nephrology (kidneys). I received a bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics in 1987 from Rutgers University. I mention the college degree in case any doubtful readers question my mental prowess. One can doubt my intellectual ability less if they first realize that I know how to figure out difficult things. I know how to look at something in depth for many hours or days until I understand the inner workings of it. This is what I learned to do in college. In fact the strenuous mind-bending exercise that was part of the physics curriculum made medical school easy. I found the study of the human body, chemistry and biology to be in comparison quite shallow, simple and easy to comprehend.

As someone who comes from a strong basic science background, having been a chemistry major (who graduated with honors–so, there!), I think I can see Dr. Humphries’ problem. First, she seems unduly proud of her science background, wielding it like a talisman against charges that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about (which she doesn’t). Unfortunately, as those of us in medicine know, what you did 25 or more years ago in college has little bearing on what you can or can’t understand now. I can also see a bit of arrogance there, too. Let’s put it this way. I took advanced physical chemistry, graduate level biochemistry, and upper level physics, but I didn’t find medical school easy at all. One reason was that medical school required a whole lot of memorization in addition to basic science. Unfortunately, having been used to learning general principles and then applying them to problems, I found the memorization required to be rather difficult. Another problem I encountered was that, unlike chemistry and biochemical assays, I had trouble dealing with the ambiguity of medicine, of synthesizing incomplete and sometimes ambiguous clinical information in the form of patient histories, physical examinations, lab values, and tests and then applying what I had learned about the science of medicine to them. “Shades of gray” would be a good term to describe it, and I was used to more black and white. It took a major change in mindset before I began to understand. That change in mindset wasn’t easy, and it didn’t take overnight. Dr. Humphries’ problem is that she sounds as though she never changed her mindset from physics to medicine–and is proud of it.

Next up, Dr. Humphries assures us that she spent two years working in a biochemistry laboratory as a head technician. I’ll go her one better, if that’s the direction she wants to go. Not only have I been a technician, but I have also been a graduate student in a translational research laborotory, a postoctoral fellow, and now a medical researcher for the last 12 years in his own laboratory. As such, I would guess that I probably know more about how research is done than Dr. Humphries. Even so, it’s also probably irrelvant, because it’s the quality of one’s arguments that should rule, and, quite frankly, Dr. Humphries has become a homeopath. To embrace homeopathy, as far as I’m concerned, means throwing away all that knowledge of physics that tells us that homeopathy is nothing more than pseudoscience based on a mixture of prescientific beliefs drawing from the principles of sympathetic magic. In any case, I find it instructive to look at Dr. Humphries’ “conversion story,” but first we have to listen to her tell us again how awesome she is and how open-minded, too:

I have spent four years teaching internal medicine and nephrology to medical students, residents and advanced fellows in training at a university hospital as an assistant professor. During that time, reading over and critiquing dozens of journal articles was a part of everyday life. Suffice it to say, my past experiences have put me in good standing to look into the problems with vaccines and make certain determinations. Like most doctors, I held a blind belief for many years, that vaccines were necessary, safe and effective. Like most doctors, I never lifted a page to seek out any other truth for myself. But unlike most doctors, I have no stake in upholding false paradigms and I am no longer indebted to the government for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unlike most doctors, I have the means to survive with or without my medical license because I have sought out another education to support myself in case of worst case scenario.

Do you get it? Dr. Humphries is a Seeker of The Truth, man! And don’t you forget it! She don’t need no stinkin’ pharmaceutical drugs, and she don’t need no “conventional medicine,” either! She spits on Lord Draconis Zeneca‘s scaly hide. (She will come to regret that, actually. Our benevolent scaly pharma overlord will make sure of it, I’m certain.) I also love how she refers to “the truth,” as in, “The Truth? You can’t handle The Truth?” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, science is not about the truth (or The Truth). It’s about evidence and data and what can be observed. It’s about models, explanations, and theories that explain current observations and make predictions. All “truths” in science are provisional. If the evidence doesn’t support a model anymore, scientists abandon it in favor of a model that better explains the existing evidence. But it’s all about The Truth to Dr. Humphries:

Up until 2 years ago I was content to work as a medical doctor caring for very sick people with kidney failure. Two years ago, everything changed. With several undeniable cases of kidney-associated vaccine injury in previously healthy people, I started to look deeper into the information that I had previously held as factual and not worthy of debate. I started to study vaccines, their components, and the science behind the statements of safety and effectiveness. From there an avalanche of truth collapsed upon me and I will never be the same. In fact, nothing I look at will ever be the same. Chronic degenerative diseases, kidney failure, autoimmune diseases and powers of authority will never look the same to me again. There are certain things that I can now say with no uncertainty.

An “avalanche of truth”? Wow! Is that like a “tsunami of autism”? Still, I have no doubt that Dr. Humphries will never be the same. She has, after all, become a homeopath. If she used to practice science-based medicine before she turned to woo, then, yes, her life has changed, and she will never be the same. That’s not always a good thing. In Dr. Humphrie’s case, it certainly is not. Still, I’m curious about these cases of “kidney-associated vaccine injury.” She doesn’t elaborate, and, quite frankly, I didn’t have time to watch this video last night, where she apparently makes the same claim. Oh, never mind, it’s close to the beginning of the video. Dr. Humphries states that back in the winter of 2009 she saw several cases of fulminant kidney failure in patients who had had their seasonal flu vaccine and their H1N1 vaccine. In some cases these cases were up to six weeks after vaccination.

Six weeks? Gee. With millions of people being vaccinated against H1N1, what do you think the odds are of seeing a few cases of patients in fulminant kidney failure that began sometime within the six weeks after they had been vaccinated? Pretty high, I’d guess. Probably pretty close to 100%, given the frequency of vaccination against the flu, particularly among the elderly, who are more prone to kidney failure, and the incidence of kidney failure. It’s a perfect example of confusing correlation with causation. She even goes so far as to say that she thinks “idiopathic” cases of kidney failure are really due to vaccines.

That’s because, to the anti-vaccine loon, it’s always about the vaccines. Always. Maybe later this week I’ll have a chance to go through the whole video. Or maybe not.

So, what are the “few things” (the very few things) that Dr. Humphries knows? Let’s take a look:

Vaccines did not save humanity and never will.

No one ever said they did, but they sure have reduced the rates of infectious disease and saved millions upon millions of lives.

Next up:

Vaccines have never been proven truly safe except for perhaps the parameters of immediate death or some specific adverse events within up to 4 weeks.

So let me get this straight. Vaccines have never been tested for long term complications? What about all those studies the looked for and failed to find links between vaccines and autism, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, and many other conditions? Oh, wait. Dr. Humphries put the word “truly” in there. So she’s conceding that vaccines are safe based on the science thus far. She just thinks they aren’t “truly” safe, whatever that means. (Note also how she’s simply using a variant of the word “truth”; she’s clearly all about The Truth–big T–than she is about science.) Actually, I rather suspect the word “truly” means whatever Humphries wants to mean, the better to shift goalposts as more studies verifying the safety of vaccines roll in.

And then Humphries pulls out a “thing she knows” about smallpox:

Smallpox was not eradicated by vaccines as many doctors readily say it was. They say this out of conditioning rather than out of understanding the history or science.

This is, of course, a straw man. The eradication of smallpox was multifactorial, including improved sanitation. However, that does not mean the smallpox vaccine was not instrumental in finally eradicating the disease once (and hopefully) for all. Thanks to vaccines, we were on the verge of eradicating polio; that is, until rumors that vaccines were a plot to sterilize Muslim men took hold and depressed vaccination rates, setting back the timetable for the eradication of polio.

And a “thing she knows” about polio, too:

Polio virus was not responsible for the paralysis in the first part of the 20th century. Polio vaccine research, development, testing and distribution has committed atrocities upon primates and humanity. Bill Gates is not a humanitarian.

Funny. Tell all the people in iron lungs 60 and 70 years ago that polio wasn’t responsible.

Finally, here’s the one thing Humphries “knows” about vaccines in general:

Vaccines are dangerous and should never be injected into anyone for any reason. They are not the answer to infectious diseases. There are many more sustainable and benevolent solutions than vaccines.

But it’s not as though Dr. Humphries is anti-vacccine or anything. She’s really pro-safe vaccine, right? Oh, wait. She is antivaccine. She just said so. She just told us that vaccines are dangerous and should never be injected into anyone for any reason. If that’s not anti-vaccine, I don’t know what is.

Just like the IMCV, which is clearly anti-vaccine to the core.