It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy

Remember SaneVax?

Before I encountered SaneVax, I hadn’t realized that anti-vaccine groups specialized, at least not to this degree. Oh, sure, I remember that Generation Rescue used to specialize in fear mongering about mercury in vaccines, at least before it changed its tune to “too many, too soon.” However, SaneVax takes anti-vaccine specialization to another level with its laser-like focus on the HPV vaccine as the source of all evil.

Most recently, SaneVax made a name for itself with a gambit so outrageously stupid, so unrelentingly brain dead, that it amazed even me, and I’ve seen a lot of outrageously stupid and brain-dead anti-vaccine silliness. I’m referring to their amazingly hilarious outrage at having found HPV DNA in Gardasil. The problem, though, is that it wasn’t really entirely clear that SaneVax had found anything of the sort. If it had, it was a rather meaningless discovery and didn’t prove that Merck was lying. The most generous interpretation of SaneVax’s “finding” was that perhaps the pathologist who had been working to detect HPV DNA in Gardasil had actually managed to find a much more sensitive method of PCR that managed to detect HPV DNA that couldn’t be detected before. The less charitable (and more likely to be accurate) interpretation is that it was all a false positive or due to a problem with technique. PCR is, after all, very sensitive, and the sort of nested PCR that was apparently used to produce SaneVax’s astounding revelation is even more sensitive than standard PCR.

In any case, the man behind this fear mongering–or at least the man working with SaneVax to provide it the material to use to engage in such fear mongering–is a pathologist named Dr. Sin Hang Lee. Apparently, Dr. Lee has also been having problems. Lots of problems. So many problems that SaneVax has decided to try to help him out. Last week, SaneVax issued a press release complaining that Dr. Lee is being “persecuted” for his association with the organization:

Because of studies submitted to the FDA prior to approval of HPV vaccines indicating there was a substantial increase in pre-cancerous lesions for those who had already been exposed to vaccine-relevant genotypes of HPV before they were injected with Gardasil® or Cervarix®, Dr. Lee agreed to offer his cutting edge technology HPV genotyping test to medical consumers throughout the United States to protect those who were considering HPV vaccination so they could avoid that potential risk. The decision was announced to the public via a BusinessWire Press Release on 20 September 2010.

In the fall of 2010, without Dr. Lee’s knowledge or having an opportunity to defend himself, the newly appointed Chairperson of the Pathology Department at Milford Hospital informed the hospital’s credentialing committee that she was not recommending for approval or supporting Dr. Lee’s application for renewal of his medical staff privileges. For those who do not know, medical staff privileges at a hospital are a major asset to a medical doctor and they establish the relationship that permits among other things, the doctor to practice at a particular hospital. When medical staff privileges at a hospital are revoked or not renewed, the doctor no longer has permission to practice at the hospital or use its facilities. The non-renewal of the medical staff privileges, may also adversely affect the doctor’s license to practice medicine. In Dr. Lee’s case, the non-renewal of his medical staff privileges at Milford Hospital is under appeal.

Although Dr. Lee still maintains his medical staff privileges during the appeal, his position as director of the laboratory was summarily terminated along with his employment relationship at Milford Hospital on December 13, 2010 and he has been prevented from using the hospital’s laboratory to continue his testing and research there ever since that time. A lawsuit addressing the wrongful termination claim has been brought against the Milford Hospital.

Well, isn’t that interesting? Funny how SaneVax didn’t mention this when it issued its previous press release announcing that it had found HPV DNA in Gardasil. That was only a month or so ago, and apparently Dr. Lee had been canned as the director of the diagnostic laboratory at Milford Hospital over 9 months prior. Interesting. At least I think it is. Certainly, one wonders why SaneVax has issued this press release now, rather than back in December, when Dr. Lee lost his leadership position. In any case, it’s a rough world out there; if a new chair comes in, not so infrequently, a major housecleaning will occur shortly thereafter, as the new chair tries to put a mark on the place and take the department in a different direction.

Personally, if I were taking over a department and I found someone like Dr. Lee consorting with a loony anti-vaccine group like SaneVax and publishing dubious papers designed to cause unjustified fear of the vaccine, I’d can his ass too. No apologies. Such dubious science would not be tolerated in any department I ran, which makes me think that this new pathology chair is a person after my own heart.

SaneVax concludes:

It is the belief of the SANE Vax team that Dr. Lee has come under fire because of his association with and support for the SANE Vax mission. Therefore, the SANE Vax Board of Directors is beginning a campaign to let those in charge of deciding Dr. Lee’s fate know that we, along with medical consumers around the world, support Dr. Lee.

I certainly hope that the reason Dr. Lee has come under fire is because of his association with and support for the SaneVax mission. A hospital based on providing the best science-baed health care to patients should not continue to employ physicians who support anti-vaccine propaganda groups like SaneVax.

So what is SaneVax doing to support Dr. Lee? It’s urging a letter-writing campaign, with canned text that reads:

I am contacting you to ask that you take immediate steps to reinstate Dr. Sin Hang Lee as director of the Milford Medical Laboratory, an affiliate of Milford Hospital
in Milford, Connecticut, and grant him the resources he needs to continue contamination analysis and testing of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, and the adverse reactions reported by young women who have been given this vaccine.

Access to these resources by Dr. Lee will allow him to continue his research, test the numerous samples of Gardasil that have already been sent to him for analysis and allow him to complete a report he has been commissioned to submit on his findings with S.A.N.E. Vax Inc., a consumer watchdog organization monitoring patient reaction to the Gardasil vaccine.

I believe anything less than full reinstatement of Dr. Lee’s former status will effectively deprive medical consumers around the world of information critical to their ability to make an informed choice with respect to HPV vaccinations.

Two can play this game. My suggestion? I suggest that the science-based community start a letter-writing campaign to the same three people. Send them this link, along with a letter of approval? If the cranks can play this game, so can we.