The annals of “I’m not antivaccine,” part 23: “Vaccine injury” and waterboarding

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly seven years since I started a recurring series that I like to refer to as The annals of “I’m not antivaccine.” Indeed, this will be the 23rd entry in this particular series, whose purpose is to analyze why you shouldn’t take it seriously when certain antivaccine activists deny that they are antivaccine. Not surprisingly, examples of reasons why we should not take the denials of these people seriously include their tendency towards the most histrionically exaggerated analogies and metaphors, such as saying there is “no such thing as a safe vaccine,” and likening vaccines to human trafficking, assault, rape (I wish I were kidding about this, but I’m not), the Holocaust, and, of course, Nazis, Nazis, Nazis. That’s not even counting examples not included in my little series of antivaxers likening vaccines to Nazis capturing Anne Frank, while likening themselves to likening themselves to Aragorn leading the last remnants of the warriors of Gondor and Rohan in an assault on the Black Gate of Mordor and a woman who is more upset by a web page refuting the vaccine-autism link than she is by child pornography.

You get the idea, and that’s not even counting the often violent and apocalyptic rhetoric of the antivaccine movement.

This time around, it’s Ginger Taylor. We’ve met Ginger Taylor before, although not recently. She is one of the more annoying antivaxers, thanks to an annoying combination of self-righteousness and Dunning-Kruger. Now, what caught my attention was a headline over at the antivaccine crank blog known as Age of Autism. The title was Medical Board Water Boards Vax Injured Child. Basically, it’s the story of Ms. Taylor’s reporting of her child’s pediatrician to the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine because, in her deluded opinion, he failed in the standard of care because he didn’t evaluate her child for “vaccine injury.” In this case, the “vax injury” Ms. Taylor is talking about is autism, and we already know from copious studies that vaccines don’t cause autism, or, if you want to be a scientific pedant, the vast preponderance of evidence has failed to find an association between vaccination and autism, to the point that provisionally it is reasonable to conclude that there is no connection, barring new evidence so compelling that it forces us to reassess our previous conclusions. So, of course, there is no medical malpractice or failure ot live up to the standard of care if a physician decides not to work up a newly diagnosed autistic child for “vax injury.” In fact, the standard of care would dictate that the doctor not waste time, effort, and scientific tests in such a fruitless evaluation. To liken the medical board’s action to “waterboarding,” a form of torture, is a metaphor rivaling previous antivax metaphors likening vaccination to rape, the Holocaust, and human trafficking:

NOTE: You might think that headline is all wet. But think about it as you read this intense post by Ginger Taylor. She decided to take her pediatrician to the medical board for failure to evaluate him for vaccine injury. She lost. Chandler lost. We lost. Again and again we’re subjected to a Niagara Falls of denial, lies, cover up, push back and refusals by the medical community tasked with OUR VERY CHILDREN’S FATES. We’re drowning in vaccine injury. Water boarded. There is NO Geneva Convention for us. For our kids. Take the poison. Drink from the “be a good Mommy bottle” without any idea what’s inside or what will happen. Shut up. Roll up your kids’ sleeves. Choke.

Now, in fairness, it doesn’t appear that Ms. Taylor herself used that comparision. Whoever wrote the post introducing Ms. Taylor’s article revealing how she abused Maine’s reporting mechanism to report her child’s physician to his state medical board for doing something that was not at all outside the standard of care is the one who decided to “spice up” the article with a reference to waterboarding. Since the post is listed as being posted by “Age of Autism,” I presume that it’s Kim Stagliano, who took over as managing editor after the unexpected death of Dan Olmstead earlier this year. (My condolences to the AoA crew and all of Dan’s friends. Seriously. Olmstead was deluded when it came to his unrelenting belief that mercury in vaccines causes autism, but, unlike (say) J. B. Handley, he always struck me as an OK guy otherwise. R.I.P.

But back to the wingnuttery. What is Ms. Taylor’s story? She details it on her own blog in her usual over-the-top manner:

Two weeks ago, in my letter to the Johns Hopkins Journal, Narratives in Bioethics, I made public the fact that I had taken Chandler’s pediatrician before the state medical board for failing to evaluate him for a vaccine injury. It was a journey that started two years ago, and I am just now wrapping up.

Here is both the short version of the story, and the very long version for the true die hards.

This is the question I before the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine:

What is the duty of a physician to his patient when a parent reports a suspected vaccine injury?

Their answer…

The doctor has no duty to the patient.

Well that is their implied answer. What they really did was just make up an excuse to close the complaint and not answer the question at all. But in their refusal to answer the complaint that a physician had failed in their duty to investigate a vaccine injury claim, they establish the standard of care.

The standard of care for reported vaccine injury is… medical negligence. (also blame the mother, but that is just SOP with autism moms now isn’t it.)

Thus again proving my assertion, Mainstream Medicine does not take vaccine safety seriously.

She also includes much of her copious paperwork. Truth be told, she would have served herself better if she hadn’t included so much of what she wrote. For instance, she states that she treated her son with alternative therapies and then:

We continued to treat him via alternative means, as our pediatricians were not familiar with the diagnosis and offered little insight when we brought it up. Even though we had reported to them that he fit the diagnostic criteria for the condition, none of them commented on it or seemed interested.

In January of this year, as we had exhausted our funds for alternative treatment, I went back to our pediatrician, Dr. Smith,and asked him to do a formal evaluation of our son for pertussis vaccine induced encephalopathy. I discussed the condition with him and gave him several resources to draw from.
He said he would look into it and get back to me.

One can only wonder what Ms. Taylor expected Dr. Smith to do to “evaluate” her son for “pertussis vaccine-induced encephalopathy,” especially nearly 12 years later. There are no characteristic findings of a vaccine-induced encephalopathy that can “prove” that it was the vaccines that done it. It’s not surprising that Dr. Smith was confused. He had no idea what the hell Ms. Taylor wanted of him, and, if she told him of the alternative therapies that he used, he probably wisely wanted nothing to do with any of them. Indeed, he mentions in his response to Ms. Taylor’s complaint:

My understanding is that over the years, Chandler’s family has tried alternative treatment that has been expensive and strained the family’s resources (e.g., hyperbaric oxygen therapy, chelation therapy, Vit B 12, antifungal, homeotoxicology, audiovidual sensory learning center, OT, PT, ST and Magnetic Resonance Therapy ). As stated in the complaint, after exhausting their funds for alternative treatment, in January 2015, Ginger Taylor came into see me, Chandler’s pediatrician, and asked for a formal evaluation for pertussis vaccine induced encephalopathy.

Quackery, quackery, quackery. Homeotoxicology? That’s homeopathy, The One Quackery to Rule Them All. Sometimes homeotoxicology is also called homotoxicology. Either way, it’s homeopathy combined with detoxification pseudoscience, and, as such, it’s utter quackery. Chelation therapy? Dangerous and potentially deadly quackery. Hyperbaric oxygen for autism? quackery. You get the idea. What the paragraph above indicates is a whole lot of treatments that are not supported by science and were, unfortunately, very expensive. Basically, Ms. Taylor was scammed by quacks. Also, Dr. Smith comes across in his response as a responsible, reasonable pediatrician who tried his best to do right by Ms. Taylor and her son. However, Anything less than buying into Ms. Taylor’s world view was insufficient.

None of this stops Ms. Taylor:

I then had him pull up the HHS web site on the computer in the office, read him the diagnostic criteria for pertussis vaccine induced encephalopathy, and point out my son’s symptoms that met the diagnosis. I then discussed with him my understanding on how other cases had began being investigated, such as doing an evaluation of mitochondrial function.

He again told me that he would look into it.

It is now December and he has yet to contact me to move forward with a formal evaluation for this brain injury, or to refer me elsewhere to have Chandler evaluated.

In actuality, Dr. Smith did “look into it”:

When Ms. Taylor brought Chandler into the office on 3/16/15, her stated reason for the office visit was follow-up for his autism. As I indicated in my note for the 3/16/15 office visit, Chandler was reported to be doing well. Frankly, I was feeling manipulated by Ms. Taylor and it seemed like she just wanted to get me to agree to certain things. Nevertheless, she was requesting help for an unanswered questions and suspicions about mitochondrial disorder and my plan included referral to a mitochondrial specialist in Boston.

After the 3/16/15 appointment, I contacted a mitochondrial specialist, Dr. Williams [NAME CHANGED], at Boston Children’s Neurogenetics program, and spoke with her about evaluating chandler. She told me that she would not do a mitochondrial work-up unless there was some medical problem other than autism indicating it. She suggested Chandler see and autism specialist at the Autism Spectrum Program at Children’s as an alternative if his parents wanted further evaluation.

Knowing what I know even from just reading Ms. Taylor’s writings about vaccines online and observing how she reacts to criticism, Dr. Smith’s account rings true to me. It’s also rather surprising to me that Dr. Smith actually went beyond what I would expect a pediatrician dealing with an antivaccine parent to do. For instance, he wrote a letter for both of her children asking them to be excused from school vaccine mandates because of “past uncertainty about vaccine injury” and copied Ms. Taylor on the letter. He also contacted the power company and asked it to restore her power based on medical grounds because of Ms. Taylor’s son’s autism. This does not in the least sound like a pediatrician who is negligent or who ignored Ms. Taylor’s concerns and requests to me.

To be honest, after reading Ms. Taylor’s account, I found myself far more sympathetic to Dr. Smith’s situation than to hers. Yes, I understand as much as someone who doesn’t have a child with autism can how difficult it is to raise such a child. Yes, I know it’s really, really hard. No doubt Ms. Taylor will say that my empathy for Dr. Smith derives from the fact that I’m a physician. Maybe so, to some extent, but of course I’m not a pediatrician. I take care of primarily adults and, occasionally, adolescents. That’s because I’m a breast cancer surgeon. Be that as it may, I, too, have been subject to at least one frivolous complaint about me to my state medical board over something I wrote about a patient of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, who was not pleased that I discussed her case based on publicly available information that she herself had posted to various social media sources. So, yes, I’m sympathetic to physicians harassed by people with an ax to grind who make frivolous complaints to state medical boards.

Unfortunately, Ms. Taylor is the Dunning-Kruger effect personified. Worse, she has a vindictive streak, so clearly demonstrated by her having abused (in my opinion) the process for filing a complaint to her state medical board about a physician whose only crime was to try to do the best he could for her son. By her actions, she demonstrates once again that she is antivaccine. After all, to her it’s all or nothing. Dr. Smith wasn’t sufficiently solicitous of her deluded beliefs. As a result, she tried to punish him for it. Fortunately, she failed. And, to whoever decided to liken the reaction of the Maine state medical board to “waterboarding,” you are a twit.

Also, I fully expect to write part 24 of this series.