When another doctor stops behaving like one

Last time, I told you about Robert W. “Bob” Sears, MD, a board certified pediatrician who is an anti-vaccine activist, based on the available evidence and reasonable inferences from his work and his words. I told you how healthcare providers are ethically, morally, and in many cases legally required to act in the best interest of their patients and society based on the available, credible evidence. When there is an outbreak of measles, an ethical and moral person who knows the risks and benefits of vaccinations and the risks of measles would and should recommend the MMR vaccine to their patients. But not Dr. Bob Sears. No, he recommends delaying vaccines and avoiding them as well. He recommends that non-vaccinating people hide among the vaccinated, seemingly because he knows that vaccine-preventable diseases will make a comeback once enough people don’t vaccinate. The funny thing is that he accepts the principle of herd immunity while so many of the co-administrators of the anti-vaccine Facebook group of his vehemently deny that such a thing exists. (They probably think the moon is made out of cheese as well.)

Unfortunately for the medical profession in general and pediatricians in particular, Dr. Robert W. Sears is not the only outspoken pediatrician still in practice that is anti-vaccine. California also has Jay Gordon, MD FAAP. If his name rings a bell, it should. He is a “pediatrician to the stars.” Among his famous clients was (and maybe still is?) Jenny McCarthy’s son. He also wrote the into to a book by TV’s “Blossom”, Mayim Bialik, PhD. I mention her doctoral degree because, although you’d think that degree in neuroscience would allow her to know better when it comes to vaccines. It doesn’t. She’s a believer in the “too many too soon” mantra that anti-vaccine activists are probably required to repeat ten times each morning as the sun rises, while facing west toward California. (Or East, if you’re in Hawaii.)

But back to Dr. Jay Gordon.

Dr. Jay Gordon, as I stated above, is in with the anti-vaccine crowd through his association with Jenny McCarthy, his support for her and her organization(s) at their rallies (to the point of speaking at them <– Video), and even posing some pretty interesting thoughts on what makes a healthy child:

“I think that the public health benefits to vaccinating are grossly overstated. I think that if we spent as much time telling people to breastfeed or to quit eating cheese and ice cream, we’d save more lives than we save with the polio vaccine.”

That sound you just heard was Dr. Jonas Salk turning in his grave. And that’s not all he’s said or written.

After the last post I wrote to you, I decided to catch up on Dr. Jay on Twitter, and here’s what he had for us:

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God forbid anyone challenges him on his quest to vilify a life-saving vaccine because that person just might be a Big Pharma shill. But he will swear to you that he’s not anti-vaccine. He’ll also swear that he knows epidemiology:

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The best part of the exchange just above is that I remember seeing an epidemiologist explain time and again to the good doctor what “Todd W.” is trying to explain in that Twitter exchange. In essence, you don’t determine if something is a problem or not by counting the number of occurrences and dividing them by the total population. You count and divide by those at risk. This is why the risk for uterine cancer is not the number of uterine cancer cases divided by the total population. It’s the number of uterine cancer cases divided by the number of women with a uterus.

What we have here is at least two American-trained physicians, board certified in their specialties, who are against vaccines. Think about that for a second. You have two men, Dr. Bob and Dr. Jay, who at one point or another swore to look after children’s health, and they unreasonably question and deny the evidence for vaccines, a medical intervention that has saved millions of lives of children, beginning with James Phipps in 1796. You also have a two physicians with an outbreak of measles in their backyard downplaying it as if they have some inside information that public health doesn’t. How or why the American Academy of Pediatrics has them as fellows is beyond me.

13 thoughts on “When another doctor stops behaving like one

  1. Being a fellow in the American Association of Pediatrics does not confer any special knowledge or expertise, despite Jay Gordon’s insistence on putting “FAAP” after his name in most online postings.

    Specialty society memberships are nice, especially if you take advantage of the educational opportunities they give you. Gordon evidently has not.

  2. They should both lose their licences to practice, IMHO. They are not following the “first do no harm” rule. Perhaps if/when one of either’s patients gets sick and badly injured or dead from a vaccine preventable disease, someone will do something–maybe sue them.ONe can only hope. They, in my book, are the worst of the anti vaxers. Especially Sears, who encourages his parents to take advantage of herd immunity without contributing to it. Sick.

  3. I’d like to add Dr. Robert Mendelsohn to this sorry lot. He was a paediatrician who became notorious in the early 80′s for a series of books that delivered over-the-top rants against “modern medicine”, including, of course, vaccination. More detail here: http://www.quackwatch.com/11Ind/mendelson.html
    His appearance on the Phil Donahue Show was so controversial that representatives from the AAP appeared on a followup show to refute his claims. I can’t understand their current inaction.
    His work was quite sensational at the time, but is largely forgotten now.
    He died relatively young at 62 from complications of diabetes, I believe.

    • Mendelsohn is also (IIRC) the doctor which that idiot Gianelloni cites to ‘disprove’ the 1 in 1000 encephalitis risk of natural measles infection.

      I’m not surprised she’s gone dumpster diving in a pathetic attempt to lie her ass off.

  4. I’m appalled that there are medical professionals who support ideas that directly contradict the science of medicine.

  5. Thanks for another great column, Reuben.

    The reason the AAP (at least according to then AAP President Dr. Robert Block in 2012) was told to me when I spoke to Dr. Block by phone about this issue. I had been writing the AAP yearly since 2008 asking them why Gordon and Sears were allowed to be AAP members (FAAPs) when they explicitly, openly and for-profit told parents not to vaccinate because vaccines are dangerous/ineffective and the diseases they prevent aren’t serious anyhow. I never got a single response to my letters until I dropped my membership and told them no more money until they did something. Then the AAP finally responded and tried first via their PR director to convince me they were doing something. They weren’t doing anything and I told them that. So finally I got so speak to someone in AAP leadership–Dr. Block. Dr. Block told me the AAP won’t take any action against Sears and Gordon out of fear of being sued by them for libel (http://stopsearsandgordon.org/history.html) Yes, libel. How scary is that? The AAP, with 60,000 members each paying about $500 a year to belong apparently cant’ hire/find a lawyer to help them with that concern, nor do they appear to understand what constitutes libel. Dr. Block really had nothing to come back to me with when I told him that denouncing what they say and do based on research and science is not libel–aka “a statement of fact is not insolent (or libelous)”

    Nothing more ever came of that conversation and the current AAP president (Dr. Perrin) is just as mum and apathetic as the others. Again I will say to all members of the AAP that until the AAP speaks up on this, you should have grave doubts that the AAP is really following its motto “Dedicated to the Health of All Children”. If you really were, AAP, you’d have denounced the anti-vaccine nonsens of these two menaces and kicked them out years ago. Instead, AAP, you’ve let these two pediatric charlatans cause grave harm to our vaccine infrastructure. –Chris Hickie, MD, PhD

  6. Pingback: Yep, measles is still a killing disease | Left Brain Right Brain

  7. As I mentioned on a prior thread about Dr. Bob Sears, Dr. Jay Gordon is listed on Dr. Bob’s blog as a “Vaccine Friendly Doctor” i.e. Dr. Jay puts the emphasis on “mommy intuition”, when it comes to childhood vaccines.

    If you visit Dr. Jay’s website, you will not see any links to childhood vaccines, because *someone* convinced him that his own opinions and his link to whale.to about vaccines, are not based in science and not based on the CDC and AAP Recommended Childhood Vaccine Schedule.

    Jay, used to post on the Respectful Insolence blog…but for some reason, he has not posted comments there in months.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/08/16/yet-another-antivaccine-meme-rises-from-the-grave-again-no-diane-harper-doesnt-hate-gardasil/

  8. As a parent who has read books written by Dr. Jay and Dr. Bob before I really studied the science and epidemiology of vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, I have to say that their pseudo-science and fear-mongering works. I contemplated not giving my second child the Hep B vaccine at birth and delayed a couple of others (but don’t worry my boys are all up to date now), and I have been working in public health for years at the time and was in my MPH program. Their style of “natural parenting” is seductive to a certain set of people, like me. I was a natural birth, breastfeeding supporter (I breastfed my kids well past one year). Their whole argument is that nature is best. It’s a seductive argument. And for most part, their style of parenting/health care is fine for kids. I believe that much of what they say and promote is good, not all. So we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, pardon the pun.

    New parents, especially mothers, are hungry for information and want to be the best we can. The natural parenting movement is seductive (and cultish at the extremes) and prone to pseudo-science and just crazy nonsense. How do we infiltrate it with facts and science? They use science to support breastfeeding, healthy pregnancy, and intervention-free (limited) birth. Why do they reject it for vaccines? I don’t know the solution to the problem.

    • Maybe there is no solution and the best we can do it keep it bay as best as we can? Look at smoking, for example. There is no real solution to people’s susceptibility to addictions other than to make those addictions unpleasant, expensive, unsustainable. How we go about it also matters and is also up for debate. Do we ridicule the anti-vaxxers? Do we tell them that they have a certain right to feel that way? Do we play their game and, using the example of these two doctors, go after their livelihoods?

      You tell me.

      The other thing about this “seduction” that you mention is that we’re prone to do what feels right more than what is right. We give a lot of credibility to our feelings. Of course breast feeding feels like it’s an incredibly good thing. Of course attachment parenting seems reasonable. And of course injecting something with chemicals in it seems unnatural. Know what I mean?

      • My efforts are against Sears and Gordon for they are like foxes left (by the AAP and the California Medical Board) guarding the hen house. What they have done should have been nipped in the bud almost 10 years ago–and now we are paying for it. But when anti-vaccine folk decide to challenge what I’m doing (funny how there has never ever been any MDs challenging me on this (though I’m disappointed at how few will speak up with me))–I have no problem giving anti-vaxxesr the true facts and then telling them to go away. They of course think any disagreement/debate with them is “ridicule” and “bullying”–which it is not. But good luck telling them that.

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