A Quack Miranda Warning Will Not Save Heather Dexter From The Consequences of Allowing Her Children To Suffer Through Pertussis

Ren wrote a blog post the other day that had my blood boiling. He told us the tale of a naturopath named Heather Dexter. Heather Dexter is a naturopath in Michigan, and she allowed her children to live through Whooping Cough (Pertussis) for more than six months. Any child with pertussis needs to immediately see a physician and be put on antibiotics. Why? Because pertussis coughing is so bad that it leaves the child blue in the face from anoxia.

In fact, Heather Dexter, the naturopath, described how her child was blue in the face, vomiting, and just plainly suffering from the whooping cough. Then she described how her second child caught it and suffered just as bad. In between telling us how she allowed her children to suffer, she also tells us how her husband and her had fights over what was going on. But, like a coward, the dad acquiesced to the mother’s stupidity and allowed her to continue to torture the children.

Instead of taking them to a licensed physician, Heather Dexter consulted her echo chamber naturopath friends. At the end of the post, Heather Dexter tells us how vaccines are bad, antibiotics are not to be trusted, and what she used to treat her children’s pertussis. As a result of Ren’s post and others online, the site went down for a few days. They even deleted their Facebook page.

Today, the site is back up, and an interesting “disclaimer” has been added:

“This blog is a personal blog written and edited by the three of us mamas. We, along with our guest contributors, write for our own purposes and the views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the writer’s. However, we may be influenced by our background, occupation, religion, political affiliation or experience.

The information provided by representatives of Like-Minded Mamas should be considered as only suggestions, not prescriptions. We are not medical doctors and the information is not intended in any way to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness or injured condition of the body. Our suggestions are purely to help you nurture your health so you can enjoy wellness.

Paid endorsement disclosure: In order for us to support our blogging activities, we may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for our endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. We promise to support only products and services that we have personally tried or truly believe in.”

In the SCAM business, this is known as the Quack Miranda Warning. They think that just by posting this disclaimer, the things that Heather Dexter has done to her children will somehow be justified. Or, that a reasonable person will say to themselves, “Heather Dexter didn’t treat her children’s pertussis. Should I? Oh, yes, of course I should take them to the doctor, because their disclaimer says that they’re not giving medical advice.”

Thing is, they are giving medical advice. Just read Heather Dexter’s blog post. She’s clearly telling us that it is possible to get through pertussis without seeing a medical doctor. So what if it is highly contagious? She took her children out into the public. (This, when antivaxxers like Heather Dexter think that vaccinated people are “shedding” the bacteria from an acellular vaccine.) Heather Dexter also writes that she is a doula, so did she help deliver babies while being covered in her children’s pertussis bacteria?

Heather Dexter uses her certification as a naturopath to establish authority in doing what she did. If a medical doctor were to have written about their experience with an infectious disease, a reasonable person would follow their lead. After all, they know what they’re talking about. That’s how Heather Dexter comes off, as someone who should know better. But, to us, the initiated, we know she’s too far gone down the rabbit hole of quackery.

Heather Dexter’s actions border on the criminal, and no Quack Miranda Warning will protect Heather Dexter from the consequences. Because there will be consequences, as several people I’ve spoken to about this have mentioned that they got in contact with Michigan Child Protective Services and an investigation is underway. (The toll-free number is 855-444-3911 and staffed 24/7.)

2014 Douchebag of the Year: Robert Sears, MD, FAAP

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone for a great 2014 in the world of fighting back against pseudoscience. While the Douchebag of the Year award was created to ridicule the worst of the worst in the anti-science world, I want to take a minute or two to thank everyone who did their part, however small, to fight the quacks, hacks, and scammers. Here are some honorable mentions, in no particular order:

  • “lilady” – Her commenting work and ability to raise the “bat signal” when something needs countered is priceless. Knowing her background as a public health nurse gives me the security of knowing that when she flags something for us to look at, she does so knowing that it is indeed something that needs to be refuted. She’s our eyes and ears on the web.
  • Orac – His blog posts dissecting claims by many tricksters out there are worth reading each and every single time. Many of them have served as jump-off points for posts on this blog and others. His followers and commenters are knowledgeable people who have uncovered a wealth of information about quacks who want to remain in the shadows. Orac and “his minions” have brought light to those shadows.
  • Dorit – Her tireless work addressing anti-vaccine claims has been steady, unwavering. She doesn’t give in to threats of all kinds, and she responds with reason to some very nasty, hateful comments aimed at her. I wish I could keep my cool like that woman does.
  • Skeptical Raptor – His blog, like Orac’s, is also a wealth of information on psudoscience and how to counter it.
  • Matt Carey – His blog has been a steady source of information on what autism is and isn’t. As a parent of an autistic child, Matt has worked hard (online and off) to make sure that autistic people of any age get the help they need and the opportunities they deserve. Very few people I know have done as much as he has, and I am proud to call him a friend.

Again, these are just a few of the people who deserve an honorable mention. I wish I could take the time to thank all of you who read and comment on this blog, but the year is ending and our Douche needs to be honored. Continue reading

Exploding livers and autism “treatments”

Any anti-vaccine activists worth their weight in salt will tell you that thimerosal is ultimate evil because it contains mercury. Never mind that it is metabolized into ethyl mercury, not methyl mercury. Like ethanol and methanol, there is a difference between ethyl mercury and methyl mercury. One is excreted from the body; the other is accumulated.

To further embarrass themselves, anti-vaccine activists will tell you that vaccines contain formaldehyde, and formaldehyde is all sorts of evil. The problem with their fear mongering over formaldehyde is that the amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is incredibly small. In fact, we make more formaldehyde in our cellular reactions in one day than that in any vaccine. Because of this whole natural selection (evolution) thing, we are able to metabolize formaldehyde into things that don’t hurt us (thank God!). The only time formaldehyde is a problem is if you ingest a quantity much larger than what you’re able to deal with.

This is the case with all ingredients in vaccines. Yes, they have scary names, but, no, they won’t do anything to you. (You get immune reactions, which some can be severe if you’re predisposed to them, but that predisposition makes you the unlucky winner of a lottery with worse odds than most games of chance.)

For some weird reason, giving children bleach solutions to drink and bleach enemas is not bad in the mind of some anti-vaccine parents. They think that bleach will do some magical thing (something not based in science) and “recover” their children from autism. I’m not joking. Continue reading

The Quack’s Worst Nightmare

I apologize that I have not been posting as much as you’d like me to. You know how crazy things get once the kids go back to school. Those schools and daycares start reporting “outbreaks” of sniveling, snotty kids. Then we have to investigate, write up reports, make recommendations, and piss off parents when we tell them their under- and unimmunized buttercups are to stay home. And then there are the responsibilities in academia that I managed to throw onto my plate. (Lecturing is not easy.)

Anyway, I wanted to talk to you today about the things we see and the things we don’t see. There used to be a time when we believed that it was “miasmas” that caused diseases like cholera. John Snow came along and proved it was water, but he didn’t prove that it was bacteria. That would come later with Pasteur and Koch. Still, John Snow used the available evidence to disprove a theory/belief, even when he didn’t have all the answers.

This is the issue with autism. We know what it physical and neurological representations are, and we know that vaccines don’t cause it. We just don’t know what does cause it and, if possible, how it can be treated or cured. To be honest, I do not believe that it can be cured. It would be wonderful to see a developmentally delayed child catch up immediately to their peers and live a “normal” life. But that’s not the case. Continue reading

Science Is Not The Enemy, Ignorance Is

Take a quick look at the following YouTube video. You don’t have to watch it all – or watch it at all – to get the gist of it because I’ll tell you what the gist of it is. The gist of it is that a mother in some suburban town in America is so afraid of contrails from airplanes, and so ignorant of basic principles of science (physics and chemistry), that she goes out of her house and uses a simple spray bottle to spray vinegar “at” the contrails.

Let me tell you what happened again, because even I have a hard time understanding this without writing it again. A woman is so afraid of contrails from planes that she uses a household spray bottle to spray vinegar in the air out on her backyard in hopes – and belief – that the vinegar will clear the contrails. I’ve written that twice and seen the video, and I still can’t believe that this is happening in the 21st centruy in the United States of America. I really wished it was a joke. Unfortunately, the lack of science knowledge in the US is very prevalent. There is no fake science or fake medical remedy that people won’t buy. All you need to do is stay up late one night and see the infomercials to see what is going on.

There are metal bracelets that promise you better athletic performance.

There are remedies to help your male genitalia get “bigger” or perform “better”.

And what can I say about homeopathy?

It is because the consumer is not aware of the science – or lack thereof – behind these products that these products sell. And they must sell well if they’re solvent enough to produce infomercials. A quick way to know that there is no evidence of the products’ function is in the advertisements themselves. Skeptics call this the “Quack Miranda Warning“:

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevenet any disease.”

But let’s get back to contrail – or “chemtrail” – lady. What science is she missing? First, she is missing basic physics. Physics prescribes that the vinegar she is spraying from a spray bottle behind her house will not spread far enough or high enough to have any effect on the contrails thousands of feet above her. Could you imagine if it did?

Second, she is missing basic chemistry. Contrails are made from condensed moisture. Adding vinegar to that condensed moisture doesn’t cause any kind of chemical reaction to do away with the contrail. (She alleges that she succeeded in erasing the “chemtrails” when the contrails disappear on their own.)

Third, she is missing basic research and critical thinking skills. Many people who believe in this conspiracy do so because they read about it on some blog – ehem! – or online somewhere. However, that ability to do “their own research” doesn’t seem to extend to the truth, or to truthful sources, or to sources that question her beliefs. It’s not a bad thing to have one or two of the basic tennets in your life questioned every once in a while. It’ really isn’t. I’ve had it happen to me all my professional life, and it has led to some really good discussion.

Sadly, as you can see in the video, she is dragging her child into this. How is that child supposed to interact in a high school chemistry class if they should ever touch on the subject of condensation, chemtrails, or even vinegar for acid-base reactions? What kind of laughter will this video on the net trigger in his peers? What kind of future is expected for him with a mother like this? I won’t speculate – much – on that, but I will tell you that it will not be an easy adolescence.

There are other examples of the lack of science education – and/or critical thinking – in the world around us. People who discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity are ignorant of basic principles of evolution and genetics. If they did, they would know that our external differences are just the cause of generations’ worth of adaptations to the climate where our forefathers lived. If there was too much sun, our ancestors adapted by having more melanin in their skin for protection from the sunlight. If it was very cold, then our ancestors adapted by having more fat tissue around the face – which needed to be uncovered for seeing and interacting with each other. That’s it. There is no difference in the intellectual capability between people, only differences in learning styles or knowledge because of different social, political, or economic situations. In essence, we’re the same, it’s the stuff around us that’s different.

I was going to write about 300 or 400 words on the anti-vaccine crowd, but that’s been done on this blog. So I’ll just write that they’re really, really lacking on the science, and it’s a dangerous thing because those vaccine-preventable diseases that we almost had defeated are making a comeback. All because they don’t know – or refuse to know – about immunology and biology, and a little bit of chemistry.

Global warming? Well, that’s a whole chunk of people who never did a science fair project where they took a box, painted it black on the inside, covered it with plastic, and left it out in the sun. The plastic works just like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It lets sunlight in, but then traps the heat, warming the earth. The process in the real world is gradual, but the principle is the same. Yet, somehow, this principle is beyond any comprehension by some people – people who should know better, nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the heroes of today have little to nothing to do with science, for the most part. Movie stars who overdose every other week, athletes who shoot themselves in the leg, or singers who have pretty voices do nothing to stimulate young minds into wanting to learn more about science. Sure, there will be the few children who’ll dig deeper into the science of movie-making, throwing the perfect spiral, or getting the best acoustics. But the rest of the audience will just sit back and enjoy the show.

Even more unfortunate, we’ve ended the Space Shuttle program. There are no more impressive take-offs from Cape Canaveral. No more drama of docking to the International Space Station. While NASA is still recruiting astronauts, being one is not at the top of the list for today’s children. They’re prefectly happy – our children, not the astronauts – flipping burgers and buying “kicks”. Science be damned.

If I were the President’s science advisor, I would call on him to create a “Manhattan Project” of sorts to solve some of our most pressing problems, issuing a challenge to the country and the world to help in figuring out things like alternative fuels (because oil WILL run out and the climate can’t take much more of this), disappearing forests (we all need their oxygen), species going extinct, or diseases emerging and reemerging. Instead of spending billions of dollars on bailing out companies that are too big to fail, I’d suggest those companies be acquired and rebuilt to solve our problems. Imagine General Motors being compelled to make environmentally-friendly and gas-efficient vehicles as a condition of their bailout. Imagine building factories all over the country, employing thousands of people, to build better and more efficient solar panels for home water heating. Think of a government that continues to fund space exploration and experimentation to continue to give us technologies that will make our lives better.

And don’t tell me about solar panels and how inefficient they are. I remember a time when satellite dishes were several yards in diameter and only affordable to the very rich. Now we have small units sitting atop almost every dwelling in our cities. I also remember a time when video cassette recorders were twenty pounds heavy and took up lots of space. Now we have phones that play better videos and store thousands of video cassettes’ worth of data. Technology gets better and more affordable if we work at it, not if we are afraid of it and pass legislature to scare people away from it.

But we’re not there quite yet. We still have people spreading diseases because they were told that vaccines are ultimate evil. We have people sparying vinegar at the sky. And we have influential politicians denying that carbon dioxide is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, what’s it has been known to do for a very long time. Furthermore, we are still arguing about race and ethnicity, or who speaks what language and why. People are still shooting other people for money or property or relationships gone bad. In the huge universe of things – and perhaps because not all of us have looked through both a telescope and a microscope – we are launching wars against each other for really nothing… Nothing at all.

Yeah, totally worth spilling blood over instead of trying to make it better so we can start to get off it.