The “toxins in vaccines” crowd are still with us

Rather depressingly, the anti-vaccinationists, those Never-say-die Energizer Bunny types of the Alt Reality fraternity, are back for another round.

As a lot of Bad Science-aware people will already know, American surgeon-blogger Orac, of Respectful Insolence blog fame – and bete noire of the vaccines-cause-autism lobby – has been writing about the imminent UK arrival (well, next week) or American writer and darling of the anti-MMR vaccine crew, David Kirby. It turns out that Kirby is not just doing some book–signings and the odd lecture; he is also down to give a briefing in the Houses of Parliament, no less. To quote Orac:

“My British readers, say it ain’t so! Hot on the heels of learning that, bankrolled by antivaccinationists, David Kirby is planning a trip to the U.K. in early June, I find out something even more disturbing.”

Orac then reproduces the following press release:

From: “Clifford G. Miller”

May 23, 2008 — CONTACT: David Kirby –


Briefing by Journalist Who Covers Vaccine-Autism Debate is Sponsored
By Lord Robin Granville Hodgson, Baron Hodgson of Shropshire

U.S. Journalist David Kirby, author of the award winning book “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic – A Medical Controversy,” will give a special briefing on this debate at the Houses of Parliament in London, on Wednesday, 4 June.

Mr. Kirby will speak about recent legal, political and scientific developments in the United States in the ongoing vaccine-autism controversy. The briefing is open to Peers in the House of Lords, Members of Parliament, their Staff, members of the Media, and Invited Guests.

The briefing will take place on Wednesday, 4 June at 3:30PM at the Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, Committee Room 4. It is being sponsored by His Lordship Robin Hodgson, Baron Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Shropshire.

In addition to his Parliament briefing, Mr. Kirby will also give a free public lecture on Wednesday 4th June, 6:30-10PM at Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, London.

Hmm. A number of things spring to mind.

First, Kirby’s book may be “award-winning”, but it has very definitely not been winning science awards. Orac has written scathingly about David Kirby’s (mis) understanding and (mis) use of scientific evidence.

Second, Kirby is frequently billed in articles or press releases as a “former New York Times contributor”. This is strictly factually correct as written, but conceals the fact that Kirby was not a science or health correspondent for the venerable NYT. He was actually a travel writer.

A more specific question for us UK geeks would seem to be how Lord (Robin) Hodgson, the peer sponsoring the event and a real Tory grandee, is connected to David Kirby. Hodgson has no track record on health issues, as his key Shadow “portfolios” for the Conservative Party in the Lords have been Trade and Home Affairs.

Where is the noble Lord coming from?

I had written a long discussion on this, but as I was about to post it I saw that noted autism blogger Mike Stanton had beaten me to it over on his excellent Action for Autism blog. So rather than repeat what he has said, please pop over there and read his discussion of Lord Hodgson’s views on vaccines, as expressed in a House of Lords debate back in Feb 2003.

To cut to the chase, Hodgson has a son diagnosed with mild Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Like many parents with kids with ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), he has felt dissatisfied with the mainstream treatments on offer and become interested in alternative therapies. However, he has also seemingly bought some of the anti-vaccine lobby line:

“It is unlikely that there is any one single cause [of ADHD]. Genetics and heredity will probably be found to play a significant part. But what other factors are in play? One matter looks increasingly likely to be a significant contributory cause: the requirement in this country that every baby receives three injections in the first 16 weeks of life as immunisation against diphtheria, tetanus and whole cell pertussis—whooping cough, to laymen—(DTwP). As I understand it, each standard dose of the vaccine used in the UK contains 50 micrograms of a substance called thimerosal. Each dose of thimerosal contains 25 micrograms of ethylmercury. Mercury is a highly toxic substance. That means that, by the 16th week of life, every baby in this country, with an inevitably fragile immune and nervous system, has been injected with 75 micrograms of ethylmercury…”

This would explain the Hodgson – Clifford G Miller – David Kirby connection: as even a cursory squint at Clifford G Miller’s website will show, he is a long-time anti-vaccine campaigner, and serial haunter of the BMJ electronic comments threads on the topic.

But… the vaccines don’t have mercury in any more

The problem for Kirby and other thimerosal aficionados – including British psychologist and author Lisa Blakemore Brown, who Hodgson also mentioned in his speech, and who seems to have played a part in Kirby’s upcoming UK tour – is that the thimerosal theory is on its last legs. This is mainly because even once thimerosal was removed from the vaccines – which happened in September 2004 in the UK – ASD diagnosis rates have not dropped. Hence, as Orac has again noted, the move to blaming ill-defined ”Toxins”.

[PS – the MMR vaccine, contrary to the urban legends, never contained thimerosal. If you want to read more about thimerosal there is an old (2003) NHS factsheet here (NB – pdf). And the lack of effect of removing thimerosal from infant vaccines on autism rates has been shown by large studies in Denmark, Canada and the USA, all of which stopped using thimerosal earlier than the UK did.]

Given these facts, it is hard to disagree with Orac’s view that it isn’t mercury, or toxins that really matter – for these people ”It’s All About the Vaccines”

And why now?

A further interesting question is: what has re-activated Lord Hodgson’s interest now?

Since UK politicians are infinitely more sensitive to what is going on in politics – including US politics – than to what is going on in science, one wonders if this isn’t in some way a knock-on effect of the rather ambiguous remarks some of the US Presidential candidates have been making about an autism “epidemic” (see Orac posts passim, for instance here). Indeed, the press release that accompanies David Kirby’s visit specifically makes this connection in a later section.

Orac has detailed how all the US presidential candidates, plus ex-President Bill Clinton, have been making depressingly ambiguous – not to mention scientifically inaccurate, and even disturbingly stupid – statements about autism and its possible causes. Many bloggers think the candidates should sack their science advisers, although perhaps we should sit tight and just put it down to electioneering politicians’ desire not to put off a single potential voter, no matter what way-out things the voter might believe.

However, let’s hope whichever of the US candidates does gets elected in November can find proper science advisers once in office, rather than being swayed by celebrity nitwits like Jenny “I read it on Google” McCarthy. There should be a few folk round the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) that can direct them to suitable people.

And closer to home, let’s hope Lords and MPs give David Kirby’s blusterings the wide berth they deserve. Or perhaps even better, let’s hope some of the science and medicine-literate Lords and MPs can be persuaded to go along and nail Kirby with some hard questions about the facts, as opposed to his conspiracy theories and scaremongering. If you would like to give your MP a prod, you can contact them via, or look up the email address of any Lords you can think of with medical or scientific know-how here.

I have little doubt that anti-vaccine types are writing to their MPs as you read this, urging them to give an ear to Kirby’s anti-vaccine PR. So feel free to give your elected and non-elected representatives a more scientific steer.

Stop press: Mike Stanton has just added a second post about Lord Hodgson’s comments on thimerosal and vaccination. Mike’s take is that Hodgson should be careful who he takes scientific advice from, as someone has been pointing him to some dire “anti-vaccine fringe science”, including a couple of notoriously awful papers – read the post for more. The dangers of self-styled experts and cargo-cult science are, of course, topics familiar to readers here.

Follow-up: To hear an eye-witness account of what a damp squib it turned out to be (i.e. no-one at the lecture but the usual mercury /vaccines conspiracy crazies, and barely anyone at all at the House of Lords), click here and follow the links.


25 Responses to “The “toxins in vaccines” crowd are still with us”

  1. dvnutrix Says:

    Excellent, Dr Aust. I do wonder if bloggers need to start collecting rebuttal points for some of the nonsense that is going to surface over the next week or so.

  2. Claire O'Beirne Says:

    In addition to Epiwonk’s ongoing analysis of the Young-Geier autism-vaccines study, Barbara Martin (specialism: neurology) also has a multi-part critique here: . Might be useful references for rebuttal purposes.

  3. Essence Says:

    This is from the U.S. Center for Disease Prevention. It’s a very long, sometimes very technical document — but it shows top U.S. scientists’ examination of a bunch of studies examining the effects of vaccinations in the U.S. The results are frightening enough that, at one point in the transcript, a scientist who’s first grandchild was recently born claims he’s going to go off and call his daughter to make sure the child doesn’t get vaccinated.

    As to thimerosal: Hepatitis B and Influenza vaccines in the U.K. still contain it. Also, in the USA, even though drug companies were ordered to reformulate their vaccines to remove thimerosal in 2002, some were found to be giving out thimerosal-laden vaccines from their backstock as late as August of 2007. Just because its removal has been mandated doesn’t automatically mean you won’t get any. Read everything!

  4. draust Says:

    Having read through about 2/3rds of it, I don’t buy that take on the conference minutes, Essence. For those that don’t know, this meeting is what is sometimes referred to as the Simpsonwood CDC conference, which took place in June 2000. It is often cited by the anti-vaccine movement as being “the place where the Govt got together to plan the mercury cover-up”, notably by R.F. Kennedy Jr. in his notorious Rolling Stone article ”Deadly Immunity”.

    Anyway, I can’t buy this line on Simpsonwood as a kind of sinister Wannsee Conference of vaccine damage. To me it reads exactly like a bunch of doctors and scientists talking, which is what it is.

    In fact what it demonstrates is how seriously the CDC was taking the concerns people had raised about a possible link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurological disorders in 1999-2000, post things like the Wakefield study. So we have a bunch of eminent doctors (from many different spheres, e.g. paediatrics, immunology, vaccinology, toxicology), scientists and officials being collected together to discuss the relevant questions about vaccine safety. They look first at the available epidemiological data, and discuss what it does or doesn’t say, and what the possible confounding factors are. They discuss thimerosal, and particularly the question of whether it is valid to assume ethyl-mercury (which is the active metabolite of thimerosal) behaves in the body exactly like methyl-mercury (about which there was then much more data). They discuss what issues need to be addressed, how they could be addressed, what studies should be done next, and so on. In some ways it reminds me of what I wrote a few months back about the UK Committee on Toxicology.

    There is nothing I can see in the Simpsonwood transcript that looks anything like the “smoking gun “of Govt. cover-up that people like RFK Jr have claimed. Partly, I think, this is question of some peoples’ determination to see a conspiracy. Partly it is a problem of not knowing how scientists and doctors actually talk when they discuss data and experiments. Cherry-picking a single sentence uttered by one of the 30+ conference participants doesn’t tell us anything. For instance, straight after the quote that Essence drew attention to, the same person says:

    “I deal with causality. It seems pretty clear to me that the data are not sufficient one way or the other” (i.e. to demonstrate if thimerosal-containing vaccines are associated with neurological effects).


    Put simply, post the Wakefield study, the Govt public health agencies and their academic consultants took a detailed look at their vaccine follow-up datasets to see if there was any evidence to support or rule out linkage between thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurological problems. They were concerned that the then available data didn’t really seem to settle it one way or the other. They looked for gaps in what was known, and suggested what should be done next to fill them.

    A year or so later they decided to take thimerosal out as a precaution, and also to help restore public confidence in vaccination (i.e. easier to just say “it’s not in there any more” rather than having to explain the safety data and “the dose makes the poison”). Several years later the Institute of Medicine looked at the newer evidence accumulated through 2000-2004 2004 and concluded there was no evidence of a link. From my point of view, this is how you would hope the public health surveillance process would work.

  5. draust Says:

    I now find that Orac debunked the Simpsonwood myth three years back on his old “archived” blog

    There are no doubt more debunkings of this particularly conspiracy theory online as well.

  6. Measles - spot the worrying trend « Dr Aust’s Spleen Says:

    […] Part Three 6:34- Mostly on the thimerosal (vaccine preservative) – autism scare so beloved of ex-travel writer David Kirby […]

  7. Shelley Stone Says:

    I am disgusted at the fact you would call Jenny McCarthy a nitwit..and us other “non believers” of vaccines! She has all but cured her son of autism! Maybe you should “google” that one!!??
    I have a question, maybe you can answer? Why is it anyone who stands against vaccines outloud…are hushed by the FDA as quick as possible, and how is it “you” people are so scared of us “nit wits” knowing and telling the truth? Autism is not my only concern with these toxins being pumped into our children!! There is NO amount of formaldehyde or mercury that is safe for a human body…and yet parents who just believe our government that these are “safe” just continue to pump their children full of them!
    Why is the FDA not governed by anyone? And why do “we the people” become nit wits and stupid idiots because we do not just believe everything you people tell us!!! That would, after all, make us nit wits and stupid idiots! Just believing things because you “say so”.
    I have chosen NOT to listen to the lies and the filth that is associated with these vaccines!!! And my child goes to school without them!!! People also are not aware they can chose to NOT listen to the lies and make the decision based on the truth!
    Isn’t it true each of these diseases were on the decline BEFORE vaccinations?? Isn’t it true that sanitation has a lot to do with those diseases? And that people who developed those “things” most likely died from being locked in rooms, with no fresh air, no fresh water or food? Due to the fear people had of contracting from the infected person?
    Hmm…..guess you may have answers, but I know better!

  8. Sceric Says:

    >>Isn’t it true that sanitation has a lot to do with those diseases?

    aehm, just wondering: What diseases are you taking about exactly?? All of them?? Autism (where you started your “argument” with) common cold?? ignorance?? in the latter case you probably should go wash yourself (for the sanitation), detox yourself (for all this mercury you see everytime you look at a star chart), and lock yourself in a room….
    BTW – I hope somebody from big, bad pharma reads that and sends some money my way..thanks in advance Boehringer

  9. draust Says:

    Thanks Eric. Sometimes when I think of penning a response to another fact- and reality-free anti-vaccine rant, I find myself losing the will to live so I go and do something more useful… like emptying the nappy bin.

    I called Anti-Vaccine Poster Girl and Airhead Supreme Jenny McCarthy a nitwit … because she is a nitwit. As to “cured her child of autism”… anyone wanting to read more about this should hie on over to Orac’s Respectful Insolence blog where you will find this discussed / debunked at great length… just type “Jenny McCarthy” in the search box. Or you could start here. Or here.

    As usual, what “Shelley” writes is incoherent nonsense, and is wrong on what few vaguely “factual” (ish) statements are present. For instance:

    “There is NO amount of formaldehyde…that is safe for a human body…”

    Err… not. Your body actually PRODUCES formaldehyde. Strange but true. The “endogenous” concentration in plasma has been estimated as around 80 microMoles per litre, or 2.5 micrograms per mL of blood. Even for those vaccine that do contain some formaldehyde as a preservative, the amount is far less than the amount that is already in the blood of the child being vaccinated. Actual numbers can be found here.

  10. Sceric Says:

    my pleasure…this incoherent ignorant babbling of “Shelley” was over my threshold for ignorance, therefore the a bit impolite answer…BBP (Big bad pharma) hasn’t sent any check yet…probably I’d need a PhD (like Rath or Wakefield) or a medical degree for that …

  11. Shelley Stone Says:

    Sceric?? come on now…your almost not worth the verbal spar! i do however apologize for not clarifying that the “diseases” i referred to being on the decline due to sanitation were not autism. i was referring to mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox, etc. you cannot take a sick person and leave them in unsanitary conditions….hence the “cleanliness” of hospitals!
    also, your “friend” drausts comment about formaldehyde being made naturally in our bodies, well surely it produces just what our bodies need, why on earth add more???? couldnt that just possibly be unsafe??is it out of your “righteous box” to see that?
    neither one of you however answered my question as to why the FDA is ungoverned? or why us “nit wits” just should simply believe every single thing we are told by a group of people because the say its safe? there is no ACTUAL proof that vaccines are safe is there??? only in your world of “because this is our belief” and noone else has the right to believe or be opinionated???
    why does the FDA even care if there are some of us “non believers” out here? why do they literally threaten people for having anti-vaccine materials on websites to remove them? if they are not scared that one of the biggest money making gimmicks might just be that, why bother??? come on now! a nit wit would surely put things in their body or into their child/childrens body just BECAUSE a certain ungoverned organization says its so!!!
    but you have made it clear, your unfactual opinion is the only one that is right and your “box” you live in that there is no room for the FACT that you could ever possibly be wrong??? right????
    you cant take a sick person and lock them in and leave them with no fresh clean air and filth…hence the reason hospitals are so “sanitized”!!!
    the things in these vaccines are not safe for us, you have no PROOF other than what the FDA says and solely because YOU and others SAY its safe!!!!
    oh and btw…i love the stars!!!!! but my children dont consume them….so i dont have to worry about that! i do have to worry about the mercury being “pumped” into innocent children along with all of the other metals that you say are just fine to induce into our blood streams and all of our organs, that can never be removed!!

    why don’t you try researching, just as a possiblity, that you might just be wrong!! i have, and so far……i dont believe any of those things are good for the human body.
    diet, exercise and cleanliness….thats the way!!!

  12. Sceric Says:

    >>diet, exercise and cleanliness….thats the way!!!

    I agree fully that those help…I just doubt (including doing research, beeing vaccinated myself, having my kid vaccinated..) that the generell public can stay healthy without some help from BBP…BTW diet, exercise and cleanliness was a big thing for the ancient Romans…so if that’s all one needs, we did they have a way lower live expectancy than we have at the moment??
    in regard to your “well surely it produces just what our bodies need, why on earth add more???? ” have you ever used healing earth? just curious?

  13. Shelley Stone Says:

    maybe because the Romans were always at war??? this is hilarious!! you still arent answering my questions…
    oh and btw…as long as its from the earth and safe for me..i will try it! but i dont need meds that make conditions worse or just cover them up or healing….completely healthy, detoxed of what metals could be detoxed and i eat properly and exercise, thanks for the concern though!!
    medicines of all kind only mask problems…there is no cure for anything!! maybe its because we have had so many toxins injected, ingested and breathed into our bodies….and why on earth would there be a cure…there would be no money for the FDA, Insurance companies or doctors! tisk tisk…we couldnt have that now could we?

  14. draust Says:

    It is hard to know what to say when confronted by “epic nonsense” on the scale of “Shelley’s” postings. Some of it is standard anti-vax “boilerplate” of the kind found on – stuff like

    “It’s all hygiene!”

    (for why viral illnesses don’t kill that much any more in the developed world), or;

    “Vaccines are full of EVIL TOXINS!!”

    (as ever, without regard to the reason for the use of something toxic, the actual measured toxicity, or the old maxim that “the dose makes the poison”).

    Of course, these ideas are not always expressed quite as incoherently as in Shelley’s postings.

    Hygiene obviously does help combat diseases, partly by making epidemics less likely (reduced person-to-person transmission) and partly by reducing the risk of people catching secondary bacterial infections (like bacterial pneumonias) and dying of those. But anyone who thinks that we would manage just as well without antibiotics, and especially vaccinations, is away with the fairies. When my father was a small child before WW2, things like pneumonia, whooping cough (pertussis), tuberculosis, the ‘flu and rheumatic heart disease were still regular killers of children – out of him and his six siblings only five survived to adulthood, with two succumbing to infectious diseases before the age of ten.

    Doctors don’t just take infectious disease seriously because they are in the pay of Evil Big Pharma. They also do it because they worry about serious illness. The trouble is, as we have discussed before, that people in the West have forgotten the above diseases, and also horrors like smallpox epidemics. Talking of which, the last such in the UK was at the beginning of the 60s. You can read an interesting – and suitably salutary – account of it here.

    I also see Shelley repeats the usual idiocies about “detox from metals” and similar. I really think we ought to have a new law of Alt.Reality that says:

    “Anyone who mentions “de-toxing”, as if it was a meaningful idea, in any discussion of any health-related topic immediately loses the argument and marks themselves as a loony”

    I suggest we christen this “Ernst’s Law”, in honour of Professor Edzard Ernst.

    And perhaps we could have an equivalent for anyone who implies that the “Evul Gubmint” is “poisoning our children” via vaccines, or fluoridation, or whatever.

    This one would be “Ripper’s Law”, or possibly “Strangelove’s Law”, after the immortal General Jack D Ripper and his dangerously adulterated essence.

  15. Sceric Says:

    well Shelley, you’ probably should ask your local dirt dealer…sorry healing earth provider, what trace elements and how much of them are in there (quite a lot of it in a form prone to cation exchange, e.g. natural zeolite has depending on the mine, approx. 40 ppm mercury, 30 ppm lead, barium, some have strontium, etc. all well below the limits, but I’d say way above your intake via vaccines and in a form that the body can access not like in the vaccines), if you need a link (like to the ones you don’t provide for your “arguments”, although you’re “researching” so much), you could research it, or ask somebody from a minerals company nicely, probably he’d provide you with it (btw, just as a hint, less trace elements usually means less active in the body)…
    in regard to the Romans..because of the wars?? yeah sure, all those wars that over centuries occurred in Roma aeterna itself (you need a check up on your history lessons, too)

  16. Nash Says:


    You seem to have some beef with the FDA. Is this anything to do with cloned meat?

  17. Dr. Jack Ebner, Ph.D Biophysiology Says:

    Please tell me sir, if there’s nothing to biological detoxification, why have all my patients who have undergone this process no longer have the health problems they originally came to me with. And why is that true for the thousands of patients my professor/doctors had in their careers? If only we had known about your great dept of noledge, we could have avoided years of helping people overcome pathophysiological anomalies including iatrogenia and nosocomial etiology. Methinks you have been supping at the wrong table… “medical science” is based on empiricism not real science. It’s only correct when it comes to accidents, injuries, emergencies, birth defects and some but certainly not all corrective surgeries. For eveything else its the totally wrong approach. You have a lot to learn. You just haven’t been fortunate enough to come across the right information yet. Keep searching…

  18. Dr Aust Says:

    This, of course, is the usual

    “mainstream medicine bad (“iatrogenia” etc), therefore Alt Reality, sorry, medicine, good”

    – fallacy.

    The difference is that no-one in mainstream science and particularly medicine claims it is perfect. In contrast, Alt.Med people routinely claim to “treat” just about anything, with no adverse effects.

    I also can’t quite see the difference between “empiricism” and “real science”. Real science is grounded in empiricism, but tries to exclude the kind of errors that an empiricism based solely on subjective human perception is prone to. But empirical testing underlies all science.

    Of course, when an Alt.Med type like a homeopath distinguishes “empiricism” from “real science” they are usually using “real science” to mean:

    “a central and unchanging dogma which you accept on faith, after which it will be revealed to you that this explains everything”


  19. physicsmum Says:

    I suppose I should get a more “medically-inclined” dictionary as my old concise Oxford is inadequate to keep up with this site! e.g no clue as to what anthroposophy might refer to, or nosocomial etiology :(

    My notion of “empirical”, from a physics perspective, is something based purely on observation and completely lacking in explanation or theory. Observations are of course essential, and empirical “models” extremely useful, but to me the “real” science comes in the attempt to explain the observations.

    Having said that, I am quite amused to find the old Concise Oxford giving the word “empiric” the possible definition of “quack doctor” :P

  20. physicsmum Says:

    P.S. Sceric: are you vaccinating bees, or being “vaccinated” by them??

  21. Dr Aust Says:

    If you check out “Dr Jack’s” website, you can find his CV / resume here. It makes for an interesting read. I am not exactly sure what a Ph.D. in “Biophysiology” is – being an actual physiologist I have heard of physiology, but not “Biophysiology”, at least until now. Dr Jack suggests this doctorate took him six years study to get. As the awarding institution Dr Jack names is not one I have ever heard of, and his site is full of boilerplate Alt.Reality wibble about “biological detoxification” – see earlier comment on this thread – I have my doubts. But maybe that’s just me.

    Of the jargon words Physicsmum was alluding to

    Aetiology (or etiology in the US) is the study of causation in medicine

    Iatrogenic refers to adverse (unwanted) effects caused by medical treatment.

    Nosocomial mainly means hospital-acquired, as in nosocomial infections. (Commonly infections that strike already weak and sick people, like some unusual pneumonias, or (some) MRSA, or C.Diff.).

    [The opposite of “hospital acquired”, BTW, is “community acquired” – doctors distinguish the two because it is important to know where someone got their pneumonia (say) as it will help tell you what organisms are most likely to be the cause and thus what is likely the best treatment. For instance, if you have “community-acquired pneumonia” then 95% of infections will be one of the bugs X, Y and Z, which we know are killed by antibiotic B. So the patient gets started on antibiotic B while the samples are sent off to the lab to test precisely which little nasty s/he has. This is a good thing as that way you get your treatment promptly rather than faffing around waiting for the lab to culture the bugs – if it turns out to be something weird you can change the regime later. If the patient has “hospital acquired” pneumonia then the causing organisms are likely different, and so will be the treatment.]

    Now, using the two dollar words when you could use a much more self-explanatory and thus easily understandable term is an interesting choice. Doctors use the fancy words when talking to one another as a kind of trade shorthand. But they are trained specifically not to do this when talking to people who will not immediately understand the term and its meaning. Mrs Dr Aust would never have told someone their sick relative in the ICU was sufering from a “nosocomial” pneumonia. She would have said “hospital-acquired infection in his/her lungs”. Now, if it was a meeting of all the ICU doctors to discuss infection rates in the unit, she would probably say nosocomial.

    It is rather tempting to suggest that using a whole bunch of the two dollar words without explanation is a way to assume an authority that you don’t really have… similar to claiming to have lots of letters after your name that may well not mean what people might automatically think they mean. I might also like to tell you that this is something Alt.Med people routinely do as a way of bamboozling the unwary. Just a suggestion.

  22. Dr Aust Says:

    Goodness me. I missed the best part of Dr Jack “PhD”‘s website, which is here.

    “The following, contrary to what the public has been “educated” to believe, are all nutritional problems NOT medical problems…”

    The list is long, and includes… …well, pretty much everything, but I was particularly interested to see cystic fibrosis (which of course is a genetic disease) “Infections (all kinds)” (sic), leukemia, “Tumors (all kinds)”.

    Err.. words fail me.

  23. physicsmum Says:

    Me too…..

    I’m sure you can tell I’m a neophyte here, but I am utterly flabbergasted to learn that there are so many people who apparently don’t believe in “germs”, or a genetic basis for disease. I’ll be sure to tell my friend whose son has cystic fibrosis that she just didn’t feed him properly??????????? OMG I really think that is obscene……

  24. Dr Aust Says:

    Well, Dr Jack’s site is on the fringe-ier side of Alt.Med nuttery, but it is not that atypical.

    A cynic might tell you that some of the more “sleek” Alt.Med people are a lot less far away from Dr Jack than they would like you to think. They have just learned to tie it up in a load of carefully anodyne flannel about “holistic therapy”, and the like.

    Homeopaths, who commonly believe that all disease has spiritual origins, are one example. As an exercise, try reading what they say about themselves here, and then try this, or this, for a different take on them.

    And like magic…. we find a homeopath in Alberta telling us that homeopathy and “Nutraceutical supplementation” is good for CF patients.


    You couldn’t make it up.

  25. physicsmum Says:

    Indeed the lunatic fringe is alive and well here in the Wild West!

    How about our esteemed provincial gov’t, who seem to think it is much more important to have (relatively) cheap liquor than adequate health care?? So while we are waiting years to see that specialist/have that operation, we can either drown our sorrows or get in to see some Alt.Med type tomorrow, no problem. Nice choices……..

    This properly belongs on a different post (dinosaurs?), but while I’m at it I can’t help passing along this bon mot from our former illustrious premier:

    “Our future is safe in the hands of the oil company executives. I mean, these guys are brilliant – some of them even have PhDs!”

    Wow, imagine that……… I’m sure we will all sleep much better at night now :P

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