Alt med updates

By Phil Plait | September 29, 2009 2:21 pm

I’m leaving, on a jet plane… but I do know when I’ll be back again. But between now and then I’m off to jolly old to attend TAM London! So this is a short post designed to buy me a few hours.

1) Remember the homeopath and his wife who killed their nine-month-old daughter, because she had severe eczema and all they did was give her nothing but water (because that’s what homeopathic "medicine" is)? Yeah, they got six years in jail.

2) Antivax groups aren’t getting smarter about medicine, but they are getting smarter about branding. They call themselves Talking About Curing Autism and Operation Rescue, but don’t be fooled: they are antivaccination, pure and simple. And whether they believe what they say or not, they are not supporting children. They are putting them at grave risk of illness and death from preventable diseases.

Worse, if you read that link you’ll see that TACA is sponsoring a concert to raise funds for their antivax efforts, and got the radio station JACK 93.1 to partner with them. Lots of big names will be at the concert, and all the money will go toward a group that may in fact want to help autistic kids, but is also spreading gross misinformation about vaccines while doing it.

3) And finally, a ray of hope: the New York Times posted an article debunking antivax swine flu nonsense. Yay!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience

Comments (37)

  1. The NYT reporter, McNeill, was trashed months ago by J.B. Handley, of Generation Rescue. McNeill’s credentials on the subject of vaccines and avoiding nasty illness are impeccable. That is why he is hated by the pro-infectious disease merchants of disability and death, otherwise known as anti-vac liars.

  2. Brian

    TACA is sponsoring a concert to raise funds for their antivax efforts

    I recommend the name “Malaria-Aid”.

  3. Durnett

    Alt med works great…in alt reality.

  4. I didn’t realize Eddie Money was a “big name” these days. Looks to me like they’re attracting pretty lame talent (aside from Funkadelic). Exactly what the Antivaxers deserve.

  5. Although, Last night, Letterman went on somewhat of an anti flu vaccine tirade with his guest, Dr. Oz… who was surprisingly rational.

  6. Gerard Hoffnung

    Have fun – and don’t forget to try the famous echo in the reading room of the British Museum…

  7. Mena

    There’s nothing like the mentality that wants to bring us back to the days before vaccines, back when people had 10-15 kids in the hope that some of them would live to adulthood. Ah yes, the good old days…

  8. Isn’t Operation Rescue a guano-crazy anti-abortion group? You know, the one that thinks it’s okay to murder abortion doctors? And now the name has been adopted by guano-crazy anti-vax groups.

    I guess small minds think alike.

  9. @Carey,

    To the credit of anti-vax groups, they don’t (yet) seem to be calling for the killing of doctors who administer vaccines or for the murder of “Big Pharma” executives who supposedly profit off of those awful vaccines.

  10. Chris

    Yes, Carey, Operation Rescue is the anti-abortion group. Phil made a small, but common error. The group is “Generation Rescue” (though I wonder how many stillbirths they will cause by women getting rubella, pertussis and other vaccine preventable diseases).

  11. Geophysicist

    Consider regarding the Homeopath and his wife. They have lost a child. That is a brutal punishment regardless of any jail time. But are they really to blame? They themselves were raised in a culture where homeopathy is accepted. Homeopathy is sold along side evidence based medicine in every pharmacy in their country. Top universities offer degrees in homeopathy along side their medical schools. Often natural health is offered as a Bachelor of Applied Science. Whether we like it or not. Homeopathy is given credibility in our society, and it is that fact that causes children to die. Don’t be too harsh on these poor ignorant parents. More must be done to attack this ignorance at its source.

  12. Pete


    The couple who lost their child were specifically advised by their doctor in Australia that the child needed better care than what they were giving, before they left the country. They knew what they were doing was not working.

  13. Adam_Y

    Actually, their behavior is really sinister to the point where I think they got off easy. The wife actually went to the hospital in the middle of the babies suffering. Think of that the mother got actually medical care while they let the baby suffer.

  14. @Geophysicist

    To further add to @Pete, not only were they told many many times by doctors that the child needed science-based medical treatment, but they showed no remorse at all. They stated something to the affect of if they had to do it over again, they would take the same course of action that led to their little baby girls death.

    IMO 6 years is just a slap on the wrist. They deserve a lot worse.

  15. Geophysicist


    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you more or less but you have to admit that with the credibility given to Homeopathy in Australia today, a medical doctor’s advice is just treated as an opinion on par with the opinion of an acupuncturist or voodoo shaman. Thus ignoring a medical doctor’s advice in favour of a homeopathic “doctor’s” advice is almost understandable.

  16. Paul

    Over on, I saw this great anti-anti-vaccination LOL:

  17. These antivax people are misguided. It’s not the VAX that I have a problem with: it’s VMS. [/CSGeekHumor]

  18. anon

    Hey Phil, check out Coast to Coast AM tonight. I am learning all SORTS of things about the Swine Flu Vaccine. I don’t think I’ve learned so many interesting things about Swine Flu Vaccine since I visited the Huffington Post website.

  19. Buzz Parsec

    Fie on you madcap! VMS is the best O/S ever. You must be one of those ignorant anti-vax U**x weenies.

  20. Buzz Parsec

    If you hear something that is completely and utterly wrong, and believe it to be true, and remember it, can that process properly be called “learning”? Or is it more akin to “brainwashing”?

  21. Here in the UK, The Daily Mail is running a nice scare story about vaccinations at the moment, as usual based on unscientific rumormongering and whipping up the shrill hordes of their readership to avoid the HPV vaccine. I’d be tempted to view it as evolution in action, if they didn’t affect policy for the rest of us…

    (Also, in a vain attempt at a self-plug, you might want to check out OfQuack on Twitter for sCAM-related daftness and sarcasm. Now with added podcast.)

  22. June

    Should we start jailing surgeons for manslaughter when their patients die, psychiatrists when their patients commit suicide, and city engineers when a bridge collapses and kills dozens?

  23. Austen

    Has any one posted this video yet?

    Homeopathic A&E!

  24. @June

    [1] Should we start jailing surgeons for manslaughter when their patients die, [2] psychiatrists when their patients commit suicide, and [3] city engineers when a bridge collapses and kills dozens?

    1) Depends on the circumstances.
    2) Depends on the circumstances.
    3) Depends on the circumstances.

    Do some more reading about this case before passing judgment. The child was taken in to several different doctors, all of whom prescribed the standard of care for eczema. The parents stopped using the treatments and opted for homeopathy (the father is trained in homeopathy, btw, as are several of his relatives, and IIRC, he also has some medical training, but I can’t remember). The condition got better when they used the standard treatment and worse under homeopathy. This pattern repeated a couple times. Then, they went to India and again, ignored medical advice, opting instead for homeopathy. The child’s condition got worse and worse and worse. So bad that she developed a septic infection, which led to her cornea melting and, ultimately, her death.

    The parents showed no remorse and said they would do it again. IIRC (and someone correct me if I’m wrong), their son suffered from some other medical ailment, which they treated with proper medicine, rather than homeopathy. The mother also had received proper medical treatment rather than homeopathy. This poor little girl, however, was denied proper medical treatment by her parents.

  25. Autism Dad

    This just goes to show that no matter how smart someone might be in one field, they can be rediculously misinformed in others yet people will still read their blog. Yours is proof. Please allow me to correct some misinformation. TACA helps families of autistic children recover from autism. My son was one of those who recovered even though the best medical minds said that he would never speak again and that we would end up institutionalizing him. My son was also one that immediately after receiving a round of vaccines developed autism. So say what you like. Laugh at your own ignorance. I and about 20,000 of my closest friends watched our children get sick and in some cases even die from vaccines.
    It’s pretty amazing that Dr. Bernadette Healey the former director of The Institute of Medicine as well as researchers from universities around the world, see a connection between autism and specific ingredients in vaccines. However, those who are paid millions to represent the drug companies such as Dr. “For Profit” Offit” can’t seem to see what others find so easily. TACA and the parents involved are not anti-vaccine, we only want safe ones. We are tired of our children getting injured. It’s time to stop saying that we know enough about vaccines and start looking into why so many people have so many adverse reactions to them. Please allow me to send you the research studies if you can’t find them for yourself.

  26. June

    Regardless of one’s opinion of homeopathy, the question here is whether these parents deserve a charge of reckless criminal negligence, a conviction of manslaughter, and a harsh sentence. Consider the facts FOR the parents.

    The child obviously had a terrible, life-threatening disease to begin with. Patients can die even under classic treatment. Doctors and hospitals also make mistakes without facing manslaughter charges. The parents are not antagonistic to classic medicine. They did try several doctors. In India, homeopathy is sanctioned and widely practiced. The father is a trained homeopath. That the parents would do it again indicates their good will and intent.

  27. Lawrence

    26. June – allowing their child to go through months of intense pain & suffering, to the point of her corneas melting, instead of going through conventional treatment that would have saved the child……well, they didn’t get enough time. And them saying that they would do it all over again, that’s just sick.

    Good will & intent? If I believe that I can save a child from hell by killing them before they sin – does that qualify as “good will and intent?”

  28. Calli Arcale

    To those who mention that homeopathy is widely practiced in India, this is true. And it does suggest why they may have thought it was appropriate to use on their infant daughter. But what gives me pause is the fact that during this time, the mother was reported to have sought conventional medical treatment for an infection that she was suffering — yet she did not seek such attention for her child until it was far too late. So although these two are indeed homeopaths and probably believe homeopathy works, evidently they are quite comfortable with using modern medicine as well — as long as it’s on themselves.

    Unfortunately, this is not uncommon — there are many instances of a child dying of a condition for which the parent would have sought proper treatment had it happened to the parent. I’ve often wondered whether it is because the parents aren’t fully appreciating the pain their child is enduring, or because they want their child to be purer/nobler/whatever than they are. (The latter is probably the case for a lot of instances where the parents consider modern medicine to taint a person somehow.)

    Certainly parents can get into a situation where they are not really recognizing what their child is going through; there are far too many cases of that. Shaken baby syndrome is an aspect of that; studies have shown that new parents made to watch videos about shaken baby syndrome are dramatically less likely to injure or kill their babies by shaking them. They aren’t any less cruel than parents who haven’t watched such videos; they’re just more aware of what shaking really does to an infant.

    In any case, I think they should be held accountable for what they did. That child was suffering terribly, and they closed their ears to it so they could uphold their belief in homeopathy. An example must be made of them. They have indicated that they will not learn from it, but hopefully others will.

  29. @June

    The child obviously had a terrible, life-threatening disease to begin with.

    No, she didn’t. She had eczema. Not life threatening with medical treatment.

    The parents are not antagonistic to classic medicine.

    Yes, they were. They stopped using medicine and switched to homeopathy. They ignored what the doctors told them to do.

    That the parents would do it again indicates their good will and intent.

    No. It indicates their blind acceptance of a treatment option that’s all wet. The father, as I said earlier, is, IIRC, also trained in real medicine. They should have known better.

    Regardless of their intent or their culture, they are citizens of Australia and are subject to the laws of that country. Under Australian law, they were criminally negligent in the care of their daughter.

  30. Ryan Dunn

    Just for the record, TACA is “Talk About Curing Autism,” and yes, they love “supporting” families suffering from autism by tricking them into utilizing dangerous and ineffective treatments.

  31. June

    OK, so we’ve made an example of the parents.
    I wish I felt better about it.

  32. Lawrence

    One never feels better in a situation like this. I have no sympathy for the parents & only hope that their punishment prevents this from happening in the future (though I know it probably won’t).

  33. Gary Ansorge

    30. June

    Had they applied the exact same treatment to both themselves and their son, I would have said they were merely delusional. That they let their DAUGHTER die from their delusions but used standard treatments for themselves and their SON suggests they just didn’t care what happened to their girl child. That, to me, speaks of intentional infanticide and should be treated under the law as, at least, manslaughter.

    GAry 7

  34. ndt

    Patients can die even under classic treatment.

    But we can measure the success rates of conventional treatments for various conditions. The conventional treatment for eczema is almost always successful. Homeopathy is almost always ineffective, for all conditions.

    Doctors and hospitals also make mistakes without facing manslaughter charges.

    This wasn’t a mistake. They didn’t attempt a treatment with a proven success rate and do it wrong. They chose to use a treatment with no demonstrable effectiveness and chose, against medical advice, not to use a treatment known to be effective.

    People have a duty to inform themselves. Willful ignorance shouldn’t excuse people from the consequences of their ignorance.

  35. It was a very nice idea! Just wanna say thank you for the information you have shared. Just continue writing this kind of

    post. I will be your loyal reader. Thanks

  36. I got my seasonal flu shot a couple of weeks ago and plan to get the H1N1 vaccine just as soon as it becomes available to the general public. I figure it’s easier than trying to remember to keep my finger out of my nose.


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