Cracked Science: Antivaccination Doctors | The Body of Evidence

Cracked Science: Antivaccination Doctors

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Every month, the podcast will conclude with a segment entitled Cracked Science in which I criticize bad science and talk pseudoscience. Here's the transcript from the latest segment:


 

Here's a quote. Listen carefully: there will be a quiz.

"What I will stand up and scream is that newborns without intact immune systems and detoxification systems are being over-burdened with PRESERVATIVES AND ADJUVANTS IN THE VACCINES."

Quiz time: what are the credentials of the author of this diatribe, which was published on Cleveland.com?

You may not have guessed it, given the uneducated statement and the use of all caps at the end, but this was written by Daniel Neides, a medical doctor who is the medical director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

On January 6, website Cleveland.com published an article by Dr. Neides entitled, "Make 2017 the year to avoid toxins (good luck) and master your domain: Words on Wellness". This ill-judged, unscientific, and potentially damaging rant went from freaking out over trace amounts of formaldehyde in the flu vaccine, to exposing the "toxic soup" in which we live, to "just asking questions" about the link between vaccines and autism, to suggesting a delayed vaccination schedule.

The following day, the article was picked up by paediatrician Clay Jones and others on Twitter, and it ended up generating thousands of shares on social media, as well as hundreds of comments. The Cleveland Clinic issued a statement the following day in support of vaccination, saying Neades published without their authorization and that "appropriate disciplinary action" would be taken. The article was retracted, then reinstated.

You may be asking yourself, "As a physician, shouldn't he know better?"

My three-fold answer:

1. Research has shown that more educated people are better at rationalizing away inaccurate beliefs. If a doctor is predisposed to be scared of so-called toxins, their brain would be more adept at finding just the right sources of information to confirm their intuition than someone without their academic training. 

2. This is not the first time that a physician has been spouting pseudoscientific drivel. Dr. Oz has peddled numerous bogus weight-loss supplements on his show; former Dr. Andrew Wakefield is infamous for attempting to link autism to the MMR vaccine; and Dr. Ben Carson has rejected the theory of evolution, as well as carbon dating. Dr. Mark Hyman can also be added to this list, as the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and that takes us to my final point.

3. The acceptance of alternative, integrative, or functional medicine into academic health centres means that unscientific ideas such as vaccine preservative and environmental toxin fearmongering are more likely to come out of the mouth of physicians in respectable places.

What disciplinary action will be taken against Dr. Neades? The Cleveland Clinic does not release this information to the public, but it has announced it would likely stop selling some of its commercial products, like homeopathic remedies, in its gift shop in an attempt to refocus on evidence-based medicine. That's a lot of uproar for such a small victory, but it is a small victory. The kind of PR problem the Clinic had over that weekend needs to happen again. It seems public embarrassment may be the only way back toward science.