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Flea feels the wrath of the antivaccination crowd

Fellow finalist for a 2006 Weblog Award for Best Medical/Health Issues Blog Flea sure stepped into it the other day. A reader e-mailed him a discussion found on the dreaded discussion boards, you know, the same boards that horrified me with the sheer level of antivaccination wingnuttery and HIV/AIDS denialism routinely supported by the discussants there.

After expressing sympathy for a mother’s loss of a child, he then goes on to show why it was not, as the mother claimed in the discussion boards, the vaccine that caused her child’s death:

What follows is a very sad story of a progressive seizure disorder involving neurological compromise ending in death by status epilepticus.

What makes the story even sadder for Flea is that mom believes with perfect faith that vaccines killed her daughter. She refers to the child she lost as “Marissa (victim of childhood vaccines)”. It’s bad enough to lose a child. It’s worse to remember her with a parenthetical moniker like this one.

Predictably, the antivaxers have descended upon Flea en masse, much as the World Trade Center conpsiracy theorist wingnuts descended on mine over the weekend.

Unfortunately, Flea has found out why it’s so difficult to counter antivaccination woo when it comes from certain quarters. If you’re the least bit blunt in doing it, you’ll be labeled as a bully or being insensitive to a mother’s pain, even if you bend over backwards to acknowledge how tragic the death of a child–any child–is. It is indeed truly sad that the child of the mother who posted on the forums died. However, in her grief, this particular mother is spreading misinformation that could harm others. The child’s mother deserves sympathy for her loss. However, it does not follow from our sympathy as human beings for her that we are obligated to remain silent in the face of the message about vaccines that she is spreading. Flea tried to walk that tightrope, and, as he found out, it’s almost impossible to do.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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