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The excuses and conspiracy theories flow over Dr. Bob Sears’ being disciplined by the Medical Board of California

Last week, we learned that antivaccine pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears was disciplined by the Medical Board of California. It didn’t take long for him to take to Facebook to make excuses and paint himself as a martyr to the “vaccine freedom” cause or for his antivaccine admirers to come up with ridiculous conspiracy theories.

On Friday, I wrote about how antivaccine icon Dr. Robert Sears (better known as Dr. Bob Sears or just “Dr. Bob”) had been disciplined by the Medical Board of California. In brief, he was placed on probation for three years, during which time his practice will be monitored and required to undergo retraining in areas where his knowledge and practice were deficient and take courses in ethics. He will not be allowed to supervise nurse practitioners. Basically, his medical license has been revoked, the revocation stayed for the three years of his probation, after which, if Dr. Bob completes all the remediation that the Board has required, the revocation can be stayed permanently. If, however, during his probation he screws up bad enough, the revocation of his license can be implemented immediately.

What he did wrong and why the Board sanctioned him can be found previous posts by yours truly here and here, Skeptical Raptor, and others. The CliffsNotes version is that there was a case where he handled the complaints of a child with severe headaches after having been hit in the head…poorly. He also granted a nonmedical exemption to school vaccine mandates to a child based on non-science-based reasons and failed to keep adequate records. Personally, I was surprised that what got him was mostly the case of the child with head trauma, given that he had started profiting by offering seminars on how to avoid vaccine mandates and providing bogus nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates beginning almost as soon as SB 277, the California law that eliminated nonmedical exemptions, was passed in 2015.

Over the weekend, there were…reactions.

First, I have to point out that one news story on Dr. Bob’s smackdown by the Board really irritated the crap out of me. First, there was this:

Yes, the LA Times screwed up. I don’t know who was responsible for the headline referring to Dr. Bob as a “leading vaccine skeptic,” but seeing that headline infuriated me. Dr. Bob is not a “vaccine skeptic.” He is a vaccine denialist. He is, if not an outright antivaxer, antivaccine-adjacent. He panders to antivaxers and has built his practice around catering to them. When SB 277 was under consideration and after it was passed, he went as far as going full Godwin over it. Let’s just put it this way. If Dr. Bob is not antivaccine, why does he consider a school vaccine mandate in which nonmedical (so-called “personal belief exemptions”) are no longer permitted the equivalent of totalitarianism on par with Nazi Germany? Why does he use Nazi analogies?

Apparently the online Twitter criticism of the headline got to someone at the LA Times, because the headline has been changed. It’s only marginally better, California doctor critical of vaccines is punished for exempting 2-year-old boy from all childhood immunizations. “Critical of vaccines”? A more accurate way to put it would be to characterize him as spreading misinformation about vaccines, aiding and abetting antivaxers, and doing his best to undermine SB 277 while profiting at the same time. The article even managed to quote antivaccine-adjacent pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon, longtime “friend” of the blog:

“It struck me as possibly the best decision that was going to come down … I don’t believe that the board really wants to get involved in this,” said Dr. Jay Gordon, a pediatrician in Santa Monica who supports Sears. “I think the law is pretty clear in this issue about medical exemptions — it’s in the hands of the doctor who knows the patient best.”

The doctor might “know the patient best” (although this is often debatable), but doctors like Dr. Bob and, yes, Dr. Jay, do not know (or choose to ignore or misinterpret) the science supporting vaccine safety and efficacy. Instead, they rely on “personal clinical experience,” full of confirmation bias, and use that to build lucrative practices catering to antivaccine parents.

As for Dr. Bob himself, he took to Facebook later on Friday, a few hours after the story broke:

Not surprisingly, the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism posted the full text of Dr. Bob’s response (for those of you who aren’t on Facebook). Not surprisingly, Dr. Bob sounds fairly unrepentant. First, he justifies accepting a settlement rather than fighting even though he thinks he’s “done nothing wrong”:

Why accept a settlement when I’ve done nothing wrong? The challenge with medical board cases is that even if I win on all aspects of a case, the medical board can still exercise its authority and put me on probation anyway. I win, or lose, a trial before a judge, then the medical board decides the punishment based on how they see the facts. Since it was likely that I’d get probation anyway, I accepted the offer.

This is nonsense. If Dr. Bob were to prevail at a legal hearing, the Board would have a hell of a time justifying the imposition any sort of sanctions, probation or other. One notes that this all also comes well over a year and a half after we first learned that the Board was bringing action against Sears. What was going on during that time? In any case, my guess is that Dr. Bob’s lawyer told him that he was probably going to lose and, rather than take the risk of losing his license, he took the deal and accepted probation.

Next up, Dr. Bob plays the conspiracy card:

All this for a court opinion letter? Medical boards are normally tasked with protecting patients against doctors who do things like sell drugs, see patients while intoxicated, commit insurance fraud, prescribe a wrong drug that ends up hurting a patient. However, this investigation probably came from higher up the chain of command. I picked a fight with a California Legislator, and he has been very vocal about openly working with the medical board to prosecute doctors who excuse patients from their vaccines, regardless of the merits of a case. I signed up for this.

That last sentence is clearly a shout out to his dedicated antivaccine followers. “Look at me,” he’s saying, “Look at what I’m doing for you! I’m going to the mat for you, and was willing to do that from the very beginning.” He’s also playing on the hatred antivaxers have for California State Senator Richard Pan, who led the charge for passing SB 277 and remains its staunchest defender. No surprise here. This is basically boilerplate that I’d expect from pretty much any doctor like Dr. Bob facing discipline for his behavior: Blame big pharma or higher forces. Personally, I doubt that Dr. Pan had much, if anything, to do with the Medical Board of California’s decision to pursue action against Dr. Sears, but it is true that he has spoken of introducing additional legislation to prevent the sort of profiteering through issuing dubious medical exemptions. That’s a good thing.

Later in the post, he lets drop that this is only the first complaint and that there are four more pending against him:

Is this fight over? No it is not. This was just case number one. The medical board is already lining up four more cases, and these will be about vaccine medical exemptions under the new vaccine law. It seems there is an attempt to keep me on probation for the rest of my medical career. But the one thing I’m going to do differently this time is that I’m going to be very open with all the proceedings. With case one, I was silent. Upon the recommendation of my lawyers I haven’t said a thing until now. But I’m tired of being quiet.

Dr. Bob should listen to his lawyers, who probably cringed painfully upon reading his Facebook post. Let’s just put it this way. It doesn’t help you to publicly accuse the Board of, in essence, a vendetta against you. I can see what he’s doing here, though. He’s borrowing a page out of the Stanislaw Burzynski playbook and trying to mobilize his followers against the Medical Board of California. That is not likely to end well because, unlike the case with Burzynski, whose patients had advanced and terminal cancer and weren’t a danger to anyone, antivaxers are putting others in danger by not vaccinating their children. In any case, this is just more of Dr. Bob playing to his antivaccine base. One wonders how long it will be before he sets up a legal defense fund, if he hasn’t already.

But what are these cases? Who are these children? Let’s just put it this way. None of them appear to have conditions for which a medical exemption to California’s vaccine mandate is in order. For instance:

So, case number two involves siblings who got vaccine medical exemptions from me because one of the children has a severe medical condition that research has shown can get worse with ongoing vaccination. The other child doesn’t have the condition, yet, but dad does. Exemption for reasons in a family’s medical history is an amendment guaranteed under SB277. We’ll see if the medical board agrees – probably about two years from now. These things take a long time.

Note how he doesn’t mention what the actual medical condition is. I’m hard-pressed to think of such a condition that “gets worse with vaccination” and is hereditary.

As for the rest:

Case number three is a child with a family member who had a severe permanent neurological injury after vaccines.

This is not an indication for a nonmedical exemption, even if the neurologic injury actually was caused by vaccines, which is very unlikely. Next:

Case number four is a teen who had a severe reaction to an infant vaccine, her own doctor told her to opt out of that vaccine after that, and I gave her an exemption from the teen booster dose. We’ll see if the board agrees.

I suspect that there is a lot more to the story here than what Dr. Bob relates. for one thing, the patient’s own doctor could easily have written a vaccine exemption letter. Why didn’t her doctor do that? Why did the parents take the patient to Dr. Bob instead to get an exemption letter? For another thing, if there’s one undisputed acceptable reason for a medical exemption to a given vaccine is a previous severe reaction to that same vaccine. Something definitely sounds fishy here.


Case number five involves siblings to whom I did not give vaccine exemptions to, but a parent somehow reported me to the medical board anyway. I don’t know why yet. Should be interesting.

I bet it will, because I bet there’s more to the story than what Sears is telling here.

Still, if you want to see where Sears is coming from, see his finale:

Now that case one is settled, I can go back to being loud and proud about my belief that every single patient should receive complete informed consent prior to vaccinations. This two-year period of silence has been tough. I will not rest until every single family has been given access to full, complete, objective, and un-doctored information that makes every parent fully aware of the risks they accept if they don’t vaccinate their child, and all the risks they take if they do vaccinate their child. Period. And I will fight against mandatory vaccination laws until they are no more. When every single person on this planet has access to informed consent, and can make a free choice, I will then be able to say my work is done.

What Sears really means is not “informed consent.” In reality it is what I’ve long referred to as “misinformed consent,” in which the dangers of vaccines are hugely exaggerated or, as in the case of autism, made up and not based in science, and the benefits of vaccines downplayed. The “free choice” that Sears claims he wants is really not so free.

Not surprisingly, along with Dr. Sears’ combination of self-pity and self-aggrandizement in service of ginning up conspiracy theories against him, antivaxers joined in. For instance, Ginger Taylor seems to think that the LA Times (which I just criticized for being too squishy on its language to describe antivaxers and too willing to interview the antivaccine-adjacent like Dr. Jay) is going to become even more biased (her pereception) against antivaxers. Why? Because Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong is taking over the LA Times. Why does that matter? Well, Soon-Shiong is planning on taking a cancer vaccine subsidiary of his public. Taylor, paranoid (and not too bright) antivaxer that she is, is a conspiracy theorist, and she thinks that the the fact that Soon-Shiong is developing a cancer vaccine and just took over the LA Times means that the LA Times is hopelessly biased.

So, Ginger being Ginger, she sent a flurry of emails to the LA Times, the first one after she learned that Soon-Shiong was taking over:

My faith in mainstream media “science journalism” ended in 2009 because of the LA Times, the abysmal and juvenile reporting they were publishing on very serious vaccine safety issues, and the appalling exchange I had with their science writers and editors on their “fake news.” It resulted in a, widely circulated, in-depth piece on the bad faith of the paper, and in science reporting in general. At the time I cautioned that the course the paper was on would only lead to the complete loss of public trust on these matters, and we have seen that come to fruition in this era.

It is my understanding that Dr. Soon-Shiong is in the vaccine industry himself, and unfortunately we have seen how that kind of conflict of interest in media ownership results in bias, so I am dubious that the LAT will make the changes needed to conduct earnest, objective reporting on these issues. However, if the California News Group is serious about developing integrity and demonstrating that they are independent from industry influence, then this is the place to start:
Chris Mooney, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Lori Kozlowski, Rosie Mestel, Thomas Maugh, David Gorski, Virginia Hughes, Science Journalists, The Dying of the LA Times and an Angry Autism Mom

To be honest, I was highly amused at this because what Soon-Shiong’s company is doing doesn’t sound much like vaccines to me:

Speaking at the Jefferies healthcare investment conference in New York last week, Soon-Shiong described the vaccine cocktail as a personalized immunotherapy combining experimental natural killer cells, dendritic cells and T cell therapy with viral and yeast-based vectors—and, of course, the protein-bound chemotherapy Abraxane, which has formed much of Soon-Shiong’s success, being the subject of a $2.9 billion acquisition deal with Celgene in 2010.

So what we have here is a combination of a bunch of different immunotherapies plus a chemotherapy drug. I was basically shaking my head wondering why it was being described as a “vaccine.” Be that as it may, it’s pharma, which makes it automatically suspect to Ginger.

In a later email:

Vaccine developer Patrick Shoon-Sheon bought the LA Times this month, with the promise that it should become a, ‘bastion of editorial integrity and independence.”

Yet your LAT article on Dr. Sears, that celebrates the chilling effect that the ruling will have on physicians writing medical exemptions, fails to disclose that the newspaper is own by a vaccine developer in the process of taking his vaccine products public.

I call on the paper to either disclose the serious conflict of interest on this and all vaccine related articles, or publicly withdraw the “integrity” claim.

There’s so much stupid here that it’s hard to know where to begin. First, what Soon-Shiong is doing is very different from making vaccines against childhood infectious diseases; it’s not even clear to me that he’s even really making a vaccine. Second, does anyone think that Soon-Shiong micromanages the editorial control of the newspaper to that extent? The ink’s barely dry on the sale documents, after all. Does Ginger really think that Soon-Shiong heard that Sears was disciplined by the medical board and leaned on editors to “celebrate” or that he even gave a rodent’s posterior at all? Or that the editors, knowing that Soon-Shiong had just taken over, bent over backwards to please their new overlord? If she does, she has no idea how newspapers work. I do, however, thank her for giving me a good chuckle over her cluelessness.

I also expect far more, both from Dr. Bob and his supporters, trying to paint him as a martyr and posit all sorts of dire conspiracies by big pharma, the government, and any other nefarious forces they can weave into the their conspiracy theories, to take Dr. Bob down.

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]

77 replies on “The excuses and conspiracy theories flow over Dr. Bob Sears’ being disciplined by the Medical Board of California”

Something I do not fully grasp: EBM/SBM advocates do form a conspiracy of sorts. One that I am not ashamed to endorse. Why should we even care twisting the already twisted facts to deny wishfully that this is not a conspiracy?

It is. And we should be proud of it given the nonsense on the other side.

It simply is a choice between uninformed denialistic anarchy and informed conspiracy guided by science with the occasional white lies.

Is the choice so overly complicated to make?

informed conspiracy guided by science with the occasional white lies.

Wait, what “white lies” are you talking about? I’m not aware of any, and wouldn’t be in favor of “white lies” about medicine or vaccines even in the interest of getting parents to vaccinate.

I also don’t really see SBM as a conspiracy; the advocacy for it is all very much out in the open.

White lies occur differently in medicine depending from country to country. In my country for instance Alzheimer medications are no longer reimbursed. For good science based reasons. Doctors bent backwards spreading misinformation to rollback this decision because the medications acted as a manipulative rationale for maintaining the therapeutic relationship.

That’s a white lie.

When it comes to autism, my country is still imbued heavily with psychoanalysis. I do find the US “debate” on autism, vaccines and bleach amusingly science based in comparison. Perhaps because we are dealing with more systematic mistreatment down here. Psychoanalysis has had and still has its share of white lies in this debate.

Yes. The SBM conspiracy is in the open. It hides in plain light. No doubt about it. But on a whole population basis, people are not aware of the implications and only discover the scientific literature quite late in their life. Before that, due to their own ignorance, it was hidden to them. Hidden by themselves often, but also hidden by the rather arcane character of the scientific literature. Quacks thrive on this vacuum made of ignorance.

You’re really stretching here. You cannot paint an entire profession with the bad actions of a few bad actors.

Doctors twisting the true to advance their financial interests aren’t telling white lies. They’re telling lies period. It’s unethical but the solution is to tell the truth, unvarnished and ugly if necessary.

That’s what science skeptics do, while admitting the caveat they could be wrong if more information becomes available, and then admitting they were wrong if said information does in fact become available.

Your example has nothing to do with science skepticism, does not serve to advance your argument, and makes me question your motives.

Consensus isn’t conspiracy and psychoanalysis isn’t science-based.

How right you are. However, disciplinary action (which I approve) goes a tad further than consensus.

Anecdotal, but…I was in the clutches of the Freudians as an (autistic) child. I knew before I was ten that they were full of crap, but who listens to a kid, especially one who has trouble self-advocating?
Freudian analysis is a stupidly, mechanistic view of the human psyche. They quote Juvenal or Voltaire or someone who you’ve never read even in the unlikely event that you’ve heard of them to make the most tenuous connection to your situation.They try to relate everything to childhood trauma (Adult trauma doesn’t count.) or to sexual imagery. Freud and his apostles continue to be the final authorities despite all having died the best part of a century ago.
In my experience Freudians and their ilk constitute a waste of good carbon.

You know I hadn’t really paid attention to the username, F68.10.

Factitious disorder.

Not sending a good message here, dude.

Strange and forced use of the word ‘conspiracy’. According to this construal, running a gas station is a ‘conspiracy’.

Popper once stated (as far as I recall) that we should kill hypotheses instead of killing people. However, in medicine, hypotheses also do both the curing and the killing.

That’s why there are so many background collective thoughts on all medical topics from all participants. Some of these thoughts gather as to form some kind of conspiracy to outrank the other schools of thought. Ultima ratio being not killing people you treat or do not treat.

Hence the need to neutralise/discipline people exercising responsibilities in medicine. It’s still on the whole a better option than killing them, to echo back to Popper’s statement.

That kind of coercive scenario is far from being a reality if you care only about running a gas station. Disciplinary actions still have their role to play in running a gas station, admittedly… But comparing both situations only serves to highlight the need to discipline medical practitioners more than ever, and surely more than disciplining people running gas stations.

Once you require that level of policing both thoughts and practices, there’s no shame in calling a cat a cat and a conspiracy a conspiracy. No matter how much it lies in the open or not.

Conspiracy is a matter of intent. In medicine just because most of the practitioners hew to the same models doesn’t make a conspiracy.
A military is a conspiracy. Watergate was a conspiracy.
Surgery for appendicitis isn’t a conspiracy. Immobilizing a cervical fracture is not a conspiracy.
Science- and evidence-based medicine has been building since the 18th Century or thereabout, involving many millions of disparate people of all backgrounds, some of whom did their work in relative isolation.
Please explain how that constitutes a conspiracy.

Invention of the stethoscope and other advances occurred in the late 18th century, notably around Paris. One of the motives of the french revolution was indeed medical reform to take such advances into account and limit the influence of the church into management of hospitals. Tellingly, the main hospital there was and is still called Hotel-Dieu.

Let’s call off the use of the word conspiracy and let’s at least observe that advocacy for science based medicine, as construed at the time, was a major conflict that spilled off severely in the political arena. Given the pressure of the church, it’s not hard to imagine disgruntled physicians banding up together against it in a not so transparent way.


blockquote>One of the motives of the french revolution was indeed medical reform to take such advances into account and limit the influence of the church into management of hospitals.</ blockquote>

I have somehow missed this bit in Burke vs. Paine.

Fun fact: I went to college with a young woman who was in fact a descendant of Paine.

SMH. No, no, and no again.

Advocating for EBM/SBM is NOT a conspiracy. It’s advocacy. Conspiracy means, “a secret plan to do something unlawful or harmful.”

There’s nothing secret about how EBM/SBM advocates/skeptics operate. There’s nothing unlawful or harmful about it, unless you mean harmful to misinformation being deliberately spread by quacks and cranks.

Let’s not enable those cranks and quacks by taking on a label that is patently incorrect and false.

Panacea, I think that F68.10 is an EFL/ ESL speaker who may not be aware of the connotation of the word conspiracy as well as its denotation which you rightly quote. Perhaps he or she uses the term ironically to mock the alties but I doubt that they would get it.

If we call instruction into what SBM research has found a “conspiracy” then we are no different than cranks and woo-meisters who do PRECISELY the same thing,**

To them, SBM is a conspiracy, racketeering, propaganda, a plot, a scheme, a religion, an inquisition, orthodoxy and a mafia amongst other pejorative labels.

** lists a series of articles doing exactly that as I’ve reported over the past 6 weeks or so.

@Denice Walter: you are mostly right about me.

The weird thing is that when trying to educate people about science and medicine, I had a tough time starting off from the assumption that there is no conspiracy. Such “denial” was bound to raise eyebrows.

However, I had most success into increasing acceptance of SBM by starting off from the assumption, say, that WHO was indeed a conspiracy and applying the socratic method to lead my “opponent” into carving out what a good conspiracy would look like.

Slowly, he began dropping the conspirationist overtones, and by laying out what problems such a conspiracy would have to solve, gradually gained insight into WHY we stick to the scientific method in order not to mess up people big time. Malaria/Artemisin was a good case to start working with

The human mind works in counter intuitive ways: It was more fruitful to sketch out a good conspiracy… than claiming no conspiracy.

@Panacea: yes, F68.10 is not a good sign. I’m well placed to know that… But it’s an experience that leads to one or two insights about what’s going on in the head of caretakers. Not a good experience, but a “worthwile” one. Orac wrote a nice piece on SBM blog about “IWK” and mentioned the shaman-healer archetype: that archetype is still alive and kicking in modern days physicians, and it does lead to practice white lies, wherein lies the major analogy between medicine and conspiracy.

I do not buy your definition of conspiracy as almost no one in this field is in the frame of mind of promoting “hurtful” treatments. And I do believe that white lies occur more often than money-induced plain evil lies.

F68.10: my definition of conspiracy is the same one you’ll find in any English language dictionary.

Note that Dr. Sears vows to tell parents of the risks they “accept” by not vaccinating, and the risks they “take” by vaccinating. Such wording implies that risks associated with not vaccinating are unavoidable, but that risks associated with vaccinating are extra risks undertaken by the parents. This is, of course, ridiculous, since the risks associated with vaccinating are far smaller than the risks of not doing so.

The Mercury News (San Jose) ran an online story a couple days ago about Sears’ travails, calling him a “renowned vaccine skeptic”, Slate also (in 2016) called him a “vaccine skeptic”.

From the Mercury News story:

“UCLA pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist Dr. James D. Cherry says the idea of spacing out vaccines, which Sears recommends, is simply wrong.

“The important thing is we know all the risks, benefits and contraindications of the vaccines we currently have,” he said. “If we didn’t have measles vaccines, we could have 3,000 deaths a year from it.

“Some people just choose to believe what they believe rather than what the facts indicate.”

Cherry said there should be consequences for doctors who “fraudulently” provide exemptions from vaccinations.

“The Medical Board should certainly investigate these cases and the doctors should be punished,” he said.

(Board spokesman Carlos) Villatoro declined to confirm whether the board is investigating more cases against Sears.”

It can never be a good idea to accept a medical board disciplinary action and then publicly state that you didn’t do anything wrong.

James Cherry is another expert that makes a pro-science, pro-vaccine advocate proud. .
Dangerous Bacon (and others) said, “It can never be a good idea to accept a medical board disciplinary action and then publicly state that you didn’t do anything wrong.”
Sears’ bizarre statements seem like something straight out of a 1930s/1940s gangster drama where Jimmy Cagney or Edward G. Robinson are in prison and appear before the parole board which expects the inmate to admit their infractions and their responsibility and accept the justice of their punishment – which they give. However: we film goers have seen, through our omniscience, the inmate telling his cellmates he was going to say anything to ‘those parole board chumps’ to get out of jail and back to his nefarious career.
…only Bobby is saying these things to his internet fans and displaying his secret mind for all to see.
I think the “parole board” (CAMB) needs to evaluate their “inmate’s” real attitudes and purpose.

The CAMB is not a parole board. They are a regulatory board that administers discipline to its licensees.

It certainly is true that many innocent people will plead guilty in order to end the legal nightmare. Sometimes they’re exonerated later. I don’t think Bob Sears falls into that category when he so openly admits his anti-vax views, and dismisses the process as “out to get him.” He indicts himself with his own words. Lots of innocent AND guilty people talk themselves into a conviction because they just can’t SHUT UP.

Bob Sears falls into that category. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the reason we need regulatory boards for certain professions.

Stay tuned for more of Bob Sears in a one-man play titled “Rebel Without a Clue”. Maybe Sears is playing to his audience because he figures the medical board is going to take his license no matter what he does. He’d still make money of his autism and vaccine books and still gets to put the MD after his name even if he can’t see patients anymore which would leave him more time for surfing and giving DAN/TACA seminars.

The LA Times, the 6/29 article on him that you discuss is much more sympathetic to Sears than prior articles on him right before, during and just after the 2014-2015 California measles outbreaks, so all this vast conspiracy by the new owner of the LA Times is silly.

Dr. Sears made several Facebook posts in the past downplaying the risks of measles. He openly downplays the risks of hepatitis B. He constantly uses VAERS report numbers as a measure of vaccines risks, and he has to know better. His pretense of standing for informed consent is extremely ironic.

Also, the only teen booster that would be needing an exemption under SB277 is the seventh grade Tdap. It’s not impossible a child had a previous severe reaction to the childhood version and is contraindicated for it. But like you, I just don’t see a case brought on that: this would be too clearly an appropriate medical exemption. So I’m skeptical too. I’m curious what these cases really include.

Under not a good way to influence people, Ms. Taylor’s emails accusing the people she writes to of being part of a conspiracy are also not likely to get them to seriously consider any suggestions she is making.

Well, yeah, but that’s just Ginger being Ginger. I also can’t help but laugh derisively over how she signs some of her emails with her name and “MS” after her name. No one cares in this context if you have a masters’ degree, Ginger.

It’s the commas after the indefinite article that really perplex me.

In an attempt to outdo the LA Times, the OC Register called Sears a “renowned vaccine skeptic”. Good grief. How soon these reporters forget the 14 deaths from the 2010 and 2014 pertussis outbreaks in CA as well as those measles outbreaks and all their hospitalizations ( )

If I were one of Dr. Bob’s lawyers, I would advise him to STFU and let the lawyers do the talking for him. It is quite evident from his social media activity over the weekend that Dr. Bob does not understand the first rule of holes: if you are in one, stop digging.

It makes sense that Dr. Bob, or his lawyers, would try to portray the other pending cases against him in the light most favorable to him. The advantage to having the lawyers speak for the client is that they know how to do that without making the client look any more sleazy than necessary. All Dr. Bob is accomplishing is reminding his critics that there are other pending cases against him, and that he is almost certainly not telling the whole truth about these other cases.

Like the Trumpists, Sears wants judges to reinterpret the law. Therefore, S’ing the F up may not be his best strategy. If the law is applied really, Sears will pay for his public complaining. But he is seeking a reinterpretation of law that allows him to act as he pleases.

Essentially, Sears wants to undermine the rule of law to his benefit. His loud complaining may actually serve him in the end. Perhaps he can ultimately get to a federal court with a 45 appointee. In that case, all bets are off.

How would he get to a federal court based on a medical licensure case before the Medical Board of California? Licensing and disciplining doctors is very clearly a state, not a federal, matter. The highest he could likely get (and getting there isn’t likely) would be the California Supreme Court.

To get to Federal court he would have to make the argument that the California medical board are punishing him for his speech, which would make it a First Amendment case. As long as the board is careful to make it about his violations of professional standards, I don’t see how that argument could succeed.

That may, however, be the strategy: to attempt to induce the board into making an error that would be reversible in Federal court. If the board does not rise to the bait, the argument will fail.

@Eric Lund

Or he knows the pending cases will sink him and he’s getting his “they’re just out to get me” narrative out there first – and nicely building his martyr legend ready for his second Wakefield-esque career as a “brave maverick” whose career was destroyed by them evil vaccine/big pharma illuminati types.


You know, Sears may not need to emulate Andy:
– he’s part of a family group that has had an ongoing enterprise for decades
– he sells books
and he lives in an area which has seen incredible increases in real estate value:
so people with money – like successful doctors in his family- could have been investing for years and become really well to do. They wouldn’t be the first.

I wouldn’t be surprised because he and his family seem like a mercenary lot.


Or he knows the pending cases will sink him…

Actually, I think you’re right.
The findings against him in this case are extremely adverse. If the other cases go the same way (and I’m guessing at least some of them will), the Medical Board may decide that Sears is too far gone and revoke his license.

so people with money – like successful doctors in his family- could have been investing for years and become really well to do

That’s certainly possible. OTOH, doctors have a well-documented vulnerability to the Dunning-Kruger effect, particularly when it comes to investing. Many doctors think they are smart, and have good cash flow, but they seldom have time to do their own research when it comes to investments, and so they are frequently victims of investment scams. (For me, an office location near a hospital is enough for me to rule out potential financial advisors.) Even when the doctors aren’t outright scammed, they often invest poorly, or feel they have to spend much of their income on a lavish lifestyle. Witness the case of Stanislaw Burzynski, who owns a fancy mansion in metro Houston but was unable to come up with the scratch to pay his lawyer (a land-war-in-Asia class blunder for somebody who lives as close to the edge of the law as Burzynski does).

True, Dr. Bob lives in southern California, so his house is likely to be worth a lot more than he paid for it (and that gets even more likely if he lives close to the ocean). But that’s not exactly a liquid asset. Dr. Bob has to live somewhere, and I suspect he is not prepared to live in a little box in one of the more rundown areas of Santa Ana or Anaheim. So he still has to pay the mortgage on his house, and he will need to maintain a substantial cash flow in order to do that–especially if he has done a cash-out refinance or taken out a home equity loan (two ways in which many OC homeowners ran into trouble when the last real estate bubble popped).

So basically, while Dr. Bob could have some actual wealth, it’s entirely plausible that he’s been spending his substantial income as fast as it comes in. To update Mr. Micawber: Annual income $200,000, annual expenses $199,999, result happiness. Annual income $200,000, annual expenses $200,001, result misery. Especially when that income takes a hit, as is likely in Dr. Bob’s case.

@Eric Lund,

You hit the nail on the head for me. It’s been a year I’ve been working on a system approach on my financial planning and especially, the next 25ish years (I’ll be 42 soon; still no child) in which current situation is A and B is where I want to be in said 25 years but going from A to B require a metric ton of thinking and introspection given my limits (for one: can’t work a regular 40 hours schedule a week thus, how to make it while working out 30 at most).

I suspect it’s just the same for every one but one of the principle I use is to put a value (mostly monetary although other forms of values can occur) on every tasks that I do. That include thinking and introspection time. It’s only one trick out of many but there’s only so much I can do in a 168 hour week.


p.s. Leasure time is also a value, not monetary but I do include leasure time.


Certainly if he’s been sensible with the money he’s raked in from his FUD campaign he could probably survive reasonably comfortably without going down the Wakefield route. Even if that is the case though I somehow doubt that he would – he’s demonstrated what looks like a fair amount of both monetary greed and ego over the years and people with those traits don’t generally “go quietly”.

If anything the rhetoric we’re seeing in his facebook post that Orac discussed suggests he’ll actually be getting more vocal. I actually have a creeping sense of dread that his “activities” may have been kept somewhat in check by the need to pay lip service to the conditions of his licence.

Hmm. Maybe. Or maybe he’s just going to spout Mercola style nonsense about “vaccine induced disease.” Lord, I hope that’s not his defense; he’ll lose for sure if it is.

Twisting the science on MTFHR would almost be smarter, though I don’t see how the study you mentioned would support not vaccinating on the notion it would make a medical condition worse.

I can’t wait to see what novel theory Sears comes up with for this.

The usual way to get to a federal court in a disciplinary proceeding is to invoke the 14th amendment and claim a violation of due process. He would have to actually come up with a violation of due process to claim. There have been cases like that in the past.

I’m a pediatrician. Sears is a dangerous idiot and a discredit to our profession. That’s all we really need to say about this dust-up. About time he got exposed and punished.

By “un-doctored information”, does Sears mean any information that comes from someone who gets their license revoked?

It doesn’t appear as though Bob’s colleagues in his practice (all family members I believe) have any influence on Bob behaving in a manner that doesn’t cast them in a bad light.

Sears alternate schedule would have resulted in more fully immunized children.

Quoting SBM to vaccine hesitant parents in order to achieve more fully immunized children? Is like quoting scripture to atheists in order to achieve more Christians. It had not & will not; achieve more fully immunized children.

If more children being fully immunized was truly your highest priority? You have just crucified your Jesus.

If SBM is your highest priority; then children are not. It does not matter if you think that SBM=Safe children; the parents needed to hear you say that their child was your first priority but you didn’t. Which is exactly what vaccine hesitant parents were afraid of the whole time.

Consider them validated. Now consider that less children will be fully vaccinated.

This can’t possibly be that hard to understand.

@Christine K:

Sears alternate schedule would have resulted in more fully immunized children.

What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. I could argue the opposite: that an alternative vaccine schedule could cause a “vaccine hesitant” (nice euphemism) parent to feel validated, leading them to further opposition.

No, not fully immunized. Or at least not fully immunized at the point where they should be: when the vaccine can provide complete protection against infectious disease.

But they’re not fully immunized if a delay in getting a vaccine causes them to acquire a disease that could have been avoided in the first place if the parents had adhered to the CDC or AAP recommendations.

SBM is not a religion. It is evidence. By following the evidence we put the patient (ie the child) FIRST. If I tell a parent that getting their kid vaccinated on schedule is what the medical literature recommends its not because I’m trying to sound smart, or validate the people who did that research. It’s because I listen to the experts, and I listen to them because I want to keep the child from getting sick. That’s putting the child first.

Why you have trouble comprehending that is impossible to understand.

The big problem is that Dr. Bob’s alternate vaccine schedule is NOT based on any sound scientific evidence. If children really are your highest priority, then you should be using SBM in what you do for them. Science is the best tool we have found for understanding reality, and frankly, any good parent really ought to be giving treatments based on reality for the health of their children.

“You have just crucified your Jesus.”

I am sure Jesús was fully vaccinated on time before immigrating from South America to the USA to work as a software engineer.

“Which is exactly what vaccine hesitant parents were afraid of the whole time.”

They are hesitant about vaccines because of the rampant misinformation being promoted by the likes of Bob Sears, David Foster (who makes claims but refuses to support them), the Dwoskins, SafeMinds, Ginger Taylor, Polly Tommey, Barbara Loe Fisher, RF Kennedy Jr, the Geiers, Boyd Haley (who started cashing on of the fear of dental fillings), Wakefield and the rest the anti-science brigade.

Bob Sears uses that fear to perform wallectomies on those hesitant parents:

This can’t possibly be that hard to understand.

My highest priority is that children receive the best protection from vaccine-preventable diseases possible under our level of understanding and technology. Delaying vaccines increases the time during which a child can contract and spread illness.

My highest priority is that statistically, vaccination coverage is enough to protect the whole population.

If one or two unvaccinated children die, I’d push the state to sue the parents, but I couldn’t care less otherwise.

As regards Dr Bob being punished, is it time that the AAP members become vertebrates?

OK, his license is jeopardized for poor documentation and failure to report possible child abuse (a biggie for a pediatrician) as well as his totally inaccurate interpretation of vaccine risks/benefits; those are matters for the California Board. Does the AAP really want to extend lifetime Fellowship to same guy whose advice led to the index case of the San Diego measles outbreak, sells vaccine exemptions, and authors a book that undermines the recommendations of the AAP’s own Red Book?

Seems to be inconsistent with writings from the AAP website about Fellowship: “recognizes a person is a Fellow in the American Academy of Pediatrics, which places a great importance on not only health care for all children, but for the advancement of our field and an interest in continued improvement in that health care”

Amen. The AAP does not have to worry about the finer points of state law. His open disregard for the standard of care should be all they need to revoke his FAAP.

Before the Medical Board ruling, Sears was guilty of voilating parts (4), (5) and (7) of the AAP by laws for termination of membership . After the ruling he is now also in violation of section (2). Yet the AAP continues to refuses all action, as documented by Tara Haelle in her Forbes column this weekend who notes the AAP refused comment on Sears ( ). The AAP cannot claim to be pro-vaccine when they continue to shelter dangerous anti-vaccine quacks like Sears, Gordon and Thomas. The AAPathy is glaring.

[From AAP Bylaws]
Section 8. Termination of Membership.
B. Discipline
The Board of Directors may terminate, suspend, or otherwise restrict the membership of any Academy member if two-thirds of the members of the Board of Directors find that the conduct of the member in question has been in knowing violation of the Bylaws or other lawful rules or regulations adopted by the Academy, or has been otherwise prejudicial to the best interests of the Academy. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the following shall be considered to be examples of conduct or conclusive evidence of conduct that is prejudicial to the best interests of the Academy and therefore subject to disciplinary action:

(2) Limitation or termination of any right associated with the practice of medicine in any state, province, or country, including the imposition of any requirement for surveillance, supervision, or review, by reason of a violation of a medical practice act or other statute or governmental regulation, disciplinary action by any medical licensing authority, entry into a consent order, or the voluntary surrender of the license to practice;

(4) Medical incompetence;
(5) Grossly immoral, dishonorable, or unprofessional conduct;
(7) Participating in communications to the public that convey false, untrue, deceptive, or misleading information through statements, testimonials, photographs, graphics, or other means, or that omit material information without which the communication would be deceptive.

Christopher thanks for both the link to Ms Haelle’s story and the Bylaw summary. I wonder how egregious a Fellow’s conduct has to be in order to have 2/3 of the Board become vertebrates…

I lobbied the AAP from 2009 to 2013 to expel him (as well as Jay Gordon). The answer they gave me was they didn’t want to risk being sued if they expelled anti-vax pediatricians–that came directly from a phone conversation with then AAP President Dr. Robert Block. I found that funny given they have 60,000 pediatricians paying them $600 a year to belong and apparently they didn’t want to hire an attorney.

I’m hoping maybe there are significantly more pissed off pediatricians out there to give the AAP a piece of their mind, especially given these low vaccination rate hot spots delineated very well by Peter Hotez, MD, PhD and colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine that are driven by anti-vaccinationists ( ).

Chris, I imagine the AAP doesn’t want to deal with the bad press worse than they don’t want to wind up in court. Because Sears WOULD sue. The AAP has a good reputation. But their leadership, it seems, would rather stick their heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away than take a principled stand and let their membership know this behavior is not acceptable.

How about having the respectable members of the AAP sue the AAP for gross incompetence in cleaning up their own rank?



I’ve been told, Alain and Panacea, that the AAP–at their annual convention (the “NCE”–never been to it myself)– has a session where the Board takes general questions/concerns from individual members. I’ve been told question of what to do with AVers like Sears has been raised occasionally, but nothing ever comes from it. In 2012 I applied for exhibition space for a booth to rally the AAP to do more against anti-vax AAP doctors and was told by the AAP that if I engaged in any activity that seemed anti-AAP I would have my booth shut down. I’ve appealed to the AZ AAP chapter to stand up against anti-vaxxers in AZ including cardiologist Jack Wolfson, and they have thanked me for my concern and done nothing. In short, it’s amazing how little the AAP wants to do to directly oppose anti-vaxxers, including anti-vax physicians in their own ranks. The only big exception was the AAP did get behind SB277 after the Disneyland measles outbreak. The cynic in me feels the AAP is waiting for more vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks to happen in the hopes of getting more SB277-like laws passed in other states. I sure hope not, because I don’t think that type of law could pass in all states– I know in Arizona it will be next to impossible to get a law like that passed no matter how many cases of measles of pertussis and measles there are. The better path would be for the AAP to actively oppose anti-vax physicians, expel anti-vax AAP member and go after anti-vax groups like the NVIC, Mercola, Natural News, Green Med, etc. For a group whose motto is “for the health of all children”, they’ve really dropped the ball on vaccines, and have continued to do so with their failure to capitalize on this medical board punishment of Sears as a perfectly acceptable grounds for expulsion from the AAP.

I made a comment on Yahoo, that I was happy Sears was finally facing some consequence. One of his fans threatened to find me and shoot me, after jabbing many needles in my face and stomping on it. It’s only the second death threat I’ve had on the Internet in the…what? 25 years I’ve been here. Obviously, Sears has as dedicated a fan base as some of our current political leadership.

Keep talking, Bob. These cases are not won or lost on public opinion, but the board will not give you the benefit of the doubt if you keep it up.

“Quoting SBM to vaccine hesitant parents in order to achieve more fully immunized children? Is like quoting scripture to atheists in order to achieve more Christians.”

You have this exactly backwards.

Less committed members of the antivax sect may find it a bit easier to accept the overwhelming evidence in support of immunization, now that Prophet Sears has been shown to have feet of clay.

” it’s in the hands of the doctor who knows the patient best.”
A homeopath or a feathers-and-smoke shaman may know the patient better than I did, but I’m sure I could provide a better outcome.

Vaccination prevents childhood diseases. People supporting vaccination do not want to see sick children. They certainly put child first. Do you want your children have congenital rubella syndrome, and indeed, preventable autism ?

Technically the children affected by Congenital Rubella Syndrome would be his grandchildren born by his daughters.

I am with you, I have taken care of kids with chicken pox, plus I rode in the ambulance with a toddler who had seizures due to a rotavirus infection. I do not have kind thoughts who think kids are better with the “natural” immunity (especially since that often does not happen, especially with chicken pox, rotavirus, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus and even mumps).

Dr. Pan is up for re-election this year as a California state Senator in District 6. The co-sponsor of SB 277 was State Senator Ben Allen, District 26, who is also up for re-election this year: let’s not forget him!

Here are their re-election websites:

Anti-vaxers will predictably support both of their opponents, and it’s highly probable that “Dr. Bob” will be in the mix, getting them riled up for the fight. They do fight dirty: both Senators Pan and Allen received death threats over the bill.

Never take an election for granted. We’ve all made that mistake at leas once and come to regret it.

We know what we need to do: any expressions of support, any contributions, any volunteer efforts, will help ensure they keep their seats.

Figures published a couple of days ago on the Daily Kos (progressive Democratic blog/organizing site, our pal Skeptical Raptor also publishes there) show that the most effective thing to get out the vote is door-to-door canvassing.

Next-most-effective are personal phone calls and personal text messages, followed by personal postcards (via postal mail) to voters. Mass emails are not very effective, and robocalls are actively counterproductive.

The effectiveness of postcards is about 4%. On average, 25 postcards translate to one more person getting to the polls and voting. At 39-cents per postcard, that’s $9.75.

A five dollar donation to a campaign buys two slices of pizza or a burrito to keep a door-to-door canvasser fed while they’re out in the evening knocking on doors and talking to voters. Make it ten bucks and feed two canvassers for a night.

If you have a phone number with a local area code for either of their districts, you could also help by making calls from home. Best of all if you live in or near either of their districts: you can help with the canvassing.

Solid victories for both Pan and Allen will send a strong message that California continues to support science-based medicine and proper immunizations for kids. But a loss for either will be a victory for the champions of dangerous diseases. We need both Pan and Allen to win with strong mandates. We can all do our part.

Everybody in: that’s how we win.

the most effective thing to get out the vote is door-to-door canvassing

Which, I will add, is absolutely brutal work. I lasted two days doing it for MSF, although that involved soliciting funds as well. Once the petechial rash set in on my lower left extremity, I knew I was the wrong person for the job.

I will not rest until every single family has been given access to full, complete, objective, and un-doctored information

Interesting choice of words for a physician.

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