….the rise of this disorder, which shows up before age 3, happens to coincide with the increased number and type of vaccine shots in the first few years of life. So as a trigger, vaccines carry a ring of both historical and biological plausibility.
It was a credulous article designed, I suspect, to have a bit of a snipe at HHS – currently embroiled in the Autism Omnibus. Why do I say that?
Well, being a UK citizen I’d never heard of Bernadine Healy so I did a bit of looking around to see if I could adequately explain to myself why such a luminary would say such plainly silly and unscientific things.
It seems that:
on 10 Feb , Healy, who is known for her bluntness, went to her new boss, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Donna Shalala and asked about her future. Shalala apparently matched Healy for bluntness. “She let me know it wouldn’t work out in the long term.” Said Healy.
So possibly there is some lingering resentment towards HHS. Who knows. It seems doubtful that this would entirely (if at all) explain Healy’s decision to parrot pseudo-science but – people do silly things sometimes.
…..patients are forced into a one-size-fits-all straitjacket…..EBM [evidence based medicine] carries its own ideological and political agenda separate from its clinical purpose.
Dr. Bernadine Healy, a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and former director of the National Institutes of Health, falsely claimed that “several” neurologists who “evaluated” Terri Schiavo determined that she had “a functional mind” and was “minimally conscious.”
Dr Bernadine Healey, former director of the National Institute of Health said, “Blenderizing these diverse trials into one giant 232,606-patient-strong study to come up with a seductively simple proclamation is just silly….”
That latter was Healy’s attack on a study that highlighted the dangers of vitamins.
So we can see that Healy has a history that is peppered with leanings toward a credulous approach.
It also seems that she is first and foremost a politician, willing to sacrifice her scientific credibility to support her party (she is a Republican):
Healy was appointed director of the National Institutes of Health in 1991….when Healy assumed control, the agency was beset with problems…..[s]cientists were leaving in record numbers because of…..politicization of scientific agendas (a prime example was the ban on fetal-tissue research because the Republican administration believed it encouraged abortion)
Healy had, at that time expressed support for fetal-tissue research:
….she had been a member of a panel that advised continuation of fetal-tissue research, her appointment was also seen as a move away from politicized science.
So, it must’ve come as something of a shock to NIH scientists when:
….she lobbied against overturning the Bush Administration’s ban on fetal tissue research, despite her previous support for such research.
She also had to defend herself against charges of mishandling a scientific misconduct case:
Healy demanded that OSI (like internal affairs for the NIH) rewrite a draft report that found misconduct on the part of Popovic. The OSI report also severely criticized Gallo.
“When her order for a rewrite was refused, Dr. Healy replaced the chief investigator [Suzanne Hadley] with one more malleable,” the subcommittee report said. The resulting OSI report was “watered down,” the subcommittee document said.
In 1992, the National Academy of Sciences’ panel completed its investigation and produced a report critical of Gallo.
Healy chose to ignore the findings of the NAS panel and commissioned her own ad hoc committee of top NIH scientists, whom she called her “wise men,” the report said. Healy required the members to sign a secrecy agreement.
(Full story also here).
Maybe the biggest question mark against Healy’s scientific credibility and ability to be impartial as this. She was a member of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition:
The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), formerly the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, is an industry-funded lobby group which promotes the idea that environmental science on issues including smoking, pesticides and global warming is “junk science”, which should be replaced by “sound science”.
Notably, TASSC promote the interests of tobacco companies:
Initially, the primary focus of TASSC was an attempt to discredit research on Environmental Tobacco Smoke [passive smoking] as a long-term cause of increased cancer and heart problem rates in the community — especially among office workers and children living with smoking parents. It subsequently advanced industry-friendly positions on a wide range of topics, including global warming, smoking, phthalates, and pesticides. Later still, they extended the role of TASSC to Europe using Dr George Carlo. TASSC used the label of ‘junk science’ to criticise work that was unfavorable to the interests of its backers.
TASSC’s funders included:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Louisiana Chemical Association
National Pest Control Association
Procter & Gamble
Santa Fe Pacific Gold
So, all in all, I am disposed to not trust the words, or ‘beliefs’ of Bernadine Healy very much. Anyone who campaigns against the dangers of passive smoking to children or who is prepared to block science they allegedly once supported when it is politically expedient doesn’t seem that good a judge of what constitutes good science.