David Kirby vs Accuracy

20 Jul

As I’ve said before, I like David Kirby personally. We exchange friendly emails. We even recently discussed the idea of having a private blog – readable by all but one that allowed only two posters (David and I) and no commenters. This would, I suggested, give us the opportunity to have a civil debate.

Unfortunately, David was too busy, which was a shame. However, the offers always open should he find a bit more time.

He did have time yesterday to blog a piece for the Huffington Post in which he discussed Amanda Peet and said she was ‘against the medical establishment’ for taking the stance she did. He cited a few things to support his point. I’d like to discuss these things but before I do I’d like you Dear Reader to take note: someone who was at the IACC meeting David talks about (he wasn’t there) will hopefully be posting their account of proceedings on LB/RB.

Anyway. Lets proceed. David’s first piece of rhetoric to support the idea Amanda Peet was against the medical establishment was:

A workgroup report of the IACC (the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes HHS, CDC, NIH and others) says that some members want “specific objectives on vaccine research” included in the new, multimillion-dollar national autism research program, as mandated by Congress in the Combatting Autism Act.

I’m sure that some members do want this. Lynn Redwood and Mark Baxhill to be precise. As the upcoming IACC account will show, I don’t think any other IACC workgroup members were interested. (Please see this correction of an ignorant Limey’s take on the US system.)

I would also like to correct David on his characterisation of the Combating Autism Act. The Act contains no mention of vaccines. It specifies environmental research but the words ‘vaccine’, ‘vaccination’ ‘immunize’, ‘immunization’, ‘mmr’ or ‘thimerosal’ appear nowhere in the CAA. I hope David will correct his HuffPo piece accordingly.

Notes from the meeting indicate that workgroup members want federal researchers to consider “shortfalls” in epidemiological studies cited as proof against a vaccine-autism association (by Offit, Peet, et al); as well as a specific plan “for researching vaccines as a potential cause of autism.” The workgroup also says that the final research agenda should “state that the issue is open.”

Once again, David’s notes are coming from two people, Lynn Redwood and Mark Blaxill and indeed – they asked for all these things. The account of the meeting I have heard (from someone who was there) differed somewhat. As a flavour of how much the majority of the working group listened to Redwood and Blaxill, I enclose a teaser quote from chairperson Tom Insel:

“Lyn, your community is not the whole community and there are many people with well thought out concerns about ethics of the concept of prevention and if we want to be inclusive we will not do this.”

Back to David:

July 14, 2008 – Rep. Brad Miller (R-NC), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, (Committe on Science and Technology) writes to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to complain that current federal autism research “shows a strong preference to fund genetic-based studies,” even though there is, “growing evidence that suggests a wide range of conditions or environmental exposures may play a role” in autism.

I blogged that episode here. Suffice it to say that a _politician_ is not representative of the medical establishment. I would urge everyone reading this to read that piece as it suggests amongst other things that Generation Rescue and SafeMinds be responsible for a Board that would serve as a liaison between the IACC and parents of autistic people and autistic people themselves!. After reading that I would urge everyone to contact the following people to express your thoughts (politely!) to the decision makers:

HHS Sec Mike Leavitt (mike.leavittAThhs.gov)
NIMH director/IACC director Tom Insel (tinselATmail.nih.gov)
Everyone here: http://science.house.gov/about/members.htm

Once again, back to David:

Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH and the American Red Cross and current Health Editor of US News & World Report tells CBS News that, “Officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as irrational,” and says they “don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.”

I still can’t get over the fact that David is using this person to back up his points! He continues to trumpet the opinion of Bernadine Healy who actually did assert that cigarettes do not cause cancer and worked closely with Philip Morris to do so. She also totally reneged on her stance on fetal tissue research when she found herself in the same camp as President Bush. In AoA language she’s a shill.

David then goes on to cite al three Presidential Candidates – as if a politicians opinion in an election year means anything! I definitely fail to see what any of them have to do with being part of the medical establishment.

Onwards:

March 29, 2008 – Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the CDC, speaking about the Hannah Poling case on CNN says: “If a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines, and was pre-disposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage (including) symptoms that have characteristics of autism.”

Er, so? I’m really not sure how this is a ‘point’ for David (or anyone else who thinks its supportive of the idea vaccines cause autism). If she’d said ‘yes, vaccines caused autism in Hannah Poling’s case’ (which no-one ever has by the way, despite statements to the contrary) than _that_ would be a bombshell. As it was Dr. Gerberding was simply speaking what is obvious.

David again:

The CISA Network (Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment), headed by the CDC, receives a report from top researchers at Johns Hopkins University that 30 typically developing children with mitochondrial dysfunction all regressed into autism between 12 and 24 months of life. At least two of them (6%) showed brain damage within one week of receiving simultaneous multiple vaccinations.

Now, I can’t answer this as much as I’d like to. I have spoken to people involved in the preparation and writing of this report (as has David) and I was given two take home points from our email chat:

1) The science is _not yet complete_ . The paper is not published.
2) The authors feel ‘disappointed’ in the slant David has put on their work and are loth to discuss it with anyone else due to that. I was told that David might be rather surprised when everything comes out later in the year.

David once more:

Medical Personnel at HHS concede an autism case filed by the family of Hannah Poling in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, before the claim can go to trial as a “test case” of the theory that thimerosal causes autism. Though portrayed by some (ie, Dr. Offit) as a legal decision, it is in fact a medical decision. HHS doctors admit that the “cause” of Hannah’s “autistic encephalopathy” was “vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves,”

First of all, I beg to differ with David. The concession was a legal one. By definition the phrase “autistic encephalopathy” does not exist in mainstream science so if it was used (a fact which has yet to be determined – I invite David once more to link through to the document where this is stated). A simple test of its non-existence is to search for the phrase on PubMed. I got:

Quoted phrase not found.

So we have a multitude of uncertainties here:

1) Nowhere (except in David’s writings) can we find evidence of HHS apparently saying “autistic encephalopathy” caused Hannah Poling’s autism.

2) The phrase itself (“autistic encephalopathy”) does not appear in the entire PubMed database, thus causing me to doubt its use by the medical establishment.

3) Is the concession legal or medical? If a diagnosis does not exist but is used in a legal document then by definition it must be legal – thats my opinion anyway.

David also mentions a HHS Vaccine Safety Working Group meeting but I know next to nothing about that so can’t comment.

I have to say that based on the above, David seems to be attempting nothing more than an intellectual ‘land grab’ i.e. to attempt to paint those who claim vaccines cause autism as part of the medical establishment and those who stand against them as not. Its a good political idea but I don’t think its going to work. There are just too many holes in this particular boat for it to float for long.

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20 Responses to “David Kirby vs Accuracy”

  1. Albert July 20, 2008 at 10:48 #

    If Kirby is interested in doing proper journalism, he will interview federal officials who were present at the IACC meeting.

    The SP workgroup never “announced anything.” Blaxill and Bell asked for a vaccine research initiative. That’s all. Not the SP workgroup. In fact, the SP workgroup was not charged with the responsibility of coming up with anything as a whole — no consensus, nothing but opinions, and the IACC is not bound to do anything anyone on the SP workgroup says. So, the bottom line: Blaxill and Bell say something and then Kirby calls this the “workgroup.” Well, there are about 15 OTHER people on the workgroup! Kirby calls himself a journalist? Maybe Kirby doesn’t interview because no one of any note will speak to him?

    Amazing that Kirby can accuse someone of lying when he himself continually gets the facts wrong. This is what happens when you don’t do interviewing.

  2. Albert July 20, 2008 at 10:57 #

    Hold on a minute:

    This is what Kirby wrote yesterday:

    July 15, 2008 – A workgroup of the IACC (the Interagency Autism Coordinating
    Committee, which includes HHS, CDC, NIH and others) announces that “specific
    objectives on vaccine research” must be included in the new,
    multimillion-dollar national autism research program, as mandated by
    Congress in the Combatting Autism Act.

    This is what is on Huffington Post today:

    A workgroup report of the IACC (the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes HHS, CDC, NIH and others) says that some members want “specific objectives on vaccine research” included in the new, multimillion-dollar national autism research program, as mandated by Congress in the Combatting Autism Act.

    So he changed it?

  3. Kelli Ann Davis July 20, 2008 at 15:05 #

    “I’m sure that some members do want this. Lynn Redwood and Mark Baxhill to be precise. As the upcoming IACC account will show, I don’t think any other IACC workgroup members were interested.”

    Kev:

    Right out of the gate and you’ve got it wrong! Whoever your notetaker is I’d suggest you *fire them* since they aren’t even providing you with the correct basic information!

    For example, Mark Blaxill is *NOT A MEMBER* of the IACC — you know, the meeting that took place on Tuesday and the one in which you are writing with such authority about — and therefore doesn’t have a direct say in what the IACC decides. He wasn’t even present!!

    You’re getting the IACC mixed up with their *workgroup* which by the way, wasn’t at the table making any decision on Tuesday! In fact, Peter Bell was the only *workgroup* member I recognized and he was sitting in the room — *NOT AT THE TABLE* since he is not a member of the IACC!

    Bottom Line: Might want to do some basic fact checking before you start trying to discredit another writer’s story, no?

  4. Kev July 20, 2008 at 16:09 #

    I’m more than happy to be wrong on that issue. The person in attendance didn’t mention who was there, I assumed. My bad.

    Bottom line: doesn’t really change anything.

  5. Kelli Ann Davis July 20, 2008 at 16:19 #

    “Suffice it to say that a politician is not representative of the medical establishment.”

    “David then goes on to cite all three Presidential Candidates. I definitely fail to see what any of them have to do with being part of the medical establishment.”

    Like, duh! I think it’s *obvious* that they (Subcommittee, Presidential Candidates) are involved in the *politics* surrounding the issue and aren’t part of the medical establishment! The point being of course, that politicians weld *power* and have *influence* to get to the bottom of the issue if they so desire.

    Welcome to Politics 101 Kev.

    And with that, I bid adieu.

  6. Kev July 20, 2008 at 16:21 #

    Hmmm, I think you’re missing the point Kelli Ann. David’s piece referred to Amanda Peet vs the medical establishment. As you so cleverly point out, politics have nothing to do with medicine.

    Sorry to see you leave, thanks for the correction above.

  7. kristina July 20, 2008 at 17:05 #

    Thanks to a commenter for making that point regarding Blaxill about “some” members of the IACC wanting ““specific objectives on vaccine research.” Redwood’s position on this issue is clear; one wonders about who the other IACC members that Kirby alludes to are.

  8. Kev July 20, 2008 at 17:21 #

    From what I’ve been told so far Kristina – there aren’t any. But by saying ‘some’, its nice and ambiguous.

  9. Nana July 20, 2008 at 18:10 #

    I would like to see a Congressional investigation of the personalities and non-profits involved in promoting the “vaccines cause autism” propaganda . The investigative
    reporters , the doctors, the specious lab findings; all need to be investigated and exposed. Anyone know how to start the ball rolling ?

  10. qchan63 July 20, 2008 at 19:46 #

    In answer to Nana’s question, i would suggest hiring a guy named Shoemaker.

    (Kidding.)

  11. kristina July 20, 2008 at 22:22 #

    To cobble together more “facts” and “evidence.”

  12. Joseph July 20, 2008 at 22:59 #

    Like, duh! I think it’s obvious that they (Subcommittee, Presidential Candidates) are involved in the politics surrounding the issue and aren’t part of the medical establishment!

    What?

    The nature of reality is not discovered through politics.

  13. ned July 23, 2008 at 16:54 #

    hi Kev,
    Could you clarify your point about Dr. Julie Gerberding’s quote re: “characteristics of autism” v. autism. One of the confusing elements of whether something “causes” autism or not seems tied up in whether there’s any real difference between experiencing autism-like symptoms and autism itself. I don’t think vaccines cause autism, but I can understand why folks get confused when they read things like this.

  14. Kev July 23, 2008 at 19:50 #

    Sure – you’d be best off reading my prior post on this issue.

    Bottom line though – having _features_ of something means you have _some_ features of that thing. If Hannah Poling had had autism there would be no need to differentiate between autism and features of autism.

  15. ThoJ July 28, 2008 at 07:23 #

    This was also left on Mr Kirby’s blog:

    Mr. Kirby,

    you have a habit of blogging corrections to minor mistakes people make in relationship to this case.

    With that in mind, consider:

    “Dr. Novella takes issue with my characterization of the recent Hannah Poling case, in which a nine year-old girl was compensated by the US Government for a vaccine injury that lead to a diagnosis of autism.”

    The Polings have not been compensated. Compensation was deemed appropriate, but the case is still ongoing. The docket does not show that the compensation has been awarded.

    Somehow, I expect there to be some publicity when that happens, so it should be obvious.

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