Who Decides Which Facts are True? Perhaps not “Dr. Bob”

27 Mar

Dr. Robert Sears (Dr. Bob) is one of the more well-known Defeat Autism Now (DAN) doctors. This is a group of alternative medical practitioners who “treat” autism with a number of untested (and, thus, unproven) methods such as supplements, chelation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and others.

As a DAN practitioner, it won’t surprise most readers here that Dr. Bob takes a different view of vaccines than the mainstream. Dr. Bob Sears has a book out on alternatives to the standard vaccine schedule, The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. This approach has not been without criticism (for example, The Problem With Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule).

Dr. Bob has been associated with an outbreak of measles in San Diego, California a few years back. In specific, that the “index patient”, the child who was infected abroad during a family trip, was a patient of his practice. Note that people did not say that the child spread the infection in his office. Instead, According to the radio show “This American Life” and a short article in his hometown newspaper, the Orange County Register and, later, Seth Mnookin‘s book, The Panic Virus, note that the child who imported measles into San Diego from Switzerland was a patient of Dr. Sears.

Dr. Sears has recently (as in the past few days) contested this idea that the “index patient” for the San Diego outbreak was seen in his clinic. Which, as I noted above, is not what was discussed in, for example, The Panic Virus. In a comment on the Huffington Post blogs, Dr. Sears wrote:

“I will set the record straight. I was NOT the pediatrician who saw the measles patient and let him sit in my office. As far as I know, that occured in a San Diego pediatrician’s office. I don’t know whose. I was not involved in that at all. I haven’t read Seth Minooken’s book, NOR have I ever even spoken with Seth. So I’ve no idea what he’s said about me in his book. I actually had no idea that any of you were even wondering about this. No one’s brought it to my attention before this. I heard something about some journalist writing a book about vaccines, but hadn’t bothered to read it”

This brings up the question posed by Seth Mnookin in his book, The Panic Virus: “Who Decides Which Facts are True”.

Well, Mr. Mnookin is providing us with information to decide for ourselves. Mr. Mnookin provided the links to “This American Life” and the Orange County Register. In addition, Mr. Mnookin has provided us with a brief discussion of the exchanges between Dr. Sears and himself. All this in his article, Bob Sears: Bald-faced liar, devious dissembler, or both?

As to whether Dr. Bob Sears has ever spoken with Seth (emphasized with an all caps “NOR” in Dr. Bob Sears’ comment on Huffpo), Mr. Mnookin provides readers with a link to audio from one of his interviews with Dr. Sears. Mr. Mnookin wrote:

Now, there are a number of odd things about Sears’s comment. First, he denies something that I’ve never accused him of—not in my book, not in an interview, not in a speech: letting a patient infected with measles sit in his office. Then, he misspells my name, which is either an illustration of how little he cares about getting things right or of his deviousness (or both)—because while I assume it’s true he’s never spoken to Seth Minooken, he most definitely has spoken to Seth Mnookin. You don’t need to take my word for it; as you can hear here, I actually taped the interview. That interview was just one part of a long series of back and forths I had with Sears and various staff members in his office. I think they’re revealing—and, in light of Sears’s claim that he’s never spoken to me (or someone whose name sounds an awful lot like mine), they’re worth discussing.

Readers can read what Mr. Mnookin felt was “worth discussing” in his article: Bob Sears: Bald-faced liar, devious dissembler, or both?

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16 Responses to “Who Decides Which Facts are True? Perhaps not “Dr. Bob””

  1. Sherry March 27, 2012 at 14:24 #

    Hey Sully, have you read Mnookins essays, “Harvard and Heroin”. He describes how he steals from and lies to his family, bites a police officer and uses lots and lots of Heroin. It’s great to have the family connections to go from that life to being the new “Vaccine Expert”. I think I’ll side with Dr. Bob on this one.

    • Sullivan March 27, 2012 at 17:23 #

      Sherry,

      see what you did there? You changed the tense of what Mr. Mnookin wrote. Yes, he wrote that article. He describes how in his *past* he did many things he regrets now.

      Unless, of course, you have evidence that his is currently biting a police officer? Or stealing, using drugs…

      I think I would probably take Dr. Bob as my kid’s pediatrician over Seth Mnookin–given that Mr. Mnookin never went to medical school. But there are thousands of other people ahead of “Dr. Bob” in my book. Both for treatment and advice.

  2. Ren March 27, 2012 at 15:04 #

    Sherry, Sherry, quite contrary. Read up on “ad hominem” attacks. From Wikipedia, which should be simple enough for you to read:

    “Ad hominem an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.”

    In your mind, because Seth is a recovering heroin addict who at one time had a run-in with the law, anything he now (sober for years) has to say is negated.

    Tell me, does this go for one Robert F. Kennedy Jr. too? Also from Wikipedia: “In 1983, he was arrested in a Rapid City, South Dakota, airport for heroin possession. A search of his carry-on bag uncovered 183 milligrams of the drug. Upon entering a plea of guilty, Kennedy, then 29 years old and a first time offender, was sentenced to two years probation, periodic tests for drug use, treatment by joining Narcotics Anonymous, and 1,500 hours of community service by Presiding Judge Marshall P. Young. After the court was satisfied with Kennedy’s compliance with the sentence, it ordered that Kennedy’s record regarding the offense was to be sealed and expunged.”

    RFK Jr. wrote an article upheld by many anti-vaccine advocates as gospel. His article was refuted by the scientific community not because he once used/trafficked heroin (as an ad hominem attack would dictate) but because it’s full of factual errors.

    So, Sherry, would you point to Seth’s factual errors and tell us how those are wrong?

    Sad to see you’ll side with someone who has been proven to be wrong. He was wrong about never talking to Seth. He was wrong about that not being his patient. And he is wrong about trying to hide in the herd if you didn’t vaccinate, especially since so many anti-vaxers claim that herd immunity is a myth.

  3. MikeMa March 27, 2012 at 15:27 #

    Sherry,
    Mnookin has moved on from his heroin days. Sears still lies.

  4. Lawrence March 27, 2012 at 15:33 #

    @Sherry – wow, really? So someone who is open & honest about their past is less trustworthy than someone who is caught lying today? What color is the sky in your reality?

  5. Chris March 27, 2012 at 16:31 #

    Sherry, now go and find out the difference between the way Mnookin and Robert Kennedy, Jr. kicked their heroin addictions. One required being arrested and being sentenced to community service, and the other involved the support of a loving family. Now which is which?

  6. daedalus2u March 27, 2012 at 17:47 #

    There is a certain mindset that when confronted with data that contradicts a firmly held belief doubles-down on their belief and becomes even more dismissive of reality. This is starting to be understood and written about, as Chris Mooney is doing.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-mooney/the-science-of-truthiness_b_1379472.html?ref=green&ir=Green

    The anti-vaccine stuff is very similar. Whip people who don’t know any better into a frenzy of fear over toxins, autism, DNA pollution, toxins, and more toxins by demonizing those who do understand the science as pharma shills, and inhuman monsters out to kill infants.

    Cut them off from reality, make them frightened about shadows and then sell them bogus crap to treat the shadows and the non-existent toxins they blame everything on.

    Then profit.

    Users of this strategy know their demographic. They will double-down on their belief the more that belief is questioned. They doesn’t need to be truthful or even consistent. Any inconsistencies will be interpreted by true believers as confirming the beliefs of the victims.

  7. Tom March 27, 2012 at 18:35 #

    I found it interesting that, like Andrew Wakefield, Bob Sears employs a PR man. The sales pitch for the Web site advertising is priceless.

  8. McD March 27, 2012 at 21:18 #

    And Sears confirms by his own mouth that he is a leech.

    He is indeed a devious dissembler, he is denying something true (that the child sat in his office with a rash), but this will be lodged in his followers’ minds as “the child was not Dr Bob’s patient” and claims otherwise must therefore be part of the conspiracy.

    Likewise the mis-naming of Seth Mnookin.

    Stunningly blatant grooming of the sheeple. This flock will be good for fleecing for some time to come.

    The anti-vax movement has incredible parallels with the religious cult I was raised in, and escaped as an 18yo. The manipulative shenanigans of the leaders are virtually identical.

  9. Dee March 28, 2012 at 07:58 #

    For me, the shame and disappointment lies in the fact that there is significant growing evidence that certain subsets of autism have corresponding medical issues that are best treatable by DAN methods and yet this is another example of discredidation. Folks on the spectrum that have significant GI, immune and related comorbid issues are denied research and treatment because of the money-hungry frauds that came into before the research and medical community had a chance to respond to sincere and valid health concerns. Harvard Neurologist Martha Herbert’s book was released today– a good starting point for evidence-based biomedical treatment that is very critical for those on the spectrum that have these under-lying issues.

    • Sullivan March 28, 2012 at 17:20 #

      Dee,

      I sat through two hours of lectures by Martha Herbert. I hope that her book is better organized and has better substantiated information than her talks. I don’t expect that will be the case.

  10. Visitor March 28, 2012 at 13:18 #

    I thought DAN! had been scrapped because it had become a by-word for quacks, and they have now gone back to calling themselves the autism research institute (or similar).

    • Sullivan March 28, 2012 at 17:19 #

      Visitor,

      True–DAN has and is going through a major rework. I heard that the real DAN (Divers’ Alert Network) may have pointed out that they have the right to the name DAN.

      ARI has pulled the DAN name, and the provider list

      As of 12/31/11, ARI will no longer be maintaining a clinician registry (a.k.a “the DAN list”). There are many reasons why we have chosen to do this: although clinicians receive similar and consistent information at the seminars, there is no uniform way patients are subsequently treated, even acknowledging individual differences; and many perceive the clinician list as a list of recommended doctors–in reality, the list contains contact information of professionals who attended our clinician seminars. We do not certify them, and as a result, we cannot assure people that every practitioner on the list always provides the highest quality service.

      I’ve read some about what they plan to do. Currently, the link “Read More about ARI’s plans to move forward in 2011″ on the ARI website leads to nowhere (404 error).

  11. Denice Walter March 28, 2012 at 20:51 #

    @ McD:

    I have a background in clinical and cognitive psych- while I don’t diagnose people, I do see certain, shall we say, *trends* amongst followers in the anti-vaxx movement in their style of thought: they tend to externalise negatives, attribute causation externally for negatives/ internally for positives while characterising people in black-and-white ( good/bad) terms using little or no qualifiers ; they illustrate cognitive simplicity ( utilising less factors in explaining events)- and display rigidity; tending to focus in on minute details rather than making global evaluations, they concretise abstraction and are wary of information that originates from outside their venue ( including medical consensus , governmental sources and mainstream media).
    So would I call it a cult? I like ‘echo chambre’ better, has a nice ring to it- it resonates with me. Whatcha think?

  12. Dee March 29, 2012 at 08:02 #

    Sullivan, unfortunately it’s not. Although she references all of the studies that I have used to treat my son’s medical issues, the book was a disappointment. It doesn’t negate the fact, however, that autism is a wide spectrum that includes folks who have significant medical problems that cannot currently be treated by the medical community. Many if not most of the research she cites is relevant and critical to treatment for these subsets but the book does indeed fail to provide a cogent discussion on these issues.

    I do like how she balances “biomed” with the neurodiversity movement however. I think it’s a good starting place for someone who has significant genetic, GI and immune issues that the research is beginning to touch.

    As a patient of UC MIND, I have found that nothing has replaced my own careful research in understanding and treating my three year old son who went through a very atypical regression and, after treatment both behaviorally and medically, a very atypical progression. we have been fortunate to have been able to access the Fragile X and premutation clinic to confirm our research and get treatment. For his condition and for others, there are still many more questions than answers and any book or organization that attempts to say they have the answers, at this point, is still suspect.
    Thanks,
    Dee

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