Circling the Wagons

29 May

The alternative medicine community is certainly loyal to their own. This seems especially true in the world of Autism where no idea is ever abandoned, no practitioner ever criticized.

After the Chicago Tribune published articles on the Geiers (and here), as well as Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, it was a forgone conclusion that the community would close ranks.

These articles were published right before the AutismOne conference–which chose to honor Andrew Wakefield after news was released that he may have altered his data. See what I mean? No quicker way to be a hero than to have really the skeletons in your closet made public.

The most basic response was from Kim Stagliano, who let this tweet on Twitter:

From Kim: Chicago Trib is close to dead. Suddenly launches full frontal attack on autism during Autism One. AAP in backyard. They hear us.

Yes, the Tribune is bad and in the pockets of the AAP and the AAP are evil. Please.

Dan Olmsted came out rather quickly with a piece in the Age of Autism blog in defense of the Geiers and Dr. Eisenstein. Later, Anne Dachel did another piece.

Both use a simple contrivance: avoid the real questions raised by the article. Instead, write about “what the Tribune story should have included”. This is especially true of Anne Dachel, who went on and on over pretty much all the media talking points of the vaccines-cause-autism movement.

For example, both Mr. Olmsted and Ms. Dachel thought the Tribune should have discussed Dr. Bernadine Healy. The connection to the story? None. But, Dr. Healy is vitally important to the story Olmsted and Dachel want to tell. See what I mean?

Dan Olmsted’s method sidestepping of the real questions was rather poorly done. In his piece, he writes:

The article lumps Lupron — about which I know nothing, and have no opinion — in with alternative approaches like diet, about which I do know something, and do have an opinion.

Frankly, I found this a ridiculous statement. Dan Olmsted was attending the AutismOne conference–a conference which for years has hosted talks by Mark Geier on Lupron and which Dan Olmsted has attended for years. I guess he missed the Geier talks?

It isn’t as though Mr. Olmsted isn’t able to form an opinion on scant data. Mr. Olmsted has shown a particular interest in Kathleen Seidel–to the point where Mr. Olmsted “diagnosed” her kid with mercury poisoning based on a paragraph in the book Autism’s False Prophets. From only a snippet (wrongly interpreted by Mr. Olmsted) about one of Ms. Seidel’s previous jobs, Mr. Olmsted claimed that she had high levels of mercury, and further stated:

Laugh me off if you want, but I have spent a lot of time looking for plausible links between parents’ occupations and autism in their children, and I know them when I see them.

So, he’s willing to go out on a limb based on a few words in a book, but, say, the page after page that Ms. Seidel wrote about the Geiers and Lupron (e.g. here, here and here) left no impression?

Sorry, Mr. Olmsted. I know ’em when I see ’em too. I see you dodging really tough questions about the Geiers in an effort to protect one of the big names in autism psuedoscience.

To further point out how silly the “about which I know nothing, and have no opinion”, one of the readers of that blog piece pointed out:

Dan, last year AoA published a post from Kent Heckenlively entitled “MERCURY, TESTOSTERONE AND AUTISM – A REALLY BIG IDEA!” In the comments, you said that you had gone to the Geiers’ house and witnessed a child receive a Lupron injection and improve immediately. You “just had to put this on the record,” you said.

I take the fact that Mr. Olmsted has gone from Lupron shill to even this weak distancing himself from Lupron (“I know nothing”) as a good sign. Even Dan Olmsted must be seeing the cracks in the Lupron Logic.

Ms. Dachel does her own “two step” around the question of her real opinion on Lupron.

Let me say that I’m not an expert on any of the medical aspects of this; I’m merely an observer. So here’s what I’m seeing.

Since when does not being an expert on the medical aspects stopped anyone at the Age of Autism blog from making very clear opinionated statements?

But, again, I take the clear signal that she is willing to distance herself from Lupron as a small, but positive sign.

So, let me use their contrivance–let me list what Mr. Olmsted and Ms. Dachel should have written about in their blog pieces. Let me list many of the real questions raised by the articles in the Tribune. As you read this list, it will become obvious why the Olmsted/Dachel tag-team avoided these questions: these are serious questions about people possibly harming children with autism and Dan Olmsted and Anne Dachel don’t have answers to these questions.

At least, they don’t have answers which would satisfy their readership.

Here is the list of questions I had after reading the Tribune articles:

1) Are parents still being sold the idea that Lupron will help remove mercury from their autistic children?

2) Are parents still being told that mercury causes autism? (OK, we all know the answer to that one. The answer is yes. No amount of data will convince Mr. Olmsted.)

3) Are the diagnoses of “precocious puberty” valid? Would a real pediatric endocrinologist agree with the Geier’s assessments? From the Tribune, quoting an actual expert in precocious puberty:

None of the data verify or even suggest that any of these patients have precocious puberty.

4) What is the purpose of all the extra lab tests the Geiers are performing? Are they for the Geiers’ research? If so, why should the parents (or their insurance) foot the bill?

5) Why do the Geiers use 10 times the normal dosage of Lupron?

5) Is Lupron being used as a chemical restraint?

6) Does Lupron even work well enough to warrant its use? Given that Dr. Eisenstein is reported to be close to dropping Lupron, it clearly isn’t a “miracle drug”.

7) what are the side effects of extended use of Lupron. Especially, what are the side effects of wrongly delaying puberty? According to the Tribune story:

Experts in childhood hormones warn that Lupron can disrupt normal development, interfering with natural puberty and potentially putting children’s hearts and bones at risk.

8) Why don’t the Geiers recommend patients to see board certified pediatric endocrinologists?

9) If precocious puberty is so prevalent amongst children with autism, why don’t pediatric endocrinologists see it? According to the Geiers:

Mark Geier responded that these are “opinions by people who don’t know what they are talking about,” saying the pediatric endocrinologists interviewed by the Tribune don’t treat autistic children and have not tried the Lupron treatment.

10) What about older kids the Geiers are treating? Are they being correctly diagnosed? From the Tribune story:

David Geier said his father diagnoses high-testosterone teens not with precocious puberty, but with another very rare condition: testicular hyperfunction.

How does “testicular hyperfunction” explain the older girls the Geiers have treated?

11) The effects of Lupron on sex hormones are temporary. Stop the shots, the hormones return. The loss of the beneficial effects of puberty are permanent. Does the trade off make sense?

And that is just the list of questions based on the article on the Geiers. Then there is the story about Dr. Eisenstein. This too raises a number of tricky questions.

1) Is Dr. Eisenstein a credible resource for information? After reading the article, one has to question that.

2) Would people like Anne Dachel, Kim Stagliano and Dan Olmsted recommend people see a physician whose malpractice insurance may be “phony”?

In court records dating back three decades, the families of dead and brain-damaged children repeatedly alleged that doctors who work for Eisenstein made harmful mistakes — sometimes the same error more than once. His practice also has been dogged by accusations in court records that its offshore malpractice policy was phony.

3) Would Is Dr. Eisenstein’s record of selling “illegal” health insurance troublesome?

He also dabbled in group health plan sales to Illinois families but tangled with state insurance regulators in the mid- to late 1990s. Regulators warned consumers in a newsletter that Eisenstein “continued to illegally market” the Homefirst Health Plan, based in the British Virgin Islands, even after they told him the plan was ineligible. Despite this, he continued selling the plan, records show, and they ordered him to “cease and desist.”

4) Dr. Eisenstein seems to be good at blameshifting. In this case he accuses the parents of making a mistake that appears to be clearly that of his colleague at HomeFirst. Is this the sort of doctor parents of autistic kids should be seeing?

A Homefirst doctor took a sample of blood from Na’eem’s umbilical cord that could have been used to diagnose the problem and could have led to prompt treatment, according to court testimony. But instead of dropping off the sample at the lab, the doctor said under oath, he was tired, went home and put the sample in his refrigerator, where it sat the whole weekend.

In an interview, Eisenstein blamed the parents for not taking the baby to the emergency room for a blood test. Na’eem’s parents testified that no one from Homefirst ever told them to go to the emergency room.

5) Dr. Eisenstein appears to make some rather questionable decisions about insuring his own practice. Also, it appears from this quote that perhaps he has gone without malpractice insurance. Again, is this the sort of doctor parents of autistic children should be using?

After Nathan Howey’s death, Weiss Hospital sued Homefirst, Rosi and Eisenstein for fraud, alleging they misrepresented their Caribbean-based malpractice policy. Eisenstein testified that he was in St. Kitts helping one of his daughters, a veterinary student there, buy a condo when the lawyer who helped arrange the sale told Eisenstein he also sold malpractice insurance.

“I was tickled pink to get insurance,” he said under oath.

A Cook County judge called it an “improperly underwritten insurance plan.” Eisenstein, who says the policy is legitimate, agreed to pay Weiss $50,000 after mediation.

6) Dr. Eisenstein appears to have inflated his credentials:

Eisenstein said under oath that he was a faculty member at the Hinsdale Hospital Family Practice Residency Program from 1992 to 2003. A hospital administrator testified that Eisenstein “never was” a faculty member. In a recent interview, Eisenstein said that while he wasn’t a faculty member there, he did teach students from that program and kept snapshots of them.

(anyone else reminded of Vera Byers, witness for the petitioners in the Omnibus, who claimed to be faculty at UCSF? In reality, she used the library and attended parties there.)

7) Lastly, is this the type of doctor we should be taking our kids to?

Reflecting on the $1.275 million malpractice settlement, he appeared unshaken.

“It’s the cost,” he said, “of doing business.”

I’m sure the parents were glad to hear that their kid’s life was “the cost of doing business”.

There are a lot of questions raised by these stories. Hard questions. Questions Mr. Olmsted, Ms. Dachel and Ms. Stagliano should answer if they want to really serve their readership.

3 Responses to “Circling the Wagons”

  1. kathomar May 29, 2009 at 03:19 #

    How do they still have medical licenses?

  2. Mike Stanton May 29, 2009 at 09:05 #

    This article illustrates the difficulty of engaging in discussion or debate with members of those who share the anti-vaccine position. As Olmsted so amply illustrates, he would rather lie about himself than deal head on with the issues raised by the journalists at the Chicago Tribune.


  1. Twitted by autism_hub - May 29, 2009

    […] This post was Twitted by autism_hub – […]

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