Conspiracy Theories and Medical Harm
(September 22, 2015)
This whole "conspiracy theory" thing has been on my mind since the vaccination/autism topic bubbled up in the Republican debate Wednesday night. Because the frothing at the mouth in the media has really been something to see. Anti-vaxxers are conspiracy theorists, you see, and how DARE they.
I know a little about this kind of thing because all chiropractors (including me) are conspiracy theorists. That is because for many decades chiropractors have had a solution for spinal pain that is head, shoulders and knees above anything that the medical profession has ever had to offer. And historically we have been mocked as quacks, threatened and even jailed for it.
Of course now that there is so very much solid evidence supporting spinal manipulation as an extraordinarily safe and effective treatment for spinal pain, they’ve had to back off. But they don’t like it and they never will like it. And you can bet as well that they will NEVER say “we’re sorry we caused so much needless suffering to so many patients for no other reason than promotion of our own self-interest”. Because no matter what, they never, ever apologize.
As I have said, then, anti-vaxxers are conspiracy theorists. This is what Wikipedia says about conspiracy theories. “A conspiracy theory is an explanatory hypothesis that accuses two or more persons, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an event or situation which is typically taken to be illegal or harmful.” Sometimes conspiracy theorists are wrong. And sometimes they are right. You never know until you can see some facts.
Because it isn't like there aren't conspiracies. Anyone who’s had a parent (or been one), tried to get on the prom committee or applied for a promotion knows that conspiracies and coverups are a fact of everyday life. So when the official explanation sounds weird, unless you really, really trust authority you inevitably wind up a conspiracy theorist on that matter. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s cozy in here and the people can be very nice.
In the case of autism, it isn’t a matter of rejecting the official explanation for why it exists. We have absolutely no flipping clue whatsoever about what actually causes autism. So when you are assured that vaccines don't cause autism, but we don't know what does -- well, that does sound a little peculiar.
When you look at the available research on the causes of autism, you see a mishmash of studies with here-there-everywhere findings that result in nothing at all in the way of useful guidance. Right now there are over a hundred genes implicated in the development of autism. Don’t be impressed by that. Finding genes associated with a problem is easy now. It’s what the genes DO that matter, and our smart boys and girls have got Absolutely Nowhere with that yet.
In the very specific case of vaccinations causing autism, here are two facts that are as factual as I can make them.
1) There is no solid published scientific evidence that I have ever seen that supports the very common fear that vaccination is the cause of the autism epidemic.
2) There is no solid published scientific evidence that I have ever seen that even begins to support a good theory of what actually is causing the autism epidemic.
So there you have it. There is no doubt that the incidence of autism is on the upswing to a degree that would freeze any parent’s blood, and no one seems to know why. What do the Medical Authorities expect people to do? Nothing? That’s not in our nature.
I don’t know what the heck the powers that be think people are going to do when years of research and many millions of dollars have been spent on researching autism and then when they are asked, “what can I do to keep my baby from becoming autistic?” they say, “we don’t know. It's at least partly genetic.”
Well, EVERYTHING is at least partly genetic. So how do you think people are going to act when all you can give them is nothing? They’ll grasp at anything that sounds like it might make sense, or even if it doesn't make sense, just so they can do SOMETHING. And if you don't trust medical authority, vaccinations seem very plausible.
Why would someone not trust medical authority? Well, there is a long, long list of things that were supposed to be Good for us that turned out to be bad, and things that were Bad that today are suddenly good. And there is a much longer list of frequently painful procedures that trusting people have suffered at the hands of medical doctors that turned out to be worthless or left them worse off than they were before. None of which have been apologized for or even officially acknowledged. And when the people responsible for all this frequently-thoughtless suffering are also the source of the third leading cause of death in the United States (medical error), it's no mystery people are suspicious, is it?
People are protective of their children. That is thought to be the reason why obstetricians get sued out the yin yang compared to other M.D.s. Mess up my surgery, that's one thing. Mess up my KID's surgery, watch your back, bucko.
When you have to legally mandate a medical procedure, you’ve already lost the war. Sorry, doctors. Get on the stick and find out what’s really going on with the autism epidemic, and people might trust you again. But until then, don't hold your collective breaths.
--dr. diane holmes
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