Deniers of Science: The Anti-Vaccination and Anti-Abortion Movements

Writing on The Huffington Post, David Grimes — a former Centers for Disease Control official turned author —  ties together several anti-science trends, concluding that:

Whether the public health threat is viral or political, medical science should guide health decisions. The alternative to public health policy based on science is”backsliding into medieval ignorance” and reversing decades of medical progress.

Read the entire article here.

Chiropractors, Naturopaths, and Acupuncturists Lose in State Legislatures

Over at Science Based Medicine, Jan Bellamy reviews 2013-2014’s state-by-state battles against quackery in public policy.

Though the year was “a bust for chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists and assorted other practitioners of pseudo-medicine,” some ground was lost to them. Likewise, 2014 offers a model for what to possibly expect in 2015, especially as health insurance reform continues to play out across the United States.

Click here to read Jan Bellamy’s 2013-2014 legislative review.


The Guardian: Measles Outbreak Spreads in US After Unvaccinated Woman Visits Disneyland

After 2014 set a record for measles cases in the United States since the disease was eliminated in 2000, The Guardian examines a new outbreak centered on Disneyland in California:

What started as a measles outbreak among seven people who visited Disneyland in December has spread to more than 26, as an unvaccinated California woman apparently transmitted the virus through airports and the theme park, health officials said.

State health departments in California, Colorado, Utah and Washington and have confirmed cases of the extremely contagious virus, the Los Angeles Timesreported on Wednesday. Taken together, the cases would account for almost 12% of the expected measles cases for the entire year (there are 220 cases per year on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


The California department of public health said on 7 January that officials believe the woman who started the outbreak was staying in the Disneyland theme park in December. According to the LA Times, the woman is believed to be an unvaccinated traveler in her 20s.

Read the full article here.

European Court of Human Rights to Decide on Case Involving French Quadriplegic

Cedric Simon of BizNews reports that later this week, Europe’s human rights court will weigh whether a man in a vegetative state should be taken off life support in France:

Vincent Lambert, 38, who was left severely brain damaged and quadriplegic as a result of a 2008 road accident, has for months been at the centre of a judicial drama over his right to die.

In January 2014, Lambert’s doctors, backed by his wife and six of his eight siblings, decided to stop the intravenous food and water keeping him alive in line with a 2005 passive euthanasia law in France which allows treatment maintaining life to be withheld.

His 33-year-old wife, Rachel, who is a psychiatric nurse, said he would never have wanted to be kept alive artificially, while doctors said that their patient was “suffering”.

However, his deeply religious Catholic parents, half-brother and sister won an urgent court application to stop the plan. In an appeal, the French supreme administrative court, known as the State Council, ordered three doctors to draw up a report on Lambert’s condition and in June ruled that the decision to withdraw care from a man with no hope of recovery was lawful.

Lambert’s parents then took the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, which ordered France to keep Lambert alive while they decided whether the State Council’s decision was in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

You can read more here.

Reuters: U.S. court upholds NY state vaccination requirement for students

Public health and medical science have won a significant victory in New York:

New York state’s requirement that children be vaccinated in order to attend public school does not violate parents’ religious rights under the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan also ruled that students who receive religious exemptions from the vaccination law may be kept out of school during disease outbreaks, affirming a lower court decision.

The 2nd Circuit rejected claims by three New York City parents who said the individual right to religious liberty granted by the First Amendment trumped the state’s goal of preventing the spread of diseases in schools.

Read the full article here.

The Atlantic: Anti-Vaxxers Are Idolizing the Amish, Inexplicably

At The Atlantic, Olga Khazan looks at the facts being ignored in a disturbingly popular listicle—”basically just catnip for the anti-GMO and anti-vax crowds”—making the rounds on social media, “Why The Amish Don’t Get Sick”:

The first tip, according to this article, is not getting vaccinated: “In spite of constant pressure from the government, the Amish still refuse to vaccinate.”

Nope. Most Amish parents vaccinate, but even then, the relatively low overall vaccination rate in the community fueled a massive measles outbreak in Ohio’s Amish country earlier this year. The incident proved something that Amish and “English” parents alike should know by now: Vaccines don’t cause autism, but not getting a vaccine can cause outbreaks of nasty, 19th-century diseases.

The rest of the items in the listicle aren’t as terrible. Being physically active, not getting too stressed out, and eating a lot of vegetables are all “Amish” habits the article says other Americans would do well to adopt. However, its suggestion that Amish food contains no GMOs is bunk—some Amish farms do use genetically modified crops for financial and efficiency reasons. Besides, there’s no evidence that genetically modified foods are detrimental to human health in any way.

But it’s the very premise of the article that’s bizarre. If you’re going to hype a community as “never getting sick,” use a place that’s actually remarkably healthy, like Minneapolis. Not only do Amish people get sick, they get some of the worst diseases in the world.

Read the full article here.

Bangor Daily News: Maine bill to require vaccine-denying parents consult with doctors

The Maine legislature is due to take up a bill this year which would require parents meet with their primary care physician before being allowed to opt-out of the vaccination of their children:

About 5 percent of Maine children are not immunized, one of the highest rates in the nation. Under a new bill, parents could still opt-out but only after first consulting with a primary care physician.

The bill’s sponsor is state Rep. Dick Farnsworth, D-Portland. He said the bill aims at helping parents make an informed decision on an important public health issue.

“And that’s the whole point of what we’re trying to do is to give them the opportunity to get the information so they can make an appropriate decision on their own. We’re not saying they can’t sign off on philosophical reasons,” Farnsworth said. “It’s just that we want to make sure that people have the appropriate information in order to do that intelligently.”

Right now parents can opt-out of immunizations simply by signing a waiver.

Read the full article here.

Denver Post: Pass Upcoming Bill Legalizing Assisted Dying for Colorado’s Terminally Ill

With a bill soon to be introduced in the Colorado state legislature, The Denver Post editorial board has come out firmly in support of legalizing assisted dying for the state’s terminally ill citizens:

State Reps. Lois Court and Joann Ginal proposed the measure after  reading in The Denver Post of the plight of Charles Selsberg.

A Denver resident and retired real estate agent, Selsberg wrote of his last days in  dealing with a quickly advancing case of of ALS and how it left him on life support.

“I never thought I would be this person, really just this mind now, trapped in a dead body,” he wrote, with the assistance of his daughter Julie Selsberg.

He asked Colorado to “show its compassion” and consider adopting a law similar to the one Oregon passed in 1997. It allows terminally-ill patients to self-administer lethal medications prescribed by a doctor.

And we agree: Those facing situations like the one Charles Selsberg endured should have a reliable and peaceful way to end their lives if and when they want, surrounded by family and friends if that is their choice.

Court Rules Brain-Dead Woman’s Life Support Can Be Shut Down

The BBC reports on a recent legal battle over an end-of-life situation in Ireland:

A judge in Dublin’s High Court has ruled that a life-support machine may be switched off in the case of a brain-dead woman who is 18 weeks pregnant.

The woman’s family had wanted her life-support machine to be turned off.

Doctors had not granted their wishes as they were unsure of the legal status of the unborn child under the constitution in the Republic of Ireland.

The woman in the case was declared brain-dead on 3 December.

The court had heard that the chances of her unborn child being born alive were small. …

Lawyers for the unborn child had told the court that it must be satisfied that there was no real possibility of the foetus surviving before allowing the machine to be turned off.

Lawyers for the Health Service Executive (HSE), the body which runs all public health services in the Republic of Ireland, had argued that it would be lawful to withdraw life-support in this case.

The woman is in her late 20s and has two other children.

The judge ruled that to “maintain and continue” support would “deprive her of her dignity in death”:

“It would subject her father, her partner and her young children to unimaginable distress in a futile exercise which commenced only because of fears held by treating medical specialists of potential legal consequences,” he said.

You can read the full article here.

Australian Court to Penalize Homeopaths for Claiming Vaccine Alternative

From Ars Technica:

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has convinced a court that a company that offers homeopathic remedies was “misleading and deceptive” when it tried to argue that said remedies provide a viable alternative to the pertussis vaccine.

The case dates back to early 2013. The company, Homeopathy Plus, posted a series of three articles that claimed (among other things) that the vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough) is unreliable and ineffective. Literature currently at the site criticizes vaccines more generally, while promoting homeopathy as effective in preventing “malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leptospirosis, and meningococcal disease.”

But the court ruled that these claims were unsupported by evidence.

Now, long after the original articles have been pulled, a court has ruled that the claims of the articles were bogus: “In fact, the Vaccine is effective in protecting a significant majority of people who are exposed to the whooping cough infection from contracting whooping cough.” In addition, the claims that homeopathic remedies could help in this area also came in for criticism, with the court finding the articles “made false or misleading representations that Homeopathic Treatments have a use or benefit” in preventing pertussis infection.

Keep reading here.

A Center for Inquiry Campaign