Yesterday evening, I was horrified to read this article in the Daily Mail, reporting that Salafist religious leaders in Tunisia are calling for a 19 year old woman to be stoned to death. The woman, known only as “Amina”, published photos of herself on the Facebook page of the feminist activist group FEMEN-Tunisian posing topless with the phrases, “fuck your morals” and “my body belongs to me, and is not the source of the honor of anyone” written defiantly in Arabic across her chest, statements expressed against the oppression she lives under as a woman in Tunisia under a newly democratic but culturally theocratic regime.
Reportedly, Amina has since been placed in detention by her own family and has not had contact with the outside world. There are rumors that she has put into psychiatric care.
Clementine Ford has written an excellent article on Daily Life outlining Amina’s situation and the cultural context surrounding her protest, while Ruby Hamad has explored the potential implications of topless protest for women in Arab countries, also very much worth reading. Maryam Namazie on Freethought Blogs has been publishing regular updates on Amina and news of her supporters as it comes to hand.
FEMEN have called to arms, amassing supporters and declaring a “Topless Jihad” for April 4th, for women worldwide to protest in solidarity with Amina against oppressive Islamist leaders.
Incidentally, I have been asked today whether I stand with FEMEN – I do not. FEMEN condemn the sex industry, while I support the rights of sex workers, their clients and the removal of stigma surrounding the sex industry.
I found myself questioning FEMEN’s intentions regarding Amina and how they relate to myself, a proud atheist woman in Australia who is almost certainly already considered an infidel and morally bereft by the sorts of preachers who call for the stoning of a woman. I had trouble imagining how any action I took could even register with those being protested against, let alone affect any change in their attitude – frankly, I’m not really sure that FEMEN themselves are capable of changing the attitudes of the hardened misogynistic institutions that they protest against.
I also didn’t consider that I could be particularly relevant in an awareness-raising capacity – Amina’s photographs and story more than speak for themselves.
Still, I didn’t feel able to let go of the inclination I had to do something. Evidently I can get a little entrenched in practicality at times, as it took me more than an hour to realise that it was perfectly fine – and I was perfectly fine with – the idea of making a statement with no particular expectation, but primarily as a means to express a sentiment that I strongly wished to articulate – that it is a hateful thing to declare that a woman should be stoned and that if you believe that your god would want you to perform such an atrocious act, I do not believe that you, your faith or your culture should be tolerated or respected.
I am a privileged woman in many respects and recognise that the culture that I live in affords me an existence that is incomparable to the experiences of many women who live in regions where fundamentalists are in power. My act of removing my top is barely one of defiance and has not placed me at any risk. Still, I wish to stand up and make this statement:
I support the right of all women to have autonomy over their own bodies, to express ownership over their own bodies, to experience the freedoms that I do. I deeply criticise those who shame, oppress and punish women for defying fundamentalist demands for “modesty”. I thank those who stand with me, I am privileged to stand with them and I support Amina.
Since I summoned up the courage to post this on Twitter, I have been very pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming positivity of responses. I’d especially like to extend my appreciation to Donovan (@MrOzAtheist), who thought my statement worthwhile enough to share with his 20K+ followers (twice!) and to Dane (@danientifically) who wonderfully posted a photo of himself in solidarity with Amina.
If you are so inclined, please consider signing this petition to several institutions including Amnesty International and the United Nations requesting protection for Amina.
Addit: 31/03/2013 – My photo has been posted on Reddit on r/atheism here; I have created a Reddit account (joalabaster) and am participating in the resulting threads if you wish to join in.
Addit: 03/04/13 – I’ve Tweeted the photo again here, with a link to this blog post. Recursive! If you are considering retweeting the image (and you’re most welcome to), please use this one.
Addit: 03/04/13 – Another excellent post from Maryam Namazi, Why An International Day to Defend Amina?
Well. I have been incredibly busy catching up with uni work after taking a break over the holiday season and have not been able to find the time to write a blog post for a couple of weeks now. As I don’t like to go for too long without putting something up here, have this:
I feel very fortunate that my “mummy instinct” is to understand the importance of evidence and reason when making decisions regarding my children’s health and wellbeing.
Please feel free to share this image if you find it entertaining or pertinent to a discussion that you’re having.
Image created using Success Kid template on quickmeme.com.
On Twitter last night (or to be honest, very early this morning), I saw a statement which I took umbrage with and would like to address here.
“Isn’t pseudoscience just a tax on stupidity?”
There are two points that I would like to make in response to the above suggestion.
Firstly, nobody, regardless of their ability to analyse claims made by charlatans and woo-peddlers, deserves to be swindled or to have their health compromised. Nobody deserves to be taken advantage of by liars and thieves. I believe that, barring cases of extreme wilful ignorance, the blame for harm caused by belief in pseudoscience rests squarely on the shoulders of those who propagate it.
Second, to a degree, critical thinking is a learnt skill. We should be mindful of assuming it to be a marker of intelligence, or suggesting that a lack of critical thought denotes a lack of intelligence.
Simon Singh was generous enough to retweet my first point (frankly, I’m honoured – he’s a wise and accomplished person and has put me in some amazing company) and it received a reply from Mark Pentler, who stated,
“that should be the mantra of every skeptic. Educate the masses for the good of the species, not to feel smug”
I agree with Mark’s sentiment. Those of us with the ability to see through deception can use this skill to help others and to take down those who lie and take advantage of the credulous. We can also encourage others to develop the same skills, by which they will be better able to look out for themselves. And while it is satisfying for many reasons to point the finger at a lie and loudly call bullshit, I feel that the greater satisfaction comes from doing good with our faculties, rather than the smugness of being right for it’s own sake.
I am relatively new to skepticism and as such, tend to veer away from making generalised statements regarding such (or, indeed make grand claims regarding my own skepticism – I openly admit to my amateur status), but I’m willing to overlook my hesitation today because I feel that these are points worth making.
Skepticism is a tool. It can be used to protect others and taught to others so that they can protect themselves. The greater the number of people who are empowered by skepticism, the less successful the pushers of pseudoscience will be.
Me on Twitter: @joalabaster
Just over four months ago now, with a desire to add my voice to those who were publically challenging the AVN (and several other subjects which trouble me as a skeptic also), I started up this blog. It has been an incredibly rewarding endeavour for me so far; I consider it a great privilege to communicate with so many people and I am thankful that I am able to share information that I consider to be important.
Today, which happens to be Christmas Eve here, Evidence, Please is about to reach what to me is a significant milestone; the site counter is about to tick over to mark 5000 views.
To celebrate and say thank you to all who have viewed, shared and discussed the posts that I have made here, I have purchased some gifts through Unicef – 200 Polio Vaccines, 100 Measles Vaccines and Four Vaccine Carriers, which are used to transport vaccines to children in remote areas.
If you’re interested giving a similar gift at some point, Unicef’s range of disease prevention gifts begin at $14AUD for 50 Measles vaccines.
I would like to give special thanks to those of you who have given me feedback and encouragement on Twitter and on Facebook; to the admins of Stop the Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network for sharing some of the pieces I’ve written about the Australian Vaccination Network (and for their tireless work toward the group’s goal) and to F, for making me countless cups of coffee, putting up with me being frequently distracted, listening to me read out rough drafts and giving me his opinion, and giving me the space to write while parenting two small people and completing my B Sc.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday season and all the very best for 2013.
Reason’s Greetings from the FSM tree topper!
My sadness over the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday is still incredibly raw and I don’t have a great deal to say on the topic beyond expressing my despair at the loss of life and innocence, my sorrow for those affected and my hope that President Obama will push for some long overdue reform to firearm legislation in the USA.
What galls me though, and what I would like to discuss here, is that some people see tragedies such as the events at Sandy Hook Elementary as opportunities to push their pet conspiracy theories.
Before the dust had settled at the World Trade Center, before the bodies were retrieved, while the brave folk who risked their lives searched through the rubble, conspiracy nuts were penning missives claiming 9-11 to be an inside job.
I do understand that in trying to make sense of what has occurred people can find comfort in believing that the horrors of the world are by design rather than awful circumstance. However, I find myself with little tolerance for those pushing their conspiracy theories in the wake of real grief and while others are searching for evidence-based approaches to prevent similar circumstances arising again.
One conspiracy theory I’ve witnessed getting an airing over the past few days is the belief that medications prescribed for psychiatric conditions are the cause of psychiatric illness. Certainly, no medication is without potential side effects and any person taking medication should be aware of its possible impact on their mental state, but the anti-psych-meds conspiracy theorists claim that psychiatric medication is of no benefit to individuals experiencing mental illness and is causing great harm to peoples’ mental states. In short, they want people with mental illness to cease the treatment that gives them an opportunity to improve their functionality and lessen their suffering.
As with anti-vaccination groups, the anti-psych-med believers feel that their information and views are superior to the evidence-based findings of the scientific community and the expertise of medical professionals.
Unsurprisingly, there is a crossover between anti-vaccinationists and the anti-psych-med movement. Even less surprisingly, given the subject I find myself returning to again and again on this blog (I do have other things to talk about, I promise), the Australian Vaccination Network appear to be anti-psych-med as well as anti-vaccination, as is evidenced by the CCHR* DVDs that they stock in their online shop (and their general disdain for pharmaceutical companies, mainstream medicine and evidence based health advice).
Two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, presumably pseudonymous “Nancy Novax”, a long time friend of the AVN, posted a link on the AVN’s Facebook page purporting to provide evidence that “SSRIs” (nb: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, a family of antidepressant medications which can also be effective in treating generalised anxiety disorder) “and other psychotropic medications are the true causes of the mass murders and massacres that have been occurring in the US”.
An AVN admin (presumably Meryl Dorey herself, as the post was not initialled for identification), decided it appropriate to share this with the AVN’s followers, with the caption “Is anyone is deluded by thinking the mass shootings in the US r because of the availability of guns? Index 2 SSRI Stories”
To their credit, several of the AVN’s supporters have responded with disgust.. and some of those responses have been allowed to remain on the AVN’s Facebook page. I won’t republish them here and discuss them, but if the thread is deleted by the AVN, I will upload screenshots and link to them here.
The AVN admin also shared this anti-psychiatry diatribe with gross speculation about the shooter in the comments of the post above.
Then there’s this repugnant rant by Mike Adams “The Health Ranger” over on naturalnews.com, titled “Gun control? We need medication control! Newton elementary school shooter Adam Lanza likely on meds; labeled as having ‘personality disorder’”
Here’s Sherri Tenpenny hijacking this tragedy to go on an anti-vaccination conspiracy rant:
A comment worth reposting…thanks Arlene:
“We hear how a gun kills children — which is horrible and I will not take anything away from that — but we don’t hear about how our government is killing our children…Yea, now we’re all going to hear how we must have gun control… But doctors who vaccinate kill [and maim] more than all the guns put together.”
I’m willing to bet that there are dozens more examples of similar statements and agendas. I’ve seen quite a few more over the past couple of days. I’m not going to go looking for them though…frankly, I’m tired.
I’m tired of charlatans attempting to push people away from considering medical treatment that is in their best interest.
I’m tired of wondering why some people seem to be so very prone to believing that their theories are correct, despite the fact that the rationale to keep them afloat in the face of contradictory evidence increases in absurdity to the extent that they truly believe that mainstream medicine, the scientific community and governments are all colluding to suppress the truth that they and a small handful of their associates are privy to.
And right now, I’m incredibly tired of people trying to piggyback their nutbag lies on to the senseless deaths of innocent people.
* The CCHR are the ambiguously named Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Scientology front group who campaign against psychiatry and psychiatric medicine. As loathe as I am to give them any traffic, I think that their site speaks for itself.
Further Reading (and Viewing)
Penn & Teller beautifully sum up my disdain for conspiracy theories in this episode of Bullshit, which I wholeheartedly recommend. Unless you’re not comfortable with some very strong language from a good humored and angry man (and emphatic gestures from another)… then steer clear.
What’s The Harm? Conspiracy Theories – In fact, I recommend the entire site. It can be terribly sad, but if you ever find yourself shrugging and thinking that woo is not worth challenging, What’s The Harm? provides strong reinforcement that it’s worth maintaining opposition.
Scientology, anti-psychiatry quackery and Mike Adams: It all becomes clear now – post by Orac over on Respectful Insolence, examining Mike Adams’ similar anti-psych-med rant in reaction to the mass shooting in Tuscon, Arizona last year.
Tenpenny blames vaccines for Newtown shooting – SkewedDistribution on Sherri Tenpenny’s further diatribe on the shootings.
I have contributed some money to assist the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre with funeral costs, via the group We Are Atheism. Here is their collection page.
[Edit] 12:00pm 19/12/2012: Added the NVIC screenshot and put a link to SkewedDistribution’s post in to Further Reading.
Just before midnight last Friday night (the 14th of December, 2012), some rather fantastic news broke.
New South Wales Fair Trading (a state government department) had that day issued Meryl Dorey, president of the Australian Vaccination Network, with a letter stating that after investigating several complaints made to the department regarding the misleading nature of the AVN’s name, it is the Commissioner’s opinion that the use of the name ‘Australian Vaccination Network’ by a group of anti-vaccinationists is against the public interest. The Commissioner then directed the AVN to change its name. The AVN have been given until the 21st of February 2013 to lodge an application for registration of change of name. If this is not done, the department may cancel the AVN’s registration, close the AVN down and seize their assets.
The full letter is available here. Thank you to Meryl Dorey for making it available to the public.
Several newspapers have run with this story, news.com.au gave us “Anti-vaccine group ordered to change name”, which the Herald Sun ran as “Minister orders anti-vaccination group to change name”, with added quotes from the president of the AMA, while The Daily Telegraph ran the truncated “Anti-jabs lobbyists warned”. A few highlights:
NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts fired a broadside at the AVN, saying the information it provided was a public safety issue of “life and death”.
“This is not a victimless issue, it’s about the ability to stop pain and suffering,” he said.
Mr Roberts likened the AVN’s message to sanctioning speeding.
“People do not have the freedom of choice when it comes to endangering others … it’s the equivalent of saying a bloke can speed down the road and endanger others,” he said.
Mr Roberts said he was prepared for any appeals the AVN might make.
“This is an order, it is not a request,” he said.
“The Australian Vaccination Network does not present a balanced case for vaccination, does not present medical evidence to back up its claims and therefore poses a serious risk of misleading the community,” Mr Roberts said in a statement.
NSW Fair Trading Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement Robert Vellar says the AVN’s name had misled parents seeking information.
“People are being confused about the true nature of the information they are being provided on the AVN website, the name is misleading,” he said.
The Northern Star, which is the local paper of the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales (which covers the town from which Meryl Dorey runs the AVN), published “Anti-vaccine group must change ‘misleading’ name. This article contains an unusual point worth noting – they attempted to contact Meryl Dorey for a statement, but she did not return their calls. Given Meryl Dorey’s usual eagerness to engage with the media, this is a strange event indeed.
Here is the cover sheet which will be greeting Meryl at her local newsagency this week.
Many thanks to Alison Gaylard and her friend for snapping a photo and sharing it.
Unsurprisingly, Meryl Dorey has reacted quite strongly to the letter from the NSW Fair Trading and subsequent media attention. She published a lengthy post on her blog in response, entitled “Government puts the boot into the AVN, Democracy and the Truth”.
I do not have the time to review the entire post, but some highlights include:
The Department’s open cooperation with the AMA is analogous to them responding to complaints by mining companies about Greenpeace’s name. After all, Greenpeace is not green, nor do they go around looking for peace, therefore, would the Department tell them to change their name too? How about the Cancer Council? Couldn’t someone be misled into thinking that they are FOR cancer? And the Department of Health? Don’t get me started! The Department of Ill-Health would be more accurate in my opinion.
Greenpeace is not green. Say it with me, “Greenpeace is not green”.
A wonderfully skilled wordsmith of my acquaintance, Shellity, has written a poem in response to the above quote of Meryl’s, I heartily suggest you give it (and the rest of her blog) a read: “Nominal”.
As for the statement regarding the Cancer Council, no Meryl, it is highly unlikely that anybody could be led to believe that the Cancer Council were pro-cancer. It is a reasonable assumption though, they they are an authority on the subject and that they provide trustworthy evidence-based information regarding cancer. The same cannot be said for the Australian Vaccination Network with regards to the topic of vaccination.
Later in the blog post, when discussing NSW Fair Trading, Meryl quips that they “might consider changing that name because at least in the present situation, it is extremely misleading!”. I assume that this is a little Merylese bon mot, but it is hard to be certain.
Several paragraphs on is another statement I that would like to address.
The letter from the Department was handed to my daughter at approximately 11:45 AM and the first article appeared in the Australian media approximately 10 hours ago. But Skeptic blogs started to announce this information approximately one hour before the media did. How do you think they came by this information? I really do wonder. Is there a direct line of communication between the Australian Skeptics, Stop the AVN (SAVN) and government departments? There is a long and open history of collusion between media outlets and various ‘skeptics’ so it is not impossible that they heard about this letter before the AVN had even received it. Is this collusion one of the reasons why these departments have been ‘putting the boot’ into us for the last 4 years at an apparent cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayer? Is the fact that many SAVN members are actually employed by government departments – and use their government email addresses when writing about the AVN and wanting to close us down – cause for concern? I will leave those questions with you to ponder.
Going by the time on the blog post announcement on the AVN’s Facebook page, 11:40am on Saturday the 15th of December (the post itself has no timestamp), the “approximately 10 hours ago” statement refers to 1:40am the same day.
I was online when the news broke, it first hit Twitter at 11:29pm on Friday evening. This linked to a paywalled version of the Herald Sun article, “Minister orders anti-vaccination group to change its name”, which refers to the 14th of December as ‘yesterday’ and is dated 12:00AM, December 15, 2012, but evidently went live at least half an hour before midnight.
The skeptic (I find the dramatic quotes quite unnecessary) bloggers who wrote posts about the news did so over the next hour; there’s a satirical piece by Dave The Happy Singer titled “Meryl Dorey to rename the Australian Vaccination Network Stop Stop The AVN” (posted at 12:26am Saturday) and a rightfully pleased announcement from Peter Bowditch on The Millenium Project on Ratbags.Com (posted 1:15am Saturday).
Kate from Stop the AVN has made a timeline graphic here, which helps clarify.
Both Dave and Peter’s blog posts refer to the article on the Herald Sun, which went online almost an hour before Dave’s post was made, giving both bloggers adequate time to write and publish. More to the point, both blog posts directly refer to the Herald Sun article and contain no information that is not included in the newspaper article.
Where then is Meryl getting the idea that skeptic bloggers had the information before the media published it? And is it then reasonable that she extrapolate from this the notion that the Australian Skeptics, SAVN and ‘government departments’ are illicitly sharing information and that the media is also in on the act? It’s a long and rather conspiracy-laden shot, Ms Dorey.
On the subject of unsubstantiated finger pointing, the AVN’s website went down on Sunday and this was the announcement:
(The “View all 8 comments link doesn’t reveal further comments when clicked on, three have been deleted – original post here)
Fortunately, the SAVN admins are people of many talents. Here, Dave Singer outlines why it is inaccurate to blame the AVN’s website problem on a DDOS attack:
So what next for the AVN from here? I see four options, for them to change their name and complete the appropriate paperwork with all relevant authorities that that would entail, for them to continue with their current name and face being forcibly shut down by NSW Fair Trading, for them to disband in an act of grand martyrdom and for Meryl Dorey to lay low for a while or for them to apply for a right of review of the department’s direction with the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.
Either way, we live in interesting times and I am quite curious to see which direction this will progress in.
Further Reading (and some listening and watching):
Anti-Vac group told to change name – Tracey Spicer and Tim Webster on 2UE Radio discuss the NSW Department of Fair Trade’s decision with phone in guest Anthony Roberts, the Minister for Fair Trade (who is rather critical of the anti-vaccination movement and refers to groups such as the AVN as “nut jobs”). Audio available, I will link to a transcript if I see one about.
AVN ordered to change its name – An article on Australian Doctor’s website (professional credentials and login required to view full article).
Australian Vaccination Network ordered to change it’s name – The media release from the Minister for Fair Trading’s office, also published here on the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s website.
The AVN Asks – What’s in a Name? – The AVN’s official media release on the department’s direction. I’ll be sure to add links to any news services who run with the story.
AVN’s Meryl Dorey orders NSW Fair Trading to change its name – Another blog post from Dave the Happy Singer
NSW Government orders the AVN the change their name or face closure – A blog post on the Skeptics’ Book of Pooh Pooh
Panellists on ABC’s current events panel show The Drum discuss the AVN in a less than impressed manner. Thank you to Anne Blake for uploading the video.
Anti-vaccination network told to change its name or be shut down – An article on The Conversation by Rachael Dunlop
And now for some Jimmy Rustling of a different kind – And a blog post by landlockedseaotter
David Penberthy: Anti-vaccine set forced to fess up – An opinion piece by David Penberthy appearing in Adelaide Now endorsing NSW Fair Trading’s direction.
AVN – NSW Fair Trading Orders Name Change – Christine Bayne of Diluted Thinking has put together a brilliant run down of the correspondence between the AVN and NSW Fair Trading and the potential liabilities faced by AVN committee members.
I would like to note a special thanks to everyone over at Stop the Australian (anti)Vaccination Network, especially those who have been posting links and information as they’ve come across them. I have been a little overwhelmed recently, trying to work out how to balance university, parenting and getting enough sleep, so my participation and this blog (and the housework) have fallen by the wayside somewhat. I am hoping that after the holiday season is done, I will be able to rest and find the resources to put more time into both SAVN and writing.
[Edit] 1:45pm 19/12/2012: Added links to the piece in The Conversation and landlockedseaotter’s post to the Further Reading section.
[Edit] 12:00pm 21/12/2012: Added links to David Penberthy’s article in Adelaide Now and Christine Bayne’s post at Diluted thinking to the Further Reading section.
Today, there has been another instance of an adult concerned for a child’s wellbeing asking the AVN for advice – not a parent this time, but an aunt – and the AVN not issuing an appropriate recommendation to have the child assessed by medical professionals.
It began with this post, from Robert Catalano, who proclaims to be the President of the American Natural Healthcare Society and has authored a book titled, “The Great White Hoax, The Suppressed Truth About the Pharmaceutical Industry, American Freedom vs, Medical Power”. It appears that Robert’s description of himself as an “anti-medicine activist” is one of the few and far between moments of accuracy he experiences in his writing. Judging by this extract (and I cannot imagine how the omitted text could possibly redeem what is written here), his book is a conspiracy heavy diatribe of pure bulldust, as is this post:
The AVN seem to be allowing a little more disagreement to be visible on their Facebook page than usual at the moment. A discussion ensued, with the AVN supporting Robert’s claims and trying to promote a book that is sold on the AVN’s website, “Diabetes Without Drugs” by Suzy Cohen.
The uncensored conversation didn’t last long though – the next comment, in which the author suggests that Robert may not be as well informed about diabetes as he claims to be (and includes a copy-paste of accurate information), was made by one of the AVN’s own courageous anonymous admins, CP. It has since been deleted.
Next though, was the sort of comment which makes my blood run cold (in a metaphorical sense, on the off chance that somebody thinks I’m having a dreadful reaction to the aspartame that was in a cola I drunk yesterday). It filled me with dread, in any case.
Again, an adult responsible for a child who is described as being unwell, asking for advice on the AVN’s page.
By this point, Robert is no longer participating in the conversation. Several conscientious and sensible commenters rightly urge Jess W to get her nephew to a hospital. The AVN admin (who is not identifying him or herself at this point) ignores Jess’ comment and instead opts to debate the legitimacy of natural diabetes management and cures with Hayley A.
Jess W returns with a direct question to the AVN. The AVN admin’s reply admonishes her for not having the time to learn about ways to help a 4 year old child and suggesting that Jess’ priorities are not in the right place, completely overlooking the fact that Jess has stated that her nephew is very unwell, difficult to rouse and has an extremely high blood sugar level reading.
This is the time to be telling Jess W to call an ambulance immediately, not tell her off for not handing over $35, waiting for the AVN to ship the book to her (given their poor performance in delivering their magazine, “Living Wisdom”, which their subscribers pay for, there’s no precedence set for the book to arrive promptly) and reading 432 pages on the dietary management of Type 2 diabetes.
What Jess W is describing needs to be diagnosed by a professional in a clinical assessment – if it is indeed diabetes, it is extremely improbable that a four year old would be facing Type 2. Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, nor can it be managed through diet alone. Fastidious monitoring of blood glucose levels and administration of insulin are required in order to avoid the person with diabetes developing ketoacidosis, a life threatening condition. From Diabetes Australia’s website:
Ketoacidosis is a serious condition associated with illness or very high blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetes. It develops gradually over hours or days. It is a sign of insufficient insulin. Most cases of ketoacidosis occur in people with type 1, it very rarely occurs in people with type 2.
Without enough insulin, the body’s cells cannot use glucose for energy. To make up for this, the body begins to burn fat for energy instead. This leads to accumulation of dangerous chemical substances in the blood called ketones, which also appear in the urine.
This is a serious medical emergency and can be life threatening if not treated properly. If these symptoms are present, contact your doctor or go to hospital immediately.
It is also worth noting that “Diabetes Without Drugs” (preview viewable here) contains Quack Miranda Warnings both on the inside cover and on page xii of the introduction, urging readers not to act on the advice contained within without consulting their doctor.
Back to the comment thread, the AVN admin remains anonymous, accuses Hayley A of rejecting the suggestion that diabetes is naturally curable merely because that suggestion is coming from the AVN and then links several YouTube videos to bolster their claims.
I am not certain what the now missing comment from Karam S was that the AVN admin is replying to in the last comment – I’m vigilant with the screencapping, but I did spend some time taking my kids swimming this afternoon.
Update: The helpful and vigilant Dr Rachael Dunlop has supplied the missing puzzle piece, which is indeed quite puzzling in itself:
I will admit at this point that I was having doubts as to whether Jess W’s claims were authentic. Not enough to feel that her comments didn’t warrant attention and reasonable responses, but I did entertain the possibility that she was somebody out to demonstrate that the AVN, (who I will remind you now are recognised as a health care provider by the HCCC), provide unconscionable and dangerous advice and misinformation to those who believe them to be a credible source of information.
Thankfully, mine (and many others’) suspicions were found to be within reason. Jess W appeared on SAVN’s Facebook page, knowingly breaking her own ruse to reassure us that there was no sick child whose caregivers were relying on the AVN for advice.
I would like to note that before this afternoon’s events, Jess W was not known to me, nor to any other people involved with SAVN that I saw discussing the matter in public. To the best of my knowledge, she acted independently.
Meryl Dorey posted this when she discovered that Jess W’s story was not real:
(Pardon the confusing timestamps, Craig D’s comment was, unsurprisingly, deleted)
Note that Meryl’s confusing disclaimer has made an appearance again.
The second comment from an AVN admin is unattributed, so I assume that it came from one of the other admins of the AVN’s Facebook page. To the best of my knowledge, there are four or five admins other than Meryl, who go by the monikers RR, B52, SB, CP and the recently appeared B9. While I support the right of internet users to anonymity and pseudonymity, I find it disturbing that people speaking on behalf of a recognised health care provider do so without declaring their credentials and affiliations.
SAVN admin Kate has posted an open letter to the anonymous AVN admin who made the second comment on the screencap above. Please take a moment to read it here.
As always, there is much considered and varied commentary on today’s events on Stop the Australian (Anti-)Vaccination Network’s Facebook page.
The thread on the AVN’s page has disappeared and reappeared. At the time of writing, it is viewable (and still being commented on) here.
The ethics of Jess W’s conduct are certainly questionable. She did perpetrate a hoax which played with my emotions very effectively and caused me some anxiety. I spent this afternoon imagining a boy of four, much like my own beloved son, listless and unresponsive while his family made the dreadful mistake of seeking advice from the AVN instead of taking him immediately to a hospital. It made me feel ill with worry, helpless and incredibly sad – and I’m sure many others felt similarly, just as we’ve felt reading about the unvaccinated baby exposed to whooping cough and the young boy suspected to have measles whose mothers also recently posted on the AVN’s Facebook page seeking help. I, personally, cannot condone Jess W’s actions, nor endorse such tactics. While they were effective in demonstrating the AVN’s response to a caregiver of a sick child, I do not feel that the lie was worth the outcome. Conversely, I am still finding myself thankful that the AVN’s response wasn’t being demonstrated with a real child’s life at risk.
While thankfully this sick young boy did not exist, he could have. Even if the AVN admins had their suspicions that Jess W’s story was not true, was it really worth ignoring then admonishing her if there was even a tiny chance that a child’s life was at risk? Why did the AVN admins cling so tightly to their need to dispense anti-medicine tropes and keep toeing the party line when they were clearly out of their depth? Why did they refuse to urge Jess W to get her nephew to a hospital?
He could have been real and this could have been tragic. I am terrified that the next time someone comes to the AVN for advice on an ill child, it will be.
The AVN do not deserve the responsibility that they are trying to shoulder. Likewise, trusting parents who are seeking health advice for their children do not deserve the dangerous lies of the AVN.
Previously on this topic:
The day the AVN thoroughly rustled my Jimmies by landlockedseaotter, a great blog post on today’s events which further addresses the claims made by Robert Catalano and the AVN about diabetes cure and management (as well as the AVN’s behaviour).