Anti-vaccine president Tasha David glorifies dangerous health advice which lands toddler in hospital

An extremely disturbing blog post was published this morning (Australian time), which provides an account of the provision of dangerous medical advice, by unqualified anti-vaccination movement leaders, in a closed Facebook group named Vaccine Free Australia – administered by Courtney Hebberman and Luke O’Hehir (Luke E Lawless) – which consists of 3100 members. Please spend five minutes reading this post, from Things Anti-Vaxers Say (TAVS), which contains the full Facebook thread: Antivaxer’s child ends up in hospital after terrible medical advice.

The post deals primarily with the outrageous advice provided by inept Australian anti-vaccination stalwart, Bronwyn Hancock; a summary of Hancock’s dangerous advice – compiled by a medical professional who wishes to remain anonymous – is as follows:

1. Providing health-related diagnosis and treatment advice in the absence of any formal training or experience.

2. Providing these over the internet without any detailed history taking, examination of the child, or laboratory investigations.

3. Treatment advice dangerous: specifically against generally recommended strategies for use of antipyretics in children with moderate to high temperatures. Child went on to have an uncontrolled, very high fever and to rapidly deteriorate requiring urgent transfer to hospital and admission. Ignored early clinical clues the child did not have an uncomplicated fever: “she seems to be acting a little delusional”.

4. Diagnosis of vitamin deficiency in the absence of any clinical examination or laboratory testing. Followed by recommendation for therapeutic treatment with specific therapeutic doses sourced from alternative health literature. Initially failed to provide clear advice and failed to distinguish between clinical preparations of Vitamin C.

5. Without appropriate history taking, clinical examination, and laboratory testing, suggests to parent of a sick child to allow the body to auto regulate (“But who is anyone to judge what is ‘too high’ better than the body is? The body is NOT suicidal!”). Neglecting the real possibility the child had a life threatening infection and required urgent medical care.

6. Most dangerously, did not recognise important clinical indicators of a seriously unwell and potentially deteriorating child: “Abit concerned about her rapid breathing…”, “No she’s pretty delusional talking gibberish and can’t keep her balance”. Children with a bacterial infection causing a high fever, and this state (rapid breathing, delusion, balance problems) may be at high risk of long term serious morbidity or even death if not treated promptly in a medical/hospital setting.

7. Despite these symptoms, actively advised against taking a very sick child to receive medical care on the grounds that doctors caused her child to have an unsubstantiated vaccine injury, meaning the child should effectively never receive medical care in the future.

8. Provided medical advice in contradiction to the advice and treatment plan arranged by the doctors caring for the sick child in hospital. Specifically, that the hospital gave antipyretics, did not give high dose vitamin C. Made an incorrect diagnosis that the child had brain inflammation due to having received antipyretics to suppress the high temperature, with the brain inflammation resulting in fever.

9. Whilst providing medical advice, attempts to undermine the mother’s relationship with her husband. The reason provided for this is that the husband provided entirely appropriate medical treatment (antipyretic treatment) to a child with a high temperature which did not align with Ms Hancock’s recommendations.

10. Specifically stated without evidence that the child was at higher risk of seizure due to having had an antipyretic. This is misleading and potentially dangerous advice.

Crazy stuff. It should be noted, here, that Hancock operates her anti-vaccine business, Vaccination Information Service, out of Sydney. This makes Hancock answerable to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, thanks to the stellar work of Meryl Dorey and the latter’s unrestrained ego (oh, how we have come full circle in the battle for anti-vaccine supremacy). Complaints to the HCCC can be lodged here. Feel free to use any information contained herein. Hancock can no longer claim to be providing medical advice in private, as a private citizen: VFA, as noted above, has 3100 members.

Tellingly, Hancock was one of the headline speakers at the recent Sydney anti-vaccine protest, organised by Damien Poulsen and Belgin Colak:

Hancock 17 Sydney protest speech

Gisella Deubel (left); Bronwyn Hancock (right). Publicly available image courtesy Facebook.

Another leader of the anti-vaccination movement, Tasha David, is the president of the thoroughly disreputable anti-vaccination organisation, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, itself the recipient of a public health warning from the NSW HCCC. She claims to be the parent of six vaccine-injured children and two healthy children. None of the health conditions David attributes to her children, including autism, can be caused by vaccines. None. In a 2012 blog post on the AVN’s anti-vaccine blog, David also lists the following:

…eczema, asthma, psoriasis, chronic ear infections, gastrointestinal disorders (ie chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation and urinary tract infections), food allergies and intolerances, and chemical sensitivities…

Tasha 29 list of kids vaccine injuries 2012 NCV blog

Tasha David’s entire anti-vaccine universe is constructed on a bedrock of bog-standard anti-vaccine myths. Also, tellingly, Tasha David was one of the headline speakers at the Melbourne anti-vaccine protest:

Tasha 25 Melbourne protest speaker Lydall

Tasha David (centre). Publicly available image courtesy Facebook.

When the protests were all done and dusted a mange of anti-vaccinationists traveled to Canberra to lobby on behalf of their execrable movement. One of the senators who met with them was Senator Glenn Lazarus. To his credit he has since strongly declared his support for immunisation as safe, effective and necessary.

Tasha 28 Glenn Lazarus Brett Smith

Pictured left to right are: Marelle Burnum Burnum, Tasha David, [not known], Senator Glenn Lazarus, Max Dulumunmun Harrison (Marelle’s husband), Brett Smith (a qualified naturopath who uses the fake name “Lucas Jackson Kelly“; an anti-vaccine 9/11 Truther and all-round internet tough-guy). Publicly available image courtesy Facebook.

Tasha David is specifically mentioned here because of her glowing endorsements of the potentially catastrophic medical advice freely bandied about in the VFA Facebook group, as noted above. It cannot be stressed enough: these people got a hearing in the offices of one or more Australian senators. We can safely assume that neither Senator Lazarus, nor any other unsuspecting senators or members of parliament, would have been informed that David is the president of an organisation which has a public health warning against its name. We can also be sure that the direct threat to public health and safety posed by these people would not have been known by any senators or members.

Back to the VFA Facebook thread; this is what eventually happened:

VFA 67 one year old three fits

The following is what AVsN president Tasha David really thinks about dangerous, unqualified medical advice which landed a one-year-old infant in hospital after having multiple seizures:

The other good thing to come out of this was the support and advice from all of the members of the group during your time of need! What a great knowledgeable bunch of members we have. It is reassuring to know that if we have any health issues occur with ourselves or our children that there are people to  turn to…

The advice you received from all of the wonderful people involved was great information and will be beneficial to  any other parent in this situation. I am really proud to be in contact with such wonderful knowledgeable people 🙂

Tasha 27 VFA knowledgable bunch baby hospitalised

These people do not belong in the offices of senators and members of parliament. They belong in the feckin’ sack. Because of the internet – as magnificent a creature as it is – backyard medical advice has become a broader public health menace. What was once mere misinformation handed out over a back fence by the local cat lady is now dispensed to millions. In the case of the VFA group examples, above, the reach is at least 3100 people. Imagine if this mother did not take the child to hospital at all, based on the advice of her anti-vaccine peers? It is not that far-fetched a potential calamity. Sometimes only one disastrous decision, on the back  of a series of poor choices, is all that it takes for an avoidable death of a vulnerable person.

In closing – also related to the TAVS blog post  – here is another supporter of the anti-vaccine protests which are coming up  in September. From the Sydney anti-vaccine protest page:

Bodnar 31 July 4 comment NJNP Syd protest



Huge thanks to all contributors who assisted with this post. 


Update July 17 2015

Courtney Hebberman – the administrator of Vaccine Free Australia, the group in which the above, outrageous health misinformation was shared – has taken issue with the contents of this blog post, and those who share it.

With huge thanks to Leanne – who had the foresight to screen-capture the following public and private comments from Hebberman – we see the real face of Australian anti-vaccinationism: foul-mouthed, vicious, vindictive liars. These dishonest people have absolutely no regard for truth,  integrity, or manners.

Public thread on Leanne’s  profile:

Hebberman 18 Leanne public post

Public thread on Leanne’s profile:

Hebberman 19 Leanne public post of RH text

Public thread on Leanne’s profile:

Hebberman 20 Leanne public post

Hebberman then took to sending private messages of startling abuse. Hebberman makes the same disingenuous offer to Leanne – to join VFA and see for herself – that she has dishonestly made, previously, to members of Stop the Australian Vaccination Network.

Courtney Hebberman

hat the fuck would you know about our group?
People like you make me laugh
Jealous haters with no fucking life
Have u seen the group?
Our pinned disclaimer that says this is not medical advice and to actively seek healthcare.
It is a SUPPORT group for those who do NOT vaccinate.
Do you have a problem with that?
Add me and I’ll add u to the group and u can feel free to post and take it up with the 3500 people in there
Some who have children who have serious medical conditions from the medication.
Why don’t you ask the group yourself if you have the balls you ugly bitch.
Ugly soul
Ugly person.
For the record
This person in that blog isn’t even in my group
Its all fabricated crap lmao and you’re so thick u fell for it lmao!
Go fuck yourself.
Offers open
Accept my request and I’ll add u in so u can see and post for yourself
Narrow minded cunts like you have no fuckin idea.

Hebberman 23 PM to Leanne

Appropriately, Leanne blocked Hebberman. Hebberman then sent a private message to Leanne’s friend, who passed it on to Leanne:

Hebberman 21 Leanne PM from friend

Hebberman 22 Leanne PM from friend 2

It should be noted that the redacted individual from these last screenshots has also removed Hebberman from his friends list. Wise move.

Respected leader in Australian anti-vaccinationism, Courtney Hebberman. Let’s give it up for Courtney.

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13 Responses to Anti-vaccine president Tasha David glorifies dangerous health advice which lands toddler in hospital

  1. Dave says:

    Thanks for bringing that blog post to our attention Hank. If this child had actually had an untreated bacterial infection (septicaemia, meningitis) she may well have died.

  2. Stephen says:

    Thank you for yet another lucid blog shining a rational light on these cranks.

  3. @advodiaboli says:

    Glad you mentioned the attack on the mother’s hubby (no.9). This exposes a disturbing side of bullying and captures the lie behind their informed choice that we hear so much about.

  4. Thinus says:

    I was very interested to see the photo that was taken at parliament.
    My wife and I teach ANU students in our clinic.
    A few months ago we attended an Aboriginal Cultural Immersion weekend down at the coast. We were joined by a group of ANU medical students and GPs and our and our attendance was sponsored by the ANU. There was one other person there who was from a on-medical background and on the second evening he burst forth in a long tirade about the evils of vaccination. By all accounts it does sound like this person did have a child with severe Autism but he unfortunately was well and truly duped into believing this was all the result of the vaccinations that his child had. Given his obvious significant distress I suppressed the urge to strongly take him on about this matter but my wife and I were both very concerned about how his speech would have influenced the group of young medical students.

    I thought this was all just co-incidental and a once-off. Now that I see that the Patriarch of the specific mob who ran the event is closely associated with the anti-vaccine movement through his wife and this has me thinking I may have done those students an injustice by not speaking up.

    This is a concern as the ANU sends students down for these immersions every few months and I wonder how often an anti-vaccination devotee attends at one of these sessions

    • Sue says:

      It’s not uncommon for parents to become anti-vax as a response to the stress or grief about developmental or behavioural issues with their children. They are looking for an external locus of blame, and they fall into the hands of the anti-vax movement, which proclaims them as heroes and validates their claims. Understandable but awful stuff – those struggling kids hardly need more VPDs!

  5. Andy says:

    I just read through the whole FB thread on TAVS and I’m pretty sure some contributors were confused, or didn’t read the opening question, as it seems they thought the mother was preparing a Christmas turkey, not saving a dying child.

    Joking aside, what gets me is the amount of directly-conflicting non-medical advice that goes largely unchallenged. Dress her, undress her, cold washers in the pits, warm flannels in the pits, oil, vinegar, watermelon, lemon, oregano, homeopathy, panadol, no panadol, keep it below 39, let it go as high as it wants, cool her down, why did you cool her down, warm her up, doctor, no doctor, listen to me, listen to (different) me, I know what I’m talking about, I know more, follow my rules, ignore other advice, just listen, did you listen, did you do what I said, did you do what (different) I said, did you follow (different) my advice, use vit c, no – not that vit c, the other vit c, it’s getting worse, that’s the doctors’ fault, take her to hospital, don’t take her to hospital, it’s always the doctors fault, mum knows best, you’re doing it wrong, listen to me…

    Not a medically-trained person among them (I have to assume) and not confusing at all for a mother with a child on the brink of death. Still, if you choose to ask idiots for advice on anything, there’s a high chance you’ll get idiotic advice, I guess.

  6. Steve says:

    Just goes to show, you can “study” in a Bachelor of Health Science, and still learn nothing

    • Rhianna says:

      It’s quite amusing how many antivaccine advocates boat about how they’re “studying” health science, or science, or immunology, or are a “PhD candidate” as an attempt to legitimise their viewpoints, but you rarely see any of them with completed qualifications. I know Meryl Dorey often cites her one year of science study to make her seem educated on matters she’s not, but anyone who has actual qualifications understand how ridiculous and useless first year science subjects are without the further study!

      • Andy says:

        The problem these days is that even nonsense course like naturopathy are listed as science courses. So someone can be simultaneously studying and passing “health science” whilst learning nothing useful, or scientific.

      • Trevor Lowe says:

        Yep, and yet somehow those who actually complete the science qualification are deemed to know less. Homeopathic principle at work…the less you study, the more you know. 😛

  7. Pingback: Anti-vaccine nurses and midwives 16 | reasonable hank

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