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