Seeing Big Pharma everywhere is just another form of gullibility


…They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility.

Slate writer William Saletan is talking about JFK assassination conspiracists, but he could just as easily be talking about homebirth advocates. They, too, are absolutely sure that there is giant conspiracy, in this case Big Pharma and Big Medicine pushing drugs and procedures on pregnant women even though they are unneeded except in “rare” emergencies. Ironically, instead of being the only people who see Big Pharma’s lies, they are the “sheeple” that they rail against.

No conspiracy theory is too idiotic to find adherents among homebirth advocates. Consider the recent deaths and injuries from hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDN) of babies whose parents refused prophylactic vitamin K shots after birth.

From The Tennesean:

Since February, four babies with no signs of injury or abuse have been sent to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville with either brain hemorrhages or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Robert Sidonio, a hematologist, diagnosed them with vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

After discovering that all four had not received the preventive treatment that doctors have been giving to newborns since the 1960s, he started making inquiries. Pediatricians told him parents are increasingly refusing consent because of concerns based on misinformation or the goal of having natural childbirths.

“Fortunately all of the infants survived,” said Dr. Lauren Marcewicz with CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “It is important for health professionals to educate parents about the health benefits of vitamin K at birth.”

However, the three babies who suffered brain bleeds face developmental challenges.

The shots have been given as standard practice since 1961 to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding, a disorder that can cause hemorrhaging in the brain and intestinal tract. The risk for developing the disorder has been estimated at 81 times greater among infants who did not receive a vitamin K injection at birth than in infants who do receive it.

Why are parents refusing the lifesaving vitamin K shot. Because they are “sheeple” who believe any conspiracy theory dreamed up by other idiots.

Consider this “advice” from the moron who blogs at The Healthy Home Economist:

Let’s start with the vitamin K used in the shot itself. Is it a natural form of vitamin K such as would be found in leafy greens (K1) or butter (K2)? No, it is a synthetic vitamin K – generic name phytonadione. Synthetic vitamins should be avoided as they can cause imbalances in the body and have unintended consequences. For example, synthetic vitamin A actually causes the type of birth defects that natural vitamin A prevents!

But there is no difference between “natural” vitamin K and synthetic vitamin K. Moreover, natural vitamin A causes the exact same birth defects as synthetic vitamin A.

But wait! There’s more:

If that isn’t enough to scare you, Midwifery Digest, Vol 2 #3, September 1992 estimated that the chance of your child developing leukemia from the vitamin K shot is about one in 500! This means that the risk of developing leukemia from the vitamin K shot is much higher than the risk of bleeding on the brain which the vitamin K shot is supposed to prevent!

So why would anyone believe a clown like The Healthy Home Economist? Because they’re gullible.

They are so sure that there’s a conspiracy (Big Pharma!) that they don’t even recognize the nonsense of their own claims. We’re supposed to believe that Big Pharma, aided and abetted by all obstetricians, pediatricians and hematologists IN THE WHOLE WORLD, plus the CDC and the US government, is pushing a “drug” that has no legitimate purpose and exists only to increase the rate of childhood leukemia. Does that make any sense at all? It doesn’t if you are capable of thinking for yourself, but if you’re among the sheeple who believe that everything you don’t understand is a conspiracy on the part of someone else, it makes perfect sense.

Saletan asks:

How can this be? How can so many people … promote so many absurdities?

The answer is that people who suspect conspiracies … [are] selective doubters. They favor a worldview, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites.

He explains:

The strongest predictor of general belief in conspiracies … was “lack of trust.”

… “People low in trust of others are likely to believe that others are colluding against them,” the authors proposed. This sort of distrust, in other words, favors a certain kind of belief. It makes you more susceptible, not less, to claims of conspiracy…

The common thread between distrust and cynicism, as defined in these experiments, is a perception of bad character. More broadly, it’s a tendency to focus on intention and agency, rather than randomness or causal complexity. In extreme form, it can become paranoia. In mild form, it’s a common weakness known as the fundamental attribution error—ascribing others’ behavior to personality traits and objectives, forgetting the importance of situational factors and chance.

The more you see the world this way—full of malice and planning instead of circumstance and coincidence—the more likely you are to accept conspiracy theories of all kinds. Once you buy into the first theory, with its premises of coordination, efficacy, and secrecy, the next seems that much more plausible.

It’s hard to imagine anything more malicious than a giant conspiracy involving every major drug company, aided and abetted by all obstetricians, pediatricians and hematologists IN THE WHOLE WORLD, plus the CDC and the US government, pushing a useless “drug” on innocent infants in order to make money and give them leukemia in the process.

Why do homebirth advocates believe such nonsense?

The appeal of these theories—the simplification of complex events to human agency and evil—overrides not just their cumulative implausibility … but also, in many cases, their incompatibility.

We can see this quite clearly with vaccine rejectionists. The rise in cases of autism is a complex, and as yet unexplained, phenomenon. But it is easier and more comforting for vaccine rejectionists to believe that it is deliberately being caused by Big Pharma: It’s thimerosol! No, it’s aluminum! Maybe it’s pitocin! Or ultrasound! Or all of the above! Anything, in other words, besides acknowledging that it is random and there isn’t anything they can do to prevent it.

Homebirth advocates, like vaccine rejectionists, have a reflexive fear of elites, and for them, anyone who has an advanced science education is an elite. They feel small and powerless in the world of doctors and hospitals and to manage that fear, they have concluded that elites are plotting against them. They tell themselves that they’re the ones who understand, and the rest of us are sheeple. But believing that everything they don’t understand is a plot by Big Pharma to harm them is just another kind of gullibility.

108 Responses to “Seeing Big Pharma everywhere is just another form of gullibility”

  1. November 23, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    There are ethical problems with pharmaceutical companies (not with vaccines though). I think an honest discussion of the actual problems might be more productive than pretending like there aren’t any.

    also, ew at the use of the word ‘elite’ in this article.

  2. Teleute
    November 22, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Hospitals are punishing mothers for rejecting the K-shot by secretly injecting their newborns with anticoagulants.

    • Felicitasz
      November 22, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      PLEASE do not give them new ideas 🙂

      • Teleute
        November 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

        Also, the flu shot killed JFK. The CIA had a hand in developing it, so they covered it up with a fake assassination.

  3. NursingRN
    November 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    YES! YES! WHY can’t we just go back to having babies the way our ancestors of old did? WHY can’t a woman just freely birth in an open field?! OH WHY can’t we just have things NATURALLY like they did in the days of old, when the neonatal death rate was a bazillion times higher than it is now?! Why can’t a woman be free to bleed to death, why can’t parents just let their child bleed to death? It’s such a natural and good thing!

    Hey, I have a theory- Homebirth advocates, lay midwives and vaccine rejectionists are all actually all population control fanatics- and by refusing K, and vaccines and birthing at home, they hope to control the population by having women and babies die! There we go, it all makes sense now!

    • Young CC Prof
      November 22, 2013 at 1:58 am #

      No, they don’t want to control the population. They want the opposite, to increase population by raising the birth rate, and they know that increasing infant and child mortality will do it.

      • Trixie
        November 22, 2013 at 9:38 am #

        I think you’re giving them too much credit. I don’t think they are looking at it from a statistical perspective. I think they really actually believe what they say.

        • Young CC Prof
          November 22, 2013 at 9:50 am #

          I’m being nasty and sarcastic, mostly. Yes, unfortunately most woo-pushers actually believe what they’re pushing will help people.

    • Teleute
      November 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      If they come out looking abnormal or have Aunt Agnes’s cheekbones, do we get to expose them to the elements?

  4. Mac Sherbert
    November 21, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    As a special education teacher I really think these parents need to be held accountable for their actions. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think of the unnecessary struggles these babies are going to face.

    I think when these parents hear developmental delays they think “Oh, little Johnny is delayed, so he’ll just talk later or something.” It’s not like that. Developmental delays are very serious and children do not always overcome them.

    • Laura
      November 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      It may be even worse for these kids. I mean, they refused to give their kids the treatment that could’ve avoided that. There is no guarantee that they won’t do it again.

  5. Elle
    November 21, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Somewhere I read that while conspiracy theorists may consider themselves distrustful, or be seen that way, they’re actually TOO trusting. Believing many conspiracy theories means believing that an awful lot of people are capable of keeping secrets for a long time. I don’t trust people that much!

  6. Sue
    November 21, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    Big Pharma has nothing on Big Vita or Big Tincture. Homeopathy is the ultimate business model: start with very little, dilute it infinitely, and sell it. Then boast about how ”safe” it is!

    • araikwao
      November 21, 2013 at 3:48 am #

      Best of all, it doesn’t even have to contain what the label says

    • Amy M
      November 21, 2013 at 7:45 am #

      Especially since most of them are owned by Big Pharma!

  7. Young CC Prof
    November 20, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    I actually try to explain this to my students. One way I put it is like this:

    “Should you believe everything the government tells you? No. Should you believe any Tom, Dick or Harry on the Internet who says the Authority is evil and lying? That makes even less sense.”

  8. Ducky7
    November 20, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    Great post. I think the central issues here are trust and perceived motivations. These are central in any instance of risk communication. I don’t see it primarily as an issue of anti-elitism. There are plenty of elite people in this country who fawn over home birth.

    My intuition is that the central issue is that people trust (a) those with whom they’ve had positive history and (b) those whom they perceive to share their beliefs, values, and attitudes. Anti-elitism is certainly a value that comes into play, but there are other important beliefs/values related to locus of control, anti-interventionism, the spiritual “power” of women/childbirth, a general attitude that “natural” is good/nourishing.

    I think something that we have against us is that humans (well, most) have difficulty grasping the non-intentionality of the universe – that nature is both cruel/kind and that human agency is limited. It’s a scary and foreign thought to many people.

    Another thing that vexes us is heterogeneity. It’s natural that because we know one bad obstetrician or have heard of one bad obstetrician, they are all greedy, or inconsiderate, or incompetent, or just want money.

    There must be really valid evolutionary reasons for these cognitive biases, though I must say that if homebirth is any indication, they are increasingly becoming obsolete from the standpoint of evolutionary selection!

    • fiftyfifty1
      November 21, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      “There must be really valid evolutionary reasons for these cognitive biases”
      Or maybe not. Maybe the combination of factors needed to build a brain that makes fewer of these errors just hasn’t happened yet.

    • Young CC Prof
      November 21, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      Basically, there are two cognitive biases in play. One is that people’s brains are inherently set up to see patterns. This is what enables us to see, comprehend speech far better than any computer we’ve built, and generally Do Science and develop theories about cause and effect. However, when things really are random, people have enormous difficulty accepting that. Just watch a compulsive gambler, for example.

      The other one is, we have too much information about other people available to us. Back in the day, if someone you knew got killed by a tiger, then you should worry about tigers! But now, if you heard on the news that 5 people on the other side of the country were killed by a serial killer, and every news source talks of nothing else for days on end, you start worrying about serial killers, and stop worrying about, say, your cholesterol. Even though that’s stupid, since the reason it made national news was the incredible rarity of the incident, and you almost certainly are going to avoid serial killers long enough for the heart attack to get you.

      In just the same way, women hear stories about bad hospital experiences (they do happen!) far more often than they hear about deaths from natural childbirth, and start to be more afraid of the former than the latter.

      • araikwao
        November 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

        I’d say confirmation bias is thrown in there, too.

  9. Mishimoo
    November 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    I love how if I’m using relatively inexpensive conventional medicine and listening to my doctors’ advice I’m a gullible, ignorant ‘sheeple’. Yet, the second I start buying seriously expensive alternative remedies and items that do not have any decent scientific evidence to support them, I’m suddenly considered intelligent for escaping Big Pharma.

  10. KarenJJ
    November 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    There are problems in the Pharmaceutical industry. I’ve even tried reading a book on it called “Bad Pharma” by Dr Ben Goldacre. From what I can see though, a lot of these problems are based on very human failings of getting excited by the new findings and not getting excited by the non-findings, and also a structural failure of a lack of disclosure of poor results. I didn’t get far enough into the book to really get a god grasp on it all.

    Thing is conspiracy theorists aren’t actually trying to highlight any specific issue or highlight any particular problems with the pharmaceutical industry. They are using known issues to suit their own agenda, eg push for “natural” products (which suffer the same issues, even more so due to a lack of regulation), stop people from vaccinating or get pain medication during pregnancy.

    • Lisa the Raptor
      November 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

      Its true, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than any holistic medicine I ever heard of, and a lot of people are living a lot longer and better lives.

      • KarenJJ
        November 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

        I worry that people are worried about having on honest discussion of the actual issues because it inflames the nutters..

        • Susan
          November 20, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

          Isn’t that the truth! Every once in a while one of the paranoid ideas turns out to be true and then that confirms the nutter”s paranoia

          • KarenJJ
            November 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

            It reminds me of Uncle Abe’s storm in Anne of Green Gables.

            He would predict the weather and was known for being way off target, until he once predicted a bad storm and was right.

        • Lisa the Raptor
          November 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

          It’s true. One has to act as if everything is perfect. It’s like the small issues with vaccines. As soon as a nutter sees that they grab on for dear life. If I could avoid that in a debate I’d rather my own self, so I can see how that could be the case.

        • Sue
          November 21, 2013 at 12:06 am #

          Yep – in the anti-vaxers’ world, less than 100% efficacy equals 0%. Therefore homeopathy.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      November 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

      Pharma is big business and they’re in it to make money. Therefore, they need to be regulated like any other business, probably more because they’re dealing with people’s lives. The industry is not run by saints. It’s also not run by supervillains even capable of the kind of conspiracy that the alties are claiming. It’s virtually impossible to get two pharma firms to cooperate as far as running a clinical trial together, even one which might result in more sales for BOTH their products. They just don’t have sinister conspiracy in them. At least not on the “make everyone autistic by vaccinating them” level.

  11. Lisa the Raptor
    November 20, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    I love my pharmaceuticals. They allow me to live a simi-normal life. Can I get a little “hell yeah!” from my chronic illness friends!?

    • KarenJJ
      November 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

      Hell yeah from me.

    • Karen in SC
      November 20, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      but but …..kale!!

      • Lisa the Raptor
        November 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

        Kale no!

        • KarenJJ
          November 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

          Maybe the pharmaceutical industry could extract the active ingredient from kale, get the dosage right, regulate it and sell it and cause world peace..

          Or maybe there is no active ingredient and Kale is the placebo of vegetables.

          • Lisa the Raptor
            November 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

            If they’re going to all that trouble can they make it taste better?

          • Mishimoo
            November 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

            The young leaves taste okay when sautéed with other leafy greens in a bit of browned butter…but since it’s not raw, all of the magical goodness evaporates right out in the cooking process.

          • Lisa the Raptor
            November 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

            The only way to eat it from the earth, like a cow.

          • prolifefeminist
            November 21, 2013 at 12:40 am #

            Heheh…you just made me remember something funny. A few years ago, I peeked out the window to watch my kids playing backyard baseball. My daughter was pitcher and home plate was right next to the vegetable garden – every couple of pitches, she’d lean over, grab a tall stalk of broccoli, and start snacking. Come harvest time there was nothing left to pick, but I could hardly complain – I was just happy my kid liked veggies!

            The sugar snap peas…oh my lord…I’d send the kids out to pick some for dinner and they’d pick a ton and come in with like five each and full bellies. 🙂

          • Lisa the Raptor
            November 21, 2013 at 8:19 am #

            That’s our green beans and cukes. I think about 3 ended up inside?

          • Mishimoo
            November 23, 2013 at 3:17 am #

            Strawberries, Mulberries and Youngberries never make it inside here, neither do most of the peas.

          • Teleute
            November 23, 2013 at 2:47 am #

            I agree; they’re overrated. Ever try green bean chips?

          • Lynnie
            November 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

            I don’t know. “Big Kale” might not go for it. They are purposely holding back so people will by more Kale.

          • Antigonos CNM
            November 21, 2013 at 2:24 am #

            That is basically what the Bayer company did in 1904; the result is Aspirin [Bayer patented the name, btw, and are entitled to use the capital “A”] Generic forms of acetosalicylic acid are known as aspirin only because the product was so popular and the chemical name so long.

            There isn’t any particular special benefit to munching large amounts of spirea or drinking gallons of willow bark tea, but the “all natural” crowd somehow think there is. Most medicines are made by identifying the active agent in a natural substance, most often a plant, purifying it, concentrating it to a specific standard, and marketing it. The next step is usually to create the same active ingredient synthetically so that a drug company isn’t dependent on sources of supply. The conflation of the term “synthesize” with “ersatz” or “fake” is pure semantics.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            November 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

            There isn’t any particular special benefit to munching large amounts of
            spirea or drinking gallons of willow bark tea, but the “all natural”
            crowd somehow think there is.

            On the contrary. IIRC, willow bark contains salicylic acid (SA), not ACETYL salicylic acid (ASA) and SA has a greater tendency to rip the stomach to shreds than ASA. Especially buffered ASA taken with food.

          • Antigonos CNM
            November 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

            Thanks for the correction. Both are febrifuges, though.

          • Teleute
            November 23, 2013 at 2:45 am #

            Maybe the pharmaceutical industry could extract the active ingredient in kids, get the dosage right, regulate it, and sell it as an energy supplement.

  12. ratiomom
    November 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Dr Amy, there`s an annoying typo in the post. It`s hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, not hemolytic.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      November 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Oops. I’ll fix it.

  13. Cyber-girl
    November 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Speaking only for myself, if it were not for Big Pharma, I would be dead a dozen times.

    • Antigonos CNM
      November 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      You’re not alone. Prior to the 1920s, my diabetes would have been a death sentence. Now, of course, it isn’t, and it is ENTIRELY due to “big Pharma”.

    • Lisa the Raptor
      November 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      Dead from appendicitis, cervical cancer and Id be wishing I was dead from my “rheumatism” as fibro was called….but they did have OCT opiates….hmmmmm.

      • Lisa the Raptor
        November 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

        ^And most likly dead from liver failure from self medicating with OTC opiates instead of a nice antidepressant that is much nicer to my body.

        • KarenJJ
          November 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

          Drug these days are much kinder to the body and mind. Prior to 2005 the only medications that could control the inflammation were steroids and ibuprofen. Now I have the options of biologics that are much more targeted and work much more effectively.

          • Lisa the Raptor
            November 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

            I’m waiting to try cymbalta but was amazed that Elavil was from the 60s and works like a charm. Sometimes they take a while to figure out all the extra things they can do. SSRIs make me feel weird inside lol. Hoping SNRIs are different.

          • Lisa the Raptor
            November 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

            And on the down side it took close to 5 months to work all the way. That was a lot of suffering. Total down side of using them to treat pain.

  14. Awesomemom
    November 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    It has to be exhausting to be that paranoid. All the steps you have to go though for “natural” living are just insanely complicated. I am far too lazy for that and it if makes me a sheeple well then I say “baaaa!!!!!”

  15. Ra
    November 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Now it’sacetaminophen getting the blame for autism:

    • Dr Kitty
      November 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      That would be paracetamol, the ONE OTC medication we are happy for pregnant women to take.

      Since the alternative to taking paracetamol in pregnancy is usually pain or fever, both of which have been conclusively shown to be detrimental to a developing foetus…take the tablets if you need them!

      • Antigonos CNM
        November 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

        Although, paracetamol is not as innocuous as some people think. Taking more than 3 gm [6 average tablets] a day for extended periods is not too good for your liver in the long run, and a surprising number of persons try to commit suicide [or make suicidal gestures] by gulping down a whole bottle of Tylenol, and wind up not dead, but in liver failure.

        • Anj Fabian
          November 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

          That’s usually the same as dead, barring a liver transplant.

          If you think “A liver transplant, that’s all?” please go look up how many liver transplants are done annually and how long you can survive without liver function.

          • amazonmom
            November 20, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

            The word is starting to get out about acetaminophen, at least around Seattle. IV acetaminophen is now part of our post op pain control plan. Either people are amazed that it’s so effective or they panic thinking they will get liver failure. Some people think I’m being a smart ass when they ask me what’s in the tiny IV bottle that made them feel so good, surely Tylenol wouldn’t work so well!

          • Dr Kitty
            November 21, 2013 at 11:36 am #

            I got IV Paracetamol recently, but because of my size I get the 15mg/kg paeds dose and it did NOTHING for me.
            Apparently my pain receptors haven’t got the message that they are in a child sized body and should be happy with child sized amounts of analgesia.

          • Young CC Prof
            November 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

            Actually, acute Tylenol poisoning can be reversed, if it’s diagnosed and treated in time, even after the liver starts to shut down. Key word being “starts.”

          • fiftyfifty1
            November 21, 2013 at 10:32 am #

            “Actually, acute Tylenol poisoning can be reversed, if it’s diagnosed and treated in time”
            Sometimes yes, sometimes no….
            The worst ICU cases are the ones when somebody tries to commit suicide using a liver-toxic med. The problem is that it takes the liver a few days to die altogether. The person wakes up from their overdose, and then they get the news that their liver is failing and their only hope is a transplant, which is not likely to happen given the rarity of available organs. By that time they have all changed their minds about wanting to die. A good friend of mine had one of these cases a couple of years ago–a nice bright young grad student. She had to break the news to him, although he already knew. His whole family flew in to be at his side. Liver failure deaths are really ugly. This case nearly wrecked my friend.

        • Sue
          November 21, 2013 at 12:10 am #

          It’s true that a big dose (10 grams or twenty tablets in an adult) or a high dose for many days, can cause serious liver damage – HOWEVER, for the number of doses of acetaminophen used around the world every day, this is incredibly rare. And children are more resistant to toxicity.

          We’ve moved away from aspirin for children, essentially eliminating Reye’s syndrome – now we’re shifting concern to something even safer.

    • Trixie
      November 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      You should be using amber necklaces for pain relief, obviously. No risk at all in wrapping a cord strung with tiny inhalable beads around your child’s neck and then leaving them unsupervised!

      • Lynnie
        November 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

        There was a kid with one of those necklaces that attended my son’s infant reading hour when he was a baby. It scared me. I was astonished to see that people actually thought they did something. I just thought the mom was crazy.

        • Trixie
          November 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

          Yeah, I kind of wish the CPSC and/or FDA would crack down on amber necklaces for babies and toddlers.

    • amazonmom
      November 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      My son is doomed. I take Tylenol to make it so I can work without wincing in pain. I also got Tdap, flu, and Rhogam shots. He’s getting Vit K and hep B shots at birth. I also succumbed to Big Pharma and am taking Medication to prevent antenatal and postnatal depression. My poor boy!

    • Captain Obvious
      November 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      Not bad comment about autism.

    • Maya Markova
      November 21, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      I doubt very much that autism prevalence is really rising. I think it is all about diagnosis. Down syndrome was described only in the 19th century – do you think that before that, all babies got the number of their chromosomes right?
      At best, I suppose that some very premature or otherwise at-risk children who used to die now often survive and many of them have autism (and other disabilities).

      • fiftyfifty1
        November 21, 2013 at 10:20 am #

        Yes, I have a number of adult patients with other diagnoses (e.g. anxiety, CP, MR, learning disabilities, OCD etc) or no diagnosis at all (but just “odd”) whom I am sure would get the diagnosis of autism spectrum if they were children today.
        I also have 2 adult relatives who certainly are on the spectrum. One did not speak until almost age 4 and is painfully shy and barely makes eye contact, the other has lived with his mother his whole life and is obsessed with pipe organs. Neither carries a diagnosis.

      • Young CC Prof
        November 21, 2013 at 10:51 am #

        Yup, we have more surviving preemies. But at the same time, fewer children are brain-damaged by febrile illnesses or birth accidents. (We haven’t seen, for example, congenital rubella syndrome or measles encephalitis in the USA in years.)

        I’m not sure which issue is/was more prevalent. And I definitely agree that changes in diagnosis account for a large part of, if not all of, the so-called autism epidemic.

  16. Amy Tuteur, MD
    November 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Alison, the point of the post is not who should be labeled “sheeple.” The point of the post is to offer an additional heuristic: if it involves a massive world-wide conspiracy encompassing millions of accomplices, it is obviously untrue.

    That, of course, is just basic logic but it goes right over the heads of the believers because fear of Vitamin K, vaccines, etc. is about how believers wish to see themselves. People like The Happy Home Economist are ashamed to acknowledge that the are profoundly ignorant of science and would rather pretend that the are savvy individuals who know the “truth.” Unfortunately, the combination of ignorance, insecurity, and unwarranted superiority can be deadly.

    People parachute in here proclaiming “Big Pharma” imagining they are demonstrating their superiority. I want them to understand that they are demonstrating nothing more than their gullibility.

    • AlisonCummins
      November 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

      Yes, and as I stated in my comment I understand that.

      However, if it’s *true* that Vitamin K causes leukemia — which it must be, there’s a scientific paper on it! — that’s evidence that Big Pharma really must be as evil as the woo-folk say even though that seems hard for nice good-hearted souls such as oneself to believe.

      Is it possible to have different kinds of posts here that complement one another? One set of posts that examines assertions in terms of the evidence and another set of posts that looks at the people who propound and believe untrue assertions? That way the examples used to illustrate a post like this one could simply link back to the related evidence-review posts, allowing posts like this one to maintain their focus.

      You did a really nice and informative series on c-section rates.

      • Sue
        November 21, 2013 at 12:20 am #

        A recent review paper on Vit K and the purported link to childhood leukaemia stated this:
        ” The dispute originated from the publication of two retrospective studies in the early 1990s, in which a possible association between vitamin K injections in neonates and the development of childhood leukaemia and other forms of cancer was suspected23,24. This alarming suspicion was, however, confuted by two large retrospective studies in the USA and Sweden, which failed to find any evidence of a relationship between childhood cancers and vitamin K injections at birth25,26. A further pooled analysis of six case-control studies, including 2,431 children diagnosed with childhood cancer and 6,338 cancer-free children, also confirmed the lack on any epidemiological association between vitamin K injections in neonates and an increased risk of leukaemia27. Although it might be concluded that there is no definitive evidence, the confirmed benefits of vitamin K prophylaxis seem to largely outweigh the hypothetical association with childhood cancer28,29.”
        (Source: Vitamin K in Neonates – Facts and Myths- Blood Transfus. 2011 January; 9(1): 4–9.)

        • AlisonCummins
          November 21, 2013 at 4:13 am #

          Thanks, Sue. Downthread I followed up on another commenter’s suggestion to search the blog, and while Amy Tuteur, MD had never addressed the purported link three commenters had. I posted those links.

          My point is simply that it would be good to have these links in the post. Maybe start out with some very brief background (20 years ago someone thought they had found a link but it has since been further investigated and there isn’t one, see here and here) and go on with the focus of the post (in order to believe that there is a known link that is being hidden, you’d have to believe in an impossible conspiracy).

          Amy Tuteur, MD often states that a given assertion is ridiculous without explaining why it is ridiculous. The thing is, it’s not obvious to everyone why it would be ridiculous. Some people are dedicated contrarians and like to make things up, but others just don’t kow.

          • Eddie Sparks
            November 21, 2013 at 6:20 am #

            “…but others just don’t know.”

            I’m sorry, but I have very little patience for people who are still using that excuse, given the fact that we are actually having this discussion on the Internet!

            Personally, I also enjoy it when Dr Amy does a whole bunch of background reading, evaluates studies and presents a summary of her findings in a short, easy-to-read format. It saves me the bother.

            The trouble is, that approach is still abrogating the responsibility for seeking out and evaluating the information for myself. It is simply substituting one random Internet blogger’s opinion (Dr Amy) for any other random Internet opinion. I might be more inclined to take Dr Amy’s information at face value, because I have fact-checked a few of her posts before and haven’t yet found a reason to disagree. But that doesn’t mean this website should suddenly become my substitute for researching for myself.

            For those who don’t want to research their own questions through the scientific literature, there are alternatives. For example, they could ask a medical practitioner. For matters regarding childbirth, I suggest an obstetrician.

            Or, you could just type in “Vitamin K” into Wikipedia. You would still get better information than a lot of the drivel out there.

          • AlisonCummins
            November 21, 2013 at 9:35 am #

            Right, because having access to the internet means that everyone now has access to correct information and woo has disappeared from the face of the earth. And also the children of those who don’t use the internet the way you do deserve to die.

            Are you aware that you sound awfully like those midwives who say they only do what their clients ask, and if their clients haven’t educated themselves to ask for the appropriate things it’s not their problem?

            If asking one’s obstetrician was the be-all and end-all then neither mothering dot com nor this site would exist. And yet they do, because people are doing their own research in their own way.

            You might think that someone who thinks that demonic posession is the most likely explanation for psychotic behaviour doesn’t deserve an explanation of mental illness because they could just look it up on wikipedia. For some people, that’s where they start but they are perfectly willing to listen to alternative explanations. For others, promoting the idea of demonic possession as the explanation for everything bad is how they earn their livelihoods.

            I’m not sure where the harm is in linking to accurate, up-to-date information. And if it’s so easy to find then it is surely not a burden on Amy Tuteur, MD to include the links.

  17. Trixie
    November 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    I think a lot of this also just goes back to a visceral reaction to letting someone inject your newborn with something. It seems wrong and feels wrong. Same way it feels wrong to hold your toddler down for vaccinations. Even though it’s not wrong at all, it arouses instincts that your rational self has to overcome. And since science education is so poor in this country, a lot of people go looking for evidence to back up what their guts are telling them.

    • Dr Kitty
      November 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      My kiddo occasionally comes out, apropos of nothing, with things like:

      “The cat was very brave when he got his needle (vaccination), but I think I was braver, because I got a lollipop and he didn’t, even though I cried”.

      I tell all the parents bringing kids for pre-school vaccinations to consider bringing a treat with them. Chupa Chups lollies works particularly well IME.
      They get over it, and being a good parent means seeing the big picture and doing what needs to be done.

      • KarenJJ
        November 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

        My boy is surprisingly consoled by a handful of jelly beans. Note to future jelly bean handouter-ers – don’t offer the whole jar to a toddler. He’s not just going to take 1 or 2.

        My love for chupa chups is for plane landings and take offs. Something that gets them sucking, isn’t as much as a choking hazard as other hard lollies if it gets bumpy. Sipping at water, giving a bottle/breastfeed or giving a dummy never worked for us. Kid stopped being thirsty and would scream or was too distracted to feed well. However a lollipop had enough incentive, and was slow enough to eat, to get through the ear popping that they hated.

      • Teleute
        November 22, 2013 at 1:45 am #

        My kid does all it for the band-aid. He’s four years old and loves colorful character band-aids. He didn’t shed a single tear with his most recent shots, though he did look pretty stunned when he informed me that shots hurt. 🙂

    • Teleute
      November 22, 2013 at 1:50 am #

      I never had a problem holding my son down when he was younger. And I certainly never had any “visceral reaction” to having doctors poke around at my newborn. That’s sort of their job.

      • Trixie
        November 22, 2013 at 9:36 am #

        Well, good for you. Lots of people do have that visceral reaction, though. I do. It doesn’t mean I don’t do the right thing anyway. But this is a hard thing for a lot of people to understand. I think you misread my post as saying that I don’t vaccinate them, or something? That’s the exact opposite of what I’m saying,

        • Teleute
          November 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

          No, I know you’re not against vaccines, I just think you’re wrong to suggest that parents have irrational instincts to overcome in which their minds are at odds with their “gut” feelings.

          I mean, it’s perfectly normal to think, “oh crap, my kid’s going to be pissed a me later” while you’re holding down your screaming toddler, but if your train of thought is, “oh, I feel so bad for subjecting my child to this,” then you probably need to do a re-cap of why you bright them in there in the first place.

          • Trixie
            November 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

            Even the nurses who do the injections at the family practice we go to feel bad about having to inject babies. I had one almost start crying one time. It’s normal to feel bad about it. Maybe you don’t, and that’s great for you. But I maintain that a lot of the irrational fear of vaccines has to do with the fact that people conflate them with a fear of needles. If you could give all vaccines orally, I don’t think people would freak out as much. You see language in anti-vax literature all the time like, “skin is not meant to be punctured.”

          • KarenJJ
            November 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

            Perhaps it’s different for different people. I know for vaccines it was a relatively short lived episode and my kids were quite young.

            Then at 3.5yo my daughter needed a daily injection (unfortunately it is a fairly painful one – not so much the pin prick but the medication going in). My husband and I had to give it to her. She didn’t really understand why or what was going on as she didn’t feel sick. Basically my husband had to pin her down while I gave her the injection.

            I did feel really bad for subjecting her to it. My husband too. It also went against everything we hoped we were teaching her about bodily autonomy. She’s almost OK with it now, though obviously wishes she didn’t need it, and can do most of them herself with supervision. It’s been OK and my husband and I have gotten past it.

          • Teleute
            November 23, 2013 at 2:43 am #

            I’d say that’s totally different from a baby getting a couple of shots from a pediatric nurse.

            My son has an epi-pen jr, and while I’ve thankfully never had to use it, the thought of ever having to do to makes me nervous. By no means am I conflicted about it; I’m just worried that I might not administer it properly.

            I can’t imagine doing what you’ve described to my child. I’m sure I’d be terrified of screwing up and hurting him, and I would most definitely empathize with his pain. I imagine I would be upset that the procedure was even necessary, that my actions could appear (in the mind of a preschooler) to go against our lessons of autonomy, and also because I was directly contributing to his pain.

            But I cannot imagine feeling conflicted over the procedure or having to overcome any “gut instincts” suggesting that it was somehow wrong.

            I hope your little girl is doing better now. I can’t imagine what it must be like to administer *daily* injections to a small child.

  18. AlisonCummins
    November 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    There are at least two parts to accepting the argument that Vitamin K is dangerous. 1) Being predisposed to accepting the source because it aligns with your priorities and biases in other areas and 2) appearing to be able to cite scientific support.

    I have had the experience of ordinary people believing untrue things but being perfectly ready to accept a true explanation. We can’t research everything for ourselves so we rely on a few heuristics. Do parents whose parenting style we respect do X? Then we’ll accept their rationalization for X and repeat it to others. (It’s a lot easier than trying to evaluate the breadth and depth of a professional’s medical education.)

    I was able to explain silver nitrate prophylaxis and vitamin K supplementation to a dubious woman expecting her first child and she went ahead with them. I was able to explain brain disease and schizophrenia to a woman who thought her old college roommate might have a demon and she was grateful for the explanation. These people were not determinedly closed to rational explanations, they just came from social circles where certain assertions and explanations were commonplace.

    It would be really nice if *in addition* to saying “the only possible reason that you would believe that vitamin K causes leukemia is that you are a paranoid and irrational sheep,” you could *also* say, “by the way, it is untrue that Vitamin K causes leukemia and this is why.” People genuinely believe that someone they like would not lie about Vitamin K causing leukemia. Declining to address the statement of fact and instead focussing exclusively on character makes your post feel like an ad hominem.

    I understand that the purpose of the post is to address the “sheeple” epithet and not any particular assertion, but without looking at how information sources compare it leaves the untrained person in the unhelpful position of knowing that no matter what they decide to believe someone is going to call them a sheep … so they had better just do whatever their friends do so as not be called a sheep by the people who matter to them. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t and better the devil you know and all that.
    It would be great to be able to say that certain things are true and others are not, and not just “if you aren’t like me you’re a sheep.” Being “like Amy Tuteur, MD” should mean “evidence-based” not “a different colour of sheep.”

  19. GiddyUpGo123
    November 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Well you see, giving all those babies leukemia is in the best interests of Big Pharma, because they also manufacture chemo drugs. In fact one wonders why they don’t just put leukemia in all the vaccinations too, because then all the babies would get leukemia and their profits would skyrocket!

    Seriously though I’ve always thought the exact same thing as pointed out above–if it’s a conspiracy, why is it that nearly every doctor/hospital goes along with it? If we believe that, then we have to believe that every single person who becomes a doctor does so for purely sociopathic reasons (the money, and only the money) or is so completely and purely corrupted during the process of becoming educated as a health professional that they forget every scruple and moral they ever had as a human being.

    I know there are people who go into medicine because they want to make money, but I’ll bet that the large majority of people who become doctors do so because they genuinely want to help people. And even if it were true that only a small percentage of people who become doctors do so for selfless reasons, then there would still be a considerable number of educated medical professionals standing up and speaking out against all these awful leukemia/autism/random other catastrophic disease-causing vaccinations/interventions/etc and we’d have some pretty credible arguments against those things. But there aren’t, because it’s all bullshit. But no one who believes in conspiracies seems capable of looking at it that way. It seems that it’s much more easy to believe that everyone in medicine is involved in a giant coverup than it is to think rationally about whether or not there really is a giant coverup.

    • Poogles
      November 20, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      “so completely and purely corrupted during the process of becoming educated as a health professional that they forget every scruple and moral they ever had as a human being.”

      IME, this has been the favored theory – when they claim doctors have been brainwashed by their education, they aren’t being hyerbolic, they mean literally brainwashed.

      • Dr Kitty
        November 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

        Much of my university education is a blur, but I choose to believe it was because it was 10 years ago and I was partying pretty hard (hello, I studied in Dublin at the height of the Celtic Tiger) rather than because I was brainwashed…

      • araikwao
        November 21, 2013 at 4:03 am #

        Gosh, there must be some sneaky subtext I’m missing in all those med school ethics classes, then.

    • Josephine
      November 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

      Of course on top of all that, there are much easier ways to become rich these days than the massive amounts of education/student loans required to become a full-fledged doctor. If someone wants to become rich they can go into tech or venture capitalism in Silicon Valley or something for considerably less grueling effort. But I’m guess I’m forgetting all that secret dirty pharmaceutical money that every single doctor receives in a big, fat weekly check.

      • fiftyfifty1
        November 21, 2013 at 10:50 am #

        But it wasn’t just about the money for me!! It’s also the power! I chose it because it’s a great profession if your goal is to find victims to abuse and birth-rape etc! Where else can you so easily meet vulnerable women who have histories of being abused and find so many ways of manipulating and re-traumatizing them?! (insert evil laugh soundtrack here)!!!!!! All of us doctors are in on the conspiracy!

  20. Anon
    November 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    It is far easier to fool someone than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.

    Read it on a bumper sticker the other day. Couldn’t be more true.

  21. Amy M
    November 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    If there’s anything that “makes me sad” it is this sort of attitude (fear of elites leading to fear of science leading to anti-science) because the level of science education in the US is embarrassing enough without these cray-crays contributing even more to it. I was invited to a party once, where the majority of the attendants were teachers. I have no problem with teachers. l love teachers. My husband is a teacher and teachers abound in his family.

    One of the teachers asked me what I do for work, and I said I work in science. She immediately leaped to the conclusion that I was an intellectual snob, and said something to that effect, and I was pretty hurt, because all I did was answer her question. I certainly did NOT think I was smarter or better than anyone because I work in science (usually I feel dumber than most of my co-workers, as I don’t have a PhD or even a master’s degree and this teacher had a master’s so she was more educated than I was, in her field anyway.). She wasn’t anti-science or a conspiracy theorist, but deciding that scientists are snotty and refusing to associate with them in a social context certainly doesn’t help the situation any.

    • Dr Kitty
      November 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

      A lot of my friends are teachers too!

      I love teachers as people, but they make THE WORST patients.
      You know how toddlers go through that “but why?” stage?
      Teachers don’t seem to stop!

      I’ve learnt to stop seeing it as second guessing and just see it as people who find comfort in knowing as much detail and information as possible.

      • auntbea
        November 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        Teachers also make terrible students. I always felt so bad for the poor schlubs they brought in to train us.

      • fiftyfifty1
        November 21, 2013 at 10:57 am #

        Oh that’s so funny, I have had the exact opposite experience. Most of my teachers are not “high maintenance” at all. I get a lot of “Whatever you recommend, Doc” from them. Can there be a difference between Irish and American teachers?

    • FormerPhysicist
      November 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Grrrrr. And then they refuse to really teach science because they don’t like it, don’t really understand it and think it’s snobby. I’m in the Boston burbs, and you’d think science would be okay here, but the science education in the elementary school my kids go to is really poor.

      • Amy M
        November 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

        Also in the suburbs of Boston (well, Worcester really) but my children aren’t in elementary yet, so I don’t know how their school measures up. But yeah, if there’s a concentration of science anywhere, you’d think Boston would be it.

        My boys have been showing an interest in science though, so I am doing what I can to foster it. I won’t force them to be science nerds, I believe children should be who they are, but I’ll be happy if they enjoy or at least appreciate the subject.

      • amazonmom
        November 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

        My hubby is a high school math teacher. He wondered why kids from this one particular elementary school in his cluster did about 15 points worse than other kids. The reward for being good all week at that elementary was get this…”math free friday”. He complained to the principal of the elementary school and the district. Two years later the kids coming out of that school had caught up to their peers. There seems to be some sort of outright math/science phobia in the lower grades that really does get to the kids.

      • Mac Sherbert
        November 21, 2013 at 10:42 am #

        There is so much focus in schools on reading and math scores that science is last on the list. Science is rarely tested (standardized testing) and is generally not something parents are concerned about in elementary school. Thus it is probably last on the list.

        However, science is exciting and fun to most younger students and is the best time to teach them! The key is to connect it the other subjects like reading and math. There has been a big push in my area for science at the elementary/middle school level and the program does seem to be getting the kids and teachers more into science.

  22. Dr Kitty
    November 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Well Said!

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