Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Crossing the Line

I thought I would try out Sheldon’s suggestion to use Windows Live Writer for my blog, so here is my first post using that tool. Sheldon, again, my sincere thanks for your suggestion.

Onto what I want to write about. Now, I know I may ruffle a few feathers with this post, but I think it needs to be said that one of the things that people must learn during their lives is when to recognize that a line has been crossed. I’m of the firm belief that when I recognize a friend or a group of friends have crossed that line, it is my duty and obligation to express that they have done so in an attempt to have them correct the errors in their ways, even if it is only to make an apology for their actions.

Monday, Age of Autism posted an article written by Jake Crosby about David Gorski. It essentially explained what David does at his place of employment, and then explained how the project that David works for is funded by his college, which is funded by Sanofi-Aventis. Really, I have nothing bad to say about Jake’s article (I thought it was well written), but instead have to discuss some of the comments posted in regards this article.

As many of you may know, I don’t like Gorski. Not one bit. I feel his arrogance, his hypocrisy, and his venomous attacks on parents who have reason to believe their children have been injured by vaccines is a danger to his profession. In my opinion, he is undermining faith in doctors by posting the hatred and filth that he posts on his site. His elitist attitude and dismissal of any science that disagrees with his paradigm is a danger to public health. His laughable attempts at deifying science is simply pathetic. In essence, he is the living embodiment of what is wrong with the Medical industry.

However, when I read the comments on Jake’s post, I was appalled to discover that there were people posting information about the place he works. They were attempting to get people to call David’s employer to get him either fired, or at least reprimanded. Maybe it is just that I’ve had the experience of people calling CPS concerning my children’s vaccination status that colors my perception of this, but I have to say that they have crossed a line. Such tactics are underhanded and, dare I say, cowardly to the extreme. It is degrading and brings them down to the level of those they are opposing. It saddens me and disappoints me, and I have to step back and say something accordingly.

I’ve had this done to me! It is infuriating when someone is trying to attack you through your work or through organizations like CPS simply because they don’t agree with you. Frankly, I have no nicer way to say this, but it disgusts me. This is something that those that follow Orac do to us! And these commenters are going to engage in the same tactics? This is wrong with a capital W.

I do hope that Age of Autism either posts an apology or deletes those comments. No matter how much you loathe and despise that horrid little scum-bag, attacking him like this is morally wrong. I can freely say that I would never do something like that, no matter how badly I want to punch that egotistical little prick in the face.

I don’t think they will, though. While this realization saddens me, I can’t say that I completely blame Age of Autism for not doing so; Gorski has done horrible things to the parents at AoA. I just wish that they would not resort to doing things like this.

Speaking of egotistical little pricks, I got a very pleasant email from said prick. Now, I won’t post it here because he has not given me permission to, and I will honor the spirit of his email. Essentially, he thanked me, in his usual arrogant way, for posting my comment at AoA concerning what I wrote above. However, I can’t help but feel that it was a bit insincere, though I will do my best to take as genuine. Perhaps if he were to apologize for some of the things he has written about yours truly, I might be a bit more sympathetic to him. We’ll have to wait and see, I suppose.


  1. I agree with you that this sort of behavior is wrong and that, under normal circumstances, taking a disagreement to this level is crossing a line. And certainly, just because "the other side" has used such tactics doesn't mean it right to do back to them.


    In Gorski's case, I find I have a hard time caring. His actions and his writings in attacking parents and doctors who are trying to help their children have, to my mind at least, stripped him of any ability to complain. I know complaining to his place of employment is wrong and I would never do so myself, but I really think he has it coming.

    He shows no regard for the people that he smears nor to the damage that he does to their reputation. As a matter of fact, he has attacked one the doctors that has helped my children. It isn't like this guy is a DAN doctor even, he is mostly mainstream and does not go in for anything that does not have at least some evidence behind it. And yet, Gorski felt the need to smear him simply because of a bit of research he wanted to do.

    I know for a fact that the doctor in question read the smear, because he mentioned in passing when we had an appointment. If you google this doctor's name this smear comes up, so I am sure that this has had some impact on his professional reputation. Or in other words, Gorski attacked the man just for the hell of it and potentially caused some real world damage.

    This is not a justification for doing the same back back to him, even though he has done this to countless other people. And it is certainly still wrong to do this, but I won't shed any tears for him.

  2. I think the reason I find this behavior so appalling is BECAUSE it's been done to me. I know how it feels to have this happen, so seeing people I have respect for engage in these tactics is disappointing to say the least.

    I agree with you, for the most part. As I said above, you can't completely blame AoA for this, simply because of Gorski and his behavior.

  3. Craig,

    Let me start by agreeing completely that attacking one's place of work because you don't agree with them is absolutely unacceptable to me and I never condone such behaviour.

    There is however, one difference between your own experience and Orac's. While you talk about your children, and your legal and wise choices wrt to their health, Dr. Gorski has actively and consistently engaged his own place of employment and his work in his writing. He relays stories and he uses his position to imply credibility. He does not hide his name, or his place of employment as it is quite detailed on the SBM site.

    Excerpts from his disclaimer: "Dr. Gorski must emphasize that the opinions expressed in his posts on SBM are his and his alone and that all blog posts for SBM and elsewhere are written during his own time during evenings and weekends (although he does occasionally reply to blog-related e-mails or post comments in reply to readers during lunch at work)."

    Personally, that reads a lot more like legal fine print, and runs completely contrary to the spirit of his actual writing.

    This next part is completely consistent with the rest of his hypocrisy:

    " Finally, his writings are for the purposes of commentary and general education only and are therefore not meant to be used as specific health care recommendations for individuals. Readers should consult their physicians for advice regarding specific health problems or issues that they might have."

    Additionally, he has also attacked businesses as well in addition to institutions associated with ideas he does not agree with.

    So, protest as he might, he has most certainly brought his own work directly into his personal editorial commentary on many occassions. He also engages in attacks intended to hurt institutions and organizations financially and he uses his position and place of employment to support his credibility in these matters. When he makes a call/writes a note to the Childrens Hospital of Toronto to disassociate itself with groups and people he labels as quacks, and snake-oil salesmen, I wonder if he signs he real name and includes his credentials and place of work? He also links and actively supports people like Stephen Barret and Quackbusters, who actively attempt to do financial damage to many practitioners and companies.

    He brings his own place of employment into his sphere of activity so making any comments back to his place of employment is fair game IMO.

    But I still wouldn't do it and I would hope no one would do it to me either. But then, I don't bring my employment into my discussions either.

    People calling CPS on you is not at all the same IMO.

  4. Craig,

    One other thought to consider: Dr. Gorski's direct funding comes from NIH grants and institutional startup funds which are often granted by state universities. That means your tax money is funding his employment and research and providing material for his personal opinion.

    I believe at a minimum you have a right to discuss how your tax dollars are being spent and who it is they are choosing to give it too...

  5. Craig,

    One last thought for tonight. I think the email thanking you rings hollow. I've never seen him admonish anyone for harrassing people like you. In fact, his whole tone encourages it. Additionally, he actively supports those who harrass you.

  6. Craig, don't you think the discussion has gotten out of control and full of hate? On the one hand, you have anti-vaccine (or pro-green-vaccine) groups who liberally throw around words like "fascism" (or worse) with regards to those who promote vaccinations. On the other hand, you have "high and mighty" scientists whose tone and inflection in their communications separates them from their opposing audience.
    I've never heard that a breakdown in communications led to an honest debate and a resolution of conflicts. It might be "John Lennon" of me to think so, but imagine a blog/website/television/radio show where both sides were cordial to each other and allowed for a friendly discussion of what's on both camps' minds? Imagine that. Blows your mind, doesn't it?
    The problem is that both sides desperately want to win... Both sides believe the world hinges on it.

  7. Hi Ren, thanks for taking the time to read my blog and leave a comment.

    I somewhat agree with what you are saying. This whole debate has sadly descended into flame wars and insults being hurled from both sides of the debate. On the one hand, you have thousands of parents who have reason to believe their children have been injured by vaccines who have gotten fed up with the established medical profession and their refusal to look at these children who are regressively autistic, and on the other hand, you have people who claim to be science and evidence based who feel it is perfectly reasonable to call anyone they disagree with "dumbasses" and "bat-shit crazy." That does not make for a reasonable debate.

    I don't want to win anything; I want to help my son. I want doctors and scientists to quit ignoring our children and do something to help them. I want the science that should have been done years ago to actually BE DONE. But claiming that one vaccine and one ingredient have been "exhonerated," then saying that all vaccines and all ingredients are "exhonerates?" That is not science!

    The main purpose of this site is to point out and ridicule the hypocrisy of those that claim to be science and evidence based.

    Schwartz, yes, it did ring hollow. But, I guess it's the nice person in me that is trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. What I may do is email him and ask his permission to post the contents of his email and let you all decide if he's being sincere.

  8. Note that Dr. Gorski never called you "bat-shit crazy" or anything else.

    I won't try to debate the substance of the vaccine injury thing here, but as a scientifically trained person I can say that Dr. Gorski's (and other scientists') arguments are, well, valid. It's essentially impossible that vaccines cause autism.

    You disagree. OK. But try to understand that from the point of view of a scientist or MD, delaying or avoiding vaccination is KILLING CHILDREN. It isn't that shocking if a person who has dedicated his/her professional career to improving health might get a tad excited when someone is KILLING CHILDREN.

    Yeah, the above was inflammatory. I'm trying to explain why someone might be emphatic in disagreeing with you.

    Oh, I don't work for the pharma industry, I'm not a doctor, and I'm not in the government. I work for the gas company. (Note: natural gas also does not cause autism.)

  9. That is a strawman argument. All of my children are vaccinated, and I encourage others to vaccinate. I have never once told anyone that they shouldn't vaccinate. On the other hand, I don't think that vaccines are as safe as the Pharmaceutical industry says they are. This is about vaccine safety, and having experienced my son's regressive encephalopathy within 6 hours of his MMR and DTaP vaccinations leads me to believe that vaccines were responsible for his brain damage. And then, seeing the refusal of the medical industry to investigate children like my son makes it look like they are either hiding something or they are afraid of what they'll find (I tend to believe the latter). And then, seeing people like Gorski ridicule these parents for this conclusion further enforces that belief. He's actually harming people on his side of the fence by alienating parents who are just looking for answers. Which is precisely what he did to me.

    Look, I don't question that he cares about what he does. Reading his articles on Cancer and his research into treatments for Cancer shows that he is very passionate about what he does, and no matter how strongly I dislike him, I can appreciate and respect that passion. But when he says so definitively that vaccines cannot cause autism, and then in the next breath says that he is science and evidence based? That is bullshit. He doesn't have all of the evidence. Science has not eliminated vaccines as a cause (and before you ignorantly say that it has, then name one study that has looked at any other vaccine in relation to autism other than the MMR). There has been no study that has investigated the neurological health outcomes of an unvaccinated population (and before you say that it can't be done, I will again call bullshit and remind you that there is a fairly large population in the US that is unvaccinated). And there is evidence that vaccines can and have harmed children with certain underlying conditions, giving them a condition that closely resembles autism. But, do they test for these conditions? No. They vaccinate the child anyway, and if the child has a severe reaction as my son did, then the parents are marginalized, called crazy, and then their arguments are dismissed as conspiracy theory. Like what Mr. Gorski did to me.

    Look, no matter what Orac is trying to brainwash you with in regards to my motives, I do not want to get rid of vaccines. I just want further study done on children like my son so that other children don't end up like him. I understand the importance of vaccinations, which is why my youngest daughter was vaccinated even after her older brother's reaction. I do, however, question the studies that have been funded and performed by the Pharmaceutical industry. Especially considering their track record of faking studies and paying off doctors to sign off on the ghost-written articles. Then, sending out emails urging that the doctors that question the safety of the ghost-written articles need to be "destroyed where they live." You they did with Vioxx. And a mile long laundry list of other drugs they have released. So, you'll have to excuse me if I take anything they say with a grain of salt. You'll have to excuse me if I actually read the studies and judge for myself what the studies actually say instead of someone like Mr. Gorski telling me his interpretation of the abstract.

    Now, as to your last statement. How can you be certain that natural gas does not cause autism. Breathing it for too long can cause brain damage, can it not? Do you have any studies that back up your claims? Are they peer reviewed? Sounds like your anecdotal claim isn't backed up by evidence. That's not very science and evidence based, is it?


  10. Carl,

    "I won't try to debate the substance of the vaccine injury thing here, but as a scientifically trained person I can say that Dr. Gorski's (and other scientists') arguments are, well, valid."

    Such a nice generalized statement, that is demonstrably false. Ad Hominem based arguments are never valid, and that is what the majority of his posts are. On the occassion when he tries a real argument, he often gets the details wrong, and rarely does he correct the mistakes.

    Sorry, most of his arguments don't fall on the side of validity.

    "But try to understand that from the point of view of a scientist or MD, delaying or avoiding vaccination is KILLING CHILDREN."

    Interesting, but that point of view isn't really evidence based then. The children in the US aren't dying from rotavirus and never were. Since the scientific community refuses to actually study the outcomes of the vaccination program, it doesn't really have any credible evidence on it's overall effectiveness does it? I always get a kick out of this argument because it's inherently faith based.

    "Oh, I don't work for the pharma industry, I'm not a doctor, and I'm not in the government."

    Yeah, and I used to work for pharma, so what.

  11. @Carl,

    You said, "but as a scientifically trained person I can say that Dr. Gorski's (and other scientists') arguments are, well, valid. It's essentially impossible that vaccines cause autism."

    Specifics please. Please substantiate your last statement with some sort of evidence.

    Then you said, "But try to understand that from the point of view of a scientist or MD, delaying or avoiding vaccination is KILLING CHILDREN. It isn't that shocking if a person who has dedicated his/her professional career to improving health might get a tad excited when someone is KILLING CHILDREN."

    Jesus Christ on a cracker. I'm glad you identified this bollocks as inflammatory.... I have a few other choice words for it. Try as you might to elevate those who succumb to infectious disease above those who succumb to vaccine reactions, you'll still not be able to guilt others into rolling up their sleeves. If you think I'm constructing a strawman and don't feel that this collateral damage is immaterial, then stop talking out of your arse.

  12. I perhaps wrote unclearly. If so, I apologize. My point above was not that I or others am right about vaccines--obviously I think so, but I was not making that argument. My point is that people who feel that way should be forgiven for feeling strongly about the matter, precisely because it's so important.

    Thus my posting something deliberately inflammatory. I didn't mean it as offensive, I meant it as an example of something an angry MD might think.

    I truly didn't want to get into a substantive argument. I happen to love to argue, but I didn't want to do that here. I was trying to show how the people you consider enemies feel and why.

  13. @Carl,

    You were clear to me. First, you presented an unsubstantiated opinion of Dr. Gorski, followed by another as it relates to vaccines and their possible role in autism... all while pretending that you don't want to "get into it".

    After that, you presented an argument that looks much like an appeal to authority by asking that we, "try to understand that from the point of view of a scientist or MD, delaying or avoiding vaccination is KILLING CHILDREN."

    What you're doing is a tactic that those in sales call "mirroring"... The only way people will buy what you're selling is if you appear to be one of them, and relate to their viewpoint and needs on a consumer level; all while furthering your own agenda. In this case, you're selling an empty position and giving yourself a backdoor out of the contract by saying that you don't want to get into a substantive argument (while making substantive, unsupported claims).

    I don't have any enemies, and if people feel that delaying vaccination is "KILLING CHILDREN" then they're nutters. I'd love to see them put as much effort into children reporting to regress into "autism" after multiple vaccinations at critical developmental periods (or suffer other deleterious permanent injury) as they do in broadcasting 12 cases of measles across the globe three times over. Until they do that, I don't give a shit what they feel - no offense. I dare say I'm not alone.

  14. Hey, Carl, lack of clean drinking water is killing huge numbers of children around the world every year. Many more than are dying from vaccine deficiencies I suspect.

    So where are the doctors who are in a big tizzy about the children who are dying from a clean water deficiency? There are a few...but most of the doctors you are talking about are busy harassing nice middle-class moms who are breastfeeding their kids and feeding them right and taking good care to keep them healthy...these kids are pretty unlikely to die of any of these vaccine related diseases even if they do catch them.

    There sure is a lot of hypocrisy around these days.

  15. Carl,

    "Thus my posting something deliberately inflammatory. I didn't mean it as offensive, I meant it as an example of something an angry MD might think."

    No, only an ignorant MD would think that. As Cynic said: I don't give a rats ass what an ignorant MD thinks either.

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  18. So where is the line??

    I have not followed all the drama since Gorski's work for Sanofi was revealed, but I was attacked in the comments section on another blog for being guilty by association for commenting on a thread where someone else suggested that Gorski's employers should be called, (because commenting on a thread on the internet makes you responsible for the behavior of everyone else who comments on that thread I guess) and I have backtracked a bit this morning to figure out what happened with all this and because it brings up some interesting questions for me.

    First... reiterating for the sake of Carl, who seems to believe that docs like Gorski are earnest, I spent five years trying to have reasonable discussions with Gorski and co, really looking for answers to the questions I had after my son regressed. You need to understand... not even that is allowed. You must drink the cool aid and all the cool aid or you are quickly relegated to the lower brackets of humanity in their view.

    I do genuinely feel dumb for spending so much time and effort trying to have human to human conversation about this issue with someone who was being paid to make more money for a vaccine co. the whole time. No... I don't feel dumb.. I feel taken. Can I sue to get those hours back? Is there a time court?

    I gave up up on him and his crew last fall, I wish I had done it a lot sooner.

    Anyway... two lines of thought...

  19. ...
    First, my husband instituted a good rule in our home years ago... that you don't get to become evil to fight evil. Or in our shorthand, "Don't be Dick Cheney". So even if some people in this fight don't fight fair, you still have to; and the motto needs to be, "everybody counts".

    Which is a huge part of the problem with Gorski and others you have blogged about... that they feel free to draw a big circle around whomever they don't approve of, and declare that, in one way or another, they don't count. They (we) are declared stupid or self-interested or insert any other epithet that you have documented on this blog, and that is given as the reason that they don't really matter.

    Your note of Gorski's use of the 'not a true Scotsman' approach both betrays this, and, as he doesn't seem to notice, betrays that he, in his own mind, cannot question vaccine safety in a true scientific way, because if he does, he is 'not a true doctor'.

    But back to the point... that some people don't count, or count less than others, is a product of the same thinking in which damaged our children in the first place. Heard immunity must be protected, and if a few children are harmed (its only one in a million they tell themselves)... well... those kids don't really count.

    If we are not to fall into the same trap of dirty tactics, then I think that is were we need to draw the line. In never giving up the idea that everybody counts. Even Gorski. Even Offit. Even Gerberding. That even the worst of the worst that we lock in jail and throw away the key, even they count and should not be relegated to some sub human status.

    Because if we cannot mentally relegate them, we will never become tempted to do them unjust harm in the real world.

    When people are able to remove value as a human from someone, or a group of people, mentally or emotionally, history has shown us that it begins the process of being able to commit abuses and atrocities against them so horrid we don't like to think about them too often.

    But it is work not to mentally devalue those who behave so badly, so thoughtlessly, so nonsensically and so callously toward our vulnerable children... and then call it 'science'. But we have to do it anyway.

    /end preaching.


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  22. ...

    But that brings me to my second question... which hopefully can be What is an appropriate professional response here?

    I was dealing with this, well not so honest, guy a few years ago, who was messing with a lot of people, and I noticed something that he did (although it took me a while to see it as I was snowed too). He was a pastor and had a business, but he would jump back and forth between roles to which ever would suit his aims at the moment. If you had a legitimate business claim, then he appeal to your christian beliefs that you should set aside your rights and forgive, but if the circumstances changed, he was suddenly a businessman who had to make decisions that benefited the corporation and you had to be ok with that.

    I am sure God will sort that guy out in due time for abusing the position and title that he was given, but Gorski basically does the same thing, and certainly he must be accountable to someone for that in a terrestrial sense, right?

    He claims to be a doctor, and there are ethical obligations that come with being a doctor, letting people know what your credentials are, and getting into medical discussions. There are a whole 'nother, much more liberal, set of ethical obligations of a blogger. But Gorski seems to want to jump back and forth between the two as it suits him in the moment.

    In a sense, what he is saying is, "I am a doctor and can speak with the authority of one, yet I cannot be held accountable to the behavior standards of a physician, but can actually behave at the level expected of an anonymous online troll, yet no one can hold me accountable because I have written a little disclaimer that says you can't".

    So which is he... a physician or a troll?


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  24. ...
    Now clearly he has violated both ethics codes at this point by using his MD to hurt people rather than heal them, and by failing to disclose in his blogging that he is being paid to make Sanofi more money, and of course his blog overseers don't care (they take pharma money to publish their 'scienceish journaism like' pieces, and clearly Sanofi doesn't care, as well.. clearly they are only about making a buck or they would have waded into this and had earnest discussion of their products and potential damage years ago, but rely on proxies like Gorski to keep the heat off of them and keep critical thinking about vaccine safety 'uncool' in medical circles.

    And on a gut level, calling bosses and asking for firings, just seems wrong.

    But... is there an appropriate place for an ethical review in his academic position?

    If he was just Sanofi, then he would be just another Offit, a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck Pharmacuticals. If he were just a blogger, then he would be just you Craig, a guy with a strong opinion would can write whatever he wants as long as he not lying or hiding COI's. If he were just a surgeon, then he would just be a surgeon, same too researcher. And as an academic, well, if he has any students in his charge... that is a whole additional set of responsibilities and restrictions.

    But he has decided he wants to be all of these, reap the benefits of all these and instead of picking the strictest ethical standard (doc/researcher/teacher?) he has picked the lowest one (blogger) and even failed to live up to that low standard by declaring his Sanofi project.

    Now... certainly he can be held accountable by other bloggers who call him out on his shenanigans, but...

    This is a guy, that I think we can all agree here has displayed very poor judgment in his behavior. And just like priests and airline pilots, good judgment, even in areas outside their 'office' space, is required because their work seriously impacts the public and must be trustworthy.

    So I think the question is a fair one... what IS the right thing to do here?

    I mean... If I were not an autism mom and knew nothing about the behavior of this guy toward people in need of help of main stream medicine, and was getting ready to go under the knife for breast cancer surgery, no way in hell I would want a guys like this even knowing about my case much less cutting on me. Equally, if I was going to take drug X, I would want to know if someone with this poor a record in making "scientific" pronouncements was the guy who brought it to market.

    Hell... were it not for Jake Crosby... in a few years I (and other women in our community) might even have unknowingly taken this guy's drug!

    Gorski seems to have erected a Chinese wall between his two lives, and I am not sure that he has any expectation that he should be allowed to do that. Why is he allowed to do that again? Why was he allowed to be upset when someone published his real name in the first place? Don't patients have a right to know who their doctor is and what he does in public?

    I have a hard time believing that many women, with full knowledge of how he treats other autism moms and hides his COI's, and just the general misanthropy that he displays, would entrust their breasts and life to this guy.

    Are they owed this information?

    Not advocating any course of action, just trying to bring down the pitch of the conversation and explore this.

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  28. lots of comments... and had trouble posting them so sorry if it was long winded and came out wonky.