The armour of grief

Have a quick look at this pair of tweets

These are emblematic of a major problem in the world of vaccine/antivaccine. We're dealing with genuine cases of harm and death. Over here on the pro-vaccine side, we try hard to be sensitive to grief, not always successfully, but occasionally something like this crops up and it's very hard to fight back because of a societal taboo against intruding on the grief of others.

Of course, this doesn't seem to apply in the case of Meryl Dorey, whose activities around Dana McCaffery's tragic death are well documented, however this case is slightly different.

The person above has asserted that a loved one died of "vaccine injury" at the same time as admitting to an official diagnosis of "cot death" (more likely to be officially recorded as SIDS, though in this case it's unclear). This assertion is clearly based in the fallacy of Post-hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, but it is difficult to challenge, due to the aforementioned societal taboo.

Well fuck that. I'm not putting up with it. I tweeted an enquiry to @emmiluvsjaeda asking who exactly gave this diagnosis. This bullshit cannot be allowed to continue. As of the time of writing, I have had no reply, but I suspect that whatever comes back will be more than interesting. I predict either no reply, or an indignant "how dare you?". Either would speak volumes.

I found it quite difficult to compose the response. It initially felt as though I was rubbing salt into a wound. Then I thought of Meryl Dorey's behaviour leading to the formation of Stop The AVN, and realised that this is too important to let my own squeamishness get in the way. This person is gullible, as her other tweets demonstrate - but she is not immune to scrutiny merely because she held up the death of a sibling as a talisman and shield. There is no evidence that this "vaccine injury" is anything but a made-up assertion. Children die of vaccine preventable diseases, and fictional deaths do not deserve the same arena.

I'm certainly not scoffing at the death. Any death is tragic, but to deliberately misattribute a death to an untrue cause is abhorrent, and does more to tarnish the memory of the loved one than I could ever do.

I'll keep you posted of any answer that arrives.


UPDATE 3 Feb 2012: The responses are in.


I have a couple of observations to make here.

First of all, there's absolutely no way to verify this version of events. The official diagnosis, as has been shown twice now, is SIDS. An assertion that the doctor really thought it was the vaccine is unverifiable and largely meaningless. We have to go with the official course of events here. To do otherwise would be to take a faith position and accept an assertion at face value - and I don't generally do faith positions.

Maybe it's true. Maybe the doctor really did say it was a vaccine complication. This doesn't get us as far as the truth of the matter being a vaccine complication - though it may be grounds for an investigation into this doctor's conduct.

And maybe it actually was a vaccine complicaiton. It's a long shot, but maybe - in which case the doctor in question has knowingly signed a death certificate with an incorrect cause of death - again, grounds for an investigation and one that's accompanied by genuine penalties.

Or it could be a mere assertion by a family member - the most likely reason and one that's not entirely unforgivable. I know from bitter experience that during a traumatic event like a death or serious illness, you're not really listening and taking in everything that's said. It could well be that the half-listened and half-remembered details have been coloured somewhat by a post-hoc rationalisation. If it makes @emmieluvsjaeda more comfortable to think it was a conspiracy, then in her mind a conspiracy it shall be.

Secondly, I can't think of a single "legal reason" why a diagnosis of vaccine complication shouldn't have been proffered if that was in fact the case. I'm not a lawyer and I'm certainly not a medical specialist, and I'd love it if someone in one of these fields could enlighten me, but it strikes me that this is either another hole in the story or another reason to investigate the doctor in question. I think, though, that it's the former.

My opinion, then, is that this looks even more like a post-hoc rationalisation than before.

And one final pic

The "eulogy" comment is a striking example of the armour of grief being hastily donned with the underclothes of a martyr complex left showing. It is utterly irrelevant to the verifiability of the story. Though the autopsy report would shed light, I would not be asking for that, either. The holes in the story are enough to mark it out as a rationalisation, and the following "I was there" tweet shows the signature antivaxer position of personal experience being able to trump all objective evidence. There's really nothing to go on here.

So, was I right in asking the question? I think I was. I don't mind being demonised by antivaxers - their opinion is worth naught anyway - and we've at least established that there's no objective evidence to support the original assertions.

posted @ Thursday, February 2, 2012 2:27 PM


Comments on this entry:

# re: The armour of grief

Left by Dave The Happy Singer at 2/2/2012 4:14 PM
Hear, hear.

It is sensitive when we are coming to terms with illness or death. We yearn to know why, and when emotion overcomes reason a bullshit answer feels better than no answer ('God has a plan!')

Concern for the grieving does, however, have a chilling effect on enquiry and it is not in our collective interests to forever dodge the question of how one might reasonably conclude that a specific illness or death was actually caused by vaccination.

In general statistical terms, we may be much bolder, which is no doubt the reason why Meryl Dorey asserts that 'one anecdote is worth a thousand epidemiological studies'. Bollocks.

Oh, and my concern for the bereaved and bewildered does not extend to those who profit handsomely from exploiting these poor families' fears and wishful yearning for answers.

Meryl Dorey: fuck you.

# re: The armour of grief

Left by Trying to get a handle on things at 2/3/2012 5:01 PM
I wonder if the "for legal reasons" means because I can't be bothered to deal with all the freaking paper work involved with reporting and proving vaccination associated death?
Don't get me wrong, I am Pro-vaccination and am very vocal about this, but I was just thinking about why on earth a doctor would suggest to a poor grieving parent that vaccination was a cause of their child's death if they were not sure? I mean deciding to vaccinate even for us "pro-ers" is not without anxiety!
Imagine thinking now for the rest of her life that her decision MAY have caused the death of her child... what an irresponsible thing to say when SIDS was ultimately the COD!!!
The whole thing sounds like a huge cock up!
Anyway, whether it was the doctor, nurse, a family member or Meryl herself; the planting of such an idea leaves that parent questioning herself forever... that sucks!!!

# re: The armour of grief

Left by Dan Buzzard at 2/4/2012 9:03 PM
You did the right thing by enquiring about it. This person is publicly asserting a fallacy, and while it may be a sensitive issue such false assertions need to be addressed.

Emotions occasionally need to be cast aside for the purpose of enquiry. The death of a child is unfortunatly one of those times.
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