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Some random pieces of history

Child abuse (7/1/2012)
How would you feel if you heard someone laughing about how they had physically abused a child? How would you feel if you heard someone laughing about how they had sexually abused a child? Once you have considered those, how would you feel if you heard someone laughing about how they had exposed their child to a disease that still kills children around the world and sentences others to lives of pain and disability?

That was a message posted to the Australian Vaccination Network's Facebook page on November 30, 2011. It was not challenged or criticised by any of the members of the group. You will notice that Ms Elphinstone expresses amusement at the thought of her son getting chicken pox, caught because she "did deliberaltey (sic) expose him". See the "lol"? That means "laughing out loud".

My friend Ken McLeod was so offended by this admission of child abuse that he did what any responsible citizen would do - he contacted the authorities in Western Australia, where Ms Elphinstone runs an online business selling magic potions and nostrums. His first point of contact was the Minister for Child Protection. This would seem to be the logical place. I spoke to a friend of mine who used to do crisis intervention for the NSW Department of Community Services, and she said she would have no hesitation in taking action if someone was deliberately exposing a child to a dangerous disease. It would be treated in exactly the same way as a child in danger of physical or sexual abuse. Apparently things are different in Western Australia, and Ken received a letter saying that this particular form of protection for endangered children was not a concern of the Child Protection Department and the complaint would be flicked to the Health Minister. (You can see the Minister's reply here.)

It seems that deliberately endangering the health of children is no more important to the health authorities in WA than it is to the child protectors. You can see the Health Minister's reply here, but this paragraph bears repeating:

I have been advised by the Western Australian Department of Child Protection that this is not a child protection issue. The WA Department of Health believes that the existing approach of providing the public with accurate information on vaccine preventable diseases is the preferred strategy. Fortunately, people with extreme views on immunisation, such as those attributed to Ms Elphinstone, are in a small minority.

So there you have it. parents can freely abuse their children in Western Australia by putting them at risk of death or permanent injury provided they do the endangering by following an idiotic, anti-vaccination agenda. I assume the authorities aren't so cavalier with parents who refuse to put their children in approved car seats or who give them alcohol or other drugs. I hope that they take things more seriously if Ms Elphinstone decides to treat any serious illness her child acquires by using the useless products she sells off her web site.

How many children have to be put at risk, or be damaged or killed by preventable diseases before the health authorities recognise anti-vaccination campaigners for the dangerous, deluded fools they are and treat them like any other group that defies the rules and conventions of civilised society? I'm not laughing out loud, and neither should anyone else.

See everything that appeared in 2012 here.

The anti-amalgamists find another "chemist" (12/3/2005)
Last year I had an exchange of emails with Professor Boyd Haley, chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, in which he demonstrated either that he had forgotten a lot of chemistry or the U of K should have a close look at both its recruitment and tenure policies. Put bluntly, the man talks nonsense and appears to be confused about the difference between different chemical compounds and even between compounds and their component elements. He is, of course, loved by both the anti-vaccination liars and the anti-amalgam fools because he says bad things about mercury.

A weapon of mass destructionIt now seems that Dr Haley has a challenger in the mad scientist field, and a paper written by someone who describes himself as "Independent Chemist, M.Sc., retired 08.06.2003. Speciality: Amalgam and Chronic Diseases" has been thrown into the mix. Apparently this paper was peer-reviewed (it must be true - it says so in the paper) and was presented to Representative Dan Burton's crazy anti-mercury witch hunt hearings. A statement from the paper bears closer analysis: "[amalgam] is highly unstable above the melting point of Hg, 39°C". When it was pointed out to the person quoting the paper that this was obvious nonsense, the response was to quote another anti-amalgam paper which said of mercury: "Physical properties are: melting point 39°C, boiling point 357°C". Now, leaving out the minus sign is a mistake, but when the mistake is identified and the response is to give the same answer then stupidity and obtuseness can be assumed. It might be different if this wasn't a case where it is so easy to demonstrate the truth, but when I said that the temperature inside a human body is about 37°C and this was obviously above the melting point of mercury I was asked what qualifications I had to challenge the opinions of professional chemists. I doubted that my reply, "high school chemistry", would be considered satisfactory, and I was proved correct because the response was to ask the question again and repeat the original nonsense (plus some nonsense from Dr Haley about how dangerous mercury is, as if that was going to convince me that I was wrong about the melting point of mercury).

Yet again the supporters of non-medicine exhibit their lack of faith. Their heroes and authority figures (even anonymous ones) are not allowed to be anything except perfect, and any attempt to correct mistakes threatens the house of cards. What is so hard about saying "Oops! I was wrong"? Scientists do it every day.

I just thought - maybe the ban on thermometers containing mercury was because the mercury in them froze when they were put in people's mouths, making the readings suspect. No, that couldn't be right, could it?

See everything that appeared in 2005 here.

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