False Balance or, as Original as My Cat.

Today has been a frustrating day. A day of same old, same old. A day of people repeating the same things they have gotten wrong in the past. A day that showed some people are incapable of stepping outside the safety of  their own comfortably held ideas and learning from past mistakes. A day where much of the media showed themselves as incapable of having original ideas or a social conscience.

What has caused my displeasure?

The tired old method of including an anti-vaxer in any immunisation news story.

The National Health Performance Authority’s report on childhood immunisation coverage was released today, which caused a flurry of media reports as one would expect.

It should have been simple. For some it was. The Age got it right with a story that simply stated the facts. The Byron Bay based Echo got it right too, with commendations for communities with high immunisation rates, and a dire warning from Dr Steve Hambleton president of the AMA, for those below the safe levels for community immunity.

The Maitland Mercury did a great piece too, reporting that the area has one of Australia’s top immunisation rates with 95.5 per cent of children ­vaccinated across the city and only 46 children not fully immunised.

Studio 10 outdid everyone with four minutes of strong, no nonsense commentary on the issue. Take a bow, Studio 10.

The Sydney Morning Herald, gave a non-vaccinating mother free rein to rattle off a bunch of anti-vaccine misconceptions in what could only be described as an exercise in normalising stupidity.  They must have copped some heat for it because later in the day these two sentences were added to the story:

According to the the federal Health Department’s “Myths and concerns about vaccination” vaccines do not weaken the immune system, but strengthen it by giving it the power to fight more diseases.

The World Health Organization has studied the concept of “immune overload” from multiple vaccines and found there is no evidence it is a real phenomenon.

Now that isn’t an exhaustive list, just the ones that came to my notice throughout the day. Then there was the T.V coverage, with journalists looking for participants from the early morning as indicated by this tweet at around 10am by Dr Dave Hawkes:

“Just contacted to be on TV tonight about vax rates in Melb. Said no bc I will not appear alongside antivaxers to give them credibility.”

Well done Dr Hawkes. It’s great to see some people understand the issues that qualified experts appearing in stories with anti-vax activists raise.

And it went on. Radio and T.V, falling over themselves to create false balance stories about immunisation including experts, and unqualified folks who find their ‘reckons’ in the google machine. The only one I actually got to watch was the channel 7 news at 6pm which included anti-vaccine mother and son activist team Wendy and Kenny Lydall, and a representative from the National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance. It went something like this;

(Obviously I am paraphrasing.)

Kenny: “I had chickenpox and measles, and that was fine. I’ve traveled in Africa and I didn’t catch anything.”

Cut to Wendy in her garden… Something about she didn’t vaccinate Kenny ‘cos she had severe reactions to vaccines herself.

Cut to representative from the National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance saying: “Children who aren’t immunised are at risk of catching some very nasty diseases.”

OH, YOU MEAN THE ONES KENNY JUST SAID HE HAD AND “IT WAS FINE”?

That went well, didn’t it?

Then over on channel 9 an anti-vaccine chiropractor appeared in a story. I know this type and they have no business speaking their special brand of nonsense in an immunisation news story.

To the elements of the media, and the experts who insist on participating in this kind of false balance: YOU ARE NOT HELPING!

Media, just stick to the facts. Don’t try to manufacture a story, if you must ‘add something’ to your report, why not speak to a parent who thinks vaccinating is an important personal and community issue? A parent who lost their child to a vaccine preventable disease? Or a parent living in fear because their community has such a low immunisation rate diseases are always present? A person living with the long term effects of  having contracted a vaccine preventable disease?  Or one of many community groups working to raise awareness of the importance of immunisation and the dangers of vaccine preventable diseases? You can add some interest to your story without giving a platform to dangerous, misinformed fools.

Professionals and experts, I’m going to give you a step by step way to deal with this issue.

1. Media make contact about a story, you ask “What is the angle of the story and will you be including an anti-vaccine advocate, or non-vaccinating parent?

2. If the media outlet tells you there will be none of the above, congratulate them and go ahead.

3. If the media outlet says there will be an anti-vaccine advocate, or non-vaccinating parent, simply say no. Explain to them what false balance is, how you appearing with such people adds legitimacy that they and their arguments are not entitled to, and that giving the ‘other side’ airtime is actually harmful to the community.

What is the worst thing that could happen? The media outlet gets someone else. Well, at least it isn’t you lowering yourself to appear in such nonsense. Or, they might go ahead with the anti-vaxxer alone. Knowing most of Australia’s anti-vaxxers, that probably isn’t a bad thing. They are pretty good at making themselves seem a bit unbalanced. At least you can hold your head high because you are not enabling false balance on such an important issue.

If you all do it, you can create change. People already are, why don’t you step up and be part of educating the media and stamping out this nonsense practice?

The false balance story is as original as the story my cat tells me every day when I come home from work: She is starving, and hasn’t been fed for a week. She has been telling me that for 15 years. Same old, same old. Surely the media and those who play a part in this circus are more original than my cat! Or are they?

cat

 

Two other bloggers had something to say about this as well. You can find those blogs here and here.

Edited to add: To the anti-vaxxers who have been commenting, thanks for stopping by. This post is about false balance,  if you feel you have something worthy to add to the issue of immunisation, I suggest you do it where the real discussion on that takes place: in the scientific peer review process. Get yourselves an education, do original research to actually test your claims and submit them to the peer review process. Don’t come here trying to have an argument armed with personal beliefs and tid-bits you found on google. I will not waste my time, or that of my readers by passing your nonsense through moderation. The same goes for the howls of “censorship” that will result from this statement.

Now, I have to go to work. My cat needs more food.

 

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Why We Need to Search for the Truth in Cancer Cure Stories

I’d like to share this podcast about truth in cancer stories with you. It features Grace Gawler of The Grace Gawler Institute and ethicist Dr Julie Crews who happens to be a reader and commenter on this blog. 

Description:

 “Ethicist Dr Julie Crews takes an investigative look through the magnifying glass to examine new trends in cancer entrepreneurship where patients who are either still in recovery themselves or who claim they have beaten the odds without medical evidence, are influencing the treatment choices of millions of other cancer patients around the globe. Another group of patients influencing choices are those who have had adequate medical treatment for their cancer, but then champion their ‘cure’ to the use of dietary regimens, alternative medicine, meditation and other healing forms. Authentic hope is a powerful ally, but false hope as a recent article published in the West Australian suggests, provides More Hype than Hope. Dr Crews contributed to that media piece. If asked about buying a product in a store – do we accept being lied to about its efficacy? In cancer the stakes are high-do we want lies or truth? The search for truth in healing stories is imperative for patients whose lives really depend upon it.”

I hope you enjoy it. Dr Crews raises many important issues. Click here to listen.

Transparency, Misquotes and False Conclusions.

Last week The ‘Wellness Warrior’ wrote a blog post which contained the following statements:

” it concerns me that many people who are my target audience are being presented with a false account of the state of my health, who I am and what I’m about.”

and;

“I’ve never claimed to have cured myself (if you’ve seen this written online or in the media it’s because I have often been misquoted – these kinds of statements are false conclusions made by the author, not misleading information from me).”

I’m not sure what happened here then:

Jess cure 1

Thanks so much guys! Dani, the book is about natural health and healing, living a Wellness Warrior lifestyle and how I cured my own cancer. I can’t wait until its done. x

jess cancer 22

If you happen to pick up the paper today, flip to the Body + Soul lift out and check out a story about a young girl beating cancer with food – aka ME!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

she also said; “I need to increase the transparency I have with my tribe. If you ever looked at my website for anything other than ways to condemn me, you would see that authenticity is my highest value.”

In a token effort to address the issue of being misquoted, sometime between then and now Jess or someone on her team managed to sneak a small but still kind of misleading correction into this article in the Sydney Morning Herald. The description of her condition in the article has been changed from “in remission” to “in recovery mode” without any clarification. A correction brought about by pressure from outside no doubt, but its a start. 

I’ve been waiting for her to be more transparent with her ‘tribe’ since that blog post. I’m sure she is going to stop claiming that the issue with her arm is lymphedema, or a ‘flare up’ (whatever that means) and tell her ‘tribe’ about the worsening condition of her arm and the progression of the cancer in it any day now. While I’ve been waiting I’ve been looking at articles where she has been ‘misquoted’ or where ‘false conclusions have been made by the author’, and I’ve made a list of them. By the way, do you like how she threw most of the people who have ever written about her right in the path of a bus there? ‘False conclusions made by authors.’ THWACK! That was the bus hitting you guys for writing about her without seeing through her inferences and lies by omission. Although, writing about the reality of the situation earns one the label of ‘bully’, so it’s a no win situation. 

Before we move on to the list, it is worth reiterating here that Jess’ cancer, Epithelioid Sarcoma is a slow growing cancer and the fact that she is alive today is unremarkable. In fact, if she is still alive ten years post diagnosis that will be unremarkable too. It is even conceivable with such an indolent cancer that Jess will still be alive 15 years post diagnosis. (I actually hope she is, I don’t wish her to die young.) However, the length of her life will be a result of the type of cancer she has and not that of juices and coffee enemas. I’d also like to say that should Jess ever be able to produce evidence from a medical oncologist that she is free of cancer, be it next month or in 15 years, I will write RETRACTED all over the blog posts about her and issue a formal apology.

"Oh no! What have they found?"

“Oh no! What have they found?”

So here is my list. These are the ‘misquotes’ and ‘false conclusions made by authors’ I found in a rather short time on google.

1. The first one is the introduction on Jess’ Google+ profile. I’m not sure if she has been misquoted here, or if the author has made a false conclusion. I think it might be the latter.

“Hey there! I’m Jess Ainscough and I’m a writer, blogger, holistic health coach, cancer survivor, and the creator of the online wellness sanctuary, The Wellness Warrior”

2. News.com.au. June 24, 2013 “The holistic health coach, who was in Byron Bay last week, follows a strict organic diet after overcoming cancer without using modern medicine.

3. The Urban List. January 17, 2013  “I’m the creator of a website called TheWellnessWarrior.com.au, where I share my cancer recovery story.

4. The Raw Food Institute of Australia. January 29, 2014 “…using the world recognized Gerson therapy with outstanding results.

5. Wellness Mamma.  She is a writer, holistic health coach, and cancer survivor (she did it naturally!).

6. Rock Stock Living. Febuary 5, 2014.  “well not only by age 28 is she a cancer survivor, she predominantly treated it naturally.”

7. The Warwick Cancer Foundation. “As a young adult cancer survivor…”

8. Woman’s Day. September 7, 2011 “This therapy worked for me, and now it is working for my mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.”

9. SMH Life & Style.  Feb 2 2014 “…has been in remission for four years.” and ”In conventional language I’m in remission,” Ainscough says. “But I will be healing forever. It’s a permanent process.”

10. Natural News:  Nov 6, 2012. “Cancer Survivor” and “Discover how Jessica has kept her cancer away and what she does now to ensure it doesn’t come back.”

11. Good Being. Sept 15, 2013  “Overcame Cancer

12. whosyour.com. “I’m the creator of a website called The Wellness Warrior, where I share my cancer recovery story.

13. Fertilise Yourself. September 24, 2012. “Jess is an ah-mazing woman who has healed herself of cancer.”

14. Pauline Hanuise Holistic Health and Recovery Coaching. January 9, 2013. “she shares her cancer recovery story.

15. Alison Smith PhD. July 3, 2013. “Jessica, better known as The Wellness Warrior herself, is a beautiful Aussie, who fought cancer and won using the Gerson Diet: a protocol that cures cancer naturally

16. Move, Nourish, Believe. Jan 24, 2013. “she is a cancer survivor who (by embracing health, wellness and love) saved her own life and inspired hundreds and thousands of others in the process.”

17. IUV. June 27, 2013 “I realized I was more than a ‘cancer success story’ — I was a leader, a role model, an educator, and a champion.”

18. Cancer Fact or Fiction. October 21, 2013 “Jessica Ainscough has a hugely successful Blog The Wellness Warrior, why not check it out to learn more about How to survive Cancer with the Gerson therapy.”

19. Earth Events. “… five years of lessons that have not only saved my life…”

20. Mind Body Green. July 12, 2010 “Conquering Cancer with Carrot Juice” and “The therapy gets some seriously amazing results and I cannot wait until I can count myself as one of it’s success stories.”

21. Salt. Winter 2013 “Now cancer free

22. Motion Magazine. May 16, 2013 “faced and overcome one of the greatest evils in life, cancer.

23. Organicness. June 2, 2013 “cancer survivor

24. Farm Online. January 29, 2014 “Now 28, Jess has been in remission from cancer for almost six years

25. Life & Style. January 30, 2014. “Jess’ cancer survival story is a controversial one, but it certainly worked for her.” and “Jess, now 28, has been in remission from cancer for six years…”

26. Love Driven Prints. Feb 8, 2012 “A blogger in Australia named Jessica Ainscough details how she saved her own arm from amputation using the Gerson therapy as well. You can read all about it on her site, The Wellness Warrior.”

I found this one is particularly upsetting. A woman with metastatic breast cancer in her lung, liver, spine, ribs, pelvis and brain is asking for donations to fund a $11,000+ expenses trip to a Gerson retreat and cites Jess as a compelling reason for going. She didn’t go to Gerson because they wouldn’t take her, so she tried another restrictive, nonsense diet and supplement regime to no avail. Sadly, Lillian passed away in June 2013.

Moving on from google, I looked at the online book listings for Make Peace With Your Plate, the book recently authored by Jess and published through Hay House. Within a few minutes I had found no less than six listings for he book that contained the following;

“Six years on, following a complete change in lifestyle, diet and mindset, she is cancer-free and thriving.”

Booktopia blog   Penguin Books   Boffin Bookshop  Angus and Robertson  Fishpond and Bookworld.

In total, I found 32 instances where the takeaway message is that Jess has cured herself, and it took minimal effort on my part to find those. Something is very wrong here if so many individuals are getting the same incorrect message from what Jess says and the information she provides. If you know of any other examples that aren’t on the list, do post them in the comments and I will update the list.

So, Wellness Warrior team, there are 32 more corrections you need to make. I hope having them all detailed here with the relevant links will assist you in being able to do this.

You’re welcome.

The following examples have been provided by readers since this post was published. Thanks everyone for your input.

33. In this video, Jess herself says at 0.30 “For the past eighteen months, I have been curing myself of cancer using a natural healing modality called Gerson Therapy.” 

34. delvespot.com. July 25, 2012  [Interviewer] “You cured yourself of cancer, naturally. It’s a “stop the press” kind of moment, yet, because we find it so amazing, what does it say about our relationship with our bodies?

[Jess] We definitely don’t trust ourselves enough, or give our bodies the credit they deserve when it comes to healing. We are designed to self heal – as long as we provide the right environment to do so.

35. Dolly. January 6, 2012 “I am ecstatic to report that it has worked for me.”

36. The Gerson Institute. January 27, 2012  “Why I owe my life to Gerson” and “I can visibly see the Therapy healing the tumors I had in my arm.”

37. thewellnesswarrior.com.au. June 12, 2011. “I will be getting up on my soap box to share my story about how I am curing myself of an “incurable” sarcoma.”  

The ‘Wellness Warrior’ on Immunisation.

I really don’t want this blog to be all about the ‘Wellness Warrior’, and I never intended it to be but as far as health nonsense and health misinformation go (and that is to be the focus of the blog), she is the gift that keeps giving.

This morning, someone sent me thisThe ‘Wellness Warrior’s’ thoughts on immunisation. The whole post is dangerous ignorance in the extreme.

For more than 200 years, the use of vaccines has been instrumental in reducing the burden of many infectious diseases. Immunisation has been demonstrated to be a safe and effective public health intervention, and worldwide it has been estimated that immunisation programs prevent approximately 2.5 million deaths each year. The global eradication of smallpox in 1979, near elimination of poliomyelitis and global reduction in other vaccine-preventable diseases, are model examples of disease control through immunisation. Here in Australia we have one of the most comprehensive publicly funded immunisation programs in the world, and as a result of successful vaccination programs, many diseases no longer occur, or are extremely rare in Australia.

Immunisation not only protects individuals, but also protects others in the community by increasing the overall level of immunity in the population and thus minimising the spread of infection. This concept is known as ‘community immunity’ or ‘herd immunity’. The ironic thing about this ‘Wellness Warrior’ post is that immunisation by way of community immunity, protects people like Jess and her fellow cancer patients. People undergoing chemotherapy for example need the protection of the community to keep them safe from vaccine preventable diseases, yet here is Jess discouraging people from participating in the most important and effective public health initiative of our time.

By her own admission, Jess is “not really that educated on the issue” however that doesn’t stop her from sharing the report, the things that ‘shocked’ her, and urging her readers to “come to their own conclusions” about immunisation after reading it. That is first class “research” right there; read from one dubious information source and make a decision. The purpose of her information source, the International Medical Council on Vaccination  is to oppose vaccination, deny the safety and efficacy of vaccines and to spread fear and misinformation about vaccines. The board of directors includes known anti-vaccination liars Suzanne Humphries and Sherri Tenpenny. Jess’ use of this dubious group and Natural News as a source illustrates her inability to discern what is or isn’t a credible source of information, and her tendency to search the Internet for ‘information’ that agrees with her preconceived ideas and accept it as true.

Thank goodness the vast majority of folks are sensible and immunise themselves and their children. Vaccine refusal is a dangerous first world privilege, and those who promote it would do well to keep in mind that as they convince people to opt out of immunisation programs, they lower community immunity levels, and their own protection as a result.

It is her prerogative to ‘treat’ her own illness with unproven methods that don’t work. But to try to influence people not to use a proven method to prevent disease with a “report” that even a person with a basic knowledge of vaccines could see for the nonsense that it is, is unforgivable.

People who understand what life is like without vaccines, happily make every effort to get them.

People who understand what life is like without vaccines, happily make every effort to get them.