Dr. Peter Lipson, practicing physician and Forbes.com columnist, published a piece in January calling for license revocation for MDs who fail to provide or promote vaccinations to protect infants and children against preventable and potentially disastrous contagions.
(Photo: Dr. Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine)
While somewhat controversial, I personally would support such a measure, since vaccines are universally accepted except amongst the fringe zealot crowd, including, sadly, some professionals, who foment anti-vaccine hysteria among gullible or skeptical parents as one of the past century's most important public health advances. It follows, therefore, that a medical professional who fails to adhere to this simple thesis is not upholding either an ethical, nor scientific, nor professional standard and does not belong in the ranks of physicians who are actually devoted to promoting and protecting their patients' health. Out with them!
Dr. Lipson's proposal was rebutted shortly thereafter by one Dr. Bob Sears via an e-mail. In the colloquy published in Forbes.com on February 2, Lipson took on "Dr. Bob's" response, which oozed with self-importance and hypocrisy, as the latter denied being "anti-vaccine," despite much evidence to the contrary.
We re-visit it now because the anti-vaccine propaganda machine is seemingly always in full-tilt battle against the forces of sound science. And also with the new school year upon us, it seemed appropriate to re-open this important discussion.
So Dr. Bob starts out by trying this outrageous diversion on Lipson:
"Although I an a pro-vaccine doctor, I don't think anti-vaccine doctors should lose their licenses." Say what? Sears is an administrator of a Facebook page entitled "Parents and Others Against Vaccines"! He goes on to say, in effect, that in America it's a free country and "doctors can choose to practice the type of medicine they wish." Whoa Nelly not so fast Dr. Bob!
The First Amendment does not really comport well with the Hippocratic Oath and the scientific method when it comes to medical practice. A responsible physician cannot decide for him or herself what the scientific evidence on vaccine safety and efficacy says, having been accumulated over the decades and a consensus reached. As eloquently and elegantly put by Dr. Lipson, "... certainly anyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own standard of practice."
Sears pontificates on: "For example, most doctors of Chinese medicine don t offer vaccines. Neither do chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopathic physicians, and many other integrative and complementary practitioners. To say that such practitioners shouldn t be allowed to practice the form of medicine they wish to is prejudice against forms of medicine that are widely accepted in many parts of the world."
And this guy alleges that he is not anti-vaccine!? Those practitioners' "patients" do not have the expectation that they will receive the science-based standard of medical care that parents expect when they bring their kids in to see licensed pediatricians and family doctors. His example mixes apples and oranges in the most egregious, specious argument imaginable. Again, let's hear from Dr. Lipson:
"This is, in my opinion, either willful ignorance or stupidity, and I doubt Dr. Sears is stupid. ... None of these 'alternative' healing arts has anything to do with the scientific practice of medicine that keeps us alive and well. I m sure a homeopath doesn t prescribe beta-blockers for heart failure either, but that doesn t make it right. We re not talking about chiropractors or auto mechanics here. If someone is a licensed physician and cannot follow basic standards of care, they need a new job."
Then we can thank Dr. Bob for this doozy: "But, in my opinion, failing to provide vaccines in a practice is not the same as 'do no harm.' It s simply a more narrow scope of practice."
Does that sound "pro-vaccine" to you?
Me neither, nor to Lipson: "I treat heart disease every day. My patients with heart disease take aspirin because it s the standard of care. I can t simply say, 'Yeah, I treat heart disease but aspirin is outside my scope of practice.' That would be something else, like, malpractice, say. It is most certainly not OK to hang out a shingle as a 'homeopath' and claim to prevent influenza with vitamins and tinctures, but not offer flu vaccines. This argument is idiotic. I m also curious what percentage of Sears patients receive all their recommended vaccinations on time."
I think we've belabored this point sufficiently to agree that (A) Dr. Bob Sears is not to be trusted with rendering medical care to kids, parents, or anyone else for that matter; (B) Dr. Bob is being disingenuous at best, and deceptive at worst, when he demurs on being an "anti-vaxxer"; and (C ) you need to make sure your kids are vaccinated, as per the official CDC and AAP recommendations before they go back to school (or as soon as possible thereafter if they've already started).