Judy Wilyman: What price a life?

A radical conspiracy theorist who once reasoned infant and childhood mortality was a necessary price to prevent fictional “genetic deterioration” she blames on vaccines, has added up to 200 Australian women per year to her body count.

University of Wollongong student Judy Wilyman responded to the release of a Victorian Cancer Council advertisement (below) by republishing misleading information about HPV, and the HPV vaccine Gardasil as part of her ongoing anti-vaccination campaign. The advertisement targets cervical cancer and the importance of pap smears. Judy is unhappy that the Council correctly observe that women “only need to have sex once to risk cervical cancer”. Wilyman writes [emphasis hers]:

This statement is not reflective of the risk of cervical cancer. The majority of women in Australia are not at risk of cervical cancer even if they are infected with HPV 16 and 18.

Yes, cervical cancer makes up only 1.6% of cancers that Aussie women face, leading to about 750 diagnoses annually. The main cause of cervical cancer is HPV – human papillomavirus. Genotypes 16 and 18 are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. As late as 2007 mortality from cervical cancer was 1.9 per 100,000. Looking at ABS population figures for 2007 this translates to something like 200 women and teens – minus young females.

Wilyman plays semantics with the reality that HPV 16 or 18 “rarely” progresses to cancer. I accept this is important and comforting knowledge. Just as I know road users will “rarely” drive into telegraph poles or be “rarely” hit with severe force from behind. Wilyman then lists what is in the Gardasil vaccine in a typical attempt to scare.

Whilst there’s a lot to pick fault with in both the article and the so-called fact sheet, what I found compelling is the insouciance with which Judy Wilyman regards the death of others. Deaths that can be prevented by vaccine and are thus accepted collateral damage in her war against this aspect of public health.

Using the figures above we can see that 53% of cervical cancer cases are terminal. Put another way a woman may need only have sex once to have about a 50/50 chance of dying from cervical cancer. This would be notably rare. Yet it would also be vastly more probable than the one in a million chance of anaphylactic shock or severe reaction following MMR that Wilyman presents as a near certainty. It would be incalculably more likely than the never substantiated deaths from vaccination.

It seems Judy Wilyman can understand risk-benefit when it suits her. She writes:

  • HPV 16/18 is a common infection in women in all countries but 90% of infections do not progress to warts or cervical cancer
  • In 2004, before the vaccine was introduced, the death rate from cervical cancer in Australia was 1.9/100,000 women. This represents a very low risk to Australian women

It’s just too bad if you’re in the 10% or one of the 200 Aussie women to develop cervical cancer each year. But this isn’t Wilymans only stint at suggesting death should take precedence over vaccination.

At an Australian Vaccination Network seminar at the W.A. State Library in mid 2010, Wilyman told the audience that “it is known” that vaccines switch on otherwise dormant genes. “This is called predisposition to disease”, Wilyman continued without providing evidence. “Things like autism, diabetes and asthma”.

This has been refuted in reproduced studies across the globe. The Australian Immunisation Handbook lists these three conditions along with SIDS, inflammatory bowel disease and MS as conditions in which “research has constantly replicated no link”. Wilyman, who wrote to Australia’s federal health minister in November 2011 contending incentives to immunise are a “crime against humanity”, defends this falsehood with two criteria.

Firstly she conveniently dismisses scientific consensus and reputable government backed advice as part of a “conflict of interest” conspiracy driven by profit. This includes the media for publishing reports of fatalities from vaccine preventable disease and even the parents of deceased infants. The practice of accusing grieving parents of being paid to promote vaccination or even to not blame vaccination as the cause of their child’s death is common within the AVN. Despite public claims to the contrary it is a practice sanctioned by AVN president, Meryl Dorey.

The second criteria Wilyman exploits is the misrepresentation that environmental factors that may influence DNA include vaccines. Wilyman asserts vaccine components have “synergistic, cumulative and latent effects” on both health and DNA. Well aware that components are not present at toxic levels, Wilyman set out to scare her W.A. audience:

Your doctor will say “oh yes but they’re only in trace amounts”. I say to you, what is a trace amount? How much is a trace amount? It sounds minute, it sounds small but it’s all relative. And I’ll say to you, what is a safe level of a safe amount of a trace amount in an infant? How does a trace amount of mercury combined with a trace amount of aluminium adjuvant react in an infants body? They don’t know. It is counterintuitive to suggest adding toxins to infant’s bodies makes them healthier. It doesn’t make them healthier. Black is not white.

Source W.A. Audio  (at 26min, 06sec)

Wilyman then goes on to misrepresent a 60 year old quote from Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet. Burnet notes that infant and childhood mortality is (to be blunt) a way in which seriously defective genes are removed from the gene pool. He observes that preventative and curative medicine may have an impact on this. Wilyman quotes Sir Frank:

In future years we may have some hard thinking to do. It may be that we will have to realise that mortality in infancy and childhood in the past has been the necessary price that had to be paid to prevent genetic deterioration and that some of our modern successes in preventative and curative medicine, may on the longest view be against the best interests of the state.

A rather challenging ethical and moral dilemma to ponder indeed. Fortunately in the sixty years since Burnet apparently made that statement the science of genetics, modern medicine and our grasp of what it means to be human have marched forward. So much so that we now seek to enrich developing nations with the same advances that have dramatically improved our lives.

We cannot ignore either that modern successes of that time are now long passed. We’ve pursued and realised preventative and curative medicine Burnet could only have dreamed of. Today the hard thinking we have to do surrounds our potential to select genetic perfection.

Yet Wilyman is either so deluded as to see what isn’t there or so deceptive as to bend its meaning to suit her own fantasy. I strongly suspect the first. Whilst Burnet’s comment can be seen in proper context, there’s no doubt Wilyman selected that passage to convey that vaccines inflict such “synergistic, cumulative and latent effects… epidemics of genetic diseases“, that it’s time to realise infant and childhood mortality is arguably a necessary price.

“Today”, she offered publically, the “overall health of children in the 21st century would appear to be supporting Burnet’s prophecy”. Genes, the environment (vaccines) and timing “interact together in the occurrence of disease.”

The intellectual paucity of her so-called reasoning is truly stunning. There is absolutely no evidence that “the chemicals” in vaccines are deleteriously effecting children’s health so as to be placing our genome at risk of deterioration. That the research Wilyman wants to see is deemed unnecessary by experts, does not by default validate her wild speculation.

This is a fiction of her own making. The scale of paranoia and delusion driving her belief in conspiracy has already made way for the callous abuse of others and a career of deception. That the lives of innocent women and seemingly infants and children rate lower than adherence to an ideology is perhaps not surprising.

Judy Wilyman is supposedly “researching” to complete a PhD under the auspices of anti-vaccine academic, Brian Martin. To date no actual research has been produced.

One hopes the University of Wollongong will ultimately address this matter ethically.

Cancer Council Victoria Advertisement


11 thoughts on “Judy Wilyman: What price a life?

  1. As per the profile on Judy Wilyman on The Conversation, it appears there is some research, however…

    The only publications that could possibly be peer reviewed are the ones published by the British Society for Ecological Medicine, Medical Veritas (both “publications” offer a dubious take on scientific matters—see the links), and , the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (not a properly established educational facility).

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  3. If we were serious about further reducing the incidence rate for cervical cancer, we wouldn’t be recommending/pressuring women into excessive population pap testing, we’d be following the evidence like the Netherlands and Finland. Aussie women are some of the most over-screened and over-treated in the world and that means anxiety, fear and the major negative impact from excess biopsies and over treatment. Our program does nothing more than maximize risk for no additional benfit over the 6-7 pap test program offered by Finland since the 1960s and our program is wasteful and inefficient missing too many of these rare cancers. More and more women are getting to the closely guarded facts and making informed decisions not to follow our program. This program should have been changed many years ago…now even the Finnish program is outdated and the Dutch are about to introduce a new program, 5 hrHPV primary triage tests offered at ages 30,35,40,50 and 60 and ONLY the roughly 5% who are HPV positive and at risk will be offered a 5 yearly pap test. The vast majority of women, about 95% of those aged 30 and older, will be HPV negative, not at risk, these women cannot benefit from pap testing. Those negative and confidently monogamous or no longer sexually active can forget all further testing. The Dutch are also being offered a self test option, the Delphi Screener, also available in Singapore, Italy and elsewhere, the UK has Tampap. The Dutch program will save more lives and spare huge numbers of women from unnecessary pap testing, excess biopsies and potentially harmful over-treatment and saves scarce health resources.
    I’m not sure what’s happening in this country, but I know women are being very poorly advised, many benefit from excess, but certainly not women. Our program is finally under review, but with no respect for informed consent and with most women still in the dark, there is little pressure to focus a program on what’s best for women.
    Why would most women (who are HPV negative and not at risk) wish to spend a lifetime having regular pap testing with the high risk of excess biopsies etc?
    There seems to be limitless funds to tackle this rare cancer, always rare BTW and in natural decline before testing even began, a small number have been helped, but there was never a need to harm (over-treatment can damage the cervix and lead to premature babies, miscarriages, cervical stenosis, c-sections etc) and worry so many and now there is no excuse.
    I think both cervical and breast cancer screening are more likely to harm us, FAR more likely with cervical screening…the Nordic Cochrane Institute reviewed all of the evidence for breast screening a decade ago and concluded it was of little benefit, but leads to significant over-diagnosis. The UK is doing a full review after a number of senior doctors called for an immediate review…do the benefits exceed the risks? Are there any benefits?
    The NCI have an excellent summary of the evidence at their website…don’t rely on the brochures provided by the screening authorities…IMO, their main focus is coverage and achieving govt set targets. Pap testing does not benefit those under 30, but they produce the most false positives and sadly, HPV testing is not recommended either as 40% would test positive, almost all are transient and harmless infections, by age 30 about 5% will test positive, it is this group who have a small chance of benefiting from a five yearly pap test.
    Aussie women do not receive accurate and complete information…but the facts are out there…HPV Today, Edition 24, sets out the new Dutch program. (registration is free) Delphi Bioscience provides info on the Delphi Screener.

    • Elizabeth – how do the dynamics of screening, with possible over-diagnosis and over-treatment, reflect on the success of the HPV vaccination programme?

      We already have very good AUstralian data to show that the prevalence of HPV is decreasing. It seems we are already doing what we should be doing to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. If the population becomes immune to all the oncogenic strains of HPV, we may well be able to stop cervical screening, which detects, but does not prevent, infection.

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