Andrew Denton on Assisted Dying

Earlier this month Andrew Denton presented what might be called his findings on the need for assisted dying, or voluntary euthanasia in Australia. Without this legislation one Victorian per week suicides to escape pain. Just one state. These mainly “elderly violent suicides” are composed in the book Denton released on August 10th titled The Damage Done.

Denton has travelled to Belgian, The Netherlands and Oregon where assisted dying legislation exists in law. Whilst there are differences and similarities in these laws it was what such legislation is not that is most striking to the Australian situation at present. There is no sign that the many horrors organised opponents insist will accompany such legislation exist.

No slippery slope. No sanctioned killing of the disabled, the elderly, the sick or the frail. No sign of greedy family members metaphorically marching a family member to an early unwanted demise. The legislation itself presents this from happening by ensuring the decision is that of the individual in question.

An individual must be of sound mind, enduring intolerable suffering, aware of the consequences of their decision and checked and double checked by separate, independent physicians. There are many reasons why the fear conjured by self-appointed moral guardians is simply fallacious. Not least, in their own words, organised planning to distort facts and feed the public and legislators unrealistic images as to what assisted dying would mean.

Denton presents the primary four “myths” that sustain opposition to the much needed and compassionate legislation that would see assisted dying a right in Australia. These are demolished with more than enough hard evidence gleaned from where assisted dying is legal. Furthermore these points and many more are embellished. Australians it seems, are fed deception. With over 80% in favour and under 10% in opposition to assisted dying the orchestrated abuse of power denying public will is thunderously immoral.

It’s important Australians understand that we were once world leaders in such legislation. Assisted dying existed in N.T. under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. The Liberal Party’s Kevin Andrews (“a leading member of the conservative Lyons Forum, dubbed by some ‘The God Squad'”) and Labor’s Tony Burke, assisted by powerful fellow Catholic busnessmen undermined the will of the N.T. public, ultimately having the law repealed. Their harmful work continues today. 28 attempts have been made in the last 20 years to pass assisted dying legislation.

Denton argues the two politicians have “engineered” a denial of evidence. He covers this dynamic, the reality of assisted dying legislation and the importance of palliative care. A significant number of patients who meet eligibility requirements and whose cases satisfy safeguards for assisted dying ultimately do not take life-ending medication. In Oregon this figure is 40%. What this tells us is that the peace of mind that comes with knowing one has control over their end is powerful indeed.

What we often call euthanasia is not “killing”. It is assisted dying. It is dying with dignity. I do urge finding the time to listen to Denton’s material.

 – Andrew Denton: The Damage Done. The price our community pays without a law for assisted dying

© National Press Club of Australia, 10 August 2016

© ABC Lateline, 10 August 2016


Andrew Denton investigates the stories, moral arguments and individuals woven into discussions about why good people are dying bad deaths in Australia – because there is no law to help them.

Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

The following post is an exceptionally detailed review of the evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.

Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.

Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a reliable tool for similar endeavours.

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around…

View original post 17,466 more words

Don’t Mess With Anti-Discrimination Laws

A fortnight ago Australians learned that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was urging the federal government to set aside anti-discrimination laws during the marriage equality plebiscite. This would facilitate free speech for the “no side” which was, according to ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton, fearful of being prosecuted if they expressed their views on same sex marriage.

According to Fairfax, Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission described it as “a disgraceful way of dealing with the issue”. Suggesting the ACL failed to understand how the anti-discrimination law worked, she added. “It’s an outrageous proposition and it’s highly misguided.”

In a radio interview with Jon Faine on Melbourne’s ABC 774 Shelton raised the example of the rather unambiguously titled “Pastoral letter” Don’t Mess With Marriage (below at 1 minute mark).

… at the moment we’ve seen the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference taken to the Tasmanian Human Rights Commission because someone felt offended by a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage.

Speaking to Fairfax about the same case Shelton is quoted as saying those who argued against same sex marriage faced a “constant threat of quasi and full-blown legal action”. Apparently as Shelton sees it these laws are not fair. State anti-discrimination laws have “such a low threshold” and thus, according to Shelton, the ACL is very concerned about fairness during the campaign.

The “gentle and respectful booklet”, as Shelton labelled Don’t Mess With Marriage was published in November last year. It points out on p.13 that:

Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to a mother and a father. And there are countless reliable studies that suggest that mothers and fathers enhance – and their absences impede – child development in different ways.

[…]

‘Messing with marriage’, therefore, is also ‘messing with kids’. It is gravely unjust to them.

Lyle SheltonLyle Shelton

A few pieces of this “gentle and respectful” wisdom require an entire paragraph in large font. Don’t think the fact that many children are happily raised in single parent families might get in the way of the ACL “Christian teachings on marriage”.

There is a big difference, however, between dealing with the unintended reality of single parenthood and planning from the beginning artificially to create an ‘alternative family’ that deliberately deprives a child of a father or a mother. (p.13)

Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve. (p.9)

Under a photo of a sad child staring expressionless into space with disheveled hair and wearing a singlet is the heading Consequences of redefining marriage. Large font paragraphs sum up:

But if the civil definition of marriage were changed to include ‘same-sex marriage’ then our law and culture would teach that marriage is merely about emotional union of any two (or more?) people. (p.14)

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, will be seen to be wholly interchangeable social constructs as gender would no longer matter. (p.14)

As always with such bigotry we’re reliably informed there is “sociological research” or simply research to back the claims. One citation mentioned on page 16 is M. Regnerus (2012): How different are the adult children of parents who have same sex relationships? His methodology and conclusions are condemned by a number of experts in this fact check from Equality Matters.

Indeed there was no comparison of same sex couples raising a family to heterosexual couples raising a family. Rather the criteria used is whether a parent had ever had a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. The parent subjects were in fact part of a failed heterosexual union. Only a minor part of the sample spent “more than a few years living in a household headed by a same sex union”.

D. P. Sullins’ Emotional problems among children with same-sex parents: difference by definition is cited. It is also the subject of Emma Green’s Using Pseudoscience To Undermine Same-Sex Parents. Green notes:

This is not a new argument. Especially in the past decade, as gay marriage has been legally recognized in many states, a small number of scholars have claimed that kids of same-sex parents are exposed to more potential harms than kids of straight parents. This, in turn, has been used to argue against gay adoption and marriage.

In 5 Things to know about the new “gay parents are bad for kids study” Democratic Underground lay out how poorly data collation was conducted by Sullins, and note a lack of controls or adjustments for ambiguous variables (Point. 2). They ask in point five, So why bother authoring a study that is very obviously flawed?

This is essentially the problem with the deeply offensive Don’t Mess With Marriage. Children are the innocent victims of same sex marriage. They are to endure a “grave injustice”. Also the booklet is sprinkled with apparently awful outcomes for individuals and institutions across the globe. Again the tone is that same-sex marriage has a victim count.

So why would any objection be raised against Don’t Mess With Marriage, if Shelton deems it “a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage”? We find out in this Australian Women’s Weekly article that the “anti-gay” scribe was handed out to Catholic school children. 56 schools in Canberra according to Canberra Archbishop Christopher Prowse. Students discovering sexual orientation and gender or aware they are gay attend these schools. One mum stressed she was “furious”.

Referring to “sociological research” to quietly pass the buck to justify emotionally destructive and psychologically harmful biases might be intended to lend academic integrity to organised bigotry. Yet it appears any such consensus as put forward doesn’t exist.

The American Psychological Association published a statement on June 11th 2012. It includes:

On the basis of a remarkably consistent body of research on lesbian and gay parents and their children, the American Psychological Association (APA) and other health professional and scientific organizations have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation. That is, lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children. This body of research has shown that the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.

[…]

In fact one study which did have the religious right unsettled was the 2014 University of Melbourne (Australia) study by Crouch et al. Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey (Full paper). Abstract Conclusions read:

Australian children with same-sex attracted parents score higher than population samples on a number of parent-reported measures of child health. Perceived stigma is negatively associated with mental health. Through improved awareness of stigma these findings play an important role in health policy, improving child health outcomes

Lyle Shelton’s appeal to antiquity is one for those who love to dig through history. In defending the request for an “override” of anti-discrimination laws Shelton claimed,

…those in the “no” camp were not seeking to say anything bigoted, but to put forward the “millenia-old” argument that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

A History Of Same Sex Marriage by William Eskridge Jr., offers a markedly different view of marriage, history and culture. There are the fascinating accounts of fourth century Christian martyrs and Roman soldiers St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. Perhaps married lovers as John Boswell concluded – to much criticism. Or simply “made brothers” via adelphopoiesis. Or as others postulate was the Christian tradition of adelphopoiesis the ideal vehicle to allow a same sex union in all but name? Nonetheless the real answers would lie in a firm grasp of history and anthropology.

Still, it matters little what is “millenia-old”. Appeals to antiquity are regarded as logical fallacies because in all their forms they are bankrupt of evidence to persuade. Today in our present social climate the denial of same sex union requires discrimination and frequently, bigotry. Expecting “override” of anti-discrimination legislation hints at the tone of argument the conservative religious movement would like to get away with.

The ACL should be ashamed they feel justified in making such a request.

 

Anti-vaccine Zika virus conspiracy fails to surprise

It was an event so impossible to predict it is absent from the highly respected Before It’s NewsWhat Did Nostradamus Predict For 2016? Or the Top 10 Nostradamus Predictions for 2016. Yet anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists reckon neonatal microcephaly associated with maternal infection with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, is actually due to… a vaccine.

It’s not spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito they warn. This truth of course, is being suppressed by a conspiracy.

A few days ago I wondered what potions, cures or other nonsense homeopaths might be selling to save the world from Zika. As it turned out I happened upon an article entitled Zika Virus. Are we being told the truth? The hosting blog, Homeopathy Safe Medicine is concocted by Steve Scrutton. Steve is also upset that the BBC aren’t playing ball with the CDC whistleblower fallacy that there is indeed a link between MMR and autism (also suppressed by a conspiracy)  – “particularly with black children”, and is happy enough to publish a final email exchange.

A little more searching would save Steve ample time on this point. For example Orac at Respecful Insolence, Rene’ Najera at Science Based Medicine and an even earlier article at SBM yield facts.

Or of course one may visit Snopes.

CDC_whistleblower_snopesSo Steve’s a conspiracy theorist. Anyway, to get back on track, you may have already guessed Steve’s answer to that title question above on Zika virus. From there we’re introduced to a fine upstanding crock of a site named The Unhived Mind III.

Here Steve alerts us to the delicate title Brazilians not buying Zika excuse for babies with shrunken brains. Charming, no? The author of this article, Jim Stone, applies the Judy Wilyman theme of logic. Namely that morbidity and mortality are not high enough for all this fuss. Jim quotes the BBC:

Zika is generally mild and only causes symptoms in one in five people. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and chikungunya.

And adds himself:

My comment: Ok so a do nothing virus is going around that only makes one in five people get mildly sick, with no symptoms in 4 out of 5 people.

Had he continued quoting the BBC we’d have read more on this “do nothing virus”:

Brazil is experiencing the largest known outbreak of Zika.

President Dilma Rousseff, visiting Recife in the worst-affected north-east of the country, said Brazilians needed to engage in the fight against the virus. […]

Forty-nine babies with suspected microcephaly have died, Brazil’s health ministry says. In five of these cases an infection with Zika virus was found.

Jim Stone has his own tortuous conspiracy ramble site including an utterly ridiculous piece on the Zika virus. Jim advises his poor readers:

The claim is that a mosquito naturally carried this disease across almost all of South and Central America in only six months. This defies all logic because mosquitoes have a life cycle that is too long for immediate propagation and won’t fly more than a mile from where they hatch, which would limit the movement of a totally new disease to a mile or so a month, not 30 miles a day.

Jim gets pretty worked up about reports on the Wikipedia Zika virus page suggesting the carrier can “just rip across continents to all corners in months, faster than a bush tribesman could travel. It really is that way, Wikipedia said so!”. Well, no not really. What Wikipedia did note but Jim didn’t is:

The global distribution of the most cited carrier of Zika virus, A. aegypti, is expanding due to global trade and travel. A. aegypti distribution is now the most extensive ever recorded – across all continents including North America and even the European periphery. […]

Jim has also conveniently ignored the impact of human travel. Like many who seem happy to blame the Tdap vaccine, Jim is worried that the association between microcephaly and Zika virus has not been made before. It was initially identified in rhesus monkeys in 1947 then in humans in 1952, in Uganda.

Conspiracy theorists fail to grasp that the first documented outbreak of Zika virus in a human population was in 2007 and 2013 in the Pacific (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and later in the Americas in 2015 (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde) [WHO Zika Fact Sheet]. ( Edit: The possibility of sexual transmission {2} is being investigated ). It is believed to have arrived in Brazil in 2014, and spread slowly. The outbreak in Columbia was reported by the WHO on October 21, 2015.

These relatively recent initial outbreaks are exactly why little is known about complications associated with the disease. Experts, including the WHO are not yet certain a causal link has been established between microcephaly and Zika virus. However health officials are operating under the assumption there is one.

Should this be the case it appears that infants born to mothers who had the virus during the first trimester are at an increased risk of microcephaly. The failure of the Tdap conspiracy theorists is partially evident in their inability to produce any data beyond a crude correlation. The Tdap vaccine is being offered in the third trimester (28 to 32 weeks). In the US and UK when there is a suspicion of foetal microcephaly where pregnant women have returned from Latin America, ultrasound screening will be offered from 20 weeks every 2 to 4 weeks.

Thus foetal microcephaly due to maternal infection with Zika could be evident 2 – 3 months before the vaccine is even offered. Essentially the conspiracy coincidence is vanishingly small and demonstrably false.

It would thus seem there is an opportunity to identify the time of malformation or the absence of genetic material of the Zika virus in placental tissue, to advance the case of the conspiracy theorists. Their case could do with real hard evidence as opposed to yet another vaccine timing coincidence.

The Internet is of course teeming with rubbish sites pushing the lie of vaccine induced birth defects. The Zika virus gives them something to exhaust the correlation gambit on. A nice twist that appears on No Vaccines Australia evokes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The release of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by a British biotech’ company they fund, named Oxitec has come under scrutiny. However a critical 2010 Science article suggests the Foundation had not funded a 2009 project that saw release of the mosquito on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. In a very recent article on the Zika virus the authors give the same GM project the thumbs up.

They write under There must be a better way to control mosquitoes?

Not yet but they’re in the works. A British biotech called Oxitec—which was recently purchased by Intrexon, a U.S. synthetic biology company—has developed A. aegypti mosquitoes containing a gene construct that will kill their offspring before they reach adulthood. When massive numbers of male individuals of this strain are released in the wild, they will mate with local females, producing offspring that are not viable, which has been shown to make a dent in the population.

For now I can offer the below press releases.

To wind up we can turn back to Steve the homeopath to realise that like Nostradamus he’s had a bash at predicting the future.

He writes:

If there is any truth in this, conventional medicine will have to act quickly and effectively.

  • They will have to denounce this as a ‘conspiracy’ theory.
  • They will have to convince us that it is mosquitoes, and not Big Pharma, who have caused this microcephaly.
  • They will have to move quickly to defend mandatory vaccination, especially the vaccination of pregnant women.
  • They will have to convince us that the TDAP vaccine is different to the DPT vaccine that they have been giving our children for decades.

And perhaps most difficult of all, the pharmaceutical industry, and conventional medical doctors, will have to convince us that this time they are telling the truth about this matter!

In fact if there were a conspiracy under way the amount of work needed to pull it off would simply dwarf Steve’s list. More so all evidence suggests it is impossible to convince such minds of the truth – regardless of evidence.

Regrettably this is just another opportunistic and disturbing effort by predictable conspiracy theorists.

——————————————–

———–

SIDS: Not caused by vaccination or ‘mattress toxin’

From a typical anti-vaccine site pushing vaccine injuries:

SIDS_and_pertussis

These figures do not confirm causality. See explanation below ♣

One claim the anti-vaccine lobby use in their attack against the efficacy of the pertussis vaccine is the high uptake rate. The logic being that with high uptake and proper vaccine efficacy, pertussis should be better controlled than it is. In fact completely controlled. Thus the pertussis vaccine is a failure.

Whilst the vaccine may not provide impervious protection, infection of those vaccinated is much less common and markedly less severe.

And those not vaccinated against pertussis? According to Immunise Australia:

In a household where someone has whooping cough, an estimated 80-90% of the unimmunised contacts of that person will acquire the disease.

These realities won’t shift committed antivaccinationists. They will be convinced by the terribly misleading claim above, using unrelated figures on SIDS and pertussis vaccination. I find it astonishing anyone could be swayed by it. Yet for readers unskilled in finding reputable information or not prone to checking alarming claims it has an intuitive ring of causality.

♣ Infants receive vaccine doses at two, four and six months of age. 90% of SIDS cases occur in the first six months of life, and most of these in the first three months. The risk decreases consistently. After twelve months babies are by definition not infants and the risk of Sudden Unexplained Death is significantly reduced.

So the claim above merely sounds plausible because infants are most at risk of SIDS up to six months. Over this time they have three pertussis vaccines. The vast majority of children in developed nations will follow the pertussis vaccination schedule.

SIDS and Kids is an Australian organisation that supports educating the public about the “significantly” reduced risk of SIDS that accompanies immunisation. They have also noted that when the age of first immunisation was lowered by four weeks there was no lowering of the average age of SIDS.

SIDS and kids

SIDS_ImmunisationsDownload the full SIDS and Kids PDF Information Statement – Immunisation

German research published in Vaccine in 2007 indicates that immunisation notably reduces the risk of SIDS. Vennemann et al concluded in Do immunisations reduce the risk of SIDS? A meta-analysis (bold mine):

Immunisations are associated with a halving of the risk of SIDS. There are biological reasons why this association may be causal, but other factors, such as the healthy vaccine effect, may be important. Immunisations should be part of the SIDS prevention campaigns.

A constant assertion from the anti-vaccine lobby is that of “too many, too soon”, contending that modern vaccine schedules overwhelm infants and children in a manner yet to be uncovered. An earlier study by Vennemann et al, Sudden infant death syndrome: No increased risk after immunisation found no evidence for this but rather the opposite.

  • Results:

SIDS cases were immunised less frequently and later than controls. Furthermore there was no increased risk of SIDS in the 14 days following immunisation. There was no evidence to suggest the recently introduced hexavalent vaccines were associated with an increased risk of SIDS.

  • Conclusion:

This study provides further support that immunisations may reduce the risk of SIDS.

A number of studies have been conducted in Australasia, North America and Europe. All confirm that immunisation is not causally linked to SIDS. Thus early immunisation is coincidental to the age at which SIDS is most likely. In fact the reverse is true with respect to causality. SIDS cases are less likely to be immunised or fully immunised. Unlike most “vaccine injuries” this favourite fear tactic of antivaccinationists does have an origin in a published report.

The CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1979; 28: 131-132 noted in DTP vaccination and sudden infant deaths – Tennessee that four babies had died within 24 hours of being immunised. The following Weekly Report clarifies (pp. 134-135) under Follow-up on DTP vaccination and sudden infant deaths – Tennessee:

Further examination of the vaccination histories of infants who died suddenly has revealed no additional instances of vaccination within 24 hours before death.
Thus, 4 deaths have been found that occurred within 24 hours after receipt of vaccine from Lot No. 64201, compared with no deaths within 24 hours after DTP vaccination in the earlier 8-month period in Tennessee.
In 1991 The Institute of Medicine published a thorough examination of this matter. Item 5 of Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines: A Report of the Committee to Review the Adverse Consequences of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines, is Evidence Concerning Pertussis Vaccines and Deaths Classified as SIDS. The article reviews the initial CDC Weekly Report along with 38 other reports and research papers spanning the 12 year interval. The summary includes:
All controlled studies that have compared immunized versus nonimmunized children (Table 5-1) have found either no association (Bouvier-Colle et al., 1989; Pollock et al., 1984; Taylor and Emery, 1982) or a decreased risk (Hoffman et al., 1987; Walker et al., 1987) of SIDS among immunized children.
[…]
One small controlled study of infants with unexplained apnea, who may be at increased risk for SIDS, demonstrated improvement in ventilatory patterns following DPT immunization (Keens et al., 1985).
  • Conclusion

The evidence does not indicate a causal relation between DPT vaccine and SIDS. Studies showing a temporal relation between these events are consistent with the expected occurrence of SIDS over the age range in which DPT immunization typically occurs.

It’s important to note that at this stage no research demonstrating a reduction in SIDS due to immunisation had been published. Consequently the authors do not mention this effect.

In 1995 E.A. Mitchell et al examined the association between immunisation and SIDS. They observed there is no increased risk of SIDS following the Hepatitis B immunisation or the 6 week DTP immunisation. They also noted early studies suggesting an increased risk of SIDS with immunisation had no control data. Two studies with controls that suggested such a temporal link demonstrated methodological bias.

Mitchell et al concluded:

Immunisation does not increase the risk of SIDS and may even lower the risk.

Jacqueline Muller-Nordhorn et el published Association between SIDS and DTP immunisation: an ecological study [10.1186/s12887-015-0318-7]. The aim was to analyse this association over time. The body of the paper’s Discussion included;

  • SIDS mortality rates have been inversely associated with DTP immunisation coverage in the United States over recent decades
  • The most notable decreases in SIDS rates occurred from 1991 onwards, coinciding with increases in DTP immunisation
  • In 2011, the Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome included immunisation as one of the recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS [Citation]
  • However, recommendations to the public and the ‘grey literaure’ often do not include immunisation in the prevention of SIDS. Prevailing safety concerns with regard to immunisation may have played a role in this hesistance for many years
  • DTP immunisation may protect against SIDS by preventing infection with Bordetella (B.) pertussis. SIDS might thus be undiagnosed pertussis
  • In approximately 50–80% of SIDS cases, signs of upper and lower respiratory tract infection, characterised by a mild cellular infiltrate, have been found
  • Furthermore, similar to DTP immunisation, OPV immunisation was associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. Case–control studies have associated a similar reduction in SIDS risk with DTP and OPV immunisation, whereas less evidence is available regarding Hib immunisation
  • In addition to the pertussis component, DTP includes diphtheria and tetanus components. Certain countries, such as England and Sweden, previously experienced major decreases in pertussis immunisation but administered diphtheria and tetanus vaccines separately, thus maintaining high coverage
  • The SIDS trends in these countries were similar to the trends in the United States. Thus, diphtheria and tetanus immunisation seem less likely to be associated with SIDS

They concluded:

DTP immunisation is inversely associated with SIDS mortality on the population level. The current findings may strengthen parents’ confidence in the benefit of DTP immunisation, especially as they are supported by the results of two meta-analyses*.

*See Vennemann et al, above.

October 2010 saw the Scientific consensus forum to review the evidence underpinning the recommendations of the Australian SIDS and Kids Safe Sleeping Health Promotion Programme [PDF]. This Position Paper is published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health [doi:10.1111/j.1440-1754.2011.02215.x]

SIDSandKids_key points

The document is an excellent publication covering the evidence and recommendations that apply to reducing SIDS. On page three the topic of Immunisation is addressed:

Parents are advised to immunise their babies according to the national vaccination schedule. The possibility of the DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccination being linked to SIDS has been discussed periodically over the last 20 years, however a series of studies have consistently refuted the association. A recent meta-analysis published provides strong evidence that immunisation is associated with a decreased risk of SIDS (OR 0.54; 95% CI = 0.39–0.76).

We should note that the delightfully immoral antivactionist and author of Melanie’s Marvellous Measles, Stephanie Messenger was involved in peddling a long debunked “prevention” for SIDS. In fact SIDS and Kids have their own evidence based and comprehensive publication outlining why mattress wrapping offers no protection. A March 2003 article in Pediatric and Developmental Pathology, SIDS: Overview and Update offers evidence to debunk both the “mattress toxin” myth and proposed links to immunisation (p. 121).

In 1989 in the UK Barry Richardson contended that the fungus Scopularis brevicaulis broke down fire retardant chemicals in mattresses or their PVC covers. This produced arsine, phosphine and stibine gases from antimony, phosphorous and arsenic. A UK study failed to replicate Richardson’s findings. A follow up study with Richardson’s collaboration also failed to duplicate the proposed findings.

I highly recommend reading the SIDS and Kids information sheet on this pseudoscientific mess and the conspiracy hovering over it. In May 1998 an Expert Group to Investigate Cot Death Theories: Toxic Gas Hypothesis, UK examined all available evidence and found:

…there is no evidence to suggest that antimony or phosphorus containing compound used as fire retardant in PVC and other cot mattress materials are a cause of sudden infant death syndrome.

This conclusion is based upon the following:

  1. Cot mattress contamination with the fungus S. brevicalis is rare, and no more common in SIDS mattresses than in other used mattresses.
  2. There is no evidence for the generation of gases from phosphorus, arsenic and antimony from cot mattresses, by S. brevecaulis, when tested using conditions relevant to a baby’s cot. (the group did, however, identify laboratory conditions, wholly unlike those that could occur in a baby’s cot, in which added antimony is biovolatilised, but to the much less toxic trimethylantimony and not to stibine).
  3. There is no evidence of poisoning by phosphine, arsine, or stibine (or bethylated derivatives) in babies who have died of SIDS.
  4. Low amounts of antimony can be detected in samples from the majority of live babies, and even newborn babies: the concentrations in the tissues of SIDS babies were not different from those dying from known causes. there are a number of sources of antimony in the domestic environment other than the fire retardant in cot mattress materials.
  5. We have found no evidence that the changing rates of sudden infant death correspond to the introduction and removal of antimony – and phosphorus – containing fire retardant in cot mattresses.

SIDS and Kids also mention the conspiracy book Cot Death Cover-up? by N.Z. forensic chemist Jim Sprott. Stephanie Messenger also mentioned this book at her secret seminars wherein she peddled her “mattress covers” to protect against SIDS. There is a fascinating February 2012 account of a conspiracy laden seminar on the Skeptimite blog. In April of this year it was reported that Messenger had the charity status of her “SIDS charity” Get Rid Of SIDS revoked.

Just as well one feels. Not only because the scam had done no charity work and employed nobody. Messenger had gone from blaming vaccination for SIDS to pushing the phoney toxic gas theory as the cause – 20 years after it was first debunked and progressively relegated to conspiracy theory. When Messenger’s plan to bring the very harmful anti-vaccine heroine Sherri Tenpenny to Australia, she then advocated readers purchase her pro-measles book to help her out of debt.

Ultimately nothing has changed with respect to the anti-vaccine claim that SIDS is caused by vaccines. In fact evidence supporting the opposite remains firm.

We may also rest assured that mattress wrapping is an evidence free, conspiracy based waste of time.