Wednesday, December 26, 2018

#2122: Sarah Pope

A.k.a. The healthy home economist

Sarah Pope is a Weston-Price Foundation board member with training in economics and financial management, who offers dangerous health advice and insane conspiracy theories under the description “the healthy home economist”. Pope is an antivaxxer, and recommends that parents avoid all vaccines in favor of homeoprophylaxis and immune boosting diets (it is hard to exaggerate how stupid this is) and that they also avoid the newborn vitamin K shot. Moreover, she is on record telling parents to lie to their pediatricians about giving babies raw milk, since pediatricians have a tendency to be sensible and take a reality-based view on such things and may therefore not support the choice, which goes against Pope’s religious view of the benevolence of all things natural (where “natural” is somewhat nebulously defined to include e.g. raw milk).

She has also argued against anti-D immunoglobulin for the prevention of hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. The condition is caused by a mismatch in mother-fetal blood type, and the treatment is a safe medical therapy that has saved countless lives (Pope acknowledges a “small risk” – thousands and thousands of dead babies pale in comparison to what really matters for Pope, namely the spiritual purity of your bodily fluids). To make her case, Pope relies on fear-mongering and links to conspiracy websites like (oh yes, she does). There is a good discussion of her article on the issue and some rather strikingly basic errors here (including things like Pope’s claims that the “shot does work, but only if the immunoglobulin is administered within 72 hours of the trauma that caused the blood mixing in the first place” and “[t]he Rh antibodies from the RhoGam shot hang around in the mother’s bloodstream for up to 12 weeks following the shot” – choose whichever claim sounds scarier; yes, they blatantly contradict each other.) As you’d expect, Pope appeals to Big Pharma conspiracies to explain why doctors and science are wrong on issues like this, as well as outright lying (“anti-D is never given during pregnancy in Europe, only after delivery,” says Pope, since it seems to serve her argument if the claim had any basis in reality, which it doesn’t). Instead of the evils of science and reality, Pope recommends being natural and use semi-randomly selected nutritional supplements to help “tone the uterus”. To ensure that she touches all bases, she aslo manages to end up blaming fluoride.

As an antivaxxer, Pope has promoted pretty much every antivaccine gambit, piece of misinformation and pseudoscience in the antivaccine playbook, including herd immunity denialism, claiming that vaccines cause autism, that vaccines don’t work, the idiotic aborted fetal tissue nonsense (in “How to Resist Pediatrician Pro Vaccination Tactics”; links in the foregoing will, as usual, take you to succinct explanations for why the claims are nonsense). Indeed, Pope is so much the image of a loony antivaxxer that she even got to serve as model antivaxxer for the Daily Show antivaxxer parody (she didn’t respond particularly intelligently to that. Pope has also for instance pushed the myth that vaccines still contain thimerosal, a “neurotoxin”. Thimerosal is not a neurotoxin, and was nevertheless removed from vaccines in 2001, despite being completely safe, due to antivaccine fearmongering trying to link it to autism. Of course, removing it from vaccines did not affect the rate of autism, since vaccines never caused autism; some among the crazier fringes of the anti-vaccine movement accordingly try to claim that everything is a conspiracy and that thimerosal is still present in the vaccine. Like Pope: “Studies performed by Health Advocacy in the Public Interest (HAPI) in 2004 found that despite vaccine manufacturers’ claims that thimerosal was no longer being used … All vaccine vials tested by HAPI that were labeled ‘mercury free’ did, in fact, contain this neurotoxin.” HAPI is an anti-vaccine group. Their study consisted of sending 4 samples of anti-D to Doctor’s Data, a crank lab famous for giving any crackpot sending anything there precisely the results they want to obtain. Pope also pushes the aluminum scare, of course. 

And as for the fact that children die from vaccine preventable diseases? Well, her children didn’t, therefore vaccines are unnecessary.

Diagnosis: Yes, she does a good job as an unintentional parody of the antivaccine movement, but there is nothing funny about it. A truly terrible person. Whatever you do, do not take health advice from this person.

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