Monday, May 7, 2018

#2010: Shira Miller

“Informed consent” has become a codeword for anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, and the California-based group Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) is certainly radically anti-vaccine (its board of “scientific advisors” consists of people like Tetyana Obukhanych and Association for American Physicians and Surgeons’ climate change denier, creationist and quack Jane Orient, no less). Despite the name, there is nothing “informed” about what the choice the group want people to make, but there is certainly a lot of conspiracy theory mongering and pseudoscience involved; the group’s vision is “to live in a society free of mandatory vaccination laws” and in addition to opposing California’s sensible SB277 the group campaigns to provide parents with misinformation about the VAERS database, NVICP and vaccine package inserts to get them to doubt the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

PIC is run by Dr. Shira Miller, who has a real education as a physician. Currently, however, Miller runs an Integrative Center for Health and Wellness, specializing in “anti-aging” medicine and – completely unsurprisingly – holistic “medicine”; according to her profile she has practiced “integrative, functional, alternative, holistic, nutritional, wellness, age management, and anti-aging medicine since 2006.” Functional medicine is basically making things up as you go-medicine.

For PIC, Miller claims that measles is actually not very dangerous. From 2001 to 2013, 28% of children younger than 5 years old who had contracted measles had to be treated in a hospital, and a carefully estimated 0.2% of those who contract it will die, but that would amount to only a few hundred children dying a year if there were no measles vaccine, and who cares about such a low number of children? In fact, Miller thinks the figures are probably even lower: according to her, 90% of measles cases are benign and not reported, so the death toll is probably more in the ball park of 0.04. Of course, the upshot of that claim, if true, is just that the morbidity rates during measles outbreaks must be far higher than the CDC thinks – the number of dead and hospitalized children (and accordingly the chance that any given unvaccinated child will be hospitalized or die) remains the same; in short, Miller’s figures, if correct, would actually make measles worse. Miller doesn’t quite realize that.

Miller thinks, though, that the MMR vaccine is more dangerous than the disease it is supposed to prevent. To back it up, she’s got “documents”. Miller claims that those documents are “peer reviewed”. Of course, they’re not “peer reviewed” in any ordinary sense, or published anywhere, but we assume it’s likely that she got some fellow anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists to look at them before putting them up on the group’s website. The PIC claims, for instance, that the MMR vaccine leads to seizures; the evidence for the claim is a letter to the editor of BJM written by Miller partially based on opinion pieces written by anti-vaccine activist Peter Doshi and numbers she seems to have invented more or less from thin air. Which is not evidence.

Diagnosis: Dangerous crackpot and delusional conspiracy theorist, whose lack of critical thinking skills ought to be obvious to any moderately intelligent person. She and her group do make a lot of noise, though. 

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