Nov 06 2009

Well That Didn’t Take Long – Another Dystonia Case Follow Up

I have been blogging this week about the Desiree Jennings case – the 25 year old woman who is telling the media that she developed a neurological disorder known as dystonia two weeks following a seasonal flu vaccine. However, the video of her movement disorder that was made public was not, in fact, consistent with the diagnosis of dystonia or any organic movement disorder, and therefore it is highly unlikely that her symptoms were a vaccine reaction. Every movement disorder specialist or neurologist who viewed the videos and voiced their opinion agreed that the signs she was displaying on the public video were most consistent with a psychogenic movement disorder.

We were also careful to point out that this does not mean she is “faking”, that her symptoms are not real, and that she is not suffering from a genuine and debilitating disorder. Simply that the nature of the disorder is likely psychogenic and not due to any specific brain pathology, caused by a vaccine or anything else.

Jennings claimed, however, that her doctors at Johns Hopkins diagnosed her with dystonia and concluded it was from the vaccine. We have only her word to take for this as her doctors, understandably (given the rules of confidentiality) have not made any public statements. Jennings could give them leave to do so, but apparently hasn’t.

Then it came to light the vaccine adverse event reporting systems (VAERS) report that is likely the one Jennings made indicates from the hospital records that:

The admitting neurologist felt that there was a strong psychogenic component to the symptomology, and made a final diagnosis of weakness.

If this is indeed her report (which is very likely, and would be an astounding coincidence if it weren’t) this is a far cry from the second hand reports we were given about her doctor’s impressions.

Despicably, Generation Rescue (GR) and the anti-vaccine movement were quick to jump on this case and exploit it for their own propaganda. They immediately portrayed themselves as “experts” – apparently able to make and treat such neurological diagnoses. However, after push back from the dystonia community, GR took down their web page they had put up to support Jennings. But then after a few days they had apparently made the calculation that, despite the fact that this was likely not a case of genuine dystonia or vaccine injury, the propaganda value was too treat to ignore, and they could just attack the physicians who felt obliged to properly analyze this case.

The attacks were two-fold: First, they attacked the notion of psychogenic illness, completely misrepresenting it as equivalent to “faking” or as a knee-jerk dismissal of vaccine injury. In doing so they are denying the very legitimate and debilitating nature of psychological illness – that it is very real and deserving of compassion and treatment. It is just another kind of “brain” disorder – just a functional one.

Second – they attacked physicians (like me) who commented on the case in public as being unprofessional. They apparently feel that only they and their doctors (or people who agree with them) are able to publicly comment on Jennings’ case. When Jennings placed her story in the public domain, specifically to “warn” against the dangers of vaccine, her case became fair game. In fact, it became the responsibility of the medical community to set the record straight.

We also made it abundantly clear that we were basing our opinions solely on the videos and reports that are in the public domain. If Jennings and GR want to continue to present their interpretation of the case, they should not whine about other opinions, but make her medical record public. Let’s see what her doctors really believed about her case. It is disingenuous in the extreme to present a case essentially as hearsay but offer it as evidence in a very serious public debate, and cry foul when others comment on that public information, but refuse to make the evidence truly transparent.

It is, in my opinion, malfeasance to continue to promote this as a case of vaccine injury, in light of the controversy, without making all the records public.

Now the plot thickens.

Last Friday I predicted:

Further, Jennings is now in the hands of the Generation Rescue anti-vaccine quacks. I predict that they will be able to “cure” her, because psychogenic disorders can and do spontaneously resolve. They will then claim victory for their quackery in curing a (non-existent) vaccine injury.

This is now exactly what has happened. GR sent Jennings to Dr. Rashid Buttar. Dr. Buttar has been charged with unprofessional conduct and is a notorious anti-vaccinationist who uses dubious medical treatments for what he considers to be vaccine injury. Among these are chelation therapy for non-existent mercury toxicity. Dr. Buttar tells his story on the Robert Scott Bell Show. If you are not familiar with this show, it is a mixture of the worst of right-wing shock jocks with alternative medicine woo wrapped up in conspiracy theories.

You have to listen to the show to fully appreciate the astounding level of nonsense they are pushing. First, they make a point to emphasize how sick Jennings was. They say they have video, which I cannot find posted anywhere. Let’s see it. I will happily revise my opinions if the video warrants. But there is nothing in the description of her symptoms (despite Dr. Buttar’s naive and self-serving insistence) that is incompatible with a psychogenic diagnosis. Buttar continues, in fact, to characterize her episodes as “seizures” when they sound nothing like seizures, and almost certainly what she was displaying on the videos that are public were not seizures. According to Buttar she was at death’s door – if GR had not gotten her to his clinic when they did, she would have deteriorated and died.

Dr. Buttar somehow knew that this was mercury toxicity, and prescribed his standard treatment – chelation therapy to remove the mercury. I have not seen confirmation that Jennings received the type of flu vaccine that contains thimerosal. The single dose vials do not, except for insignificant trace amounts. But let’s assume that she did – this means as an adult she received a one-time dose of either 12.5 or 25 micrograms of thimerosal. This is a tiny dose, well below safety limits, and far lower than the doses that have been shown to be safe by a large amount of evidence. This means that Dr. Buttar is now claiming that immediate and devastating neurological injury can occur to an adult after a single small dose of thimerosal. That is a rather extraordinary claim, to say the least.

But, unknowingly, Dr. Buttar was about to administer what can be considered a significant test of the hypothesis that Jennings’ symptoms are psychogenic. One test we can use to help confirm this diagnosis is to see if the patient’s symptoms can respond to psychological treatments or to medical treatments that should not otherwise be capable of reversing the symptoms. A response that is too quick to be plausible, for example, is one type of response that supports a psychogenic diagnosis. One dramatic example from my own experience was a patient with apparently psychogenic symptoms who believed that he needed a specific IV medication as a treatment. After extensive negative workup, we agreed to give him the treatment, and his symptoms completely resolved even before the medicine had a chance to work its way through the IV tubing and into his arm.

If Jennings really had dystonia or any biological brain injury from toxicity, removing the toxin might prevent further progression and allow the slow process of recovery to begin. But brain damage does not immediately reverse itself once the cause is removed. It is possible for dystonia to be a side effect of certain medications, and it can immediately resolve once that medication is stopped or reversed. But in that situation we are dealing with an effect of an active blood level of a pharmaceutical agent – something which is inherently reversible. We are not dealing with damage or injury.

Further, it is highly implausible that Jennings (even if she received the highest dose of thimerosal from the flu vaccine – 25 micrograms) had any mercury left in her system from the vaccine she received in August. Mercury from vaccines is removed naturally within days, and would not be hanging around in significant amounts two months later.

However, now Jennings herself, and Dr. Buttar, report that Jennings began to improve while still sitting in the chair and receiving her chelation therapy, and within 36 hours her symptoms were completely gone. First, let me say that I am very happy Ms. Jennings’ symptoms have resolved. Hopefully now she can just go on with her life. But to me, this impossibly rapid recovery is a dramatic confirmation that her symptoms were psychogenic to begin with. It is simply implausible that brain injury from mercury toxicity could be reversed so quickly – especially when you consider that Dr. Buttar had Jennings at death’s door.

The whole affair has now come full circle. To scientists and skeptics, this is an unfortunate story of a young woman with a psychogenic illness who unfortunately was exploited by some headline grabbing media and the anti-vaccine movement. To the anti-vaccinationists and the right-wing conspiracy health-freedom nuts, this is yet another story of an injury at the hands of evil vaccines, and all attempts to figure out what was really happening here are just lame attempts by the medical establishment to cover their behinds.

Read the comments over at Age of Autism and you will see what I mean. The conspiracy mindset is immune to evidence and reason. Already I am being dismissed over there as a shill (I am still trying to figure out what my motivation is).

Seriously, my only concern in this and related cases is to discern the truth as best as possible. If it is possible for systemic dystonia to be triggered by a flu vaccine, I want to know about it as a practicing neurologist. And the public should be informed about all the known risks (and benefits) of vaccines. If this is a genuine case, then add it to the list of possible adverse events. Despite the propaganda from AoA and other anti-vaccine sites, no one is seriously denying that vaccines occasionally cause adverse reactions. If this is a case of dystonia from vaccines, it is an exceeding rare reaction.

However, the evidence that is currently in the public domain simply does not support that conclusion. It overwhelmingly supports a different diagnosis – a psychogenic reaction not caused by vaccine injury. If the anti-vaccine crowd wish to support a different conclusion, they should put forward a cogent scientific argument – not just attack their opponents and whine that they have the audacity to express an opinion they don’t like. And if Jennings wishes to promote her case as an example of vaccine injury, she should do the right thing and put her medical records in the public domain so that we can see all the evidence and come to the best conclusion possible. But she cannot have it both ways – make her case public, but only the parts that she wants.

This is likely to go down as one of those cases that will forever divide the scientific community from the anti-vaccine community. They have clearly made up their minds, and their hostility and conspiracy-mongering toward other opinions is evident. While I just want to know the truth – let’s see all the evidence and let the chips fall where they may. Meanwhile, the information that we do have is pretty clear – this is not a case of vaccine injury, nor is it a case of an astounding cure by chelation therapy.

_______________________

Note: Orac has also given an update here: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/11/desiree_jennings_cured.php

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41 responses so far

41 Responses to “Well That Didn’t Take Long – Another Dystonia Case Follow Up”

  1. HHCon 06 Nov 2009 at 10:48 am

    Here’s my questions about Dr. Buttar’s treatment, did he use a sedative to keep her seated in the chair, and did he use hypnotherapy?

  2. superdaveon 06 Nov 2009 at 10:49 am

    Steve, go get your million dollars from Randi.

    All joking aside, it’s sad that your prediction was so accurate, but not surprising. The anti vax people will claim that I only ever believed your analysis because I was on your side to begin with, but if any of them are reading this, I think the fact that Steve is a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders had a lot more to do with it.

  3. Steven Novellaon 06 Nov 2009 at 11:25 am

    superdave – to be clear, I do not specialize in movement disorders. There is a recognized movement disorder specialty with fellowship training that I did not have. My subspecialty training is in neuromuscular disease.

    What I said is that I treat dystonia. I direct the general neurology program at Yale, and I see and diagnose dystonia and other movement disorders in this clinic, as well as during my in-patient coverage. I also participate in the botulinum clinic, in which I mostly treat dystonia (botulinium i.e. Botox is the most effective treatment for dystonia).

    I also have the advantage of working in an academic clinic, and we have dedicated movement disorder specialists whose expertise I can avail myself of easily, and with whom I work in the botulinum clinic treating dystonia.

    So I have a high comfort level with dystonia and other movements disorders. And, I will point out, that any competent general neurologist should also.

    And – the head of the movement disorder clinic at U Maryland looked at the videos of Jennings and came to the same conclusion I did.

  4. daedalus2uon 06 Nov 2009 at 11:35 am

    The idea that this could be mercury is unsupportable. There was a case of a heavy metals researcher who (by accident) exposed herself to a lethal dose of methyl mercury (estimated at 1,344,000 micrograms). Her exposure was about 100,000 times higher than the mercury in a single vaccination. The woman who received this lethal dose had no symptoms for 5 months. Her hair mercury was over 0.1% (yes, over 1000 ppm).

    http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/338/23/1672

    It is simply nonsense to suggest that 15 micrograms could have prompt effects and even more nonsense to suggest that any type of chelation would remove those effects in a few minutes. A can of tuna fish can have more than 15 micrograms of mercury, and ingested methyl mercury is better absorbed than injected thimerosal.

  5. superdaveon 06 Nov 2009 at 11:35 am

    Thank you for the clarification. I can never enough lessons to be more cautious with my assumptions, but if anything, this only further demonstrates the huge divide between lay person and expert in terms of specialized knowledge.

  6. daedalus2uon 06 Nov 2009 at 11:42 am

    I just had a thought. If this actually is a “vaccine injury”, then by law, Desiree Jennings is entitled to compensation by the vaccine injury compensation process. Of course the court will look at her actual medical records.

    I suspect that GR won’t even file a case on her behalf. Losing the case would be too embarrassing, and they can get more $$$ by scamming gullible donors than they will get from vaccine court.

  7. MarioDon 06 Nov 2009 at 11:56 am

    Steve, twice you envoke the “right wing” as the anti-vaccinationist. It is poor form to take this to a political debate. I am in the heartland of liberalism and the anti-vaccine movement is strongest with the liberalist left crowd – more than my republican right crowd. I for one am of the rightist persuasion and never heard such psychobabble as I have heard from the mouths of my liberalist-granola-wiccan friends. Heck, most of my republican friends even dare believe in evolution! That out of the way…

    I have tried to researched Mercury poisoning and such on the web because of a cousins affliction with MS. As a sad note – with all of the quacks and charlatans on the internet I can see how people hanging by the threads of hope fall victim to them. It is hard to sift through all of the minutia and find the facts. Not all of these sites refer to crystal or urine therapy (dead give a ways) and many look and sound professional. Your article is a breath of fresh air and I’m glad I ran across it. This Jennings case has been floating around and as a dad with an 11 y/o boy I am concerned about the H1N1 virus and the hoopla surrounding the vaccine.
    I never get the flu vaccine – not out of fear, just that I feel I am healthy and have never suffered flu symptoms severely enough to warrant yet another medication.
    As for my son? He’s not gotten one in the past, but the H1N1 is giving me pause. I am leaning toward the nasal dose as opposed to the injection.

  8. MarioDon 06 Nov 2009 at 11:59 am

    Just a clarification – I was researching my cousins MS and got lead down that Mercury/dental filling path and realize the junk that was being passed about

  9. Eternally Learningon 06 Nov 2009 at 12:01 pm

    “It is disingenuous in the extreme to present a case essentially as hearsay but offer it as evidence in a very serious public debate, and cry foul when others comment on that public information, but refuse to make the evidence truly transparent.”

    Bravo Steve! This is a great article and I plan on passing it on to as many people as possible. I think you stated the rational position as best as anyone could.

  10. Steven Novellaon 06 Nov 2009 at 12:13 pm

    mario – I did not mean to imply that the anti-vaccine movement is right wing. In my experience, it is bi-partisan (as is CAM in general). My only point was that the Robert Scott Bell show is right wing, and that is the part of the anti-vaccine movement that is currently spreading this story. Another example is that Ron Paul is also pushing it.

    Regarding not getting the flu vaccine because you are healthy, you should also consider that a main benefit of the vaccine is protecting other more vulnerable people.

  11. grabulaon 06 Nov 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Dr. Novella, two questions

    First, you comment “Seriously, my only concern in this and related cases is to discern the truth as best as possible. If it is possible for systemic dystonia to be triggered by a flu vaccine, I want to know about it as a practicing neurologist.”

    Do you feel that the medical community is being aggressive enough to pursue this? Seems it might be a useful line of attack to demand in the interest of public safety that these woo practitioners provide scientifically challenged and researched material based on their beliefs?

    Second, On treating your patient you describe in this story. Is it ‘ok’ ethically and legally to provide a treatment to a patient that would not otherwise be provided?

  12. Steven Novellaon 06 Nov 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I do not think it is OK to give a treatment with no plausibility. But there are complexities to this case I glossed over.

    First – the diagnosis of psychogenic is often tentative, and many patients have psychogenic overlay in addition to a neurological disease or disorder, and it can be challenging to tease them apart. Further, the patient had a history of responding to the treatment and it was a standard treatment for the possible underlying diagnoses were were considering.

    Therefore, this was really a therapeutic trial – which is completely accepted standard practice. In light of diagnostic uncertainty, you can give a patient a treatment, as long as you think it is more likely to help than to hurt, and give proper informed consent – and see how they respond. Their response then becomes diagnostic information to help confirm one or another diagnosis.

    In this case, the patient’s dramatic response prior to the medicine actually getting into his system confirmed the degree to which his symptoms were psychogenic.

    Likewise, Jenning’s reported dramatic response while still in the chair getting chelation therapy is strong evidence that psychogenic symptoms were dominant in her case.

  13. Oracon 06 Nov 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Steve, twice you envoke the “right wing” as the anti-vaccinationist. It is poor form to take this to a political debate. I am in the heartland of liberalism and the anti-vaccine movement is strongest with the liberalist left crowd – more than my republican right crowd. I for one am of the rightist persuasion and never heard such psychobabble as I have heard from the mouths of my liberalist-granola-wiccan friends. Heck, most of my republican friends even dare believe in evolution! That out of the way…

    Take it from me, the antivax movement is truly bipartisan in nature, with the main difference being the reasons given for being fearful of vaccines. On the left, antivax views usually derive from fuzzy, New Age woo and a belief in the “natural,” coupled with major distrust of big business, particularly pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment. On the right, distrust tends to come from an emphasis on purity and self-reliance or even religion, coupled with a fear and distrust of the government. Let’s put it this way. Two of the biggest anti-vaccine boosters in Congress are Dan Burton and Ron Paul. Neither of them can in any way be termed “liberals.” Also, the state of New Jersey just elected a governor with borderline anti-vax views. He’s a Republican.

    I’ve been in this fight a long time. I tend to agree that right now most of the anti-vax sentiments come from the left. However, lurking on anti-vax boards has taught me that there is a strong contingent of conservatives and libertarians who buy into antivax views as well. It’s very simplistic and not very enlightening to ascribe antivax views mainly to the left.

  14. Oracon 06 Nov 2009 at 2:37 pm

    mario – I did not mean to imply that the anti-vaccine movement is right wing. In my experience, it is bi-partisan (as is CAM in general). My only point was that the Robert Scott Bell show is right wing, and that is the part of the anti-vaccine movement that is currently spreading this story. Another example is that Ron Paul is also pushing it.

    Indeed. Some of the looniest “health freedom” literature and radio shows are far right wing.

  15. stargazer9915on 06 Nov 2009 at 8:12 pm

    A short story about vaccines and to get them or not.

    H1N1 vaccines are not yet available in my area. Recently my 9 yo. son, 3 yo daughter, and myself contracted the H1N1 virus. My son and I got over it quite quickly. Unfortunately, my daughter still has it. She had a fever for 3 1/2 days that ranged from 103.5 to 105. Nothing we did could keep it below about 103. After a few Scary days and a couple of hospital ER visits, the fever has finally broken. On the bad side, we found out yesterday that while she was ill with H1N1, she also got pneumonia. While the doctors now think they have it under control (she is at the moment sleeping soundly with very little rattle in her breathing), the last week has been A NIGHTMARE.

    My point is that had the shot been available, we could have taken it and more than likely avoided this situation. It amazes me when I hear people say that they will not get the vaccination. How many people need to become deathly ill or die to open up the eyes of these idiots?

    Oh, forgot to mention, my wife is 4 1/2 months pregnant and was unable to come home and care for our daughter. This emotionally killed her for the last 4 days.

    Spread the word and get the god damn shot when it becomes available. Nobody needs to go through this or anything worse.

  16. stargazer9915on 06 Nov 2009 at 8:13 pm

    I know this blog is about the Jennings case but I felt a vaccine story might fit in well with it.

  17. mannik5000on 06 Nov 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Hey Dr Novella (and everyone else), a friend of mine has recently started writing for the Huffington Post and he has just posted his first pro-science pro-vax article

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-ellis/a-question-of-harm—the_b_349061.html

  18. Watcheron 06 Nov 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Ok, this is a bit funny. So first, AoA ragged on Steve for using Botox as a treatment. I think they went as far to say that it was his “specialty.” Now, a case comes around where they say she developed dystonia from a flu shot, which is treated with Botox? Coincidences abound. The only thing that would make this better would have been if they treated her with botox instead of chelating her.

  19. Neuroskepticon 07 Nov 2009 at 6:08 am

    This is literally a textbook case of psychogenic illness – anyone who is writing a medical textbook at the moment, should put this case in it…

  20. panneon 07 Nov 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Dr. N: Thank you so much for this post (and the other posts about this case). Very informative, and it helped me convince a friend not to be scared of the H1N1 vaccine :)

  21. HHCon 07 Nov 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Desiree, does your sudden recovery mean that you are ready for prime time cheerleading?

  22. Michael Kingsford Grayon 08 Nov 2009 at 6:32 am

    @stargazer99

    A short story about vaccines and to get them or not.
    H1N1 vaccines are not yet available in my area.

    Another good reason to enact universal free health care into the USA.

    Here, in Australia, all clinics, big and small have supplies of the vaccine, and it is entirely free to everyone.

    The lack of universal health-care in the US is at best perverse, and at worst wholly criminal.

  23. weingon 08 Nov 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Our brilliant Congress just passed a $1.2 trillion dollar “universal” health-care bill that still leaves 4% uncovered. Now that is criminal. They can’t seem to get anything right.

  24. HHCon 09 Nov 2009 at 1:57 pm

    weing, But Congress is composed of two Houses. We need the Senate to develop their version of the healthcare bill, pass it in the Senate, and then negotiate the bills in Conference Committee. The compromise would be sent to both Houses, if passed, then its sent to the President for approval.

  25. weingon 09 Nov 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Maybe watching sausages being made makes you into a vegetarian.

  26. SquirrelEliteon 11 Nov 2009 at 4:39 pm

    For what it’s worth,

    Today, J.B. Handley decided to “discuss” Dr. Novella and Dr. Gorski in his blog at AoA’s website.

    I decided to write up a “little” response to it and posted it at:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/11/24_hours_later.php

    See comment number 60.

    Perhaps some of you will find it interesting.

  27. Steven Novellaon 11 Nov 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Squirrel – your analysis is dead on. It’s as if JB did not even read our posts, or he simply does not care about accuracy and truth. He also does not link to our posts – which is common practice and courtesy and allows readers to check original sources.

    I did not respond to JB because he attacks only straw men, and I have already addressed all the real points in the case.

  28. SquirrelEliteon 11 Nov 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you, Steven.

    By the way, I download and try to follow several podcasts, but the one I do the best job of keeping up with and always look forward to is The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.

    Keep up the good work.

  29. [...] Wrong again: We were also careful to point out that this does not mean she is “faking”, that her symptoms [...]

  30. SWBon 13 Nov 2009 at 11:58 am

    Everything else you said here may be true about Mrs. Jennings – However! I’m sorry Dr., but this one quote from your blog makes me doubt YOUR veracity, as well as your credentials:

    “Mercury from vaccines is removed naturally within days, and would not be hanging around in significant amounts two months later.”

    Mercury, once absorbed into the tissues of the human body, especially the liver, and brain (and, are of just as much a concern to me whether injected, or ingested – perhaps more), are there to stay unless something happens to remove it! Chelation therapy has been shown to be that ‘something’, though it is more effective at cleansing the blood. However, if the blood can contact the heavy metal, then there is a good chance that chelation can help.

    Whether or not Mrs. Jennings symptoms were psychosomatic, or genuine is of less concern to me, than either side of this issue spouting lies, or errors to make their point! Besides there are a whole host of other stories out there, that are less resistant to have holes poked in them by supposed experts.

  31. SWBon 13 Nov 2009 at 12:11 pm

    To stargazer9915,

    Your story is unfortunate, and your daughter certainly has my sincerest prayers to be healed, for whatever that may be worth to you.

    That not-with-standing, your story just underscores the fact, that we will never know if the shot would have PREVENTED anything!

    Here is a little reported fact, that I have come across in my research:

    Flu Vaccines Have a Dismal Success Rate

    If you get a flu shot, you can still get the flu (or flu-like symptoms). This is because it only protects against certain strains, and it’s anyone’s guess which flu viruses will be in your area.

    · The flu vaccine is no more effective for children in preventing the flu, than a placebo according to a large-scale, systematic review of 51 studies, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

    This whole debate for me personally boils down to: whether or not this is just a money grabbing scheme by Big Pharma sanctioned by the government, but only if they get their ‘cut’!

  32. Steven Novellaon 13 Nov 2009 at 3:45 pm

    SWB – regarding mercury – I guess I was not clear enough in the point I was making. If Jennings was suffering from an acute mercury toxicity from ethyl mercury in the flu vaccine, that would correlate with blood levels. And the half life of ethyl mercury in the blood is several days. Within 30 days (in this study I discuss here http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=185, at least in children) blood mercury levels returned to baseline.

    Also, as you acknowledge, chelation removes mercury from the blood.

    Because Buttar is claiming an acute toxicity that was rapidly reversible with chelation, it is only plausible to consider blood levels of mercury, but they should have already been at baseline.

    If, on the other hand, he is talking about chronic toxicity of mercury accumulating in the organs, that would take much more time to mobilize and excrete and the damage would be long term – not immediately reversible.

    Context is important.

    Regarding the flu vaccine – this is a large and complex literature, and your summary is not accurate. I recommend this summary: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2040 which concludes that the various lines of evidence for flu vaccine efficacy, when taken together, support the conclusion that the flu vaccine works reasonably well (benefit in excess of risk). It is not perfect, but that does not mean it doesn’t work.

  33. [...] that Jenny McCarthy associates with, and they “cured” her with some quack medicine.  Steven Novella also follows up on this story, and points out that the “miraculous cure” points strongly to the [...]

  34. SWBon 13 Nov 2009 at 11:29 pm

    to Steven Novella

    You and are correct, and I find that I must apologize, as I was mistaken, and totally ignorant of the nature of ethyl mercury, and how it is handled by the body. I myself am guilty here of passing on erroneous information to make my point, before having researched it thoroughly. For that I am truly sorry.

  35. EvanHarperon 14 Nov 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Hey Steve, I love your critique, but you missed a juicy “gotcha.” In Dr. Buttar’s amazing account, he claims that Jennings suffered “because of the toxicity from, part of it could be the attenuated virus,” and on Jennings’ website she claims he diagnosed her with, among other things, “Acute, Viral Post Immunization Encephalopathy.” Except that Jennings didn’t get any attenuated virus – she got the jab, which is a dead vaccine, not a live-attenuated vaccine.

  36. [...] one influenza vaccine in the last three decades has been shown to cause GBS in rare cases, and some poorly handled stories in the media have further elevated public [...]

  37. Momtofiveon 14 Dec 2009 at 11:44 pm

    I am the mother of Desiree Jennings. I have five children, three have not had any reactions to their vaccines. Two of my perfectly healthy daughters have had life threatening illnesses after receiving vaccinations. Unknown to the public, is the undiagnosed “auto-immune” disorder of my youngest child, Morgan. In the fall of 2006. she received seven vaccines – all on one day. Shortly after, she became chronically ill with respiratory infections, not unlike Desiree. She then broke out in a horrid rash from head to toe. She looked like a “burn victim”. Her hands and feet began to swell. Next, came the migrating joint pain. Then she was unable to walk. She was hospitalized with what doctors thought was a “septic hip”. Despite being seen by countless specialists in two separate hospitals including a orthopedic surgeon, an infectious disease expert, a juvenile rheumatoid arthritis expert, two pediatricians, two allergists, she has no diagnosis. No one in our family has any neurological disorders with the exception of my aunt who has MS. Please note that my aunt had a “mouthful” of amalgam dental fillings over quite a long timeframe. I believe that our family cannot tolerate the “acceptable levels ” of mercury contained in the “so called safe” vaccinations and other mercury laden products. I am seeking answers for BOTH of my daughters but do not want to subject my youngest daughter to the media. She doesn’t deserve that. Before you judge someone as “faking it” I think you should be very careful as the “established medical community” has no clue as evidenced by both my girls’ cases as to the effect of injecting dangerous toxins into a person’s bloodstream.

  38. DrPon 15 Dec 2009 at 9:19 am

    @momtofive. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure that you acutually are the mother of Mrs Desiree Jennings, but let’s assume you are. Of course it is horrible what happened to both of your daughters. But the causal relation between the vaccination and the course of the disease of both of your daughters cannot be made on the information your provide, neither can the use of amalgam dental fillings be consistently related to multiple sclerosis in meta-analysis.
    Second, the “established medical community” did not judge your daughter as “faking it”, for example in the case of your daughter Desiree (based on the videos I have seen) a very clear diagnosis can be made, as already excellently explained by my collegue Steve Novella (cite:”First, they attacked the notion of psychogenic illness, completely misrepresenting it as equivalent to “faking” or as a knee-jerk dismissal of vaccine injury. In doing so they are denying the very legitimate and debilitating nature of psychological illness – that it is very real and deserving of compassion and treatment. It is just another kind of “brain” disorder – just a functional one”). However this is possibly not the diagnosis you wanted hear.

  39. Steven Novellaon 15 Dec 2009 at 9:36 am

    Momtofive – sorry to hear about your daughters’ health problems.

    I understand your desire to figure out what is going on with your children, but it seems that you have fallen victim to organized pseudoscience. It is ironic that you are skeptical of the medical establishment, but are accepting the answers provided by a very dubious fringe.

    The mercury question has been investigated extensively. There is no association with amalgam fillings and MS or any other autoimmune or neurological disease. The same is true of thimerosal or any vaccine.

    Also, as I have clarified before, I never accused your daughter of “faking it” – that is a strawman. I wrote that the symptoms she displayed on the public video are not compatible with the diagnosis of dystonia, nor of any known toxicity. It is compatible with a psychogenic disorder (a real disorder, and not considered “fake”). It seems that her neurologist also felt this, as evidenced by the VAERS report.

    Unless and until her medical records are made public, we can only infer from the information we have. Since she has chosen to make her case partially public – enough to be used to advance what I and many others consider to be dangerous pseudoscience – we have no choice but to analyze the information we have and point out that the story the anti-vaccine crowd is telling does not hold water.

    If Ms Jennings wishes to set the record straight – then let’s see all the relevant medical information. She cannot have it both ways – this is a very important public health issue and it requires transparency. It is difficult to take any expressed concern over public health seriously when critical information is being withheld.

  40. [...] apparently belonging to Jennings, shows her symptoms were most likely psychogenic, and not due to dystonia as she [...]

  41. NeuroLogica Blog » Chelation Fraudon 07 Jan 2010 at 9:33 am

    [...] for any and all perceived “vaccine injuries”. The most famous such case is that of Desiree Jennings, who was treated by Dr. Buttar for her “dystonia” which he claimed was an acute mercury [...]

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