Oregon City teenager Neil Beagley died in June 2008 following complications from an untreated congenital urinary tract blockage that flooded his system with urea, causing renal failure, heart attack, and death.
Neil Beagley didn't die in a hospital. He didn't die surrounded by doctors who were stumped regarding his next stage of treatment. Sixteen-year-old Neil Beagley didn't die peacefully with an IV in his arm pumping in morphine to lessen what must have been excruciating pain. He died in his grandmother's bed, without having received any medical treatment of any kind. Doctors say that Neil's illness was treatable right up until the day he died.
Jeff and Marci Beagley, Neil's parents, are members of Followers of Christ Church of Oregon City - a fundamentalist organization that teaches a literalist interpretation of scripture, and relies heavily on faith healing. The cemetery behind the church contains graves belonging to seventy-eight minors. It is estimated that at least twenty-one of these children's lives could have been saved with medical treatment.
As we get set to open registration for TAM 8 (which we’re gonna do in the immediate future — think days, not weeks), it’s worth taking a look back at TAM 7 with the internet’s bravest, smartest, and most skeptical superhero, Captain Disillusion.
In 1998 Andrew Wakefield and 11 other co-authors published a study with the unremarkable title: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Such a title would hardly grab a science journalist's attention, but the small study sparked widespread hysteria about a possible connection between the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Following the press conference in which Wakefield raised concerns about MMR vaccine safety, vaccination rates with MMR dipped in the UK. After falling below what is generally considered to be the level of herd immunity, the UK began to see the return of measles outbreaks - mostly among the unvaccinated. MMR hysteria has since spread to the US, along with the return of measles and mumps outbreaks.
Skeptics have known for years that Dr. Andrew Wakefield — erstwhile anti-vax hero of the UK, who in 1998 published a tremendously influential paper in The Lancet linking autism to vaccination — was wrong; and we’ve long suspected that his motivations were less than pure. Yet all of a sudden, this is news.
And is it ever. As I write this, Dr. Wakefield’s mug is splashed across the homepage of CNN.com above the headline “Medical journal retracts study linking autism to vaccine.”The Lancet is now accusing Wakefield of every academic sin it can think of, and news organs across the world are coming together to give the Doctor maybe the worst public drubbing of 2010.