Universal Medicine cult wins Lismore Chamber of Commerce’s People’s Choice Award

Upon learning that the Universal Medicine cult recently won the Lismore Chamber of Commerce’s People’s Choice Award, I wondered whether it was as a result of vote spamming, as they have a prior form for that. So I wrote to the Lismore Chamber of Commerce to enquire further about their win:

Dear Madam/Sir,

I am writing an article on Universal Medicine winning the Lismore Chamber of Commerce’s People’s Choice Award, and invite your response on the following questions:
* Do you have any comment on the fact that a new-age esoteric breast and ovary massage “healer” group has won the People’s Choice awards?
* Do you think it reasonable that a charity is eligible for this award, instead of restricting eligibility to regular Lismore business for this award?
* Who was eligible to vote in the People’s Choice award?
* What if any measures were taken to prevent vote spamming by members / followers of this group?

Regards,
Dr Matthew Berryman

I received the following response:

Dear Dr. Berryman
Re your email of Aug. 25th concerning the People’s Choice Award, the general public voted for their chosen business (s) so the award went to the business that received the most votes…just like an election. The voting rules were publicised prior to the awards night and the Chamber had nothing to do with the selection of the winning business…it was as the name implies, The People’s Choice Award.
I hope this answers your questions satisfactorily.

So, in other words, they have no comment other than to point out the eligibility criteria for votes, which are simply that anyone could have lodged a vote through either the Lismore Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page (poll obviously no longer appears) or through a nomination form available from the Northern Star newspaper. Thus, it was open to spamming by any business—and Universal Medicine is registered as a business, apparently you can sell kooky beliefs—that can get members / customers to vote. Their win is just further evidence of the grip they have over their members, and I wonder in the absence of that which deserving Lismore business might have won this award.

Posted in cults, ethics, health | 3 Comments

Mrs Dorey, devoid of science, resorts to lying.

In her recent Facebook post, devoid of any science, Mrs Dorey refers to the fact that I’m not a medical doctor. My qualifications aren’t related to the content as I was quite clearly referring to the HCCC decision, along with Fair Trading and other laws and regulations. As Mrs Dorey knows, I have a PhD and I have had a peer reviewed scientific paper on vaccination published, without any financial support. Mrs Dorey has no peer reviewed scientific publications to date on vaccination. If her arguments had any merit, why hasn’t she published? Particularly with millions of dollars raised and over two decades of research behind her. There’s no big conspiracy here, it’s that either she hasn’t bothered to try and publish her research, or it hasn’t been judged to have any merit by actual scientists. Ditto her attack on our poster presentation at the PHAA conference. Do her followers seriously believe the conspiracy theories she raises and not question why their money that they freely donate and give in membership fees are not used by Mrs Dorey to attend such a conference to influence Government policy with her supposed research?

Nor did I claim that the AVN Facebook page is owned by the AVSN. Facebook pages are owned by Facebook. The AVN Facebook page is clearly operated by the AVSN, as witnessed by the high number of postings that Public Officer Mrs Dorey makes there, that posts there are almost always cross-posted to the official Twitter account, and as also acknowledged by the HCCC in their
public warning about the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, Inc. (‘AVN’), formerly known as Australian Vaccination Network Inc., irrespective of umming and ahhing by Fair Trading NSW. I do note, however, this correspondence from Fair Trading NSW where Mrs Dorey has committed to them to change the name, further proof that they operate it:
Screenshot 2014-06-18 13.15.52
The alleged page operator, “Ben Rush”, does not apparently exist. The irony that the original Ben Rush supported compulsory vaccination in defence of the other freedoms of the new republic of the United States of America seems lost on Mrs Dorey and the AVSN.

She doesn’t even display the common courtesy to use my name, claiming that I might censor her post on that basis alone. That’s a tactic that brave defender of unfettered free speech Mrs Dorey openly supports, not I.

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Public liability: AVN, “Dr” David Hendrey & the “Healthy Lifestyle” Expo

Dear Wayne,

I have been speaking with a lawyer, who pointed out to me that liability could arise if an adverse event was suffered as a result of information provided by the AVN or any other exhibitors for that matter. With the right to freedom of speech comes great responsibility, and I am sure that you would be seeking that your exhibitors have public liability insurance that covered such events. I note in fact that your exhibitors kit states: “In particular, the Exhibitor must confirm that the Public Liability Insurance policy held by them covers risks associated with display or merchandise at this Exhibition by the Exhibitor and covers YCHY FOUNDATION and Events”.

Exhibitors would therefore be obliged to report any pertinent details to their insurer regarding the information they provide / devices they sell / etc., such as the HCCC public warning in the case of the AVN, or that your official chiropractor makes false claims to treat autism and HIV. The reason I am raising this with you is that I am concerned, based on rather strong (and I might add defamatory) remarks by Meryl, that she may not have public liability insurance, and that if she does, she may not have advised her insurer of the risks identified by the HCCC in their report. Can you please confirm whether you have received a copy of the AVN’s public liability insurance or not; if so can you please advise me who the insurer is so I can liaise with the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Australia regarding the AVN’s compliance with disclosure regulations.

Warm regards,
Dr Matthew Berryman

Update:
Expo organiser Mr Pina-Roozemond responded rather promptly with:

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for the email, just letting you know that I do indeed have a copy of the relevant insurance document.  Taking your lead I called the insurance company to verify that everything was in order and it is.

Regards

Wayne

I’m not entirely convinced that Mrs Dorey would be entirely covered in the event that someone did take her advice seriously, ended up ill, and sued, but I’m not an expert on law or insurance.  I am however pleased that the Expo organisers have considered this, and warned of the dangers of Mrs Dorey’s views and are providing pro-vaccination material:
Screenshot 2014-05-15 13.46.12

Whilst I do take offence at Mrs Robinson having falsely described my robust but polite debate as bullying, I am more offended to hear of bad behaviour on both sides of this issue. I hope the above exchange between myself and Mr. Pina-Roozemond serves as a good example.

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AVN: laughing stock

Hmm, what to say about the AVN’s latest rant against the HCCC except to say that the descriptions fit the AVN much better than they do the HCCC, for example:

Despite claims of the AVSN being an open book, the financial details remain something of a mystery. Why are your computing costs so high, for example—it looks like you are purchasing new computers every year, which seems excessive, along with your web hosting—and I deal routinely with these costs in my job. Also, were the professional fees for accounting, for lawyers, or some combination thereof?
Unlike Stop the AVN, I can’t see any money being spent directly on helping parents. Can you outline on which items in your budget the donations were put to, exactly?

To which the President of the AVN responds

I will not enter into any discussion with you regarding any deeper aspects of our financial affairs.

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Anti-Vaccination Advocates on the Front Line of Public Health

Originally posted on Evidence, Please.:

I have a confession to make, people. Sometimes I read the comments. And sometimes I even join in.

Earlier today, ABC News posted a news article on their Facebook page regarding Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton’s meeting with his state counterparts to discuss a possible decision to withhold Family Tax Benefit payments from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, for non-medical reasons. It’s a complicated issue and one that Dr Julie Leask has addressed in the news article itself.

ABC News’ Facebook moderator invited comments from Facebook users on the topic, prompting much discussion, both advocating and opposing vaccination itself, and agreeing with or criticising the proposal to withhold benefits from families who choose not to vaccinate their children. Having a little free time on my hands, I had a look over the comments and made a few myself; predominantly providing rebuttals to anti-vaccination rhetoric and suggesting that…

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“Healthy Lifestyle” Expo and the “Great” “Debate”.

Update: It appears Aspect Caloundra have pulled out as sponsors as their logo and name no longer appear on the Expo’s list of sponsors or ongoing sponsor list, but did appear back in February.

Update 2: Clarification from the Expo that they were just slow in updating the list of sponsors and that Aspect Caloundra weren’t asked this year. Meanwhile, I wonder if the remaining sponsors including WIN TV are aware that the celebrity “psychic” thinks that the ability to wiggle a certain part of her anatomy (video not exactly safe for work) proves that mind over matter is possible. Clue to Shé: when people say “mind over matter” they don’t usually refer to the conventional nerve cell – muscle cell interaction.

An open letter to Mrs Dorey regarding her blog surrounding the “Great Debate” on vaccination.

I would like to clear up a few misconceptions that Mrs Dorey is spreading regarding me and Dr Dunlop.

First, Mrs Dorey seems, like Ms Robinson (a.k.a. Annie Infinite), to insinuate that I subscribed Ms Robinson’s email address to a number of pornographic sites.

I certainly did not do this, and at the time I repudiated it and strongly encouraged Ms Robinson to take the matter to the police. I believe in having a civilised debate.

What was on offer from The Healthy Lifestyle, or “You Can Heal Yourself” Expo was not a scientific debate, as I make clear in the correspondence below, where I declined to participate. The leading questions put as topics by the Expo leave a lot to be desired too. Another factor not discussed previously in my refusal to attend is that, unlike Mrs Dorey who puts a roof over her head through donations to the AVSN and selling misinformation, I have a regular job with commitments here in Wollongong. I am using up my leave to take my children back to China to visit their grandparents later this year.

Wayne,

There is no genuine debate when one side ignores scientific evidence. Relatedly, there is no dichotomy between science and natural therapies. Either there is scientific evidence of efficacy and safety or is there is not. The evidence on vaccination is clearly in favour of vaccination except for genuine medical exceptions, and not false concerns about autism [1, 2], etc. of the sort that the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVSN) raise.
Regardless of any statements on government sites (and Google returns no hits for the quote you provided without citing a source for), there is no constitutional or other legislative blanket protection of speech, and speech on medical topics is regulated across Australia. The HCCC is currently investing the AVSN and has been preparing a warning for which I have attached the draft (not the first one they have released) – and the full draft report can be found here.
It’s disingenuous to state that the t-shirts are acceptable whilst ignoring the rest of the HCCC enquiry. Further, I wouldn’t call ignoring scientific evidence that can save lives to be loving children. It’s also disingenuous for you to claim you have no opinion on Black Salve when you have previously and illegally run advertisements and a YCHY Expo organiser has expressed her opinions.
I decline to enter into a debate for the following reasons:
*) Whilst I am qualified to speak on the statistics of risk around vaccination and vaccine-preventable diseases I am no more qualified than Mrs Dorey to speak on the detailed medical matters, and
*) False balance debates can send unhelpful messages by presenting a false view of the balance of risks. [3]
If you choose to go ahead with hosting Mrs Dorey, given her lack of scientific qualifications and evidence, in any form, then responsibility rests with you, as it does for any other medical misinformation provided in any form at the Expo.
Regards,
Dr Matthew Berryman
[1] Gerber JS, Offit PA (2009). “Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses”. Clin Infect Dis 48 (4): 456–61.
[2] Demicheli V, Rivetti A, Debalini MG, Di Pietrantonj C (2012). “Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children”. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2: CD004407.
[3] Dixon, Graham, and Christopher Clarke. “The effect of falsely balanced reporting of the autism–vaccine controversy on vaccine safety perceptions and behavioral intentions.” Health education research 28.2 (2013): 352-359.

 

This correspondence followed (below, sent on the 25th of March) to a number of the Expo’s sponsors, suggesting that they examine their financial support of the Expo as a whole (to which the phrase “the event” most clearly refers to), given Mrs Dorey’s attendance and other misleading health information routinely provided. This is also irrespective of whether the Expo was in turn funding her (as they mentioned to me later, they claim they are not), or whether she is running a stall or “debating”, or running a seminar. Furthermore, I noted past advertising and promotion by Ms Robinson of a stall illegally selling black salve. Mrs Dorey also repeats the defamatory remarks by the conference organisers that I resort to name calling, without providing any evidence.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I understand that [Name of Sponsor] is a sponsor of the ‘Healthy’ Lifestyle Expo 2014, also known as the ‘You Can Heal Yourself Expo’, to be held on the Sunshine Coast in May.

This event routinely promotes dangerous medical advice:

  • At last year’s expo there was a stall selling Black Salve, promoted as a do-it-yourself cancer cure; this has a strong risk of causing damage in addition to the risk that it fails to remove all the cancer, which can then spread. I have enclosed a public health warning from the Therapeutic Goods Administration about Black Salve with more information about it.
  • This year’s expo features a seminar by Mrs Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, well known for providing anti-vaccination misinformation (with potentially fatal consequences), and currently subject to an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (draft warning enclosed), in addition to investigations by other government agencies for fraud.

I strongly urge you to support public health by withdrawing your sponsorship of this event.

Regards,

Dr Matthew Berryman

Last but not least, surrounding Mrs Dorey’s mention of Dr Dunlop, I note:

  • The Expo did not email Dr Dunlop an invitation prior to her name being mentioned as a possible debater. 10177473_10152381465720229_7787428432987499745_nPerhaps it was a case of poor communication between Expo organisers, although it’s highly suspicious that another proposed debater also did not receive an invitation:Screenshot 2014-04-11 13.00.38
  • Dr Dunlop declined to participate on the 9th of April, which is not surpising given her views on false debates.

 On 9 Apr 2014, at 14:04, Rachael Dunlop wrote:

Dear Wayne,

No thank you. Please either remove my name from the site or indicate I have declined the invitation to participate.

Kind regards

Rachael

  • I am not sure why Mrs Dorey persisted with this incorrect information well after Dr Dunlop’s email, though we cannot rule out a delay between the Expo receiving Dr Dunlop’s refusal and their subsequently informing Mrs Dorey.

Regards,

Doctor Berryman, BSc. (Maths & Comp. Sci.), BEng. (Comp. Sys. Eng.) Hons. I, PhD (Complex Systems).

 

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