Beth Landau-Halpern: Shot of deceit

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      By Beth Landau-Halpern

      In May of this year I received a call from a young mother expressing concerns about the safety of vaccines for her baby and asking if she and her husband could come in and talk to me about homeopathic alternatives (which, in the simplest terms include homeoprophylaxis for those choosing not to vaccinate, or immune support for those who choose to vaccinate). This is a common request from (especially educated) parents, aware of media stories of vaccine damage as well as the myopic perspective of mainstream medicine for whom there are no alternatives, no accommodations, and no individualizing of vaccination schedules.

      Vaccination is perhaps the most fraught decision a family makes in the first years of their child’s life. I do not believe that there is one right answer for every child and every family. People who come to talk to me about vaccination concerns and seeking information about alternatives are presented with a nuanced discussion. The primary goals of this discussion are to encourage families to do their research, understand the choices, and make a decision that is most suitable to their child, their family’s lifestyle (e.g. daycare or home care), their family’s health history and susceptibility to disease, and the risks and concerns they are most able to live with.

      I point out that this is not a risk-free choice, no matter which way they choose to go. I end these discussions with the advice that the parents go home, think, read, research, talk, and then let me know the ways that I can best support their child’s health and well-being, no matter what decision they make in the end: full vaccination, no vaccination, or partial vaccination.

      This was exactly the sort of conversation I had with “Emma”. “Emma” was actually not a concerned mother, but a reporter for CBC Marketplace who came into my office (without baby or husband) under false pretenses, and then proceeded to clandestinely tape and film our meeting for the purpose of “undercover” journalism in preparation for an upcoming episode on CBC Marketplace on vaccination alternatives.

      The ethical issues involved in this approach are extraordinary, and I think it important that all Canadians know the sordid activities of their public broadcaster. The extraordinary thing is that the CBC’s own regulations on clandestine reporting suggest that it is allowed only in situations in which there is “antisocial” behaviour, “abuse of trust”, or there is no other way to get the information needed. I am not sure which of these descriptors cover the visit to my office, but certainly, the homeopathic community has been fully forthcoming in offering Marketplace information on homeoprophylaxis without any secret high jinx involved.

      The bully tactics of my patient-in-disguise did not end there. Upon leaving, “Emma” asked me for a nosode remedy to protect her son against measles while she and her husband were making their decision about vaccination; she told me they would be travelling to an area where there had recently been a measles outbreak and they were concerned about exposure.

      Of course I helped her—this is what homeopaths do. It turns out that Marketplace then made a formal complaint to Health Canada about my labelling of the remedy I had dispensed. Unfortunately, “Emma” and her team didn’t do their research and were unaware of the regulations that cover homeopathic practitioners. Needless to say, Health Canada found the complaint spurious and dismissed it, assuring me that I was practising well within regulatory norms. I might add, that Health Canada has conferred a DIN-HM number on many nosodes, giving them a “seal of approval” as it were. There is no salacious story here, no matter how Marketplace frames it.

      So it turns out that the Marketplace episode on vaccines will be aired tonight on CBC. If you watch the program, please know the producers have a strong bias against homeopathy—and are likely to present homeopaths as luring parents away from vaccination. The illicitly filmed segments of myself and the other homeopaths similarly witch-hunted are most assuredly small excerpts of much more complex conversations, taken out of context and presented without any of the other information offered.

      Perhaps this offers a good opportunity for people to speak up for homeopathy and to speak up for free choice in making decisions about the health decisions we make.  If you are invested in the vaccine issue you can go online to CBC Marketplace's site, for the episode entitled "Vaccines: Shot of Confusion" and post about your experiences, and share your decision-making process around this issue. It is important that homeopaths do not allow themselves to be pushed into the closet because of the bully pulpit of media shows such as CBC Marketplace. Speak up—let them know what you think.

      If you would like to learn more about homeopathy, I suggest you go to the Extraordinary Medicine site. You can learn more about homeoprophylaxis here, here, and here.

      Beth Landau-Halpern is a Toronto homeopath.




      Nov 29, 2014 at 2:58pm

      I read the CBC's print article yesterday, and the bias in the article was obvious. They try to portray homeopaths as snake oil salesmen, and borderline criminals luring people away from the sanctity of mainstream medicine. It tries to argue that because some scientists with bias towards western medicine (and likely in the pocket of big pharma) have done some studies and they say vaccinations are safe, the matter is settled they are safe. It was pretty obvious that they were presenting a one sided argument because while they presented commentary from 'experts' in the medical establishment they didn't present any first hand commentary from homeopaths in their slam piece. They also pointed out (in a seemingly insidious way) the costs associated with homeopathic treatment something like 15-200$ but provided no information about the costs to taxpayers associated with vaccinations.

      The most telling contrast for me is that in your discussion you point out that there are risks associated with both vaccinating and not vaccinating and it is a difficult decision that parents need to think about, as per their situation, family history etc. (which is a very level headed and rational approach as far as I'm concerned) Whereas the CBC article was pretty much trying to argue that there are no negative effects associated with vaccinations, and you shouldn't think about it, you should just do what you are told and get in line (to be vaccinated). So while you are having a complex discussion and are empowering your clients to educate themselves, the CBC is saying not to read the information on the internet, they shouldn't educate themselves and again just need to do as you are told by CBC and the medical industry.

      Luckily I think the CBC marketplace is eroding their credibility these days, for instance I work in the finance industry and have had to deal with fallout because CBC has whipped consumers into a frenzy over nothing by manipulating the facts and presenting information out of context. People in the industry are easily able to break down and toss away their spurious arguments but the public as a whole is less discerning.

      Overall the CBC ought to be ashamed for their shoddy, one sided, and horribly bias coverage of a clearly complicated issue. I hope you continue to encourage people to educate themselves about the risks and help them make good decisions :)

      Griffin Russell

      Nov 29, 2014 at 4:37pm

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience, and provide a counter narrative to the Marketplace piece. I watched the episode, and upon reading your perspective I am quite curious as to the motivations of the CBC. As a public health care worker, I too am confronted with the difficult decisions surrounding vaccines, and that's as someone who has read many different article on the subject. As you stated, there is not one answer or decision that can be universally applied, rather, each person and family needs to make the decision that best fits their beliefs, values, and lifestyle. However, the CBC owes the public a greater responsibility in presenting unbiased information and acting within a strong ethical framework to do so.

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      h. lattik

      Nov 29, 2014 at 5:06pm

      There is BS and there is science. science says that vaccination works, and like with any medical procedure, there will be some exceptions. The odds are minuscule.
      Homeopathic meds generally have little science backing them up.
      Bottom line the odds of your child coming down with a sickness where vaccinations are available, are vastly higher without them, no matter what homeopathic action is taken.

      Bill Riedel

      Nov 29, 2014 at 5:16pm

      When I watched this episode I was reminded of two references:

      The British Medical Associations Guide Living With Risk, 1987. On the back page summary it sates: "Nothing in life is safe." So let's stop using the word safe and give an estimate of risk or risk reduction.

      Second, I was reminded that those who criticize are often equally careless when it suits them - here is an example you can find: "Estimates of Food-borne Illness in Canada - -
      The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year roughly one in eight Canadians (or four million people) get sick due to domestically acquired food-borne diseases. This estimate provides the most accurate picture yet of which food-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites (“pathogens”) are causing the most illnesses in Canada, as well as estimating the number of food-borne illnesses without a known cause.

      In general, Canada has a very safe food supply".... That implied definition of safe has built-in a large margin for collateral damage and should/could result in liability if the audience comes to believe this and suffers illness or death.

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      Karen Wehrstein

      Nov 29, 2014 at 7:36pm

      Great job, Beth.

      Some observations on this whole debate:

      The establishment party line on this issue is pervasive enough that people with no actual knowledge of the science, such as h. lattik above and the CBC staff who worked on the show, feel confident to declare its tenets, which are really opinions, as certainties.

      Because the anti-vaccination and homeopathy movements are popular rather than centrally-driven movements, opponents feel compelled to resort to contempt and ridicule as a central part of their argument. Any position that depends on a "common people are stupid" premise is to be suspected.

      Likewise, any position that laments the use of the Internet, which the anti-vaccine movement has done to great effect, is suspect. "Average joes are able to share info without it going through Official Gatekeepers (TM) -- like, say, CBC -- oh noes!!"

      Re homeopathy, detractors often declare scientific studies showing the efficacy of homeopathy as "flawed" or "poor quality" simply based on their positive results. This is known as circular reasoning, and is invalid and unacceptable in the science world. You may not judge results based on your beliefs; science deals only in facts.

      Elena Cecchetto

      Nov 29, 2014 at 8:38pm

      CBC's Shot of Confusion INDEED - If you really wanted to let people know what Homeopaths do -not just to falsely target the Homeopathic profession-you would have been able to find the truth about Homeopathy. Obviously this show had an editorial mission to blame Homeopaths. I still don't understand why anyone bothers Homeopaths so much. If you don't feel that it is right for you, don't go see a Homeopath. If someone other than yourself chooses Homeopathy, why would you think it is your place to decide something like that for them. You know nothing about what Homeopaths ACTUALLY do. However, there is healthy amount of going on proving what Homeopathy can do:,,,,,,,,, etc...

      If you somehow have not been able to read the rigorous, peer reviewed published research evidencing that Homeopathy is a valid system of medicine that works - feel free to ask me for the pdfs of the research listed above. My email is info - {AT} - Other than that - please stop repeating any unsubstantiated claims (your uneducated opinions) on Homeopathy... it reveals your ignorance.

      Alastair Hay - homeopathical

      Nov 30, 2014 at 4:09am

      Great article... I'm going to share it.
      What I like is that it appears you outlined to the 'concerned mother' that she has choice. She CHOSE to opt in to what you had to offer. It's apparent that she's either knowingly or unknowingly working for a team of people that would prefer people to be denied 'choice'. Any decision, especially involving opting-in or choosing not to vaccinate either for all or some of the immunisation programme, involves risk, but most importantly CHOICE. It would be a great sahme, if one day, we have no choice. Keep up the good work.


      Nov 30, 2014 at 12:52pm

      While I am sure it was disconcerting to find out you were duped, journalists all over the world do things like this, with regards to all sorts of topics, to gather unbiased information. If you truly had nothing to hide, if you were using sound science to back up your health claims, then there would be nothing of interest for CBC to do a story about. But, homeopathy is not based on sound science. So, perhaps you should think about that more than how you were duped.

      Susan Drury

      Nov 30, 2014 at 1:03pm

      I am another one of the homeopaths who was "visited" by a young mother and accompanying "friend" (ie CBC Marketplace agent) under false pretenses, secretly filmed and included in their episode without my permission. When CBC informed me they had come to see me "undercover," I wrote them a letter explaining, as Beth has done so well above, that my role is to support parents in whatever decision they make regarding vaccines. If they choose to vaccinate, there are ways to do so more safely and protect their child against possible ill-effects. If they make the difficult decision not to vaccinate, there are ways to educate their immune system to lessen their susceptibility to specific diseases.

      Rather than trying to catch homeopaths in some "illicit" act, CBC Marketplace could have asked why, in a national vaccination program that knows each year a certain number of individuals will suffer vaccine damage "for the greater good," Canada has no compensation or support program in place? Since its inception in 1986, the US's National Vaccine Injury Compensation program has paid out over $2.5 billion dollars to individuals who were able to prove, in court, that vaccination caused severe injury or death to their family member. In Canada vaccination is not compulsory, however the care of those unfortunate "statistics" falls onto their family and our medical system.

      While truly tragic results are rare, parents who are concerned have every right to explore, research and make a decision they feel is best for their child. Until vaccines are 100% safe and have 100% efficacy (which they do not), the question of vaccination is one more responsibility of parenting. It would have been refreshing if CBC Marketplace had focused on that, rather than pursuing the tired refrain of homeopathy-bashing.

      Sonya McLeod

      Nov 30, 2014 at 6:45pm

      I am also one of the homeopaths that was visited under false pretenses.

      The CBC may have been good years ago, but after seeing this piece of sleazy journalism and in light of the Jian Gomeshi scandal, I have nothing good to say about the CBC.

      Most or all of mainstream media these days is in advertisers' pockets. Unbiased journalism that accurately represents both sides of the issue has almost gone extinct.

      A plethora of research backing up our claims was submitted to the CBC, and it was ignored and not addressed by the show. Instead, CBC talked down to the audience when it was trying to "explain" homeopathy in baby talk, like all of their audience were stupid.

      Their so called "expert" on vaccines was a nurse. I suppose they could they not find anybody else who would substantiate this worthless piece of journalism?! I would think that a vaccine expert would at the very least be a researcher or scientist, not just the person who administers the vaccines.

      What was not explained in the context of this poorly done piece is that we offer alternatives to parents who have done their research and have made a decision for their family about the vaccine issue. We do not decide for the parent and their family, they decide for themselves. We all have the right to decide what we put into our bodies and into our children's bodies. I feel that the CBC is trying to question that right, and would like to take away that right if they could.