Hospital CEO Delivers Anti-Vaccination Rant (But It Gets Worse)

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Dr. Daniel Niedes, director and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, recently published an anti-vaccine screed on, causing doctors and fans of science-based medicine everywhere to wonder “How the fuck did this guy get that job, and why does he still have it?”

Niedes’s post, which was focused on ridding your body of “toxins” for the new year, is maybe the stupidest article of 2017, and we’re only halfway through January. He whines that there are “over 80,000 chemicals used in various industries country-wide” and “over 2,000 new chemicals being introduced annually.” Holy crap! 80,000 chemicals? Used in various industries?? That’s….I don’t know, is that bad? I hope Niedes doesn’t learn that humans of discovered or created more than 50 million chemicals, and that a new one is made every 2.6 seconds. Or that his entire body is made of chemicals, or that a chemical comes out of his faucet every time he turns on the tap.

Then he starts in on vaccines and autism. He writes, “Does the vaccine burden – as has been debated for years – cause autism? I don’t know and will not debate that here.” That’s a funny thing to say, seeing as he titled that section “Link to autism?” and then goes on to say that vaccines come “at the expense of neurologic diseases like autism and ADHD increasing at alarming rates.” Boy, it sure sounds like you know vaccines cause autism and you’re more than willing to debate it here.

Then he refers to doctors and scientists who have studied the issue and found absolutely no evidence of any link between vaccines and autism as “deniers.” Yep, no bias here.

What’s most surprising about the director of a top research hospital advocating complete nonsense is that it shouldn’t really be that surprising. The Cleveland Clinic has joined dozens of other respected institutions in offering bullshit “treatments” like homeopathy (literally just sugar pills with no active ingredients) and reiki (literally just waving your hands over a body part in the hopes that it will feel better).

We’ve been letting medical care providers get away with this for years. Our pharmacies sell sugar pills right next to real medicine and don’t educate consumers about the difference. Our insurance providers cover trips to the acupuncturist and chiropractor. And yes, our hospitals offer nonsense that’s just as likely to make people sicker as make them better, all because all of these groups see people not as patients but as consumers, and consumers must be given what they want so that you can get their money. “Alt-med” is big business, and as long as people are willing to pay top dollar for bullshit, hospitals and doctors and pharmacies will sell it to them.

The only hope may be in government oversight. I already mentioned the FTC recently cracking down on homeopathic warning labels — those are warning labels for homeopathic pills, not warning labels that are so small they aren’t even there, which is the type that Big Alt-Med prefers, of course — so maybe in the future the US government could establish better standards for treatment at hospitals. I’m skeptical that that future is at all nearby, but it’s a slim hope, at least. A nearly homeopathic hope.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Scientists should know perfectly well that the word “chemicals” used in a discussion with the public does not mean the same thing as it does when addressed to other scientists.

    When the public talks about chemicals, they’re talking about synthetic chemicals that are produced and disseminated on a massive scale with inadequate regard for their potential consequences on human and environmental health. This seems to me like a legitimate usage, but it’s often portrayed as a stupid anti-science scare tactic. It’s actually a useful concept.

    This is no different than the word “organic” which, when used by the public, most likely refers to organic food/farming rather than a class of chemicals.

    To not sound nitpicky and condescending, scientists should respect how words change with context. That’s one way we might be more successful in getting our important points across to the public.

  2. Debate?
    That would mean at least pretending to listen to evidence. Who needs it, when you can spew lies ex cathedra, and claim that anyone who blinks at you is part of the Big Conspiracy? Welcome to the U.S.A.

  3. As an aside, I just read about some antivaxxers raising money for a woman who would rather her kids not be immunized than go to a homeless shelter. I couldn’t help but say “You’re new to this, aren’t you?”

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