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The HCCC – don’t confuse them with logic #1 – Health Education

Many of our members have asked me to analyse what the HCCC findings against the AVN were all about. I have gathered together almost all of the correspondence between both Ken McLeod and the HCCC into one location on Scribd which you can access by clicking here, but since this is composed of hundreds of pages of information, I have decided to try and summarise (summarisation is NOT my strong point as many of you would know :-)) the basic points and how it is possible that, though complete, referenced and logical answers were provided to the HCCC, they chose to ignore this information.

Please keep in mind that the entire ‘investigation’ of the AVN took place on our website and in particular, in one page of our website – the page that lists Ten Reasons Why Parents Question Vaccination. Despite the fact that our organisation publishes a magazine, a newsletter books, information packs and writes articles for other publications; despite the fact that we have provided telephone support and hands-on support to parents for 17 years; and despite the fact that we have lobbied both State and Federal governments in regards to these issues, the HCCC neither visited our office (though they were invited to several times) nor did they interview either myself or anyone else involved with our organisation before reaching their conclusions. This bears all the hallmarks of a kangaroo court of the first order.

Because of the number of points covered and the length of the information, this explanation will, of necessity, extend over several days and most likely, several weeks. I will title each section in the same way and just number them so you can go back to any that you are interested in reading again. Please feel free to forward links to these pages to friends and family who also have questions about the AVN’s stance on this issue and our refusal to abide by the demands of this organisation which, at the end of the day, has neither the jurisdiction or the power to make demands of the AVN.

Does the AVN provide a ‘health education’ service?

In order to investigate our organisation, the HCCC needed to prove they had jurisdiction over us as described by the Health Care Complaints Act which they were formed to uphold. This Act limits their jurisdiction to healthcare providers (described as those whose activities affect the care and treatment of an individual person – and obviously the AVN does not fall into this category though originally, the HCCC had tried to put us into this category.) or health educators which has a definition that clearly does not apply to the activities the AVN carries out. Two barristers and two solicitors have composed letters which were sent to the HCCC questioning their jurisdiction. They have either ignored this advice and these questions or, in their final response after making their decision, they simply stated that they disagree with our reading of the Act.

In their final request for information which we responded to in July of this year, the HCCC stated several indicators they had used to prove that the AVN is, indeed, a health educator. I hope you will agree with me that their ‘logic’ is ridiculous in the extreme and only a government body that must ‘support government policy which is pro-vaccination’ would ever use such reasoning.

The Commission examined the AVN website in detail and noted that the provision of ‘health education’ was evident in the following pages on the website:

1- A ‘news’ page, that summarises and provides links to a number of recent media stories and articles about the risks of vaccination.

My answer to this statement, that the AVN can be considered as a health education service or health educator was that:

I am perplexed at this statement. If I am reading what the HCCC has said correctly, the provision of pages on a website that summarise news articles and give links to media stories constitutes health education.

Toni and David McCaffery started a Facebook site in memory of their daughter, Dana. This page, in its discussion area, gives multiple links to news articles and media stories about the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations. Does this mean that the McCafferys are health educators as well?

Peter Bowditch from the Australian Skeptics, has several websites, one of which is dedicated exclusively to vaccination. On this site, not only does Bowditch link to many media stories and articles about vaccination, but he specifically gives medical advice to all who come to view his page. His advice is that everyone MUST vaccinate in no uncertain terms and his lack of information on either the necessity of vaccination for every person and his refusal to inform about any potential side effects is in opposition to the NH&MRC’s rules governing the responsibility to allow for fully informed choice regarding this issue.

Australia’s broadcaster, the ABC, has an extensive website on health. This site maintains numerous links to articles and media stories about vaccination. In fact, an entire page is devoted to the subject of vaccination which you can find here – http://www.abc.net.au/health/tag/vaccines-and-immunity/

Are the ABC, Peter Bowditch and Toni and David McCaffery also health education service providers? If this is the basis for the HCCC’s decision, I believe there would be few who enter public life in any small way who would not fall under the jurisdiction of the HCCC as a result.

Further, if the HCCC believes that linking to vaccination stories in the public media is tantamount to a breach of either statute, common law or statutory regulations in Australia, we would like to ask if it intends in the future to pursue the writers of these stories or to censure journalists who could also be termed as health educators under the Act. Or does it intend to force every web site based in Australia to quote balancing, contrary views – including the websites of government health departments and the medical community?

The HCCC then goes further to state that another indication of our status as a health education service or health educator is that the AVN maintains:

2- A ‘weblog’ page, containing a series of discussions about articles and publications on the risk of vaccination.

My response to this absurdity is that:

Technorati lists 11,113 blogs which are exclusively about health. With the single exception of a blog post by American TV medico, Dr Sanjay Gupta, not one of the 50 top posts on vaccination was blogged by a medical professional. Should all of these people who were passing on information – both for and against vaccines – be considered health education providers under the Act according to the HCCC? If they were in Australia, would they be governed by these same regulations due to the fact that they have published ‘weblog’ pages that contain a series of discussions about articles and publications on either the risks or the safety of vaccination? If so, where does the HCCC propose to draw the line? Do all Australians who mention vaccination in a public forum come under your jurisdiction?

These two points formed the extent of the HCCC’s ‘proof’ that the AVN is either a health education service or a health educator. I hope you will agree that with evidence like this, if we were in a court of law rather than involved with a commission whose stated goal is to uphold the government’s pro vaccination policy, the case would have been thrown out for lack of evidence.

Tomorrow:

Did the AVN mislead the ABC?