Friday, 1 February 2013

Open Letter to Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

Post-Publication Update: Effective the afternoon of February 1st (if not earlier), Bust A Move has dropped Jenny McCarthy from the line-up and replaced her with Tommy Europe. I'll admit I know nothing about Mr Europe, but he's most likely an improvement over Ms McCarthy. (If nothing else, he is not the public face of a crank organization like Generation Rescue.) Here's to one and all who wrote in to the ORCF, the Bust A Move committee, posted on Facebook, Tweeted, and otherwise campaigned to make this happen.

While taking my son to an appointment at the local children's hospital (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario - CHEO), I was most displeased to spy, in the newspapers offered at the gift shop, an article noting that Jenny McCarthy, model and actress-turned-anti-vaccine activist, had been invited by the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation to participate in their "Bust A Move" fitness fundraiser for breast cancer research (see article describing criticism of this action at the Ottawa Citizen online edition).

So I've decided to write the ORCF and express my dismay. If you're interested, see their contact page, from which the email addresses of the CEO and various marketing folks at the foundation can be contacted. I encourage you to write in if you think it's inappropriate for someone whose advocacy distorts scientific research and denigrates lifesaving medical practices to be taking part in a cancer foundation fundraiser.

Here is the (very slightly edited) text of my email (hyperlinks have been embedded for brevity):

Good evening,

Although by now I am sure your organization has been criticized, even vigorously so, by various parties for inviting Jenny McCarthy to participate in the “Bust A Move” event this coming spring (as noted in the Ottawa Citizen), I should like to add my voice to those raised in protest at this decision.

For some time now, Ms McCarthy has been espousing an agenda – the weakening and abolishment of mass vaccination programmes – which is contrary to the spirit and purpose of organizations such as the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, namely the successful treatment of human diseases.

In particular, I should like to draw your attention to the organization with which Ms McCarthy is associated, Generation Rescue, and to events and organizations it supports and cooperates with, such as the weblog Age of Autism and the annual event Autism One.

Generation Rescue is committed to promulgating the discredited notion that vaccines, in one way or another, are a causal factor in the development of autism spectrum disorders. In partnership with Age of Autism, Generation Rescue contributes to generalized anti-vaccine activism, such as against vaccines developed to combat HPV, a known causal agent in cervical and other cancers (see here for example). In the case of HPV vaccines, Ms McCarthy is acting at cross purposes to the mission of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

Generation Rescue sanctions so-called “recovery treatments” intended to treat children with autism spectrum disorders. These treatments can usually be charitably described as rank quackery (one notes homeopathy is listed as an option on Generation Rescue’s own website). In some cases, such as chelation therapy – which Ms McCarthy has admitted to have subjected her son to – and “Miracle Mineral Solution” (that is, chlorine bleach), the supposed treatments would more accurately be described as child abuse – in this writer’s opinion, at any rate.

Generation Rescue and Ms McCarthy defend the activities of medical charlatans such as disgraced ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield, who, for the purposes of personal financial gain, resorted to scientific fraud to advance a connection between vaccines and autism. She and her fellow anti-vaccine activists routinely launch smear campaigns against doctors, public health experts, and researches, such as breast cancer oncologist Dr David Gorski, who writes at Science-Based Medicine under his own name and elsewhere using a pseudonym.

It is my opinion that it is a grave error to invite a person linked so closely to research fraud, quack nostrums, and anti-medical advocacy, to participate in an event meant to raise funds for an organization dedicated to good medical research, effective treatments, and to saving lives. I strongly encourage the ORCF and the committee specifically formed to organize “Bust a Move” to seriously reconsider their decision vis-à-vis Ms McCarthy.

Respectfully yours,


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