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We deal with a lot of dangerous nonsense on SBM. And the individuals who promote said nonsense are, more often than not, as ignorant and obnoxious as the ideas they espouse. Today’s brief post, in which I will discuss what is perhaps the pinnacle of obnoxious ignorance, will not be an exception.

100% medicine free, except for all the medicine

Starting late last week, several news outlets in England a 61-year-old chiropractor named Richard Lanigan who has apparently refused to ever give his children medications, including vaccinations, and that they are healthier for it. In fact, the words “100% medicine free” are used. We’ve heard these sorts of claims before of course, but Lanigan’s version is particularly offensive. And it isn’t even true, as he reveals that one of his children was given pain medication when she was brought to the emergency department after suffering a head injury.

In an in The Daily Mail, he also admits that his children received vaccines before going on a recent school trip. But this isn’t remotely close to the worst of his hypocrisy. Lanigan claims in the recent articles to have been diagnosed with terminal rectal cancer years ago, and that he was given only a few months to live. Undeterred, he refused conventional therapy and cured himself with cannabis oil. Yet in a blog in 2012, he wrote the following:

About two months ago I was given the all clear, which means 12 months after surgery and having finished six months of chemotherapy I am still alive, no longer have a colostomy bag and there are no visible signs of cancer in my body.

I realized that perhaps the information from the blog post in 2012 was referring to his initial diagnosis, and that maybe his cancer had returned. The post didn’t mention anything about being given months to live or refusing medical care and I wanted to be charitable. So I kept digging and found this on another of Lanigan’s old blogs. As I suspected, his cancer had returned in 2013. But, also as I suspected, he did undergo conventional therapy.

I started Chemo in October 2013, after four cycles, I was experiencing the peripheral neuropathy again and told the consultant I did not want to continue the treatment, she was surprised, said I might only live 6 months if I stopped.

He did stop the chemotherapy. But…

The CT scan in December 2013, revealed the metastasis had not progressed so the chemo had done something…I was a good candidate for targeted radiation and again as in 2011, twenty sessions of radiation fried the tumours in the Lymph nodes around the Aorta.

From that point on he has been cancer free and has continued to have yearly visits to his oncologist for scans. He did end up refusing additional chemotherapy after the radiation and he did start the cannabis oil. But it’s clear that his current statements about curing himself without conventional medical treatment are deceptive.

Lanigan also claims to have ignored the concerns of medical professionals when one of his children was an infant sick with , also known as whooping cough. He says that he was told that she was likely going to die, but she avoided hospitalization and lived because of “natural nutrients in breast milk.” , with a case fatality rate as high as 2% during recent outbreaks in the United States. It’s hard to imagine that his child was actually ill and just allowed to go home and die. She was likely just exposed to the disease and never actually got sick.

I don’t think you’re using that correctly

The most absurd claims that Lanigan makes involve evolution. He doesn’t understand it…at all:

If you look at how we’ve evolved, humans became stronger by getting illnesses. The process of natural selection meant the strongest survived. If you rely on vaccinations and medications for optimal health, you’re creating a weaker species. Natural selection means survival of the fittest – it’s harsh but true.

This isn’t evolution, it’s or the inheritance of acquired characteristics. For one thing, your body doesn’t know the difference between natural immunity and immunity after vaccination. Protection is protection but the immunity that comes from vaccination doesn’t risk the morbidity and mortality of the disease. And immunity to measles, to just give one example, isn’t passed on to offspring. Lanigan appears to be willing to let thousands of children die, apparently even his own, in part because of his ignorance of science, evolution, medicine, and parenting.

There is a lot more to unpack in these articles, such as how Lanigan believes that the pharmaceutical industry pushes drugs because they can’t make money selling ice. You can read the links and find these gems for yourself, however. I want to finish up with an example of how this kind of anti-medicine thinking, and a serious misunderstanding of evolutionary biology, can result in actual harm, even death.

Science denial gets real

On August 8th, a after apparently allowing their 10-month-old daughter . The child’s parents, particularly the father, were known to speak against the medical system. He also explained during a video posted to Facebook that “doctors would have to believe in creationism to be able to successfully treat patients.”

Sentiments like that don’t seem to jibe with others attributed to the father:

It didn’t seem smart to me that you would be saving people who weren’t the fittest. If evolution believes in survival of the fittest, well then why are we vaccinating everybody? Shouldn’t we just let the weak die off and let the strong survive?

So which is it?

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Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician practicing at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, MA, and a regular contributor to the Private-investigator-detective blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @skepticpedi and is the co-host of with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.