At 32 days old, Dana McCaffery died of whooping cough – also known as pertussis.
Here are some more facts:
Dana was born perfectly healthy.
She was not yet old enough to be vaccinated for pertussis.
At the time Dana was admitted to Lismore Base Hospital, Australia was already in the grip of one of the worst whooping cough epidemics on record – the result of vaccination falling well below optimum levels.
Dana’s was not an isolated case. There were an alarming 19,000 cases of whooping cough reported in Australia in the year Dana was born and Dana’s death was the third fatality. As Dana fought for her life in the Lismore Base Hospital, two other babies suffering from the same disease were airlifted to Brisbane for emergency treatment. This was not some rare, seldom seen disease. It was common, well-known, well-documented and rampant.
Similarly, Dr Chris Ingall, who treated Dana at the Lismore Base Hospital, has no doubt about the cause of Dana’s death. According to Dr Ingall, Dana died of pertussis. No question.
But not everyone believes this. Two women in particular have persistently claimed that Dana did not die of pertussis.
No, they were not in the hospital watching Dana die as her parents were. No, they did not treat Dana as Dr Ingall did. No, they do not have medical degrees, or any qualifications in paediatrics or immunology. Still, these two women believe they know better than Dana’s doctor and her parents. What’s more, they have made the McCaffery’s lives a misery by intrusively and persistently questioning the diagnosis because it doesn’t fit with their unscientific, anti-vaccination ideology. One of these women, Judy Wilyman, is a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong.
I wonder what unmitigated gall, what inflated sense of importance makes these people think they know better than a specialist paediatrician and a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians.
Let’s just stop for a moment to consider what’s required to earn the right to add the post nominal FRACP to one’s name.
First, you need to get a medical degree. That takes 4-6 years. After graduation you have to work as an intern for a year, before working as a resident for another year. Vocational training as a registrar takes a further 3-8 years. Then you can apply to study for membership of a college. This will probably involve two stages of examinations (basic and advanced) which you must pass in order to become a ‘fellow’.
I think it should probably go without saying, that for someone with these qualifications, diagnosing a common, well-known, well-charted childhood disease would hardly require the diagnostic gymnastics one sees in an episode of House.
Dana McCaffery died of pertussis. That is an established, unequivocal, indisputable fact.
And now, I will pass you on to my good friend, Reasonable Hank, to take up the story (with some comments from me [CS]):
“Judy Wilyman is a PhD student at the University of Wollongong, under the supervision of Professor Brian Martin. [CS: Prior to that, Ms Wilyman studied under the supervision of Dr Peter Dingle – do check the link if you haven’t heard of him.]
Last week, Wilyman sent a letter to the Australian Human Rights Commissioner; and, Meryl Dorey published it on the Australian Vaccination Network blog.
[CS: Wilyman signed her letter “Judy Wilyman, PhD candidate” in order, one imagines, to give greater weight to her opinion. In my opinion, this means that her submission was made ‘officially’ in her capacity as a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong and the university should either take responsibility for its content, or consider disciplinary action.]
Amongst the claims made by Wilyman is that the death of baby Dana McCaffery is “anecdotal evidence” used in the Government’s tainted agenda to immunise children:
These programs have been promoting the whooping cough vaccine on anecdotal evidence (in particular, Dana McCaffery’s death) and the mantra of ‘seeing sick babies gasping for air’.
Pretty ghastly stuff.
[Dana’s father] David McCaffery was again forced to issue a statement in the hope that Dorey and Wilyman would leave them alone, and cease inflicting unnecessary pain on the family, by abusing the memory of their daughter:
Meryl Dorey, you have been asked time after time not to mention our daughter Dana on your website. The recent article by Judy Wilyman is false, dangerous, misleading and disrespectful. She has no expertise in the area of vaccines and has not asked, nor does she have, our permission to discuss our daughter’s death.
Let’s be clear, Dana’s death to whooping cough and the issues related to it, are not anecdotal. How can you and Ms Wilyman be so callous?
Dana died from whooping cough, a vaccine preventable disease. And we mourn her death every day. You and your friends add torture to our pain.
Ms Dorey, you and your group simply do not know us and we ask you to stop discussing Dana’s death. Her tragic death is not something that you can toy with to promote your misleading ideology.
Once again, you and Ms Wilyman are not friends of ours, or medical doctors and know nothing about Dana’s life or death.
BTW – Both of you, do not take this post as an invite to respond in any way. Leave us and our little girl alone!
In August 2010, [Dana’s mother] Toni McCaffery had previously issued a remarkable take-down of a previous Dorey blog post, in which Dorey again spread misinformation about the circumstances surrounding Dana’s death. How many times do these people need to be told to act honourably?
Enough is enough. We just simply ask the AVN and Mrs Dorey to stop spreading false information about our daughter. She caught whooping cough. She died a torturous death. Leave her in peace and stop misleading the public.
Whooping cough is dangerous, and deadly for 1 in 200 babies.
Now after having to deal with these lies, I have to take my children to a birthday party and try to be normal.
Mrs Dorey and the AVN…please leave my family alone.
How many times, indeed.
Today, Wilyman accused the McCaffery family of being beneficiaries of monetary payment, from vaccine “lobby groups”, for their work in ensuring the community receives accurate information about vaccine preventable diseases. In effect, Wilyman used the Pharma Shill Gambit, on a family whose baby daughter died from Whooping Cough:
[CS: Toni McAffery has since responded on Facebook:
Mrs Dorey and Ms Wilyman – you are enabling harrassment. I am writing here because I know you read this. Retract your comments immediately. Dana IS NOT an anecdote. We DO NOT receive money for warning people about whooping cough. That is the most disgusting allegation – one we have tolerated over and over again from your members. The money we received [from] the Australian Skeptics we donated to research to save babies from Pertussis. Government has not ‘used us’ to promote vaccines in recent media stories. We agree to such interviews in our own time without any agenda other than to give people the warning we did not receive. I wish the Government did more – but it has taken 3 years to get a brochure that I would have given anything to receive. We gave permission for Dana’s story to appear on the brochure. We give up our time to support other families. Parents have a right to be warned about whooping cough and given accurate information. We did not get that warning. It is up to parents if they want to vaccinate. It is also up to any parent to go public and speak to media. Do not use us against other families. We are not your toys to play with.
I’m a little lost for words…
Nice friends you have there, Professor Martin.
Please: let all of your friends and colleagues know about these horrid, dangerous people.”
Thanks Hank. Now, I have some questions.
Does Wollongong University condone its PhD students harassing and distressing the parents of a dead child?
Did Ms Wilyman seek the permission of her supervisor or the university before using her PhD candidature at the University of Wollongong to give weight to the pile of absolute crap she peddled to the Australian Human Rights Commissioner?
Does Wollongong University really pay a professor to supervise nonsensical ‘research’ like Wilyman’s; a quixotic and apparently interminably long venture which seems more intent on ignoring credible scientific evidence than collating it?
Has Wollongong University considered how awarding a PhD to Ms Wilyman will bring the university into disrepute and devalue all PhDs awarded by that institution? Surely, if Wilyman can get a PhD for her unscientific bilge, a PhD from Wollongong is not worth the paper it’s written on!
Isn’t it time that Wollongong University had someone other than Professor Martin take a long, hard look at Ms Wilyman’s ‘research’ and determine whether it’s in the best interests of the university for her to continue?
And I have one more, personal question. Why did I recently receive an email from a professor at the University of Western Sydney ‘casually’ inquiring into a remark I made against Meryl Dorey and saying “I understand (from colleagues) that Dorey is often accused in the way you accused/dismissed her but no evidence is provided.”
No evidence? Really? Are professors at the University of Western Sydney not required to know how to google?
And who were these ‘colleagues’ I wondered. Who could they be?
The good professor didn’t divulge their names but it took me, oh, all of three minutes to find by amazing coincidence that her PhD supervisor was also Professor Brian Martin from the University of Wollongong. Yes! The same academic who’s supervising Ms Wilyman’s PhD. Yep! Jinx! Isn’t that just too spooky?
And yes, Wilyman and the despicable Ms Dorey are as thick as thieves.
You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots, do you?
Surely the time has come for Wollongong University to take a long, hard look at Ms Wilyman’s ‘research methods’ and consider whether her ethics are consistent with those required by the university.
Surely it is time for Wollongong University to take a long hard look at Professor Martin and ask what his role is in this whole sorry affair.
And maybe the University of Western Sydney should ask why one of their staff, a former student of Professor Martin’s, seems to be buying Meryl Dorey’s persecution story ‘hook, line and sinker’ without, apparently, possessing even the basic ability to google some scholarly literature on the subject.
Is incompetence and unsubstantiated ‘woo’ becoming an epidemic in NSW universities? And is there a vaccine for it?
Reasonable Hank’s original blog post: Judy Wilyman and Meryl Dorey: as low as it goes
Peter Bowditch: Almost unimaginable filth
Update: U of W reins in Wilyman?
and my follow up blog post: Why Wollongong’s abdication of responsibility for Wilyman won’t wash