Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare

Campaigner: Judy Wilyman

Ed note: June 2016 update commences at section "Awarding of PhD".

Introduction

Judy Wilyman is a science teacher and obtained a Master of Science in Population Health from University of Wollongong in 2007 and then commenced a PhD in Environmental Health Policy (looking at Australia's vaccination policy). Wilyman transferred to Murdoch University in 2008 and was under the supervision of infamous alternative health 'guru' Dr Peter Dingle. In 2011 she returned to the University of Wollongong, supervised by Prof. Brian Martin.

According to Wilyman's website, she began researching the vaccination issue in 2004. Wilyman insists that she is not anti-vaccination but is simply questioning government policy on vaccination and people's right to make informed choices.

In recent years Wilyman has received strong criticism from many quarters for a variety of reasons, including using false and misleading information in the presentation of her arguments and for harassment of the McCaffery family.

Anti-vaccination

The opening paragraph from Wilyman's website states:
"This site has been set up to assist you in making an informed decision about vaccination."
On the "About" page, Wilyman also explains:
"This website is set up to present an academic debate on the science of vaccination and contains arguments that will be presented for the completion of a PhD."
This sounds entirely reasonable, but an image at the top of her "Immunisation Policy" web page tells a very different story:
image: doll stuck with needles - a
pro-choice message from Judy Wilyman
A PhD student assisting the public in making an informed choice

Wilyman has stated that "... decisions about the use of a medical procedure should not be made on emotional arguments" yet she employs the very same technique here. She would also be aware of the effect such scaremongering material can have on the public perception of vaccination, which begs the question of whether or not this is her intention.

It is inconceivable to me that a PhD student would employ such a manipulative and intellectually dishonest technique in presenting "arguments that will be presented for the completion of a PhD" and "to assist you in making an informed decision".

The front page of Wilyman's website features more of the same:

"Do you know what's in a vaccine?"

Our quality of life is dependent upon our health. In a world where we are increasingly exposed to toxins and where our experts are increasingly depending upon industry funding, it is important to know that the information you are receiving is balanced, non-biased and evidence-based.

The ingredients of vaccines are not listed on the Immunise Australia Program (IAP) website. They are found in the Appendix 3 of the Australian Immunisation Handbook here. Here is the list of ingredients that were listed in vaccines until February 2013:

"Aluminium hydroxide, Aluminium hydroxide phosphate, Aluminium phosphate, Borax, Egg protein, Formaldehyde, Gelatin, Gentamicin (antibiotic), Kanamycin (antibiotic), Monosodium glutamate (MSG), Neomycin (antibiotic), Phenol, Phenoxyethanol, Polymxin (antibiotic), Thiomersal (50% mercury compound), Yeast"

Wilyman acknowledges that the above vaccine ingredients are listed in Appendix 3 of the Australian Immunisation Handbook, yet she appears to justify listing them on the front page of her website because they aren't listed on the Immunise Australia Program (IAP) website.

If Wilyman has a valid argument about the IAP website, there is absolutely no need to list the ingredients to make her point. It appears to me that Wilyman has simply played a favourite card of the anti-vaccination movement, the "toxins gambit".
A blog post by ReasonableHank, Judy Wilyman finally comes out from under the anti-vaccine rock explains the "toxins gambit" and other questionable claims by Wilyman in more detail.

Judy Wilyman is author of the paper The pathogenesis of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in the development of cervical cancer: are HPV vaccines a safe and effective management strategy? and she wrote a factsheet entitled The Risk and Facts about Cervical Cancer and HPV Vaccine. For thorough critiques of Wilyman's misleading and inaccurate information about cervical cancer and HPV vaccine, please read the following:

On 24 May 2013, Wilyman stated in an email:

"There is no evidence that vaccination is necessary to control infectious diseases ..."
I think many health officials, doctors, parents and patients in Wales right now and the World Health Organization would vehemently disagree with this statement. It does, however, demonstrate that Judy Wilyman holds a typical unscientific - and wrong - belief held by the anti-vaccination movement.

There are many examples of Judy Wilyman employing pseudoscientific nonsense spruiked by the anti-vaccination movement and manipulating scientific evidence in a false and misleading manner to push what many people consider to be anti-vaccination views. I recommend the following blog posts for these examples:

I highly recommend the following article Why Wollongong's abdication of responsibility for Wilyman won't wash by Chrys Stevenson, for an interesting look at how Wilyman exploits her academic status, and the responsibilities of her University.

Of course it is possible to have a rational discussion about vaccination policy (including scrutiny of the science behind it) without resorting to using the false and misleading information of the anti-vaccination movement and without actively supporting those people who push their unscientific, potentially dangerous (and sometimes ridiculous) opinions on health and vaccination onto the general public. Wilyman does both and - disturbingly for a PhD student - is sometimes the source of this false and misleading information in the anti-vaccination movement.

Note: for examples of rational discussion about vaccination policy, I suggest you research (rational) criticism of the "No Jab, No Play" campaign which amply demonstrates that one can be critical of government policy without Wilyman's conspiratorial Big Pharma controlled media, government & lobby groups crashing down on your head.
Also, take a look at the CSL Fluvax debacle in Western Australia (2010) and the ensuing arguments and criticisms about children receiving flu vaccines from some medical professionals today.

Wilyman questions the science behind vaccination and claims that policy has been decided without the necessary science having been conducted. This premise is sound; it is her use of false and misleading information in support of her argument and her spreading false and misleading information about vaccination in her capacity as a PhD student outside of her argument that creates, in my opinion, an insurmountable problem for her when she claims that she is not anti-vaccination.

Update 15 June 2013:
Wilyman sends out regular newsletters (as emails) to subscribers. Today's newsletter, in pushing the thoroughly debunked claim that vaccines cause autism, contained the following loltastic reference:

Here is further evidence that vaccines are a possible cause of autism
http://www.thedailysheeple.com/the-amish-dont-get-autism-and-they-dont-get-vaccinations-possible-link_062013

Please forward this information to family and friends so they can decide for themselves if the information that governments are using in vaccination policies is being influenced by industry interests.

Kind regards,
Judy Wilyman
PhD Candidate
www.vaccinationdecisions.net

Here we have a PhD candidate in vaccination research referencing "The Daily Sheeple" to convince the general public - despite robust scientific evidence to the contrary - that vaccines do cause autism.

Yes, Judy Wilyman is anti-vaccination. To the core.

Controversies

Misleading Title - "PhD Researcher"

Since Judy Wilyman commenced her PhD at Murdoch University, she adopted the fanciful title of "PhD Researcher" and used it everywhere. It's a nonsense title and suitably ambiguous; many people would likely interpret it as someone who holds a PhD working in their chosen field as a researcher.

After much public discussion about her use of this title (and, perhaps, her university having a private chat?), Wilyman dropped the term and adopted the more conventional and accepted title of "PhD candidate". Long story short, Judy is a student working towards obtaining a PhD. The accepted titles for people in this position are "PhD student" or "PhD candidate" and many such people use these titles sparingly. Her use of an ambiguous, uncommon title was misleading, though I am not implying that this was intentional.

The University of Wollongong has also been criticised for not taking responsibility for the actions of Wilyman, i.e. her use of false and misleading information and her despicable actions against the McCaffery family. Under increasing pressure from critics and some media attention, the university felt obliged to issue a statement on the matter, advising that "Articles and associated comments published by Judy Wilyman on the internet, on vaccination issues, are her own personal views and not those of the university."

Wilyman could put an end to most of this controversy - and protect her university's reputation - if she did what most PhD students do and kept the use of her title strictly within the confines of her thesis.

Murdoch University - misuse of logo

In 2009, at the National Health Promotion Conference in Perth, Wilyman presented a poster that included the logo of Murdoch University. The university was suitably unimpressed and employed the services of an IP lawyer to have it removed from the internet:
"Murdoch University has spent considerable time and energy in having the poster removed from various (anti vaccination) websites and cannot allow this poster to be used in any format on any website."
Please refer to the blog post by Dr Rachael Dunlop A lesson in "do your research" for more information.

Wilyman also used, without permission, the Murdoch University logo in a petition against coercive and mandatory immunisation:

image: Poster of Wilyman petition
with Murdoch University logo, used without permission
Wilyman misusing Murdoch University logo - again
Please refer to blog post by Advodiaboli The Rabid Truth and Meryl Dorey's Failed Vaccine Myth for more information.

Harassment of the McCaffery family

Note: if you are unfamiliar with the McCaffery family, please refer to my previous posts (videos):
In July 2010, the ABC current affair program Lateline featured a story about Meryl Dorey and the Australian Vaccination Network and its supporters, harassing the McCafferys, who are parents of a four-week old baby that died in 2009 as a result of pertussis. The video and transcript of this program can be viewed at the ABC website: Anti-Vaccination group accused of harassing parents.

The McCafferys have repeatedly implored the anti-vaccination movement to stop referencing the death of their daughter and to leave their family alone.

Despite their pleas, on 31 May 2012, Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) published a letter by Judy Wilyman sent to the Federal Human Rights Commissioner, on the AVN's website.
Note: comments on AVN articles are moderated before publication; Meryl Dorey publishes the comments.

An excerpt from Wilyman's letter:

"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'."

Speechless? It is indeed difficult to find words that adequately describe what Wilyman has done here. Her description of Dana's death as "anecdotal evidence" is vile and callous, and hearkens back to Dorey's cruel remark in 2010 when she stated, "Isn't it incredible how they have made Dana into a martyr because she supposedly died from whooping cough..."

But Wilyman is not content to stop there. In an astonishing display of cruelty and unprofessionalism, she encourages every one of her readers to forward this callous remark to the McCafferys, excerpt follows:

"I am also concerned to know if the McCaffery's have received any money either directly or indirectly for promoting this cause. I am aware that the Skeptics organisation has given awards to individuals who have been critical of the AVN. Can you assure me that the McCaffery's have not received any money from the Skeptic groups or any other lobby group for vaccines? It is the government and the media who have been using the McCaffery's to promote a vaccine that should be accountable for this case being discussed by the public. Please forward this comment to the McCaffery's so they can ask the government if it is ethical for them to be promoting a vaccine to the public."

Wilyman justified naming the McCafferys because, "The McCaffery's have chosen to be advocates for this cause and therefore they must expect that their case will be publicly discussed." A reasonable argument. Falls apart at the seams though when such a public discussion involves Wilyman cruelly describing a death as an anecdote and compounding the issue by requesting that everyone forward this vile comment onto the McCafferys - the same family that had repeatedly asked the anti-vaccination movement to leave them alone.

And it hasn't escaped my attention that Wilyman employed the services of Meryl Dorey and the Australian Vaccination Network in making this attack; the same subjects that had previously been featured in an ABC Lateline story for harassing the McCafferys. Why did Wilyman allow Meryl Dorey and the Australian Vaccination Network to publish anything she wrote that directly, or even indirectly, referenced the McCafferys, given the past behaviour of Dorey and the AVN toward this family?

Once again, the McCaffery family was forced to go public with their grief, pleading (again) to be left alone.

As would be expected, Wilyman's actions drew fierce criticism and outrage. The following blog posts and articles cover this issue in greater detail:

For more information about this distressing situation, I urge you to read these timely articles published 26 May 2013:

The McCaffery family have issued this statement in response to the above news articles.

Awarding of PhD

In January 2016 it became known that the University of Wollongong had awarded Judy Wilyman a PhD. The sub-standard and conspiratorial nature of Wilyman's thesis immediately drew widespread criticism from academics and medical professionals.
For detailed information on this, please refer to the Wikipedia entry Judith Wilyman PhD controversy. The following excerpt is a quote from University of Auckland biological scientist Helen Petousis Harris who has a PhD in Vaccinology:
Wilyman's "references to support these outrageous comments are from the bottom dwelling literature that includes 50-year-old discussions along with well-established, thoroughly debunked pseudoscience. At no point does she mention any of the vast scientific literature that includes large clinical and epidemiological studies - or attempt a critique of it."

"It is a litany of deceitful reveries. How it could possibly pass as a piece of Doctoral level work is inexplicable and it has made no contribution to knowledge. Shame on you University of Wollongong."

Responses from medical groups:
RACP: vaccination prevents infectious diseases and saves lives (PDF), media release, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 2 Feb 2016
Time for government to tackle anti-vaxxers, Medical Journal of Australia, 1 Feb 2016
Wollongong Academics Disown Anti-vax Views, Australian Medical Association, 19 Jan 2016

Selection of media articles:
University of Wollongong criticised over thesis by anti-vaccination activist, 13 Jan 2016
Wollongong uni slammed for accepting PhD thesis on 'anti-vax conspiracies', 13 Jan 2016
Wollongong Uni accepts anti-vaccination thesis citing 'freedom of opinion', 13 Jan 2016
Anti-vaccination activists spruik PhD theses as proof of conspiracy, 16 Jan 2016
Judy Wilyman's anti-vaccine PhD not included in uni's review, 19 Jan 2016
Anti-vaxxer Judy Wilyman: Wollongong papers raise doubts, 23 Mar 2016
Judy Wilyman shielded from critics in low-key conference strategy, 11 May 2016
Third marker gave OK to anti-vac thesis, 11 May 2016

Telethon Kids Institute - public seminar


Judy Wilyman, PhD (Doctor of Public Heckling)

On 30 May 2016 the Telethon Kids Institute held a free public seminar Vaccination: the facts, the experts. Presenters & panellists included:

  • Professor Jonathan Carapetis, Director, Telethon Kids Institute, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Specialist
  • Associate Professor Peter Richmond, Paediatrician, UWA Researcher
  • Dr Chris Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Specialist, Researcher
  • Dr Tom Snelling, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Specialist, Researcher
  • Dr Asha Bowen, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Specialist, Researcher
Judy Wilyman, with her freshly minted PhD, did a "come to me, my pretties" in her newsletter no. 110 Misconduct in the US CDC and FDA, excerpt follows:
"If you are concerned by any of the "facts" that were presented by the West Australian newspaper on Wednesday 25 May 2016, then you can present your concerns at the free public seminar by registering your attendance at telethonkids.org.au [link] by Friday 27 May 2016."
And come they did. One of the anti-vaccination attendees, Shawn Dhu, filmed the whole Q&A session, which only demonstrated that he and other anti-vaccination attendees were rude, intimidatory, and unprofessional. A more colourful description is that Wilyman and her flying monkeys explosively shat on the whole proceeding, forcing the Telethon Kids Institute to cut the seminar short.


Only two members of the audience got to ask questions of the panel, and even their answers were hard to hear over the screeching of Judy Wilyman and her flock of flying monkeys.
Refer media articles:
Anti-vaccination activists crash immunisation seminar, 1 Jun 2016
Ugly disruption of vaccination forum was unacceptable, editorial, 1 Jun 2016

On 3 June 2016 the Telethon Kids Institute published An open letter to WA families inviting parents to contact them directly with their vaccination questions because "unfortunately, we had to cut that session short because we couldn't be heard over the abuse from people who were not interested in the answers."

The behaviour of Wilyman and her merry band of misfits at this seminar confirms beyond a doubt that they have no interest whatsoever in having a "respectful debate" and shows them to be nothing but trouble-making hypocrites. They are thoroughly deserving of the public contempt that is often shown to them.

Shawn Dhu, who filmed and displayed intimidatory behaviour throughout the Q&A session, continued to lose the plot, even resorting to online threats against his critics:


The subject of this threat, Reasonable Hank, explains further in his post Shawn Dhu posts video threats of assault against Reasonable Hank. A bit concerning for Hank, given Dhu has admitted to having an extensive criminal record and it is believed that he is still on a good behaviour bond, or similar.

I wish Wilyman the best of luck with her future endeavours in public heckling and disruption of sensible, rational discussions about vaccination. Who would ever have thought one could make an academic career out of it. Congrats, University of Wollongong.