Not long ago I was at a meeting which featured a state public health pediatrician discussing how raising the smoking age leads to a lessening in tobacco use in youth.
The physician speaking was charismatic, somewhat aloof and had a manner that signaled he was not used to being questioned contrarily. As the lone reporter in the room I wrote his testimony and when he was done I followed him into the hall to ask follow up questions.
The conversation began simple enough, with me asking why he took on the challenge of youth tobacco use. Turns out he was the initiator of the movement to raise the tobacco age across the country, and he did it by showing convincing data-based evidence, he said.
Somehow we ended up on the topic of autism and special needs children when I mentioned my connection of working with families. “Oh, so do I,” he told me. “Only, they have to be vaccinated,” he said, with a smile that once again suggested he was not to be questioned.
The conversation then touched on genetic predisposition, flu vaccine during pregnancy, and why some kids may be more susceptible to harm than others to the largest vaccine schedule in the world. He paused at times to sort of agree with me since I was entirely non-confrontational, and had stopped taking notes for my report.
Paul Offit’s friends think alike
Found out he’s a friend of Paul Offit, which explained much of the rest of our conversation.
He discussed the infant who died directly following a round of vaccines he had administered. There were four in all of his years in practice that died within close proximity of their well check. But the one who died suddenly bothered him.
I asked if he reported it to VAERS or acknowledged the vaccine reaction, and he shook his head. Instead, he found a report put out in the UK that explained why these children would have died any way. One report.
My face must have slack-jawed since he kept talking. His body language indicated he intended to have the last word. The cadence of his speech picked up and he began to move toward the door.
I pressed him about the vaccine schedule as being a problem, the Hepatitis B as an example of something so entirely unnecessary, but worth billions to Merck.
“They don’t give that one anymore,” he said with conviction. “The Boston hospitals stopped giving it a while ago,” he remarked; which I found hard to believe that any Boston hospital would go against the CDC vaccine schedule, especially one as lucrative as the Hep B.
So I asked the obvious question as to why it was decided a good idea for newborns in the first place. “Well that one was added because there was a real need when mothers from Vietnam came here and they were heavily infected with Hepatitis B,” he stammered.
By this stage my reeling thoughts were either the guy was nuts or his knowledge of unnecessary harm was starting to spill out. Or I was looking at the epitome of cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance has no parallel
A quick definition of cognitive dissonance is that people have an inner need to ensure that their beliefs and behaviors are consistent, even when faced with new evidence to challenge their assertions. In 1957, psychologist Leon Festinger proposed the theory, saying that any inconsistency or conflicting beliefs that leads to disharmony, also leads people to avoidance.
My simple questions to this public health pediatrician caused an odd response, and his need to avoid the obvious was palpable. He mentioned the Omnibus ruling in the Cedillo case as being correct; after all, he had read the transcripts. “Hmmm, I know the Cedillo family,” I replied, trying to add in how the harm to their daughter was very real. By this stage he had one foot out the door and I stopped adding fuel to the bonfire set.
Sadly, he is emblematic of the crisis of conscience, and mental health, other physicians must be facing as the truth unfolds before them.
In our former pediatric practice, the lone pediatrician watched the autism epidemic escalate on his watch. More children added to the practice, more children diagnosed with autism….including his own.
I wondered how many he would diagnose before the harsh reality would hit him. How many similar stories? I wondered how many other pediatricians were seeing the same tragedy hit their child, only to turn around and vaccinate the next child without a word of caution to the parent.
After speaking at an event in San Francisco, a lovely pediatrician clutched my book Victory over Autism to have me sign. She thanked me for the talk in which I described my son’s recovery from autism, detailing how we had to heal his immune system. As a holistic pediatrician in California, she had her hands full navigating the minefield of vaccine politics.
In our brief conversation I told her that pediatricians (her colleagues) knew what was causing the rise in autism and other childhood disorders. “You think so,” she asked, almost pleadingly. “I know so. How many children can come to their office and become seriously ill directly follow a well-visit that includes vaccines? When do they begin to wonder if there might be a correlation?” They know. Or they adopt cognitive dissonance just to head to the office every day.
I am baffled by this mindset in medicine. How uncomfortable does it have to get before they begin to question whether or not they had a hand in the rise in childhood illnesses? How many parents do they have to bully into compliance before it becomes painfully obvious the parents are not the problem. Their guilt is.
Autism parents have “cognitive dissonance”
Likewise, we as parents are accused of having cognitive dissonance for questioning the idea that autism is not purely genetic, but has an environmental trigger. The “science is in” crowd cites the “studies” that document what we are obviously denying. What they fail to grasp is that we witnessed what happened to our child. We didn’t imagine that our child had signs of autism all along, and we just missed the clues. Nor did they suddenly become brilliant to figure out how autism has been in our midst all along, now that there was “better diagnosing.”
In his article, “Fighting Cognitive Dissonance & The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” John Grohol, Psy.D, recounts that cognitive dissonance is just one of many biases that work in our everyday lives. He writes: We don’t like to believe that we are wrong, so we may limit our intake of new information or thinking about things in ways that don’t fit without our pre-existing beliefs. Psychologists call this “confirmation bias.”
It isn’t so much that this is a disorder, as much as it is a chosen behavior. Which leads to the question of how much cognitive dissonance can someone adopt before the lie overwhelms them to change directions? I think we are on the verge of that shift simply because the burden of the lie is becoming insurmountable.
What happens when the autism rates are 1 in 2? Parents will flee pediatricians in droves, a trend we are seeing happen as families are dismissed by the practice, or leave voluntarily. Vaccine mandates will bring about the unintended consequence of creating sheer ill will toward pediatricians.
Cognitive dissonance will cease to exist when the lies are universally exposed, or the guilty conscience overwhelms the physician who swore an oath to first do no harm…but harmed any way. More good pediatricians will leave traditional medicine and opt for a safer (saner) approach to vaccines, and they certainly will listen to the parents more than they do today.
Cognitive dissonance has a life cycle when looked at as a whole. Think of how we have shifted attitudes and perceptions over the generations, mainly because the lies were too much of a burden for society to accept: civil rights, women’s rights, green energy, smoking, etc.
So too will the shift happen in pediatrics. It has too. Until it does, we need to keep telling our stories.
Mary Romaniec is a reporter who lives in Massachusetts. She is the author of Victory over Autism: Practical Steps and Wisdom toward Recovery for the Whole Family. She writes, speaks and advocates for families of special needs children.