For some reason or another, someone has infiltrated a private yahoo chat forum for naturopathic doctors called Naturopathic Chat and has made a hobby of copying controversial private conversations onto Reddit and subsequently contacting skeptic bloggers to take a look. The skeptic bloggers then share these controversial conversations and use this to prove that the entire profession of NDs is “quacky.”
It is not unheard of for doctors to use online forums to consult on clinical cases. I recently logged on to Medscape Consult to find medical doctors asking clinical questions as simple as “best treatments for pharyngitis”, asking for help identifying a unique rash, or more specialized questions inquiring about suturing techniques. Yes, I have screen shots but I find it both silly to share screen shots of private conversations without the poster’s permission to do so and also unethical, since some of these posts contain patient identifying information. It is true: doctors consult with each other. And some use social media and chat forums to muse about political and philosophical topics related to medicine. Natchat and Medscape Consult are problematic for several reasons: while modern, they are unprofessional platforms for consultation and at times some members may discuss cases that may reveal patient identifying information. What is even worse is that now we have critics copying these private conversations between a handful of clinicians and sharing cherry-picked self-serving discussions with their readership of thousands without hiding patient identifying information.
I have emphasized that the leaked private discussions are controversial because it is clear that only certain conversations were leaked. I supposed it wouldn’t be interesting at all to share private discussions of NDs encouraging vaccinations. After all “the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
Here are some examples of other discussions that were omitted from the Reddit leaks. Again, I am only sharing messages that the authors of the posts gave me permission to share.
This message was posted by me when I was a resident practicing in WA in response to a questions about rubella immunization.
This message was written by NDs4vax contributor, Eric Yarnell, ND, who was one of the most outspoken members of Natchat on the benefits and safety of immunizations. I was never a regular user of Natchat but when Dr. Yarnell had something to say, I was eager to read it. In this message, he is responding to the myth that vaccines cause autism.
Message 3: This message was written by Jonathan Bell, ND, a passionate advocate for primary care and immunizations. In this message, he provides a great resource for evidence-based information on vaccines.
As you can see, there are NDs who have been very outspoken within their community about the benefits of immunizations for quite some time. One of the goals of this blog is to give some of us a way to discuss immunizations with our broader communities as well. Let me end with a couple requests:
Clinicians, if you are a member of an online forum where patient identifying information is used, leave the group. I did, and have opted to establish relationships with an MD, a DO and several NDs I can consult with directly.
Critics, if you are so inclined to access private chat forums and share private conversations that serve your own particular agenda without the permission of the authors, would you have the decency to hide patient identifying information? Learn to get your points across without needlessly harming innocent patients in your hypocritical attempt to exert your moral superiority.
Setareh Tais, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing family medicine with a focus on integrative family medicine and reproductive health in Fresno, CA. She received her doctorate of naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in 2009 and completed an integrative family medicine residency program with additional training in reproductive endocrinology and infertility in 2012.
She is immediate past president of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association and a Delegate to the American Association of Naturopathic Physcians; as well as a former board member of the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians and founding board member of the Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians.