HealthPseudoscienceScience

Internet Vaccine “Research” and Google U

The other day, I was reading one of those seemingly perpetual discussions in parenting groups about vaccines. I doubt I have to tell anyone reading this the various arguments that get thrown around on either side, but something struck me this time around that I’ve noticed before – the idea of “doing [our] own research” about vaccines.

Now this particular discussion happened to be about vaccines, but it happens in a lot of contexts – one side of some issue accuses the other side of blindly taking something on faith and inevitably people say, no I did my research. As it happened in this particular discussion, there was an argument from authority from someone in the medical community about how people who vax their kids don’t do any independent research or ask detailed questions about them from their providers. Cue a slew of people saying, no I did do research and chose to vax.

Good for them.

But it got me thinking, because honestly, I did pretty blindly follow the recommendations of the medical professionals who I had determined through a complex matrix of their taking my insurance and accepting new patients and not having office policies that I found troubling and being relatively conveniently located. I didn’t sit at my computer (I didn’t have a smart phone until most of the inoculations were complete for both of my kids) and Google vaccine names and possible reactions. I did do a little more research on Gardasil, because I heard so much anecdotal evidence for it being scary and untested, but I never really doubted its safety for the vast majority of 11-12 year olds.

Maybe that makes me a bad skeptic or even a bad mom. Certainly it might mean that I’m a little lazy when I feel like I can get away with it. But I think the biggest factor is that I am a highly educated professional in something totally different from immunology and pharmacology.

I run into self-proclaimed experts in my field all the time. Not just in law generally, although there are plenty of those, but people who passionately believe that their layperson interpretation of technicalities that I’ve been working with since 1999 is more comprehensive and accurate than anything that, you know, actual lawyers who do this every day could come up with. They ask questions that they think are highly analytic and intelligent which really just make them look like buffoons. Pro tip – if you confuse the applicability of copyright and trademark, I know you have not the slightest clue what you’re talking about.[1] The fact that these people don’t know the difference isn’t what makes them idiots. The fact that they waste time and energy trying to tell me why they’re right and I’m wrong and “the law should be [something it’s totally not]” …well, that kind of does make them, if not idiots, let’s just say it’s not a great indicator of comprehensiveness of their alleged self-taught expertise.[2]

So, I don’t spend a lot of time on vaccine “research”. I rely on the consensus of the medical community and the advice of every pediatrician my children have seen in their combined 16 years and every other medical professional I know who works with kids to give me medically sound advice. I am not a doctor and I’m not a scientist and I have absolutely no training or expertise that would lead me to think that my personal opinion based on what I can find via Google search is more sound than their expertise on the subject of medical diagnosis. So, just as I wouldn’t expect a client to tell me how to render a legal opinion, I don’t second guess the medical opinions of the highly educated professionals from whom I seek services.

That doesn’t mean I never head to Doctor Google about a symptom or don’t ever seek a second opinion or even change doctors if I have serious concerns about quality of care. If I found myself regularly dismissing or questioning a physician’s advice, I would ask myself why and seek out not a doctor that agreed with me, but a second independent assessment of the situation. From another doctor, not someone on the internet.

[1] Please, if you’re curious, go read this. It will tell you virtually everything soft-IP lawyers want you to know about copyright and trademark.

[2] I’m not knocking self-taught knowledge in general here. Go forth and learn.

Featured image via Flickr user Magh.

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Emily Sexton

Emily Sexton

Writer of incomplete novels, entertainment lawyer, mom of two with a wide age spread, blogger here and elsewhere, wannabe vocalist and v/o actress, atheist, weirdo. That last bit went without saying. Find Em on twitter @emandink and maybe she'll use it more.

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