Cleveland Clinic under fire after doc’s anti-vaccine rant

Cleveland Clinic building
Cleveland Clinic published a statement sayint the comments made by one of its physicians against vaccinations do not reflect the position of the organization.

Cleveland Clinic is taking a hard line against one of its physicians, who published a column laced with anti-vaccine rhetoric, creating a media firestorm and backlash from the medical community.

Daniel Neides

The prestigious hospital system promised disciplinary action against Daniel Neides, M.D., who implied in a column last week, published by Cleveland.com, that dangerous preservatives and ingredients in vaccines may be linked to an increase in cases of autism.

That theory is based on a fraudulent study that has been discredited by researchers and was retracted by a leading medical journal, but still is used by anti-vaccine proponents to discourage parents from allowing physicians to administer the Mumps, Measles and Rubella vaccine to their children,

“We have to wake up out of our trance and stop following bad advice,” he wrote in the column, which was briefly taken down Sunday but has since been restored on the site. “Does the vaccine burden—as has been debated for years—cause autism? I don't know and will not debate that here. What I will stand up and scream is that newborns without intact immune systems and detoxification systems are being over-burdened with PRESERVATIVES AND ADJUVANTS IN THE VACCINES.”

RELATED: Anti-vaccine rant fallout: Cleveland Clinic may cut some wellness services

Neides is the director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, a facility that its website said combines “world-class medical care and quality wellness programs to change unhealthy behaviors and to make healthy life choices.”

But Cleveland Clinic is now in the hot seat because Neides’ comments fly in the face of what most in the medical community believe are healthy choices. Namely, making sure patients receive vaccinations.

The institution published a statement on its website Sunday, stating it completely supports vaccines to protect people, especially vulnerable children.

“Cleveland Clinic is fully committed to evidence-based medicine. Harmful myths and untruths about vaccinations have been scientifically debunked in rigorous ways," the clinic said in the statement.

It added that Neides published his statement without its authorization. “His views do not reflect the position of Cleveland Clinic and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

The facility did not say what type of disciplinary action will be taken. Neides has since apologized, stating he regrets the publication of the blog. “I fully support vaccinations and my concern was meant to be positive around the safety of them,” he said.

But the controversy also highlights the conflict that hospitals face when they also operate alternative medicine clinics that may not be based on evidence-based guidelines, noted an article published by STAT. Wellness programs are offered by several leading organizations, including the Mayo Clinic and Duke University Medical Center. They have generated millions in revenue.

Hospitals “are providing therapies that don’t have good evidence behind them, and it absolutely opens the door to this kind of nonsense,” Tim Caulfield, a lawyer and health policy professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, told the publication.

Adam Gaffney, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care specialist who teaches at Harvard Medical School, also told the publication that the wellness movement has become big business. Gaffney is concerned because the Cleveland Clinic’s program has a website that sells homeopathic cleansers to patients, products based on “pseudoscience.”

Meanwhile, the damage caused by Neides’ article may be felt for quite some time. Despite his apologies, Forbes noted that “the attitudes he expressed form over time, run deep and are not easily dismissed or rejected by someone who believes them. A single apology and disavowal does not undo that damage.”