Desiree Jennings “cured” of her “vaccine-induced dystonia”?

Posted by Orac on 

Plans change, and neurons melt, which they did in response to reading the first several chapters of Suzanne Somers’ book.

Don’t worry, though. I’ll definitely try to get back on track with my–shall we say?–extended multipart review by Monday. Sometimes, though, when you’re blogging, news drives what you do, and news is driving my decision to forego the pleasure and pain of the next installment of my “fun with Suzanne Somers” series, at least for a couple of days. What, you may ask, was so important that I delayed this most important project, a project that strikes home more than most, given that I treat breast cancer for a living?

It’s the Desiree Jennings story again.

You remember Desiree Jennings? She’s the young woman who received a seasonal flu vaccine in August and later developed what is being represented as dystonia but is almost certainly not. The other day, her VAERS database report was found, which casts even more doubt on her story, given that the neurologist who examined her when she presented concluded that there was a strong psychogenic component to whatever it was that was wrong with her. What has been brought to my attention is that, after promoting Jennings as evidence that the flu vaccine is harmful, deleting its page asking for donations for her, and then deciding to support her again, it looks as though Generation Rescue is going full mental jacket in supporting her again. Indeed, it looks as though GR has hooked Jennings up with a character I’ve discussed numerous times on this blog. More on that later. In the meantime, check out her website, where she tells her story and touting her “cure“:

Uh-oh. Who is this doctor? Take a guess. No, it’s not a competent doctor. Indeed, it’s a doctor who has gotten in a lot of trouble with his medical board. He’s known for urine injection therapy, among other things, and has charged tens of thousands of dollars to apply his quackery to cancer patients. Do you know of whom I speak yet? Longtime readers, I bet, can guess.

Yes, I’m talking about “Dr.” Rashid ButtarWoo-meister Supreme, who once referred to the North Carolina Medical Board as “rabid dogs” for daring to have the temerity to tell him that he should practice according to the standard of care. This is what Desiree has to say about her supposedly being on the road to recovery:

Of course he did. That’s what he diagnoses everyone with, pretty much, other than his cancer patients.

And, making the rounds on various quack discussion forums is this breathless e-mail:

Detox. It had to be detox. Because, you know, the horrific “toxins” in the flu vaccine so damaged Jennings’ central nervous system that she exhibited a set of symptoms that don’t fit with any known disease or condition. Moreover, the story has morphed from Jennings merely being unable to speak and having all these jerky movements to having seizures every minute and having her breathing stop two or three times a minute. Enter Dr. “urine injections R US” Buttar with one of his–what else?–chelation and “detoxification” regimens, and suddenly she’s all well again! Or so says Dr. Rashid Buttar in an interview on a “health freedom” radio show by Robert Scott Bell. Or, at least, so says a happy Desiree Jennings:

Of course she is. She’s been converted. She now has a video in which she tells everyone how well she’s doing:

When I first wrote about this story, I made a prediction. Actually, I made an “either or” prediction. I predicted that either doctors or practitioners recommended by Generation Rescue would use their usual quackery (i.e., “biomedical therapy” for “vaccine injury”) to “treat” Ms. Jennings. There’s no doubt that that’s exactly what happened, and GR went for the big macher of “biomedical” woo-meisters, Dr. Rashid Buttar. It doesn’t get much bigger than that in the biomedical world. I further predicted that, if Jennings’ symptoms resolved spontaneously, which they appear to be doing, both she and GR would credit her fortune to whatever quackery she was being subjected to. My alternative prediction was that, given the increasing evidence coming out that Jennings’ condition was not true dystonia and had, at the very least, a strong psychogenic overlay, the anti-vaccine movement would let her story fade away. Indeed, that was what it appeared to be doing, given that the page on Generation Rescue’s website asking for donations for Jennings had disappeared without a trace (other than the Google cache, of course).

Apparently in response to all the criticism, someone at GR apparently decided that the best defense is a good offense. (And who’s more offensive than j.B. Handley?) That good offense is what we’re seeing now. Jennings’ website is slick and clearly professionally designed. It’s doubtful that she could afford to put together such a website, much less the well-produced video that is being shown. I also predicted that, if and when Jennings’ almost certainly psychogenic dystonia spontaneously resolves, the anti-vaccine movement will declare victory and use that resolution as “evidence” that her dystonia was due to “vaccine injury.” That is exactly what appears to be happening right now. It looks almost as dramatic as a faith healing. As I said before, I do not think that she is faking, and “psychogenic” doesn’t mean that she can control her symptoms. She is indeed suffering, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, suffering or not, psychogenic dystonia or true dystonia, this unfortunate young woman is being used by the anti-vaccine movement, and it sickens me.I hadn’t realized just how cynical the anti-vaccine movement would be. Even in my wildest imaginings, I wouldn’t have predicted that they’d have chosen Dr. Rashid Buttar as the woo-meister who would “cure” Jennings. After all, he’s the same guy who has promoted, among other quackery, urine injections. He’s the same guy who has charged cancer patients obscene amounts of money for his quackery and made unbelievable promises. Now that‘s chutzpah!

In retrospect, I now realize that I underestimated the sheer cynicism of Generation Rescue and J.B. Handley, the sheer will to exploit an unfortunate woman whose disorder, whatever it is (physiologic or psychogenic), almost certainly has nothing to do with the flu vaccine and, even if it did, would be such a rare reaction as not to be a signficant concern compared to the risk of not being vaccinated. They’re going to milk this for all it’s worth, complete with a “recovery story” testimonial that will appear superficially convincing. Indeed, Jennings’ website is already garnering sponsors like OxyHealth, which makes portable hyperbaric oxygen chambers, and RevitaPop, some sort of supplement in the form of a lollipop that apparently believers in woo feed their autistic kids. Unfortunately, a whois search failed to find who owns the domain name, but I’d bet money that Generation Rescue or someone from Generation Rescue bought the domain name and set up this website for her. It and the ever-despicable Rashid Buttar are exploiting this poor woman for their own ends. Probably, Jennings doesn’t know what she’s bought into, and I doubt she knows just how badly this could end.

You know, also in retrospect, I think that maybe I should have stuck with my original plan to deconstruct Suzanne Somers’ book some more. It would have irritated me less.

ADDENDUM: Steve Novella has also commented. As a neurologist, he made perhaps the most cogent observation about the whole Buttar affair:

Indeed. The story being spread by Dr. Buttar about her dramatic improvement is excellent evidence that Desiree Jennings’ dystonia was almost certainly psychogenic all along. Her recovery was too miraculously fast to be plausible especially if she appeared as sick as is being reported, even if the snake oil Dr. Buttar administered had a real physiological effect on her nervous system.

Like Steve, I’m glad that Desiree Jennings is apparently recovering, whatever the reason. Hopefully she can get back to her normal life. But I roundly condemn Generation Rescue and Dr. Buttar for their cynical exploitation of this vulnerable young woman. Given J. B. Handley’s history, I have to wonder if they would have gone so far to promote this story if Ms. Jennings had been a 25-year-old average-looking man, rather than a beautiful 25-year-old woman who was also an NFL cheerleader.


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