This was possibly the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write

Unfortunately there is some concern about SickKids and to whom it has decided to award its hard-earned money. This otherwise fine organization has decided to give Autism One, an autism group that has been vocal about the “questionable safety” of vaccines, a $5000 grant for an upcoming conference at the University of Toronto. That may seem like small potatoes, but the prestige and legitimacy that their association with SickKids will bring is worth much more than that.

I have written a letter to express my concerns. Respectful Insolence and Science-Based Pharmacy are also following this, among others, where you can find more details. If you have the time, and are concerned about the way SickKids is spending their grant money, please write them (I contacted them under “National Grants Program) a letter politely outlining your concerns.


I was very disappointed to hear that your wonderful organization has decided to award a $5000 grant to Autism One on the grounds that SickKids is taking a “neutral stance” on Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments for autism.

With respect, there is no such thing as a “neutral stance” in health care, especially for a ground-breaking and well-respected organization such as yours. Health is not a political stance. In health care, there is what works, what might work, and what does not. Unfortunately, there is also what does demonstrable harm. In fact, many CAM treatments have had plenty of studies that demonstrate that they do not work (such as acupuncture, homeopathy, etc) and are in some cases very dangerous (e.g., chelation).

But my main concern is that Autism One has, among other questionable claims, been disturbingly vocal in linking vaccines to autism — a dangerous claim that has been demonstrated time and again to be false. Their “About Us” page says it all: Have you read it?

I would completely support your awarding a grant to a scientific CAM research group, as you are right that there are still some treatments are in need of further study to determine their effectiveness (or non-effectiveness, as the case may be). However, Autism One dwarves any interest in such discoveries with promoting their agenda that vaccines are “toxic”.

I realize that it is too late to do anything about the current grant, as it has already been awarded. But I feel that continued support to groups like Autism One will in fact contribute to the number of sick or dying kids you will see in the future. They will be suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases and their side-effects, such as measles encephalitis.

I hope that in the future you will be brave enough to take a reasoned evidence-based stance on who you choose to support with your grant money. Children’s lives are too important to be risked on the politically correct, and ill-advised, stance of “neutrality” in the interest of supporting politically-charged groups such as Autism One.

I will not donate to your organization as long as you continue to support dangerous groups such as this, nor will I recommend it to others. I would rather donate to an organization that I know will ensure that kids are getting the best available treatments, not one that is apologetic to claims that are already costing kids’ lives with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Thank you,

[my name]

UPDATE: I had contacted Pam Gilliland (above) and she forwarded my email to the executive director of the conference, so I thought I would provide that information. Although I thought I had made it clear that I was referring to the awarding of a grant in the first place (which is why I contacted the grants officer), she replied that I seemed to be focusing on the content of the conference and provided me with this information. I will write back to clarify, but in case anyone does want to contact this person here is the info:

Laurie Mawlam, Executive Director
P.O. Box 366
Bothwell, ON N0P 1C0
(519) 695-5858

3 responses to “This was possibly the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write

  1. Great letter. However, I don’t think that the organization is flawed at the basic level and little if any good from writing them letters.

    I did a little research on their site and found the following:

    “All of our research grants and training awards are subject to external peer review. [It’s just me in the brackets…sounds good so far.] These peer reviews insure a level of excellence in our grant making. The applications are then assessed by the Grants Review Committee, the Complementary and Alternative Health Care Review Committee [WTF?] or the Rotman Award Review Committee.”

    By including a CAM committee in the review of all their proposed grants shows me that the whole process is flawed.

    I don’t recommend that anyone contribute to this organization until the can remove their collective heads from their asses and use only science based medicine

  2. Shit, I mean the organization IS flawed at the basic level.

  3. This is a really excellent letter. I hope that SickKids takes note of criticisms like these and puts a stop to its support of dangerous organizations that work — even with the best of intentions — to the detriment of our (or anyone else’s) society’s health.