Nadine Dorries MP and her hoax science


by Sunny Hundal    
4:18 pm - May 14th 2008

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1) On March 19th Nadine Dorries MP published a blog-post titled The Hand of Hope, which featured this image of a small hand apparently coming out of a uterus. She said:

When the operation was over, baby Samuel, at 21 weeks gestation, put his hand through the incision in the uterus and grabbed hold of the surgeon’s finger, a gesture which was apparently met with a huge amount of emotion in the operating theatre. Dr Bruner said that it was the most emotional moment of his life and that for a moment he was just frozen, totally immobile.

Except, it was a hoax and Dr Bruner himself had said so. This was pointed out on several blogs including LC and Dorries wrote another post defending her actions with the view that the photographer, a born-again Christian, should be believed over the surgeon (who she had earlier quoted herself).

The Hand of Hope also makes an appearance on the pictures and video section of her new campaign. In other words, a member of parliament is actually perpetuating a hoax that has been debunked several times.

In many ways, this sums up her entire campaign.

2) Her 20 reasons for 20 weeks includes the assertion that:

17. The British Medical Association’s opposition to lowering the limit is not supported by the majority of its members and almost 1,000 BMA members recently signed a petition against attempts to further liberalise BMA policy.

Except that doctors from the BMA overwhelmingly voted against reducing the 24 week limit.

3) She also claimed initially that Marie Stopes International favoured reducing the 24 week limit. This was not the case.

A proper debunking of Nadine Dorries’s 20 reasons can be found at rhetorically speaking.

4) Yesterday, she wrote more rubbish on her blog.

“Antediluvian”
That’s how John Bercow, the Conservative Member for Buckingham described members, (inc me) who want to reform the abortion law. He also used words such as prejudiced. Antediluvian isn’t a word you hear much on the housing estates across Britain, so I had to ask what it meant. Before a flood apparently.

All faiths, including Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians are all antediluvian. But of course, John Bercow must be right and I believe that maybe the three quarters of women across Britain are grateful to him for being there to point out the error of their judgment.

Professor Anand, incredibly well respected and acknowledged as the world’s leading expert in foetal pain, believes that a foetus feels pain as low as 18 weeks gestation.

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. Firstly, there is no religious consensus on abortion, even if people followed their faith to the letter.

Secondly, where’s the evidence that 75% of women share her view? What she has are a series of opinion polls carried out by ComRes over the last 3-4 years, all of which were commissioned by pro-life organisations and all of which follow the same basic format, even if the wording and ordering of some questions differ slightly from poll to poll. Do they prove that 75% of women share her view? No, but they are a near classic example of the art of manipulating opinion poll results by means of careful use of leading questions and are almost deserving of a case study in their own right.

And then there’s Dr Anand and the other scientific evidence that Dorries claims supports her position…

5) She said in a recent article:

Yesterday’s report on neonatal survival rates, along with resounding evidence produced by the world’s leading foetal pain expert, Professor KJS Anand, that a foetus feels pain from quite an early stage – certainly at 20 weeks – makes the recent science and technology committee report redundant. It also serves to highlight the selective way in which the evidence was presented.

The report on neonatal survival rates is a study conducted by Professor John Wyatt of University College London Hospital (and the Christian Medical Fellowship) and, of course, there’s the inevitable reference to Professor Anand and an attempt to write-off the report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee as biased and out of date.

There’s no easy way to tackle the science. It’s complex and pretty impenetrable to anyone who doesn’t have a reasonable background in the sciences and that’s what Dorries is relying on in this debate. Many people don’t have the knowledge or skills to work their way through the evidence, so they have to trust what the men (and women, of course) in white lab coats have to say – and Dorries would rather you trust her ‘experts’ rather than anyone elses.

Tackling the science is difficult but not impossible. The Science and Technology Committee report (pdf) is as good a place to start as any and commendably clear in its assessment of the evidence. For the UCLH study by Professor Wyatt, try Ben Goldacre’s assessment of Wyatt’s evidence to the Science and Technology Committee (ST&C).

The relevance, or rather lack of relevance of Professor ‘Sunny’ Anand’s work on foetal pain is discussed by Unity here at his own blog and again at Liberal Conspiracy in the wake of a staged public ‘debate’ organised by Dorries. Anand is an excellent physician and respected academic in his field, but his field isn’t abortion and at best his work on foetal ‘pain’, much of which remains theoretical and far from conclusive at this point in time, amounts to no more than an argument for the use of foetal anaesthesia in late-term abortions and not one that supports a reduction in the current upper limit.

All of which leaves us the final plank of Dorries’ “scientific” arguments, Professor Stuart Cambell’s ’4D’ ultrasound scans, which have some small value as an aide to diagnosing physical abnormalities but which provide about about as much information about critical areas of foetal development, such the brain and respiratory system, as the animated dancing baby that used to appear on Ally McBeal.

Even Dorries’ favourite anti-abortion doctor, Professor John Wyatt had to concede to the ST&C that “at the moment I think the consensus is they do not add a great deal in terms of the science.”

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Campaigns ,Coalition For Choice ,Conservative Party ,e) Briefings ,Equality ,Feminism ,Nadine Dorries ,Religion ,Westminster


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Reader comments


1. Publicansdecoy

Excellent stuff. Please keep up the good work..

It’s hard to know what to say, other than;

I have come to the view that this woman must be hounded from office as a menace to parliamentary democracy and rational debate in this Country. That she gets away with the lies she peddles (at our expense, it would seem) is nothing short of a disgrace. As if the deliberate smearing of Ben Goldacre wasn’t enough, she holds her constituents and all taxpayers in contempt by refusing them the right of reply on the propaganda rag she calls a blog – which it would seem, is funded by us!!

I note the deafening silence from the right-wing blogosphere on this; particularly best mate, Iain Dale, usually second-in-line only to Guido with the “ain’t it a disgrace” threads.

Ah, now you’re getting to the meat. Good on you.

Nice one Sunny.

Oh dear, it looks like Dorries doesn’t appreciate it (and she’s still banging on about the Hand of Hoax):

“The Hounds of Hell are chasing me…………I have a very clear message to those who are attempting to do this – back off. You will not stop me, you will not undermine me, you do not scare me. In fact, you make me much more determined than I ever was before. You give me strength.”

http://www.dorries.org.uk/Blog.aspx

Excellent piece Sunny.

As if the deliberate smearing of Ben Goldacre wasn’t enough, she holds her constituents and all taxpayers in contempt by refusing them the right of reply on the propaganda rag she calls a blog – which it would seem, is funded by us!!

Also well said.

Sod the abortion question, I’m staggered that someone can rise to a position of considerable power and prestige and not know what ‘antediluvian’ means.

Keep up the good work.

Oh dear, looks like poor Nads isn’t happy. From her blog:

“The Hounds of Hell are chasing me……..I have a very clear message to those who are attempting to do this – back off. You will not stop me, you will not undermine me, you do not scare me. In fact, you make me much more determined than I ever was before. You give me strength.”

Followed by yet another picture of, and reference to, the totally discredited Hand of Hope.

Message to Nadine:

‘Woof’

That ought to settle it.

*goes back to eating babies and drinking goats blood*

10. douglas clark

Cath,

What is telling is that she is trying to tar all her opponents with the same brush. The campaign here has dealt exclusively in the facts. As long as it stays that way, she is holed below the waterline.

If Sunny ever wanted a post ironic rebranding of this blog, ‘Hounds of Hell’ has a nice ring to it.

“Sod the abortion question, I’m staggered that someone can rise to a position of considerable power and prestige and not know what ‘antediluvian’ means.”

And, indeed, thinks it’s big and clever to /tell/ everyone how ill-educated she is…

* sigh *

Thanks, though I can’t take credit for this other than trying to bring it together. Various bloggers, especially Unity, have done the work on this.

I love the way Dorries is now not-so-subtly trying to link this campaign to expose her agenda with stories of personal harassment. Pathetic.

“The Hounds of Hell are chasing me……..I have a very clear message to those who are attempting to do this – back off. You will not stop me, you will not undermine me, you do not scare me. In fact, you make me much more determined than I ever was before. You give me strength.”

Excellent.

Having realised that her stance does not necessarily grant her moral authority, she’s taken it upon herself to gain it.

Have you got a link to what the operating surgeon has said, so I could check it out? Thanks.

References are included on this Wikipedia page, which deals with the story:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Armas

References given are:

Davis, Robert. “Hand of a Fetus Touched the World.” USA Today. 2 May 2000 (p. D8)

“Photo of fetal surgery still stirs emotion.” The Tennessean Newspaper January 9th, 2000

Neither article appears to be on-line although you could search for a reprint.

Snopes cover it here – http://www.snopes.com/photos/medical/thehand.asp

@Letters from a Tory:

There are some links in the first paragraph of the article which will take you to some direct quotes.

Curse my Friday brain…. Thanks for pointing that out.

@Letters from a Tory

“Curse my Friday brain….”

Your Thursday brain isn’t up to much either… :-)

“Sod the abortion question, I’m staggered that someone can rise to a position of considerable power and prestige and not know what ‘antediluvian’ means.”

I’m staggered that she can go to church, be backed by religiously motivated pressure groups into promoting religious doctrine as party policy while remaining oblivious to references about the story of Noah, or maybe she and her supporters just don’t agree with the teachings of their religion and are in denial about which side of the debate they are really on.

20. Paulette

Well done Nadine!

I am so glad that someone is being bold enough to speak up for unborn babies.
The womb is a very dangerous place because of this abortion act. A holocaust of future generations has been taking place for 40 years. A pregnant woman does not own the baby she is carrying. That baby and its father have rights.

Paulette. Why are you congratulating her? She failed to change the law. She tried using outright lies and misinformation as well as over-emotional (and possibly false) testimony and still failed. She’s an embarrassment to your cause.

The womb would be a dangerous place with or without legal abortion anyway, because not only will abortions happen regardless (check out the abortion rates in South American countries where all abortions are illegal), but miscarriage accounts for far more failed pregnancies than abortion ever will.

A pregnant woman does own her own body. The foetus doesn’t, and the father _certainly_ does not either.


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