I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
When I was a La Leche League (LLL) Leader, two of the most admired members of the professional advisory board were William Sears, MD and his wife, Martha Sears, RN. They lent their professional reputations to LLL at a time when breastfeeding was still gaining mainstream acceptance. They also popularized the first baby sling and wrote dozens of seminal books, including The Healthy Pregnancy Book, The Attachment Parenting Book, The Birth Book and the Baby Sleep Book. The Sears are the parents of eight children, three of whom are medical doctors: James Sears, Robert Sears, and Peter Sears.
Bob Sears earned his medical degree at Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1995 and is board-certified in pediatrics. His practice combines alternative and traditional medical care and he is committed to preventative medicine. Sears has co-authored several books with his father and is the author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for your Child” and The Autism Book: What Every Parent Need to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention.” Bob Sears has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show, the Ellen DeGeneres show and House Calls with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and is a frequent speaker at La Leche League and other conferences around the country.
MEDICAL BOARD ACCUSATION
On September 2, 2016, the Medical Board of California brought a complaint against Dr. Sears for gross negligence, repeated negligent acts and failure to maintain adequate and accurate records. The accusation of gross negligence and failing to maintain adequate records stems from a decision Dr. Sears made to excuse one of his patients from future vaccinations. Based on the description of his patient’s mother, Dr. Sears concluded that a two-year-old child had suffered what appeared to be a severe encephalitis reaction and recommended that the child receive no more routine childhood vaccines for the duration of his childhood.
Sears enjoys a healthy pediatric practice in southern California and many of his patients believe that the medical board’s accusation is in retaliation for his outspoken opposition to SB 277, which was overwhelmingly opposed by parents. The bill eliminated religious exemptions for childhood vaccines and made California one of just three states—along with Mississippi and West Virginia—to offer only medical exemptions to vaccines and no religious or philosophical exemptions.
IN GOOD COMPANY
Over the years, other doctors who have challenged conventional wisdom have suffered threats to their licenses and livelihoods. In 1981, a disciplinary action was brought against Dr. George Wootan of Kingston, New York, for attending homebirths. More recently, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, also from a family of distinguished doctors, lost his medical license for suggesting that the MMR Vaccine be given in monovalent doses rather than as a combination. As a result of the accusation brought by the Medical Board of California, Dr. Sears could face a public reprimand, probation, license suspension, license revocation or any other action deemed proper by the medical board.
In Jennifer Margulis’ article, “Doctors Disagree with Charges Against Dr. Bob Sears, Assert Vaccine Safety is a Concern,” Shira Miller, MD, a Los Angeles physician who is board certified in internal medicine and has been practicing medicine for 14 years says,
“Based on the symptoms the child suffered after previous vaccinations (as described by the mom in the accusation), I would say Dr. Sears was being grossly conscientious.”
Supporters of Dr. Sears have created the hashtag, #StandWithSears, to show their support, but Dr. Sears’ website and Facebook page have been discreet about the accusation, and have not suggested any action that supporters can take. It seems prudent to avoid a media flame war because of the possibility that Dr. Sears will be characterized as anti-vaccine, when in fact he is a pro vaccine doctor..
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Sears’ accusation comes close on the heels of his legislative testimony and just months after a federal lawsuit was filed against the State of California’s Department of Education and Department of Health. The suit alleges that SB277 deprives California citizens of their constitutional right to an education and argues that the bill violates the fundamental rights to education, free exercise of religion, bodily integrity, and equal protection under the law
It is safe to say that the issue beneath the surface of Bob Sears’ accusation is the right to freedom of conscience. At a time when there is a concerted effort to stifle this right (despite a low median national vaccine exemption level of just 1.7%), it makes sense to write letters to the editors of California newspapers. Dr. Bob Sears has been a leader in respecting the rights of parents in his practice. Let’s support him by advocating for freedom of conscience in health care decisions.
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011 and founded Mothering.com in 1995. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.