Anecdotal Evidence

“That’s anecdotal evidence.”


It’s a dismissive phrase. Whatever you just said is unreliable. Not to be trusted or taken seriously.


Anecdotes are stories. Stories with a point.


Whether these stories can be trusted depends on the character of the one telling the story. And whether the details can be verified.


Stories are at the heart of medicine. Every patient has one. At least one. And I want to hear it. It helps me understand my patients at a depth I would never otherwise experience. Often, the story unlocks an area of intimacy, pain, or grief for which it is an honor to bear witness.


As I watched the video of the Pastor of Trinidad and Tobago, my heart beat faster. I felt her horror penetrate to my core. An everlasting grief. Her healthy young son received a Covid vaccine on Friday. On Friday night, he had a massive stroke resulting in cerebral hemorrhage and death. This mother’s pain was etched in her face, amplified in her trembling voice, as she repeatedly cried out, sobbing, “My son is dead. My son is dead. They have killed him.”


I believed her.


But what to do with the information? People who are infected with Covid virus also have increased thrombosis events. What is the frequency in each of these exposures? And are they the same people who would have suffered that complication, whether disease or vaccine? Strokes occurring in an 80-year-old compared to an 18-year-old are very different stories.


This lady’s video was scrubbed within 24 hours from Facebook and social media. It is not a helpful message when the goal is vaccination of an entire populace. Even mentioning this event now will generate criticism of myself for spreading fear to discourage vaccination. This is missing my point.


If one goes to the CDC adverse event reports website, you will find over 16,000 deaths reported to be due to Covid vaccine. That’s anecdotal evidence. Patient stories. Their final testimony.


Well, they are dead. That can be verified. And nearly half of those people received the vaccine within 48 hours of their death. We can explain this away. People die. Every day. We give a lot of Covid vaccines. Hundreds of millions of doses. And it could be coincidence these folks received the vaccine just prior to their death. Expected deaths.


That explanation troubles me. Most people don’t reach out for preventative health care within 1-2 days of their death. Certainly not if death was expected. It’s difficult for me to accept that level of coincidence. And the same logic could be applied to those people who die with Covid virus, to discount those numbers.


The stories of these deaths and the other adverse effects details are on the Open VAERS website. You can read the accounts and details. You can decide whether these stories are believable. 778,683 total reports through October 1, 2021. Reports are broken down by adverse effect, age, and sex.


You can compare these reported Covid vaccine deaths to those reported to flu vaccine under the same system. Same method of reporting. Identical process. The blue bar indicating deaths due to flu vaccine scarcely registers on the graph. This is not the flu vaccine.


Another story.


My pastor served a career in the Air Force. As a U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant, he was deployed repeatedly to the middle east. His job was to keep all aircraft well maintained and safe. The “bible” was the maintenance manual which was followed to the letter.


An essential procedure identified was checking engine functions utilizing a scope which penetrated within the engine space. There was a rigid scope and a flexible scope. The manual called for the rigid scope to be use. It wouldn’t fit. The aperture was too small to admit it. So, my friend told his mechanics to use the flexible scope. Guidelines are best applied with a functioning brain.


When the master sergeant returned to headquarters, he asked about this procedure. No one at headquarters had heard of the problem. Engineers attempted the procedure and immediately saw the problem. They rechecked the text. It definitely called for the rigid scope. It was definitely wrong.


So, now the question was this. What was everybody else doing? There was an inquiry. The answer. Most were simply skipping this vital examination. And airmen were placed at potential harm.


You will never find something you don’t look for. If you never check blood pressure, you will never diagnose hypertension.


At Evergreen, we treat a lot of Covid. People die of Covid. People have complications. Stroke, heart attacks, pulmonary embolus, pericarditis and more. Avoiding Covid, when possible, makes sense. Covid is real.


At Evergreen, we have treated complications of Covid Vaccines. Anaphylaxis, pericarditis, and thrombosis. Adverse effects are also real.


The incidence of Covid disease and its associated complications are much higher. But they are not necessarily occurring in the same people. When you select an adverse effect within OPEN VAERS, such as myo/pericarditis or anaphylaxis – you realize most events occur in younger patients. While most Covid caused deaths and adversity occurs in the elderly.


A foundational principal for the ethical practice of medicine in America has always been patient choice, undergirded by informed consent. If you visit the Evergreen Family Medicine website, you will see the informed consent document we provide to guide patient decision making regarding the Covid vaccine. A useless appendage if the patient lacks choice to decline.


We make it clear that an adult over age 60, or any adult with chronic disease placing them at risk, should receive a vaccine. And we define chronic disease. We describe who is at risk. We also recognize the value of naturally acquired immunity. In our opinion, vaccination for naturally immune individuals would not provide a clear benefit but may expose patients to risk. They should know that.


Lastly, we support parents who prefer not to subject their healthy children to this vaccine, when the CDC has previously estimated a 99.997% survival rate if infected with the disease.


That represents our own judgment. It is not the opinion of the CDC or government. Patients should know that also. This is a level of candor we believe our patients deserve. Not all patients will be content with our advice. And we are happy to offer those patients vaccination. It is, after all, their choice.


So, what is the point?


Medical care is relational. Built on a foundation of trust. The relative benefit and risk of Covid vaccine is not the same across all ages and levels of health. Allowance for some discretion is reasonable. Discretion that belongs to an informed patient. And not acknowledging that serious adverse effects may occur is dishonest and dangerous. A paternalistic message, vaccines are safe and effective, dismissing any basis for concern, is not helpful in building trust.


And it is precisely that lack of trust that constitutes the barrier between our government and public health agencies - and the young people and parents they wish to convince to vaccinate. These entities will need to learn how to earn that trust themselves.


I have found a critical trait for physician - patient relationships is learning how to listen. I can either pursue control or a relationship. I won’t have both. There will be a moment when I’ve spoken long enough. My message has been heard. It’s time to listen. There are some stories I need to hear.


Tim Powell MD

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