Polly Gillespie is not one for letting the facts get in the way of an emotive story, even when it concerns the tragic death of her sister. Polly got her sister’s cause of death wrong, her sister’s age wrong, the day she was admitted to hospital wrong, and the day she died wrong. In addition, Polly thought nothing of dishing out hate and literal threats of violence to individuals who dared to question the integrity of her story or don’t get vaccinated. If the provable facts were wrong, what information was correct in the article which was a jock-shock attempt to use emotion to get people to have an influenza vaccination?
The usual ‘skeptics’ accepted her error-ridden story as fact, and lauded her for her courage, perhaps unwittingly, embracing woo-science to promote their cause. Her flawed story was spun around cyberspace by so-called objective experts, such as staff at IMAC, in the hope of scaring a few more folks into having their annual shot at the flu vaccine altar.
On Monday 9 May, 2016, a formal complaint was lodged with the New Zealand Herald in the matter of three articles present on their website:
1) Twelve Questions: Polly Gillespie 1 May 2014 . . . . PDF
2) Polly Gillespie: Losing my Sister 2 May 2016 . . . . PDF
3) Polly Gillespie: Messages of Support over Flu Death 6 May 2016 . . . PDF
PDF of Detailed complaint to the Herald.
Why did I make the complaint? Because:
The Herald and Polly Gillespie, are supposed to be bound by the New Zealand Press Association standards. Both the Herald and Polly have breached those standards. Although there are three more working days left before the New Zealand Herald is due to reply (this blog made live on 18th May) , the Herald has not even acknowledged receipt of the complaint. If the Herald has not replied by 5 p.m. on Friday, or if they consider there is no basis to the complaint, an additional complaint will be laid with the New Zealand Press Association. Polly's incorrect Herald facts continue to be quoted by other publications as if they are the truth, so in the interests of the public, here are the facts relating to the three articles in the Herald.
Everyone who ran off and got vaccinated with the flu vaccine in a total emotional panic, because they believed Polly's columns, ... should wake up to the fact that not everything written in a paper upholding the New Zealand Press Association standards will meet those standards.
Most importantly, perhaps Polly embellished her story hoping that no-one in the crowd would use a mouse to check her facts, and relied on the crowd to believe every word that dropped off her pen into their heads.
Ever heard the statement that, "Crowds Lie. The more people, the less truth"? SØren Kierkegaard explored this theme from many angles in all his writings. On pages 320 - 22 of his book "Concluding Unscientific Postscript", he said that when we "admire and blubber" in the presence of what we regard as superior human achievement, we turn ourselves into spectators and connoisseurs and neatly avoid the call to live as humans ourselves. Admiration, in other words . . . can be a dodge.
Blind belief in the face of such admiration, can also suspend, or prevent critical thinking.
The third column by Polly is a chilling example of what happens when the gullible crowd chooses to admire someone being sparse with the truth. "But," you say, "what if we didn't know that a lie was told?"
On what basis should the crowd believe Polly? Because she has a big mouth, literally and metaphorically? ‘Buyer beware’, doesn't just apply to things obtained with money.
History through the ages is a sorry story of the unreliability of crowds to discern or even reflect the truth. You would think in an age when it's so easy to check people's facts, that the Herald, or its readers might have asked a few questions. Particularly from someone who admits to having such a creative imagination as Polly Gillespie, and who admits to being "naughty". But no.
Why does the participation by the majority in something - anything - , equate to uncritical legitimacy, and reduce the thinking of the crowd to mindless passivity?
Why does being a columnist, confer an impression of excellence, importance and pontifical scientific rightness?
Any student of history can show that truth can often be compressed to fit into a slogan, which is reflected in Churchill's quote, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
Unfortunately, the issue of vaccination is also talked about with a "wartime" mindset, and is similarly attended by a bodyguard of lies.
On this occasion, Polly Gillespie is not an unwitting victim of those lies, though perhaps she might believe a complaint against her, makes her a victim. She was the creative perpetrator.
The victims who were abused by her articles, were not only the unwitting listeners who believed her lies, and rushed to the doctor for a jab . . . but her sister, and the anti-vaccinationists who were publicly villified by an extraordinary torrent of invective.
So let’s look at the problems here. In the last few years, Polly has publicly bared her soul about how her sister Jeanette, was her very best friend for life, the light of her life, - always there for her - paid her bills etc etc . . . the list of expanding extollations grows with every retelling.
The core point of Polly's stories have always been that if her sister had been vaccinated, she would never have died.
Jeanette, according to Polly, "caught the flu and died five days later."
In 2014, when this story first came to my attention, Jeanette died in her "early 30's".
In the Herald in 2014, according to Polly, Jeanette was 38 when she died.
In 2016, the graphic description of Jeanette's death, and a unbridled vicious raging at non-vaccinators, was exceptionally callous, so a warning light went on in my head.
Add to the warning light, the fact that in 2000, the year Jeanette died, the flu was pretty much non-existent, and nowhere in the official death databases was there such an influenza death in the 30 - 40 year age group.
Knowing that Polly's description did not match the clinical picture of a death from "influenza", OR the data, I researched Jeanette's death using various combinations based on known facts, and the web threw up an obituary, written by one of Jeanette's colleagues (who cannot remember who actually told him that Jeanette had the flu).
Jeannette's obituary dates informed me that she was 41 at her death, not 38. So I went back to the Health Department database for deaths from the flu in 2000, in people from 40 - 45, and still found nothing.
A search of Hamilton City council's cemetery records confirmed Jeanette's age to be 41 at death. Ah ha. Now, I had a proper date.
So I picked up the phone to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and ordered a certified copy of her death certificate which says;
I studied the manual written in 2000, directing doctors how to fill out the patient’s death certificate, and discussions with Ministry of heath staff confirm that had Jeanette had the flu, it would have been written on the doctor’s certificate, and on the top line of the death certificate.
Furthermore, even in 2000, if influenza had been suspected, Jeanette would have been tested, and the samples sent to ESR in Wellington.
Severe coinfection with flu and Staph. aureus is possible, as shown in a CDC publication dated
April 27, 2012: "Severe Coinfection with Seasonal Influenza A (H3N2) Virus and Staphylococcus aureus — Maryland, February–March 2012 " which described illness and death in three family members as a result of Staph. aureus and the flu:
"All three family members had confirmed infection with seasonal influenza A (H3N2) virus. Patients B and C had confirmed coinfection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which manifested in both patients as MRSA pneumonia and bacteremia.... Two of the three had been vaccinated against seasonal influenza."
As you see, the flu vaccine did not prevent two of those deaths.
So what provable facts do you know now?
That according to her death certificate, Jeanette did not die of the flu, she was 41 at her death, the death certificate stating her birthday as 29th August 1959, not 28th August (no year) as asserted by Polly on her facebook page on the 4th May 2016 PDF
It seems that since the complaint was filed, Polly has played catch-up, and changed her sister’s birthdate to what it should be . . .
Polly was also very specific about some things, such as, " my sister's sudden fatal bout of influenza … She got sick on the Tuesday and was dead on the Saturday."
Except that published information shows that her sister got sick on Friday and died on Wednesday. So the above quote from Polly is also incorrect.
What else were we told?
"My sister was a brilliant artist too, who sold her work when we were in college together in the US, to constantly get my sorry ass out of debt. She would pay off my dental bills, and my rent. … and when she'd finished her fine arts degrees, became a scientist."
That didn't mesh with the time frame mentioned in her obituary. PDF Jeanette's obituary said that Jeanette was a dancer and tour guide for five years at the Polynesian Cultural Center at Laie, Hawaii. Jeanette enrolled in the University of Waikato in 1987, to study for a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Geography, and the following year converted her degree to a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Earth sciences. She graduated her BSc in 1989, taking the full three years.
Jeanette Gillespie then spent another three years to graduate with a Master of Science in 1992, and in 1993 enrolled for part-time PhD study, which seemingly had not been completed by 2000.
Surely someone with multiple degrees would have been cross credited, had time remitted, and those degrees listed in her obituary?
According to Waikato University, Jeanette never asked for, or received cross credits. Her colleague who wrote her obituary has no knowledge of any other degrees. Are arts degrees something to be hidden?
More research brought up public records of both Jeanette and Polly attending a Mormon college called Christ Church New Zealand at Templeview in Western Hamilton, and Polly’s passing School Certificate in 1977, which places Polly's birth year at around 1962.
Using clues from Jeanette's obituary, more research placed both Jeanette and Polly at the Mormon Brigham University in Hawaii, which is where the Polynesian Cultural Center was located . . . yet apparently there were no degrees which came out of this particular time period.
We were then told that: "I've seen the result of not getting a flu vaccination. Jeanette told me she didn't think she needed one because she was fit and healthy.”
Yet in this 2001 ESR report , we read:
Immunisation Coverage "In 1997 influenza vaccination was made available free to those ≥65 years of age, and in 1999 free vaccination was extended to risk groups <65 years."
In 2000, it was neither the norm, nor was it expected for healthy 40 year olds to have the flu vaccine.
Plainly, Polly disagreed with Jeanette . . . by implication. Does that mean that Polly who would have been around 39 at the time, had the flu vaccine, and disapproved of her sister’s comment?
Polly claims she was on air/in the studio (presumably in Wellington) when the call came through that her sister was very ill in hospital in Hamilton. It would have taken the best part of a day to make arrangements and get to Waikato Hospital, even if flying. Jeanette had pneumonia, Staph. sepsis, renal failure and coagulopathy for 5 days, and Polly said that Jeanette's body was on life support and being dialyzed:
"The wonderful staff at the hospital hooked her up to a machine that removed her blood, cleaned it, and pumped it back through her body."
So her sister's body was shutting down. She was bleeding from her eyes, nose and ears, her lungs were full of fluid, her hands and feet turning black. With Jeanette in an induced coma a skeptic would have to ask, when could such a rational conversation with Polly asking, “Why didn’t you have the flu vaccine” and Jeanette saying, “I didn’t need it”, have taken place?
Who told Polly this was "the flu"? It would be instructive to see the medical files, but those would only be released to the executor of the estate.
So instead of a factual representation of her sister’s death, the public was bombarded with a story, some of which is verifiably false, and some indeed implausible, in order to form some kind of authenticity and legitimacy to allow Polly to say this:
The last of the three articles was about the feedback from the rant above. Polly again ranted about wanting to send the anti-vaccine crowd for an IQ test:
And Polly was delighted to report that:
“People from the health sector thanked me for my responsible position. Cool. That felt good.”
Perhaps the health sector can go and look at Jeanette Lea Gillespie's hospital file, doctor’s certificate and death certificate, obituary, and research the case. Then maybe they can explain to me, exactly what is responsible about anything Polly has said about her sister since 2014.
Or is truth not important when it comes to needling people?
Seemingly, Churchill was correct. "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."