Welcome to 2016, everyone; and welcome to a brand new series which highlights the anti-vaccination activism of registered Australian nurses and midwives. As with the ongoing series on anti-vaccine chiropractors, posts in this series will feature examples of the anti-vaccination activities of an individual. Some of the posts will be so long that many examples will be left out; other posts only contain a couple of examples. At the end of each post there will be an addendum of selections of pertinent codes and guidelines of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, which can be used by readers to lodge formal complaints against a particular nurse or midwife.
Public photo courtesy Facebook 2015.
Joanne Howard is a registered nurse/midwife whom we met previously, in July 2012, due to her overt anti-vaccination activities – made whilst citing her qualifications and nursing employment – on the Facebook page of Meryl Dorey’s disreputable anti-vaccination cabal, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network. Previous to that original post Howard noted on her Facebook profile that she worked at Goulburn Valley Health – she is no longer employed there – and her AHPRA registration of August 2012 showed her registration was based in Shepparton, Victoria:
This screenshot from Howard’s profile, from July 22 2012, shows that Howard was already deeply into her anti-vaccination activism:
On the AVN Facebook page Howard was making a fast name for herself by citing her role as a nurse/midwife. From July 23 2012:
On July 23-24 2012, Howard even scoffed at the regulator, AHPRA, being unable to take any action against her for her public anti-vaccinationism on the AVN Facebook page:
Ha!! LMAO 😀 Report what to AHPRA?
Howard had decided to take her anti-vaccination activism seriously, and she was now a fierce defender of Dorey and the AVN. From July 26 2012:
On July 28 2012, Howard stated that “vaccines are not safe or effective” and posted that vaccines are the cause of SIDS and autism:
By this time Howard had joined the AVN’s closed Facebook group, HELP THE AUSTRALIAN VACCINATION NETWORK, which was created to plan and support the AVN’s anti-vaccination activism. From August 12 2012:
On August 18 2012, Howard denigrated the MMR vaccine whilst advocating that measles infections are not serious, whilst supporting the anti-vaccine conspiracy theories of Meryl Dorey:
August 18 2012 continued:
Taken on September 29 2012, these screenshots show Howard’s then-Facebook likes. There is the infamous, dangerous Black Salve page:
We note that Howard was a member of the then-fledgling Support the AVN Facebook page, as well as Erwin Alber’s VINE page:
We can see that Howard was indeed an admin of the Support the AVN Facebook page, by the simultaneous timing of these two posts. From April 7 2013:
On October 2 2012, Howard – along with the Support the AVN page – agreed with a post on the AVN page which stated, “The Entire Vaccine Industry is a Fraud”:
On October 10 2012, Howard lashed out at members of the community who had lodged legitimate complaints with the Goulburn Valley Health Service about her online anti-vaccination activism whilst citing her employment and qualifications:
Bunch of arrogant pricks!!
On October 13 2012, Howard also lashed out on the Stop the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network Facebook page, citing what she claimed are children “that are hurt/maimed/disabled by vaccines”:
Howard went off the radar for a few years; but, she came to our attention again in 2015, as a member of the rabid anti-vaccination Facebook group, Unvaccinated Australia:
Howard’s nursing/midwifery registration is still current, and it shows the principal place of practice is now Mount Toolebewong, which is where Howard now resides, on a community called Moora Moora:
In the Unvaccinated Australia group, Howard posted, on October 25 2015, that the expected rise in the uptake in immunisations due to the No Jab No Pay legislation was all about income for doctors:
On November 16 2015, in the Unvaccinated Australia group, Howard asserted that a mother who shared her story about her baby contracting whooping cough – so as to warn other parents of the danger posed by the disease – was a “silly mumma”:
On November 17 2015, Howard claimed that a media item warning parents about the dangers of whooping cough in babies was “same old media scaring bullshit about whooping cough…yawn”:
Howard also denied that the baby boy had whooping cough, despite having never cared for the infant, whilst showing a clear lack of understanding of the disease’s progression:
When we look at Howard’s Facebook profile we see a steady stream of anti-vaccination activism. From July 13 2015 we see this conspiratorial petition:
On August 25 2015, Howard shared another anti-vaccination petition:
On September 17 2015, Howard shared another anti-vaccination petition:
On September 19 2015, Howard shared this anti-vaccination petition:
On September 27 2015, Howard shared this anti-Gardasil conspiracy post:
Also on September 27 2015, Howard shared this astonishing, delusional conspiracy post – written by Tim Bolen! – about big pharma murdering alternative health people:
On October 12 2015, Howard shared the vaccines-cause-autism lie:
On October 15 2015, Howard shared this breathtakingly inept, debunked Daily Mail article from 2006, as if it was still current news:
On October 16 2015, Howard shared this post which claims that the Gardasil vaccine is a “giant deadly scam”:
And, on a personal note, how could I not finish up with Howard’s involvement in the page set up by Olivier and Giselle Kara Vles, The Unreasonable Wank? From December 6 2015:
Howard has previously claimed I had attempted to have her fired for her online anti-vaccination activism:
This is untrue. In my 2012 blog post about Howard I specifically stated this:
I’m not sure I would be comfortable working alongside this person. And I believe that parents have a right to know who is providing their health care. And I strongly believe that health care professionals have a duty of care to their patients, families, and co-workers, to take all the evidence-based steps they can to reduce the spread of disease, and misinformation, in our shared community. It’s up to the public health system as to whether or not they retain this type of individual; but, I can only hope some serious retraining and education can be provided for someone in this person’s position of influence.
I did lodge a complaint with Goulburn Valley Health, in 2012. GVH took no action, despite the evidence submitted. But, at no time did I request Howard’s employment be terminated. I no longer hold such desires. Howard needs to be deregistered. Nothing less will suffice. She is a public health menace.
AHPRA complaints can be lodged here.
Code of Professional Conduct for Nurses in Australia
1 Nurses practise in a safe and competent manner.
2 Nurses practise in accordance with the standards of the profession and broader health system.
Conduct Statement 2
Nurses practise in accordance with the standards of the profession and broader health system
1 Nurses are responsible for ensuring the standard of their practice conforms to professional standards developed and agreed by the profession, with the object of enhancing the safety of people in their care as well as their partners, family members and other members of the person’s nominated network. This responsibility also applies to the nurses’ colleagues.
2 Nurses practise in accordance with wider standards relating to safety and quality in health care and accountability for a safe health system, such as those relating to health documentation and information management, incident reporting and participation in adverse event analysis and formal open disclosure procedures.
3 Nurses practise and conduct themselves in accordance with laws relevant to the profession and practice of nursing.
Conduct Statement 3
Nurses practise and conduct themselves in accordance with laws relevant to the profession and practice of nursing
1 Nurses are familiar with relevant laws and ensure they do not engage in clinical or other practices prohibited by such laws or delegate to others activities prohibited by those laws.
2 Nurses witnessing the unlawful conduct of colleagues and other co-workers, whether in clinical, management, education or research areas of practice, have both a responsibility and an obligation to report such conduct to an appropriate authority and take other appropriate action as necessary to safeguard people and the public interest.
4 Nurses respect the dignity, culture, ethnicity, values and beliefs of people receiving care and treatment, and of their colleagues.
5 Nurses treat personal information obtained in a professional capacity as private and confidential.
6 Nurses provide impartial, honest and accurate information in relation to nursing care and health care products.
Conduct Statement 6
Nurses provide impartial, honest and accurate information in relation to nursing care and health care products
1 When nurses provide advice about any care or product, they fully explain the advantages and disadvantages of alternative care or products so individuals can make informed choices. Nurses refrain from engaging in exploitation, misinformation or misrepresentation with regard to health care products and nursing care.
2 Nurses accurately represent the nature of their services or the care they intend to provide.
3 Where a specific care or a specific product is advised, nurses ensure their advice is based on adequate knowledge and not on commercial or other forms of gain. Deceptive endorsement of products or services or receipt of remuneration for products or services primarily for personal gain, other than remuneration in the course of a proper commercial relationship, is improper.
7 Nurses support the health, wellbeing and informed decision-making of people requiring or receiving care.
8 Nurses promote and preserve the trust and privilege inherent in the relationship between nurses and people receiving care.
Conduct Statement 8
Nurses promote and preserve the trust and privilege inherent in the relationship between nurses and people receiving care
1 An inherent power imbalance exists within the relationship between people receiving care and nurses that may make the persons in their care vulnerable and open to exploitation. Nurses actively preserve the dignity of people through practised kindness and respect for the vulnerability and powerlessness of people in their care. Significant vulnerability and powerlessness can arise from the experience of illness and the need to engage with the health care system. The power relativities between a person and a nurse can be significant, particularly where the person has limited knowledge; experiences pain and illness; needs assistance with personal care; belongs to a marginalised group; or experiences an unfamiliar loss of self-determination. This vulnerability creates a power differential in the relationship between nurses and persons in their care that must be recognised and managed.
4 Nurses fulfil roles outside the professional role, including those as family members, friends and community members. Nurses are aware that dual relationships may compromise care outcomes and always conduct professional relationships with the primary intent of benefit for the person receiving care. Nurses take care when giving professional advice to people with whom they have a dual relationship (e.g. a family member or friend) and advise them to seek independent advice due to the existence of actual or potential conflicts of interest.
9 Nurses maintain and build on the community’s trust and confidence in the nursing profession.
Conduct Statement 9
Nurses maintain and build on the community’s trust and confidence in the nursing profession
1 The conduct of nurses maintains and builds public trust and confidence in the profession at all times.
2 The unlawful and unethical actions of nurses in their personal lives risk adversely affecting both their own and the profession’s good reputation and standing in the eyes of the public. If the good standing of either individual nurses or the profession were to diminish, this might jeopardise the inherent trust between the nursing profession and the public necessary for effective therapeutic relationships and the effective delivery of nursing care.
3 Nurses consider the ethical interests of the nursing profession and the community when exercising their right to freedom of speech and participating in public, political and academic debate, including publication.
10 Nurses practise nursing reflectively and ethically.
Conduct Statement 10
Nurses practise nursing reflectively and ethically
1 Nurses practise nursing reflectively and ethically, in accordance with the Code of Ethics for Nurses in Australia, in order to learn from experience and contribute to personal and professional practice.
2 Nurses develop and maintain appropriate and current quality nursing advice, support and care for each person requiring and receiving care and their partners, families and other members of their nominated social network. This responsibility also applies to colleagues of nurses.
3 Nurses evaluate their conduct and competency according to the standards of the nursing profession.
4 Nurses contribute to the professional development of students and colleagues.
5 Nurses participating in research do so in accordance with recognised research guidelines and do not violate their duty of care to persons receiving nursing care.
6 Nurses advise employers and any persons in their care of any reduction in their capacity to practise due to health, social or other factors, while they seek ways of redressing the problem.
Code of Ethics for Nurses in Australia
1 Nurses value quality nursing care for all people.
2 Nurses value respect and kindness for self and others.
3 Nurses value the diversity of people.
4 Nurses value access to quality nursing and health care for all people.
5 Nurses value informed decision-making.
Value Statement 5
Nurses value informed decision-making
Nurses value people’s interests in making free and informed decisions. This includes people having the opportunity to verify the meaning and implication of information being given to them when making decisions about their nursing and health care. Nurses also recognise that making decisions is sometimes constrained by circumstances beyond individual control and that there may be circumstances where informed decision making cannot always be fully realised.
1 Self: Nurses make informed decisions in relation to their practice within the constraints of their professional role and in accordance with ethical and legal requirements. Nurses are entitled to do this without undue pressure or coercion of any kind. Nurses are responsible for ensuring their decision-making is based on contemporary, relevant and well-founded knowledge and information.
2 Person (health consumer): Nurses value the legal and moral right of people, including children, to participate whenever possible in decision-making concerning their nursing and health care and treatment, and assist them to determine their care on the basis of informed decision making. This may involve ensuring people who do not speak English have access to a qualified health interpreter. Nurses recognise and respect the rights of people to engage in shared decision-making when consenting to care and treatment. Nurses also value the contribution made by persons whose decision-making may be restricted because of incapacity, disability or other factors, including legal constraints. Nurses are knowledgeable about such circumstances and in facilitating the role of family members, partners, friends and others in contributing to decision-making processes.
3 Colleagues: Nurses respect the rights of colleagues and members of other disciplines to participate in informed decision-making. Making these collaborative and informed decisions includes involving the person requiring or receiving nursing care (or their representative) in decisions relating to their nursing or health care, without being subject to coercion of any kind.
4 Community: Nurses value the contribution made by the community to nursing and health care decision-making through a range of activities, including consumer groups, advocacy and membership of health-related committees. Nurses also assist in keeping the community accurately informed on nursing and health-related issues.
6 Nurses value a culture of safety in nursing and health care.
Value Statement 6
Nurses value a culture of safety in nursing and health care
Valuing a culture of safety involves nurses actively engaging in the development of shared knowledge and understanding of the crucial importance of safety in contemporary health care. Nurses who value a culture of safety appreciate that safety is everyone’s responsibility. Nurses support the development of risk management processes and a practice environment designed to reduce the incidence and impact of preventable adverse events in health care. Nurses also support the open disclosure of any adverse events to any person affected during the course of their care.
1 Self: Nurses value safe practice and a safe working environment; practise within the limitations of their knowledge and skills; and recognise and avoid situations where their ability to deliver quality care may be impaired. Nurses have a moral and legal right to practise in a safe environment, without fear for their own safety or that of others, and they seek remedies through accepted channels, including legal action, when this is not the case. Nurses value the maintenance of competence in contributing to a safe care and practice environment.
2 Person (health consumer): Nurses recognise that people are vulnerable to injuries and illnesses as a result of preventable human error and adverse events while in health care settings. Nurses play a key role in the detection and prevention of errors and adverse events in health care settings, and support and participate in systems to identify circumstances where people are at risk of harm. Nurses act to prevent or control such risks through prevention, monitoring, early identification and early management of adverse events. Nurses contribute to the confidential reporting of adverse events and errors, and to organisational processes for the open disclosure of these events to persons affected during the course of their care.
3 Colleagues: Nurses work with their colleagues to create a culture of safety. Nurses support the development of safer health care systems through non-punitive human error, adverse event management and related education. Nurses value the critical relationship between consumer safety and interprofessional competencies, including trustful communication, teamwork and situation awareness. Nurses view the detection of their own errors and risks or those of their colleagues as opportunities for achieving a safer health care system.
4 Community: Nurses, acting through their professional and industrial organisations and other appropriate authorities, participate in developing and improving the safety and quality of health care services for all people. This includes actively promoting the provision of equitable, just and culturally and socially responsive health care services for all people living, or seeking residence or asylum, in Australia. It also involves raising public awareness about the nature and importance of consumer safety programs in health care services.
7 Nurses value ethical management of information.
8 Nurses value a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable environment promoting health and wellbeing.
When using social media, health practitioners should remember that the National Law, their National Board’s code of ethics and professional conduct (the Code of conduct) and the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services (the Advertising guidelines) apply.
Registered health practitioners should only post information that is not in breach of these obligations by:
- complying with professional obligations
- complying with confidentiality and privacy obligations (such as by not discussing patients or posting pictures of procedures, case studies, patients, or sensitive material which may enable patients to be identified without having obtained consent in appropriate situations)
- presenting information in an unbiased, evidence-based context, and
- not making unsubstantiated claims.
Additional information may be available from professional bodies and/or employers, which aims to support health practitioners’ use of social media. However, the legal, ethical, and professional obligations that registered health practitioners must adhere to are set out in the National Boards’ respective Code of conduct and the Advertising guidelines.