You would have to have been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks to not have heard about the case of the 4 month old baby at Starship Hospital needing heart surgery and, as part of that, donated blood products. The parents of the baby have anti-vax and conspiracy theory views. It's been reported that the mother is a midwife, but objected to the Covid vaccination (which was mandated as part of her job) so had to leave that employment. They objected to blood supplied by our excellent New Zealand Blood Service from being used as some of the donors have had Covid-19 vaccinations. (Indeed, given our high rate of vaccination, probably most donors would have been vaccinated.) The parents wanted “pure blood” for their baby. The parents have an irrational belief that being vaccinated against Covid somehow taints the blood, and will endanger the baby's life in the future. They claim that blood products will contain the so-called spike protein about which anti-vaxxers have whipped up an irrational fear. The case came to the attention of the conspiracy theory community, with now-familiar Voices for Freedom, Counterspin Media, Liz Gunn, and Sue Grey getting in on the game. Liz Gunn, who we've written about in the past (and was one of our nominees for this year's NZ Skeptics Bent Spoon Award) has been “advocating” for the parents at Starship Hospital. Reportedly, she was in meetings with medical professionals, but agitated them so much they ended up walking out of a meeting. For background, Liz Gunn is a former TV presenter and investigative journalist from about 20 years ago, and has designs on running for parliament under her Free NZ party (of which she seems to be the only candidate). She's posted a number of increasingly unhinged rants (in my opinion, at least) online. She seems to have delusions of grandeur, claiming support from millions of kiwis and people internationally (though curiously her political party doesn't register on any of the polls!). The case has now been the subject of court hearings, with the Te Whatu Ora/Health New Zealand seeking medical guardianship of the baby so that the potentially life-saving surgery can go ahead as planned. Last week, the judge in the case granted this, and the medical professionals will be able to make decisions in the best medical interests of the baby until late in January 2023. All this has been upsetting to Liz Gunn, who set up a lightly-attended candlelight vigil outside the hospital, and has now, reportedly, been trespassed from entering the hospital. She even arranged for her and the parents to appear on Alex Jones' InfoWars show, in an attempt to garner international attention. In another of her video rants, she went on to blame our Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, for the outcome of the case, and even claimed that she's in fear of being murdered, regularly checking her car to make sure it's not been tampered with. (Obviously, advanced mechanical skills are part of her repertoire!) The legal representative for the parents in the case was another familiar persona - Sue Grey, who is a darling of the conspiracy theory community and go-to lawyer for anything conspiracy theory related. Sue can chalk up another case lost. It would seem her record of wins isn't that great! Incidentally, and unrelated, she spent a few hours in custody last week after being held in contempt of court for arguing and talking over a judge. She wasn't involved in the case, but showed up to “help” the defendant, who ended up asking her to shut up. Sue Grey is the subject of a hearing with the disciplinary tribunal of the New Zealand Law Society, with complaints about her stretching back over at least the last two years. Perhaps foreshadowing the hearing, the judge in the unrelated case told Grey:
"You demonstrated a lack of professional judgement in the manner in which you dealt with matters today and arguably those matters bear on the issue of your fitness to practise as a lawyer."
Let's hope that the Law Society can actually appropriately discipline Grey for her behaviour. Anyway, as of late last week as I write this, the baby's operation was successful. Gunn, and other anti-vaxxers went on to claim that the baby was secretly given unvaccinated blood - a claim for which they have no evidence - not that that's ever stopped that lot. If you'd like more background on this, during our last Yeah…Nah! podcast, we covered the case. Bronwyn and I, along with our guest Anke Richter, talked about this in detail. It's worth a listen, if you haven't already. Incidentally, surrounding this is a court order protecting the name of the family and the baby. We've been very careful to not name the baby or his parents, though it seems that the names are easily available due to all the public commenting that anti-vaxxers have done. And speaking of Anke Richter, she's the author of the excellent Cult Trip book, which covers cults in Aotearoa New Zealand (such as Centerpoint, Gloriavale and ISTA). It's available in both paperback from usual physical outlets (as well as online e.g. Mighty Ape), and also electronically, via Amazon.

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