Australian skeptics cheer David and Toni McCaffery

Bad Astronomy
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Dec. 2 2009 3:00 PM

Australian skeptics cheer David and Toni McCaffery

Continuing with Australian Skeptics awards, they are giving out a new award in honor of Fred Thornett, a skeptic who died earlier this year. The first recipients of The Fred, given to outstanding promoters of reason, are David and Toni McCaffery.

danamccafferyThe McCafferys are heroes of mine. Earlier this year, their four week old infant daughter lost a battle with pertussis. Yes, whooping cough. She was too young to be vaccinated, and because the antivaccination movement is strong in their area, vaccination rates were low, and the herd immunity was in turn too low to help little Dana.

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Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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When this grieving couple was shrilly and mercilessly attacked by Meryl Dorey and the AVN, the McCafferys fought back. They went on TV, they gave interviews, and they told the truth: their daughter died from an easily preventable disease, and that people like Dorey and the AVN are a public health menace.

Mind you, this was mere weeks after their daughter had died. If I had been in that situation (and every parent, including me, has nightmares about it), I probably would have curled into a little ball and shut the world out. But not Toni and David. They spoke up. They also created a website in honor of Dana, to make sure her story gets told. They have been astonishing examples of what humans can achieve, even when dealing with something that must have been too heartbreaking to bear.

The Australian Skeptics have a video of the award ceremony. Richard Saunders tells me there was not a dry eye in the house, and just watching it -- just writing about it now -- chokes me up.


To Toni and David: I am so, so sorry you were eligible for this award, but I am very, very glad you two have done what you've done. Congratulations. And may your story save more lives than the AVN and its ilk can endanger.

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