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Doctor May Lose License for Exempting Patient From Vaccines

Photograph by Twenty20

The Medical Board of California is going after a popular Southern California pediatrician, accusing him in legal documents of committing gross negligence and deviating from standard practice when he exempted a patient from vaccinations in 2014.

Dr. Bob Sears is a well-known critic of vaccination laws, which have become stricter in California, where a law passed last year ending the loophole that allowed public school children to opt out of otherwise required vaccines.

The state's medical board claims Sears didn't obtain his 2-year-old patient's medical history before writing a letter that said the child had adverse reactions to immunization shots. In its six-page legal statement, released last week, the board said Dr. Sears instead relied on the child's mother's description of how the toddler "lost urinary function and went limp in response to previous immunizations," the Los Angeles Times reports.

The regulatory board concluded that by not making an evidence-based recommendation—meaning one based on review of the child's earlier medical charts and documentation of the supposed reaction—Dr. Sears left the child, his mother and those the boy would come in contact with at risk for contracting preventable and contagious diseases.

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If he is found negligent, the 47-year-old doctor and author of "The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child"—which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and made him popular with celebrities behind the anti-vaccine cause—would face possible penalties and revocation or suspension of his license, the Times reports.

In his book, Sears offers a delayed vaccination schedule and other alternatives, such as waiting until a child is 2 to give the chicken pox vaccine (the medical community recommends age 1). He also says it's OK to push the polio vaccine from 2 to 9 months.

According to the medical board, Sears saw the child for the first time at age 2, when the boy's mother described his vaccination history. She said he'd gone limp for a day after getting his 3-month shots. Less than 2 weeks after that visit, Dr. Sears excused the boy from additional vaccines in a letter, writing that prior shots had caused his kidneys and intestines to stop functioning. The letter also stated that the boy had a reaction in his brain 10 minutes after receiving a shot. The medical board points out that there had been no documentation in the child's file supporting the mother's or doctor's claims.

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The board also accuses the doctor of not following up with proper care and testing after the boy claimed in a subsequent visit that he had been hit in the head by a hammer two weeks before the checkup. The board says Dr. Sears should have ordered neurological testing.

Sears, who has been practicing since 1998, has faced harsh criticism from the medical community since his book came out in 2011. Other pediatricians say he underplays the dangers of preventable childhood illnesses such as chicken pox and measles, and that he misinforms parents about the outcomes of in-depth testing of vaccines.

Dr. Bob Sears is the son of Dr. William Sears, also a pediatrician and author of more than 30 books, including many that advocate for attachment parenting.

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