by Barbara Loe Fisher
Sometimes, when you least expect it, you get news that makes you stop and think about someone you care about, who taught you something important. Recently I learned of the death of my co-author of the ground breaking book he and I wrote together and published in 1985: DPT: A Shot in the Dark.
Harris was only 77 years old when he died on October 28, 2009. He had struggled for 12 years with the debilitating effects of a brain hemorrhage he suffered at age 65 while he was in Paris. It was a paralyzing stroke that would end his remarkable career.
When I last spoke with Harris two months before his death, I had called him to check out a rumor that he had passed away. With characteristic wit and clarity, he laughed and quoted Mark Twain, saying “The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Although the stroke had left him paralyzed, it did not rob him of his personality or ability to recall details from the past. And every single time we had spoken in the decade following his stroke, Harris wanted to talk about the journey of discovery we took together when we wrote what would become the first major, well documented book examining the scientific and clinical evidence that vaccination can and does cause brain inflammation, permanent brain damage and death for some. Among his many accomplishments, Harris considered our collaboration on that book - which was published exactly a quarter century ago - to be his greatest one.
I remember the first time I spoke with Harris. It was the fall of 1982. I had been researching the side effects of DPT vaccine and interviewing parents of vaccine injured children for eight months following the broadcast of the emmy award winning television documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette earlier that year. Along with other parents in the Washington, D.C. area, whose children had been brain injured or died after DPT shots, I helped establish the non-profit educational organization known today as the National Vaccine Information Center.
Back then, I was a young mother in my early 30’s with a four year old DPT vaccine injured son and I was pregnant with my second child. Working as a freelance writer out of my home, I was gathering information for a book I wanted to write for parents about preventing DPT vaccine injury and death.
Back then, nobody had personal computers or cell phones, and the internet was just a dream. If you wanted to write a book, especially on a medical topic, you did your research the old fashioned way – by going to the Library of Medicine or corresponding with authors of studies. So, when Harris called me up looking for information for an article he was writing on vaccination, it didn’t take me long to realize that this was a really smart man who knew his way around a medical library.
But I didn’t know he was a visionary medical historian, who had chronicled the history of homeopathy and the epic philosophical battles waged during the history of medicine from ancient times to the present in what would become his formidable four volume series of books called “Divided Legacy.” When I talked with him on the telephone that day in 1982, I didn’t know that Harris had graduated from Yale in Russian studies; that he was fluent in Russian, Hungarian, French, German, Spanish and Latin and was a well known oral and written translater for the State Department and at the United Nations; or that he earned a masters degree in political science and a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University.
I just knew, after talking with him for about 30 minutes, that he was an independent thinker and fearless about critiquing bad science and flawed assumptions made by the medical profession. Fearless was something I already figured out was a pre-requisite for writing a book that would challenge long standing assumptions parents and doctors have had about the safety of mass vaccination policies.
So I asked him if he wanted to co-author a book with me. He said “yes” and arrived on my doorstep a few days later to outline our game plan. And from that day on, Harris Coulter and I embarked on a truth seeking journey about vaccine safety that would take us into a labyrinth, where the history of science, medicine, politics, economics, law, and ethics intersected.
During this unlikely collaboration between a mother and writer, who loves Shakespeare, and a father and medical historian, who loved nothing better than to expose the arrogance and ignorance of medical orthodoxy, he and I managed to write a book that would be the first to inform the public about the link between vaccination and brain inflammation that can lead to chronic illness, including learning disabilities; attention deficit and ADHD; medication resistant seizure disorders; autism, asthma, severe allergies, mental retardation and other manifestations of brain and immune dysfunction given convenient labels by the medical profession.
As I interviewed hundreds of parents of DPT vaccine injured children and Harris set up camp at the Library of Medicine, my mantra became “brain damage by any other name is still brain damage” and his mantra was “when in doubt, don’t leave it out,” of our historic challenge to industry, government and organized medicine for refusing to acknowledge vaccine risks and failing to improve the crude and toxic whole cell DPT vaccine.
When he and I came under attack by medical writers at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal after our book was first published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1985, Harris told me “don’t listen to them, Barbara. They know we are right and that is why they are attacking us.”
At an NIH meeting in 1988, when an auditorium full of scientists and health officials informed American parents that they were not going to license the safer and more effective DTaP vaccine that Japan had been using since 1981 until after they conducted eight more years of studies, Harris called out from the back of the auditorium “I’ve got cases of DPT: A Shot in the Dark back here for anyone who wants a copy.” Within an hour, every last book had been sold.
Harris never let his critics get him down. In fact, he celebrated the negative attention. He took a stalwart “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!” attitude that echoed the advice my Dad gave me when I was young, which was: “If everybody likes you, then you probably aren’t doing anything important.”
Harris Coulter was a very special man. He was a brilliant historian, a remarkable visionary, a brave seeker and defender of the truth. He left his mark on the history of medicine and he changed my life. When I think of Harris, I remember a quote from Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caeser: “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only once.”
Thank you, Harris, for being a hero for me and many others, who will always remember and miss you.
Harris Coulter, PhD
October 8, 1932 - October 28, 2009
Harris Livermore Coulter, PhD, born in Baltimore MD on October 8, 1932 died on October 28, 2009 in Washington, D.C. after a long illness following a stroke in 1997.
The co-author of DPT: A Shot in the Dark in 1985 and author of Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality: A Medical Assault on the American Brain in 1990, Dr. Coulter attended Milton Academy and graduated Yale University with a BA degree in Russian Studies. He earned a masters degree in political science and a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University. He worked for the State Department and United Nations as an English/Russian interpreter and authored nine books on medical history.
He is survived by his sons, Andrew and Alex and by his daughters, Elizabeth and Marian.
Curriculum Vitae for Harris Coulter, PhD
- June 1997 - Paris, France - Meetings with Dr. Jacques Benveniste on writing a history of his discovery of the "memory of water."
- January 1997 - Lectured to homeopathic and other physicians specializing in alternative medicine in Berlin, Germany, Moscow, Russia and London, UK.
- October 1996 - Lectured on cancer immunotherapy at the 51st Annual Conference of the World Homeopathic League (LIGA) in Capri, Italy and at the Third Dead Sea Conference on Potentiating Health and the Crisis of the Immune System in Zichron Yaacov, Israel. Guest Lecturer at the Convention of the Romanian Homoeopathic Society in Bucharest, Romania.
- November 1995 - Lectured on medical and homeopathic history at Centre de Techniques Homeopathiques, Montreal, Canada (lectures published by the Centre under the title: Histoire de l'Homeopathie).
- October 1995 - Lectured at 50th Congress of International Homeopathic Medical League (Oaxaca, Mexico) on dangers of childhood vaccinations.
- September 1995 - Lectured at Conference on Genetic Causes of Violence (University of Maryland) on childhood vaccinations as a cause of violent behavior.
- February 1995 - Spoke at 49th Congress of International Homeopathic Medical League (New Delhi, India), and to homeopathic physicians in Calcutta, India, on 'Vitalism and the Future of Medicine.'
- December 1994 - Published: Divided Legacy. Volume IV. Twentieth Century Medicine: The Bacteriological Era.
- April 1994 - Lectured at 150th Anniversary meeting of The American Institute of Homeopathy on: 'American Medicine, Where We've Been and Where We're Going.'
- September-October 1993 - Ad Hoc Advisory Panel of the Office of Alternative Medicine. Worked with Office of Alternative Medicine supervising trial of shark cartilage in treatment of cancer.
- May 1993 - Honorary member of the 'Syndicat Professionel des Homeopathes du Quebec'.
- September 1992 - Pharmacological and Biological Treatments Panel Member on the NIH's Workshop on Alternative Medicine. The report published was Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons, also known as the Chantilly Report.
- September 1992 - Lectured at the Fifth International Conference on Neuro-Developmental Issues (Cherry Hill, New Jersey) on the post-encephalitic syndrome.
- March 1992 - Lectured at Fourth European Conference on Neuro-Developmental Delay (Chester, England) on the post-encephalitic syndrome.
- 1990-96 - Advisory board of the Cancer Chronicles.
- 1990-91 - Board of Directors, International Foundation for Homeopathy.
- 1990 - Published The Controlled Clinical Trial: An Analysis
- 1990 – Published Vaccination, Social Violence, and Criminality: The Medical Assault on the American Brain.
- May 1990 - Lectured at 45th Congress of International Homeopathic Medical League, Barcelona, Spain, on dangers of childhood vaccinations. Awarded the Centenary Gold Medal of the Academica Medico-Homeopatica de Barcelona.
- 1990-96 - Lectured in France, Norway, Brazil, and Russia on homeopathic, vaccination, and medical history issues.
- 1988 - Testified before House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor: on AIDS and Syphilis: the Hidden Link.
- 1987 - Published AIDS and Syphilis: the Hidden Link.
- 1985 - Published with Barbara Loe Fisher: DPT: A Shot in the Dark.
- 1985 - Awarded the Hahnemann Prize of the Belgian Faculty of Homeopathy.
- 1983-89 - Editorial board of the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy.
- 1987 - Lectured at 42nd Congress of the International Homeopathic Medical League, Arlington, Virginia: 'DPT Vaccine. The DPT Shot and Public Health.'
- 1983-96 - Honorary member of the American Institute of Homeopathy.
- 1981-82 - Vice President of the American Center for Homeopathy and editor of The American Homeopath; Secretary of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention. Organized homeopathic summer programs in Melbourne, Florida, and Scottsdale, Arizona.
- 1981 - Published Homeopathic Science and Modern Medicine.
- 1980 - Lectured to 35th Congress of the International Homeopathic Medical League, Acapulco, Mexico: 'Hahnemannian Homeopathy and Revisionism.'
- 1977 - Published: Divided Legacy. Volume II. The Origins of Modern Western Medicine: J. B. Van Helmont to Claude Bernard.
- 1975 - Published Divided Legacy. Volume I. The Patterns Emerge: Hippocrates to Paracelsus.
- May-June 1974 - 39th Congress of the International Homoeopathic Medical League, Washington, D.C. George Vithoulkas and Harris L. Coulter honored as writers on homeopathy.
- 1973 - Published Divided Legacy. Volume III. The Conflict Between homeopathy and the American Medical Association, and Homeopathic Influences in Nineteenth-Century Allopathic Therapeutics.
- 1972 - Published: Homeopathic Medicine.
- July 1969 - Awarded degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) by Columbia University, NY; dissertation title: Political and Social Aspects of Nineteenth-Century Medicine in the United States: The Formation of the American Medical Association and its Struggle with the Homeopathic and Eclectic Physicians.
- 1965-75 - Director of Publications, American Foundation for Homeopathy.
- 1961 - Awarded M.A. by Columbia University, NY (Political Science).
- 1954 - Awarded B.A. by Yale University, CT (Russian Area Studies).
Languages: German, French, Spanish, Latin, Russian, Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian.
by Barbara Loe Fisher
The results of a 2009 survey evaluating the vaccine safety concerns of American parents was recently published in the journal Pediatrics
Out of the approximately 1500 parents, who took the survey, only 23 percent believe that vaccines cause autism in healthy children. But more than half were worried about serious adverse health effects of vaccination. The vast majority said they believe that getting vaccines is a good way to protect children from disease and follow their doctor’s recommendations. Still, more than 30 percent of those surveyed believe that parents should have the right to refuse vaccines that are required for school for any reason.
I am not surprised by these survey results because, since 1982, most parents contacting the National Vaccine Information Center tell us they want to trust what their doctors tell them about vaccination. Mothers and fathers depend upon their doctors to give them good advice; but when the health of their child or a child they know deteriorates after vaccination, 2
parents logically start to ask questions. And when they are belittled or even threatened for asking those questions, 3 4
the relationship between doctor and parent is never the same again.
Parents asking questions about vaccine safety is nothing new. Although in the past decade there has been a focus on whether a mercury preservative in vaccines, perhaps in combination with the MMR vaccine, can cause autism in some children, the public conversation about vaccine risks and flaws in vaccine science and policy began in the early 1980’s. 5
Back then, it was parents of DPT vaccine injured children calling for a less toxic whooping cough vaccine to replace an old one causing brain inflammation, brain damage and death.
We worked with Congress on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 6
believing that this historic law would provide a safety net for children harmed by vaccines. We believed that the informing, recording and reporting requirements for doctors in that law would reduce the numbers of children, who died or became chronically ill and disabled after vaccination.
Little did we know that - even though $2 billion dollars has been paid to families with vaccine injured children under that law - only one out of three vaccine victims are ever financially compensated. 7 8
This, while drug companies making and selling vaccines have been almost completely protected from product liability. 9 10
Other pharmaceutical products, like Vioxx, 11
are not protected from liability and they are not mandated for school attendance like vaccines. Perhaps that is why there are far more black box warnings on drugs 12 13
than on vaccines. 14
A quarter century after the Vaccine Injury Act was passed, nothing has been done yet to conduct the kind of vaccine science that will give us answers about which children are at higher risk than others for dying or being brain injured by vaccination so their lives can be spared. 15 16 17
Whether industry or government will ever do that good vaccine science 18
is an outstanding question. But that does not mean that we, the people, cannot raise the money to do it. That is why the National Vaccine Information Center is creating an independent vaccine safety research program to study long term health outcomes of those who do and do not get vaccinated. 19
Public trust is fragile. When what the people are being told about vaccine safety does not match what they are experiencing in their own lives, doubt grows and trust fades.
The American public still has fresh memories of the aggressive lobbying campaign for mandatory HPV vaccination of all sixth grade girls. 20
And the 2009 H1N1 swine flu emergency declaration 21
that turned out to be the mildest influenza season in decades, 22
followed by the new federal recommendation that every American from birth has to get a flu shot every year, 23
is also fresh in our memory.
More and more Americans are becoming painfully aware that their medical bills, taxes and health insurance premiums are going up because, today, 1 in 6 highly vaccinated child in America is learning disabled; 1 in 9 has asthma; 1 in 100 develops autism; 1 in 450 becomes diabetic and 7 in 1,000 babies born alive are dying before their first birthday. 24 25
With 69 doses of 16 vaccines being given to children from birth through age 18 26
and hundreds of new vaccines being developed 27
to prevent infectious disease while trillions of dollars are being spent to treat chronic disease, 28
is it any wonder more parents are asking more questions about vaccine safety?
And is it any wonder that more Americans want the legal right to make vaccine choices as drug companies and public health officials encourage legislators to pass laws that electronically track medical records and attach penalties for those who fail to get every government recommended vaccine? 29
There is no more important task before those responsible for ensuring the public health than addressing parental concerns about vaccination with better science and not with better press releases and more mandates.
Please support the work of the National Vaccine Information Center 30
and other parent-led organizations, 30 31 32 33
who have been educating the public for many years about vaccination and health and defending your right to make informed, voluntary vaccine choices for yourself and your children.
Fisher, BL. Electronic Medical Records Tracking Systems & Privacy. Letter to Assistant Secretary for Planning & Evaluation, Department of Health & Human Services. February 15, 2000.