Monday, October 20, 2008

Autism's False Prophets

Just before Lucy was born I reviewed Paul A. Offit, M.D.'s book Vaccinated. I know it's odd to say that I enjoyed reading a book on vaccine history, but as a (former) scientist and a parent, it appealed to me. It was well written and well researched. When The Parent Bloggers Network reached out to me to review his new book, Autism's False Prophets, I couldn't say no. The first book only covered the history of vaccines, and as any person, parent or not, knows, vaccines have been very much at the center of many major stories in the past decade. 

Offit knows his work has consequences. He starts the prologue by quoting some of the more colorful hate mail he has received. Having my own children, I cannot fathom how difficult it must be to parent one with special needs. I can imagine that these parents, in moments of desperation, are just looking for someone to blame. Many choose Offit as their target, and while this could lead to risks to himself and his family, he presses on. Why? Because he believes he is doing the right thing. The just thing. 

I admit, I have to agree. 

Offit spends the beginning of the book discussing Andrew Wakefield's proposition that vaccinations, specifically the MMR vaccination, causes autism. The way in which the information was presented lead to a media storm of enormous proportions that had millions believing unproven, unsound data. After Wakefield's bombshell, Offit goes on to detail many of the supposed treatments for autism. These treatments had parents of autistic children digging deep into their pockets, giving them hope of a cure. None of the children were 'cured' and some of them were even harmed in the process. 

Offit also delves into the scientific and judicial process for the reader to dissect exactly how these process work in relation to these cases against vaccinations. (I know it sounds boring, but seriously it's not!) He also discusses the relationships between science and the media, science and society and how those can affect the way information is disseminated. 

Paul A. Offit M.D. is, no doubt, a man with an agenda. He wants to protect children from unnecessary, harmful procedures. He wants to protect parents from spending countless dollars on what amounts to snake oil. And he wants to protect the doctors and scientists who are hard at work on autism causes and treatments. 

Which is why I hope we continue to hear from Paul A. Offit, M.D. 

1 comment:

HeatherK said...

That's on my to read list. I heard him on Radio Times I think it was and really appreciated hearing him speak. We do a slightly altered/delayed schedule, but not for same reason as many others. I know this can be a hot button topic and that certain circles take an all or nothing approach. I think I'm most interested to hear thoughts on science and the media.