Autism Controversy

My topic begins with a show I watched recently on the Dr. Oz show. The topic was Autism. It was interesting—the audience represented parents who had children who were diagnosed on the Autism spectrum (ASD). The panel of professionals included Autism specialists, advocates and pediatricians.

There was a big controversy on the show, as we all have probably heard about in the news, with the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine. There is a question as to whether or not the vaccine is directly related to the onset of autism. Some parents were clear on their stance–that it was related, and that the vaccine caused autism.

When this story originally broke out in 1998 after a study done by Dr. Wakefield who suggested a link between ASD and the MMR vaccine, parents became frantic—they no longer wanted their children to have the MMR vaccine. Wakefield was later refuted; his study made suggestions, but there were no scientific studies done. Half a dozen or so other researchers have also made the suggestion, but without and scientific research. So, currently, there is no scientific evidence that MMR and ASD are linked. I might also add that Dr. Wakefield’s medical license was revoked and his study was retracted in 2010.

I understand people need someone or something to blame. I don’t think it’s right to blame without doing your research. I would bet that the parents who believe their child ‘got’ autism because of the vaccination haven’t done their research. Do they believe what they hear in the 30 second sound bite on the news? Probably.

This is a prime example of people talking out of their you-know-what. Just because you hear a piece of information from a so-called valuable resource (i.e. magazine articles, the news, etc.) doesn’t mean it’s true. What these reporters are lacking is context. Sure the quote may be accurate, but is the information? If words are taken out of context, they mean almost nothing. We cannot look at one side of the story and claim to know what is ‘right’ about the story. We need to start looking at different perspectives. Don’t listen to a doctor who is spewing out facts that autism isn’t linked to vaccinations–they might be funded through pharmaceutical companies that supply the vaccine. Then, of course those doctors would be reading only information that the vaccine isn’t related to ASD–I mean, would the pharmaceutical companies really want people believing that their product causes ASD? No, of course not; they wouldn’t make any money that way. If you look at one side of a story such as the pharmaceutical perspective, then ASD is not caused by vaccines.

Flip that coin and talk to an environmentalist. A parent. A child psychiatrist. Everyone has their own opinion on the cause of ASD. Yes, it is an opinion. Each of us wants to believe that our thoughts on the subject are fact. Who wants to be wrong? No one. And some, who are passionate on this subject, or any other for that matter, are unwilling to hear another side of the story because they convinced themselves that they are right.

There are plenty of examples I could have used to demonstrate the point that every story contains several sides. How do we decide who is right or wrong? Does science dictate that? Maybe. But who funds the scientists? If a drug company gave me a million dollars to ‘research’ the physical effects of their drug on people, do you think they would give me the money if I found out that they had spent billions of dollars and man-hours on a drug that was ineffective? I’m not saying that drug companies are bad. What I think we need to do is have a critical eye on who supplies our information. Are you willing to accept a ‘rumor’ or facts, data, and evidence. There’s no right or wrong way to this matter. Each person has a different perspective based on everything that makes us unique.

Is there a solution to these disagreements? What about the Autism debate? I say, find out everything you can about every side of the story before you come up with your own conclusions about the ’cause’ of something. Most times, the cause is irrelevant in our immediate lives because we still have to live with the consequences. But if we investigate connections we might have insight into preventable measures.

What do you think about the Autism/ MMR Vaccine debate? Where do you stand?

2 thoughts on “Autism Controversy”

  1. Analytical research can be persuaded to change the overall findings – are many people aware of the fact that “disease” classifications are voted on by leading psychologists & psychiatrists that sit around a table each year and vote whether or not to classify certain behaviors as diseases? Look it up! Look up how the origins of classifications of behavioral disorders took place – you’ll see for yourself – the emotional traumas are all voted on by leading psychiatrists & psychologists. The dilemma here today is that some of these leading psychiatrists and/or psychologists are funded by major pharmaceutical companies – hence, would a physician vote for a classification if his/her research were not funded by a major pharmaceutical company who was trying to get a certain behavioral classification rated as being ‘treatable’ by a certain medication by the board of doctors voting on it that particular year?!? As a result, we may have classifications, as Sarah points out, that may be skewed without unbiased information.

    Thanks for this article, Sarah. It provokes further discussions.

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