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“A Dose of Controversy”: More like a dose of equivocation

Last Thursday, I expressed dismay about an upcoming NBC news special, A Dose of Controversy, which is about a man who arguably caused more damage to public health than just about anyone in the last decade, namely Andrew Wakefield. Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog knows just what I think of Andrew Wakefield. I’ve made no secret of it; I have little but contempt for the man, whom I view as incompetent, dishonest, and a quack. Andrew Wakefield, as you may recall, is the British gastroenterologist who in 1998 published a study in The Lancet that claimed to find a link between the MMR vaccine and “autistic enterocolitis.” This study, aided and abetted by truly irresponsible journalism, launched a panic in the U.K. that is only now starting to abate. In the interim, measles, once thought conquered, has become endemic again in the British Isles. In any case, it matters not to the anti-vaccine movement that (1) his study was poorly designed and utterly refuted by later studies; (2) it was revealed that Wakefield received £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses from lawyers trying to show that the MMR was unsafe; (3) the PCR laboratory that Wakefield used was so poorly run that it apparently had no knowledge of the concept of a negative control; and (4) strong evidence has been revealed that Wakefield falsified data.

If there’s one thing that causes my teeth to grind almost as much as the thought of Andrew Wakefield on national TV, free to spew his pseudoscience, self-aggrandizement, and comparisons of his plight to that of Galileo, it’s the convention of “balance” in news stories. I’ve written extensively about this bogus false equivalence between pseudoscience and science, particularly regarding the vaccine/autism manufactroversy. One extreme example was a particularly execrable episode of an execrable TV show, The Doctors, in which the “tell both sides” mantra led to an infuriatingly inaccurate picture, in which the beliefs of anti-vaccine apologists like Dr. jay Gordon were treated as equivalent to those of scientists.

As I expected, the NBC special is cut from exactly the same cloth; it’s just that the seams don’t show as badly.

I don’t know what possessed me, but I considered it more or less my duty to subject myself to this nonsense. So I did just that yesterday evening, as NBC aired A Dose of Controversy. It was torture, but I do it all for you (and because it’s a quick blog post). I did it even though the site, much less the voice, of Andrew Wakefield, as Pink Floyd sang in The Wall, fills me with the urge to defecate.

Of course, I knew right away from the title of the broadcast that this broadcast was going to be a “tell both sides” crapfest right from the start. The reason, of course, is that politics is not medicine. In politics and many other controversies, there often are two sides with cases of similar validity. In such cases, it is critical to report both sides fairly and accurately. However, in science and medicine, the “tell both sides” mantra often grossly exaggerates the validity of pseudoscience when it’s a conflict between pseudoscience and science. That’s exactly what’s going on with the vaccines/autism “controversy,” because there is no medical controversy over whether the MMR vaccine causes autism or whether vaccines in general cause autism. Rather, it’s what we call a “manufactroversy,” or a manufactured controversy. It’s pseudoscience versus versus science, but Lauer et al starts out painting the story as that of the proverbial “brave maverick doctor” (Andrew Wakefield), who thinks he’s found a horrible result that the medical establishment does not want to acknowledge, which is why it tries to shut him down. Meanwhile, it has a horrible graphic between each segment that shows a vaccine being drawn up, with newspaper headlines and pictures of Wakefield flashing behind it.

The First half of the show is constructed as mainly “dueling interviews,” one with Andrew Wakefield and the other with Brian Deer, interspersed with brief clips that provide background and serve as exposition, right from the start setting up the false equivalence. It also sets up the “brave maverick doctor” against the dogged journalist. Who couldn’t love a story like that? In this case, I can’t. The broadcast did hit all the low points of Andrew Wakefield’s career, such as his conflict of interest, in which he was paid large sums of money for two years before his 1998 Lancet paper by lawyers preparing a class action suit against vaccine manufacturers; his being investigated by the General Medical Council; the infamous incident in which Wakefield got blood samples from healthy children at a birthday party and then later joked about two children fainting and one passing out; and the fact that several of the children in his study were plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit. However, it assiduously avoided the F-word (scientific fraud), and, worse, it set up the allegations in a he said/she said structure, in which Wakefield makes claims, which are then refuted; or Brian Deer describes the findings of his investigation, each of which Wakefield always has a glib explanation for.

Actually, if you want to get a feel for how this whole episode was done, there was the infuriating manner in which Lauer interviewed Deer. For example, he asked Deer, “In your opinion how much was Wakefield paid?” as though the number Deer came up with was, as Asimov so famously said about a “theory,” something Deer had “dreamt up after being out drunk all night.” Come to think of it, the word “theory” is bandied about referring to the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism; it always irritates the crap out of me how that word is misused because in science it is a term with a lot of certainty behind it whereas in colloquial usage it does often mean a “hunch” or an “idea.” Then Lauer repeats the offense by saying to Deer, “It’s your opinion that Wakefield was involved in the development of another vaccine,” again, as though Deer’s conclusions about Wakefield’s conflicts of interest were nothing more than mere opinion, no more or less likely to be valid than Wakefield’s assertions. It is a fact that Wakefield received £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses from lawyers trying to show that the MMR was unsafe, a matter of public record. Deer’s “opinion” has nothing to do with it. It is a fact that Wakefield had a patent application for a single dose measles vaccine filed before he published his Lancet paper. These are not matters of “opinion.”

Despite this, Brian Deer did get in some good zingers, for example:

  • “This thing stank from the day it appeared.”
  • “Wakefield was greedy, and that’s how I caught him.”

Best of all, after Lauer asked Deer, “Do you ever worry that Andrew Wakefield is right?” his response was an unquivocal “no.” Nor should he. Again, as Pink Floyd sang, the evidence is “incontrovertible.” At another point, when Lauer says:

LAUER: This back and forth between you and Andrew Wakefield has been going on a long time. It seems that Dr. Wakefield has an answer for everything you allege.

DEER: And the dog ate his homework. He’s always got a story…This guy sued me. I could have lost my home; I could have lost everything apart from what I’m wearing.

And about Wakefield’s suit having gone nowhere, Deer quipped, “I’ve got the check” (for Deer’s legal fees).

Paul Offit was also interviewed. He got in some good licks, too, describing how he had been threatened, how an anonymous caller had mentioned his children’s names, a clear threat that he knew who they were and where they went to school. He even admitted that there was one time when he considered giving it all up, and that was it. Still, when he wondered why parents listen to celebrities like Jenny McCarthy instead of scientists and physicians, he encapsulated every frustration those of us on the side of science have felt. That was the power and the problem. At times Dr. Offit came across as testy and angry. Now, far be it from me to criticize a man like Dr. Offit for being angry at what anti-vaccinationists have done to public health in this country, and I very much liked how uncompromising he was when he pointed out that the anti-vaccine movement has caused considerable harm. Unfortunately, the comparison with the unctuously calm demeanor of Andrew Wakefield does not work to Dr. Offit’s advantage. He was right about each and every canard of the anti-vaccine movement he shot down, but his passion came across a bit too angry.

Then, of course, there was Bernadine Healy. I’ve written about her having aligned herself with the anti-vaccine movement before. Here she does it again, big time, providing quotes that only J.B. Handley or Andrew Wakefield himself could love: “Scientists have to be listened to. I don’t think it’s terribly humble to say stop, we have all the answers, shut down the research”:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Straw men that big are usually seen in the Burning Man every year, and Healy could be just the guy who sets it ablaze. No one has ever said that we “have all the answers.” What science says is that the evidence against the contention that vaccines cause autism is such that by any reasonable stretch of the imagination the hypothesis has been refuted.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the show occurs near the end, when NBC went into Thoughtful House and followed parents of an autistic child through an endoscopy by Dr. Arthur Krigsman. Tim Kasemodel is interviewed about his son Thomas, who is shown being sedated so Krigsman can do both an upper and lower endoscopy on him. The cost is reported to be $4,500 out of pocket, not to mention the pain, fear, and distress to which Tom Kasemodel is subjected being subjected to a medical procedure that is almost certainly unnecessary. It’s very striking how all the trappings of scientific medicine are there, but none of the methodology. Indeed, Lauer inadvertently stumbled on just the issue:

LAUER: Based on your experience, have you made children better? Anecdotally do you have evidence?” Do they get better?

Wakefield, of course, responds in the affirmative. What Lauer should have asked Wakefield is whether he has randomized controlled clinical trials to support his belief that autistic children “get better” at Thoughtful House. He doesn’t, but pretty much every child they scope (85%, according to Dr. Krigsman) has “autistic enterocolitis,” even though, as in the case of Tom Kasemodal, Dr. Krigsman was hard-pressed to find abnormalities. (“Mild or softer findings,” he said about Tom.) Of course, on pathology, Thoughtful House pathologists apparently found “mild inflammation.” What did Krigsman prescribe? Lots of supplements, daily laxatives, and periodic colon cleansing. Can you imagine subjecting an autistic child to laxatives and colon cleanses? As far as I’m concerned, that’s child abuse, particularly given that there’s no scientific justification for it.

Sadly, A Dose of Controversy falls into the same trap that so many media examinations of pseudoscience fall into. It applied the journalistic convention designed for stories about politics, legal matters, and other human conflict to something it’s not well-suited for, the battle between pseudoscience and science. In doing so, it gives the impression that there is actually far more to the pseudoscience than there in fact is. Even worse, it dollops onto that convention another cliche, namely the iconoclast, the rebel, the “brave maverick doctor bucking the system against who the system stands united. Pile it all together, and it was a huge missed opportunity. Two statements illustrate this well, both occuring near the end of the report. First Lauer describes Wakefield as a man who will listen to these parents, respond to them, and stand up for them, while Wakefield says, “I don’t know if vaccines cause autism. I know it’s a question that needs to be asked and I’m not going to walk away from it.”

I predict that the phones at Thoughtful House will be ringing off the hook this week. I guess I should be grateful that, for whatever reason, Jenny McCarthy wasn’t interviewed for this report.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

260 replies on ““A Dose of Controversy”: More like a dose of equivocation”

“It’s pseudoscience versus versus science, but Lauer et al starts out painting the story as that of the proverbial “brave maverick doctor” (Andrew Wakefield), who thinks he’s found a horrible result that the medical establishment does not want to acknowledge, which is why it tries to shit him down.”

I see the defecation snuck in there.

The minute I saw Healy spouting that crap on the teaser (we were watching NBC News) I knew the special was going to be awful. Thanks for summarizing it and confirming that my suspicions of the tone were 100% on.

WEEKLY COLON CLEANSING???? Is this guy NUTS??? I can see laxatives for a constipated child, because of the vicious cycle of constipation->pain->refusal to defecate->more constipation etc. I can see enemas if the child is constipated until they are regulated. I can see increased roughage in a diet if a child will eat it. I can see dietary supplements if a child is such a picky eater (and I had 2 of them like that) that they need them. But I cannot imagine subjecting a child to weekly colon cleansings. Good grief!

Go on, judge! Shit on ‘im!

Speaking as someone who has had to have endoscopy and strong laxatives for real medical reasons, no one should have to go through that without a medical reason for doing so.

Y’know. A week or two ago, someone mentioned Bernadine Healy in a thread on vaccines, and I had gone searching to see if she had changed her stance, at all, given how much research has been done since she first came out saying that “we shouldn’t shut down scientific inquiry into vaccines, blah blah blah”. I found a quote from only a couple weeks before that restated that stance, so I’m not surprised that she, once again, stepped in it.

Just goes to show that even fools can achieve high office.

As to the rest of the show, I feel relieved that I missed it. It’s a great shame when advertising masquerades as journalism.

This isn’t my area of expertise, but I was under the impression that overuse of laxatives, colon cleansing, etc. damaged the colon. (I always heard this during high school health class discussions about eating disorders, so they may have exaggerated the effects.)

I wasn’t as disappointed as you. Then again, I have no faith in our “news” media to report facts, only the “news” (the story consistent with the agenda). I was actually surprised that Lauer didn’t give Jenny much more play, since the first 2 rules of the MSM are “If it bleeds, it leads.” and “Sex sells.” Accordingly, since I expected essentially nothing, that there was anything of substances was a pleasant surprise.

Still, I think that some of your comments are not accurate.

“For example, he asked Deer, ‘In your opinion how much was Wakefield paid?'”

You’re not subject to British libel laws. If Beer was wrong as to a “fact”, Wakefield could sue him (again). By stating “an opinion”, Beer won’t get sued and have to pay Wakefield’s attorneys. Still, it would have been nice if Lauer had explained British libels laws and “loser pays” rule on attorneys fees, and let Beer elaborate more on the what and why Wakefield had had to pay Beer’s attorneys.

“At times Dr. Offit came across as testy and angry.”

If someone threatened my children, I’d be testy and angry, too. Too bad Lauer didn’t further show the dark side of the anti-vax movement, or explain how and why that position threatens the health of children who are vaccinated. Unvaccinated children are walking incubators for mutations of diseases that vaccines would protect against. If they just wanted to let their own kids suffer, I might not object. It’s the putting everyone else at risk that burns my butt.

I don’t know if you caught Mrs. Kasemodal’s comment about why they brought their son to the place. “We think he has a hidden intestinal problem.”

The beauty is that, now, after nothing was found, they can still claiim it is a HIDDEN problem. Oh, he has an intestinal problem, and we’ll find it, darn it! A win for Wakefield!

I didn’t see the first half but caught the Krigsman crap. Man, what a load of bullshit reporting that was. “Courts found that Krigsman was a charleton, and a whackjob fraud. However, when we interviewed him, Krigsman defended his actions.” – cut to interview with Krigsman declaring he will be vindicated.

Really? The guy that the court laughed off as being an idiot disagrees with the court’s opinion? Who’d of thought it?

I did like the statement from the president of the Gastrointestinal society: “Autistic entercolitis is not a real disease”

Of course, Krigsman begs to differ…

I did not have as much a problem with what was said, rather it was how. The piece felt like the lead up to a boxing match. I do think that overall this was a win for the scientists.

I wasn’t as disappointed as you

I can understand this, actually. In fact, I’m guessing that NBC is going to defend it on the grounds that they provided authoritative information, and, in fact, denied their was an autism connection. Recall the statement, “It’s been 15 years since Wakefield’s publication, and even though since then science has shown there is not a link between vaccines and autism, the controversy continues”

But it is also the case that while the truth was there, the show was far too sympathetic to the views of the anti-vaxxers to be consistent with mainstream medicine

Good God, that awful?

WEEKLY COLON CLEANSES? What the heck?

Wakefield should be in jail for allowing child abuse to occur, not to mention endangering lives with his rhetoric.

Gonna retweet this. People need to read it.

Actually, I have to go back and listen to the show again. I don’t remember if it was weekly or monthly now. Either way, it’s bad; it’s just that monthly would be a little less bad.

Actually, the problem I had with the show was that Wakefield is complete red-herring. Assume for the sake of argument that Wakefield was an honest, ethical researcher, and that his original publication was preliminarily suggestive, but too small of a scale to be conclusive. It did, however, warrant follow-up.

Given all that, so what? The follow-up has been done, in far more detail than the original work and NOTHING HAS BEEN FOUND. So even if we assume Wakefield’s original study was on the up-and-up (and it was treated that way), it was still a dead end. So who cares about Wakefield’s stuff anymore? Obviously, just the anti-vaxxers, because it’s the only thing they have. They have to cling to thouroughly discredited work (both scientifically discredited, and professionally).

But the most important point is that, even the best assessment of Wakefield is “innocently mistaken”. It could be even worse. However, under no circumstances can he be viewed as “right.” So what’s the hubbub?

I have to disagree. In my opinion, no way was the program balanced. I thought it was a big win for science. My husband, who knows little about the controversy, watched it without commentary from me and thought it made the ant-vaccine movement look pretty bad.

At almost every turn, Lauer was questioning and critical as were others interviewed. The strong commentary that not vaccinating was dangerous was clear.

Every parent has had a kid with a belly ache. To link it to autism? I’m sure the vast majority watching this would think this was just plain weird. And, to have to pay out of pocket?

Viewers saw a guy, drummed out of his homeland, no backup, weird theory, taking money from the desperate, looking weary and unsure.

And, the commentary at the end that England is looking into possibly taking action is devastating. Viewers will also remember the last thing said: vaccinations are important.

I say well done. Very well done.

In the “good ole days” guys like Wakefield and Krigsman would be horse-whipped and ridden out of town on a rail.
I have no empathy for them at all, reserving what I do have for the poor boy who will now be subjected to torture by laxative and enema. For health reasons I wont’ go into, I’ve had both a sigmoidoscopy and a barium enema series, and prep for those was a unique kind of hell I’d go a long way to avoid repeating. I had them 2 weeks apart at different facilities and had to do the prep at home, myself. That said, I’d like to ask — what is it with alt-med scammers and their fascination with poo ?
Did mummy make them sit sideways on the toilet ?
Are we just a bit obsessive with fecal matter ?
Do they put on latex gloves and a mask before sitting on the toilet ?
I just don’t get it.

I keep wondering when the news channels with a) stop employing obnoxious, loudmouthed airheads like Beck and Olbermann and b) grow a spine and expose charlatans and frauds rather than selling cheap, pathetic melodramas that make no distinction between fact and opinion.

So far I’m 0 for 2.

“Actually, the problem I had with the show was that Wakefield is complete red-herring.”

Well, Wakefield is from a country where the following warning signs are taken seriously:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/6055997/Sign-language-week-62.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5939712/Sign-language-week-59.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5842424/Sign-language-week-57.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=2

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=3

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=4

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=5

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=6

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=9

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=12

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/5788182/Sign-language-week-56.html?image=18

[OK, not all of them are from the UK, and (I hope) not all of them are serious. Still, D.C. seems to have hit the nail on the head. Before last night, few in the U.S. had heard of Wakefield. Dateline gave him $ Millions in free publicity. As Huey Long recognized “I don’t care what the write about me. I only care that they spell my name right. In six months no one will remember what they said about me, but they will remember my name.”].

My nephew has autism and every day is a huge challenge for him, my sister, brother-in-law and his younger, typical brother. While there may be science around vaccines not causing autism, where is the science that shows what to do about it or what IS causing autism????? My family is desperate to help my nephew and they get reports from other families of autistic children that the Thoughtful House can help kids recover. So, they are trying it. What else is are parents to do, but try what they can!?!? And it’s not true that every kid gets the same treatment. For instance, laxatives would be the worst for my nephew as he hasn’t hardly had a formed stool in his entire life and they haven’t prescribed that. As a pregnant woman expecting a boy with a better than 1 in 100 change of being autistic, I am frightened, too. What do I do to prevent this? Anything? Nobody can tell me. These families really need help and NOW!

Also, I am as frustrated as the rest of you on the horrible quality of reporting in this country. We have to get back to getting the $$$ out of the newsroom…

I’d have to say that at least it is having a positive effect. The anti-vaxers I know are in a tizzy over it. They saw all kinds of things that they didn’t like, and were complaining on the forums almost as soon as it went off.

They complained about Lauer’s “tone” when talking to Wakefield, and his “adoring tone” with Dr. Offitt.

I laughed almost the whole way through! Matt Lauer was *SO* completely biased it was just laughable! Not that I expected anything else, but he was just so freakin’ *obvious*! He spoke in snotty tones to Dr Wakefield but he had this adoring tone with prOffit. And why didn’t he bring up Brian Deer’s checkered past?! He also asked prOffit for “advice for parents.” Why didn’t he ask Wakefield for advice for parents?

They complained that since it didn’t support them, then what was the point. Darn it, why can’t all interviews tell us what we want to hear!

not happy! and the end when he asks so for those parents wondering what to do the Pediatric association recommends not to delay vaccinations and that it does not cause autism. clearly stating that parents should vaccinate! whats the point of the show?

And others had to “preview” it before their husbands got to see it. Needless to say, the husbands don’t have to worry about spending an hour watching it.

I think I will have to DVR it and ‘preview’ it before I let DH watch. I always get my hopes up and then get let down by these specials not talking about the things I really want them to talk about…

I would stop short of saying I like it simply because the anti-vaxers hated it. That’s akin to the way they embrace any quck that doesn’t like vaccines, no matter how “out there” or fraudulent they are. Just because they don’t like it isn’t a good enough reason to applaud it.

Overall, I think it is about as good as you can hope for from a mainstream news organization. They feed off of controversy, and when dealing with straight facts Wakefield is a feeble opponent. At least it didn’t support the anti-vax argument and did quite a bit to destroy Wakefield’s credibility with the masses. It’s not even the type of thing they would splice up into moderated clips to forward around. They want it to disappear.

KW said: While there may be science around vaccines not causing autism, where is the science that shows what to do about it or what IS causing autism?????

An excellent question, KW. And that is exactly what most scientists would like to answer. The problem is there is a ridiculous amount of money thrown after the “vaccine-link” red herring that has proven over and over to be a dead end. Let’s throw away this nonsense of attacking vaccines and spend that money on trying to figure out the real cause.

Everytime AoA “demands” more research into vaccines they are taking money away from something that might be helping your nephew or potentially your own child.

BTW – it was monthly colon cleanses not weekly. Still bad if you ask me.

The big problem I had with the reporting was that the scientific fraud was pretty much glossed over — they just showed the headlines in the UK papers and mentioned that 10 of the 12 authors had removed their names from the paper. They should have explained in more detail why The Lancet editor would have not published the paper knowing what he knows now.

@KW

where is the science that shows what to do about it or what IS causing autism?

Scientists are working on it. So far, there is preliminary work that suggests a major genetic component. The exact cause or causes of autism are not yet known, though some causes have been ruled out (e.g., vaccines). With that in mind, at present, as awful as it may seem, there is nothing that can stop or prevent it.

There are ways, however, to deal with some of the difficulties. Behavioral therapy is one. If a child does happen to have any other physical ailments (e.g., constipation, acid reflux, etc.) that cause physical discomfort, treating those issues are likely to result in improvement in acting out/aggression as well.

The drivel continues with people such as Wakefield. I didn’t see a mention of Jim Carey’s wife on Oprah spouting the same kind of anti vaccination nonsense. Why anyone would a nanosecond of credence to anything she has to say beggars belief.
if vaccines cause autism then why aren’t the number of cases in the hundreds of thousands based on the number of vaccinations that have so far been given.

if vaccines cause autism then why aren’t the number of cases in the hundreds of thousands based on the number of vaccinations that have so far been given.

This isn’t a fair comment. It’s not as simple as If X then Y. The human body is complex, and how it responds to stimuli depends on lots of different things, most of which are not known or knowable.

That being said, it’s not a question of “where aren’t there more cases” (btw, the claim last night was that there WERE hundreds of thousands – 300 000, in fact), it’s why don’t autism rates appear to be correlated with vaccination?

Everyone should listen when scientists poke fun at the kids he jabbed at a birthday party, and later paid them for their blood? The thing is, Wakefield never said the MMR caused autism, and suggested the 3 in 1 jab be separated. It’s really the parents of kids with autism that went haywire and put words into that debunked study and it’s still parents keeping that debunked theory going. Wakefield is only feeding into them and making money off listening to them. Wakefield also never defined why separate jabs would make a difference. If the measles end of the jab was the culprit, wouldn’t one then consider not having it at all? And lets not forget, he couldn’t double talk his way out of that 1997 application for paten on a vaccine to replace the MMR. The man did and still does wreak of conflict of interest.

The story about the family who traveled for those GI scopes, as if Wakefield is the oooooooonly doctor in the whole world who can locate this hidden gut problem, and of course since it was out of state, those parents had to pay out of pocket. Let’s not forget also, Wakefield is not licensed in the States to practice. Some one is going to need to check Thoughtful House’s tax statements. You bet they should be getting a lot of calls this week!

Good post, Orac. I didn’t see it, so I can’t chime in on which side got more of a benefit or who got hurt, but the fact that there is a question about “which side won?” shows that too much credence was given to the anti-vac crowd.

As for your points on the “in your opinion…” questioning of Deer, could you ever imagine if anyone asked Lauer that when he was doing a report? “Matt, in your opinion did Governor Spitzer engage a high-priced call girl?” He’d think that a completely ridiculous way to phrase the question, and from your descriptions it seems really ridiculous here. If he wanted to be respectful, he should have asked what Deer’s findings were, rather than essentially calling into question the fairness of his reporting. If I were Deer, that sort of thing would have gotten a pretty quick and pointed rebuke.

I too was struck by Lauer’s asking “In your opinion . . . ?”

I don’t think that wfjag’s argument will wash. Wakefield already sued Deer over the same facts and then withdrew the suit, agreeing to pay all costs. The facts are matters of public record. If anything, Deer’s case would be stronger now. In addition, he makes the same claims on his UK-hosted website, not cloaking it in the guise of “opinion.” If Wakefield was going to sue again he would have done it by now, in my opinion.

“Where is the science that shows what to do about it or what IS causing autism?”

This research is ongoing but is currently being distracted. Funds that could be directed at potential causes are being used to study, re-study and study again this false notion about vaccines. Each time, no relationship has been found. The opportunity costs are significant.

http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.0020267&ct=1

Sorry to go OT but this is on meta-topic for this blog, and I really can’t believe what I’m hearing.
There’s a lady on the radio protesting about the phasing out incandescent bulbs, in favour of lower energy ones. She said it twice now! “blue light is worse. It’s 200nm beyond ultra-violet on the spectrum”!
What! The! Fuck!
They had another guy on who described the classic symptoms of radiation poisoning, as experienced by those close to nuclear explosions, and ascribed them to low energy bulbs.
I know. It’s so-obviously an astroturf campaign, but that woman has kids and they convinced her she needs to “spend two days in a darkened room” whenever she sees a low energy bulb, even if it’s off!
What! The! Fuck!

GregF #16

Olbermann has ridiculed the anti-vaccers. Several times. And loudly.

Did they listen? Of course not; they equate KO with Beck.

All MSM are liars; whatever they report is false. Believe the opposite is the mantra.

Next week on Dateline – Bernie Madoff: Swindler or Casualty of the Recession?

As a pathologist, I would REALLY like to see those biopsies that supposedly show “mild inflammation”. Since the GI tract from stomach on is essentially lined with mixed inflammatory cells, a diagnosis of mild inflammation sounds like BS to me. Maybe if neutrophils were present, such a diagnosis could be made, however, they can be present after “vigourous” bowel preps. Also, intestinal biopsies in children routinely contain a very active looking and dense chronic inflammatory cell population, that could certainly look like a chronic inflammatory reaction to someone not used to pediatric specimens. Also, Thoughtful House would be able to choose the pathology group they refer to – which might have some bearing on the results they receive…

The Blind Watchmaker – Thanks for the link. That was interesting info. Also interesting, my nephew doeas have a larger than average cranium. Maybe it’s part of it…

I’d be interested in the thoughts of those on this post re: the link between antibiotic use and autism. My sister was on triple antibiotics for the first 6 days of my nephews life (uterine infection) and he breast fed the whole time. Also, he had repeated ear infections early on for which he took antibiotics. Any science behind this link????

My nephew has autism and every day is a huge challenge for him, my sister, brother-in-law and his younger, typical brother. While there may be science around vaccines not causing autism, where is the science that shows what to do about it or what IS causing autism?????

It’s being worked on but people like Wakefield and Thoughtful House are damaging that research by causing people to have to waste a huge amount of resources battling their nonsense. You should be angry and them for how they are hindering actual good empirically based science and medicine from finding a cause / treatment.

My family is desperate to help my nephew and they get reports from other families of autistic children that the Thoughtful House can help kids recover. So, they are trying it. What else is are parents to do, but try what they can!?!?

And risk unknown damage from an unproven and unsupported psuedo-scientific treatment? They might as well go to a witchdoctor.

And it’s not true that every kid gets the same treatment. For instance, laxatives would be the worst for my nephew as he hasn’t hardly had a formed stool in his entire life and they haven’t prescribed that.

Why don’t they have studies like the ones Orac mentions above to support anything they are doing?

As a pregnant woman expecting a boy with a better than 1 in 100 change of being autistic, I am frightened, too.

As are many people. You have to decide who to trust. Those with the massive weight of the empirically derived medicine saying that Vaccines are not involved in autism or some quacks who refuse to back their claims?

What do I do to prevent this? Anything? Nobody can tell me. These families really need help and NOW!

No one knows for sure. That includes Wakefield.

But science based medicine is the only group that is actually making progress from the work they are doing. Wakefield et al are working off of blame and fear.

Bruce McN:

You’ve got it on the nose. Brian Deer has the pathology reports. I’m sure he’d be glad to hear from you.

Even though complaints from chronic pain patients are easier to diagnose and document we now have created a situation where doctors are under-prescribing out of fear, especially if their patient are in their last stages of life because the docs can be charged with murder if autopsies shows high traces of pain medication. I pray this madness comes to an end and I sincerely hope none of you will ever be dying in extreme pain in a hospital, nursing home or maybe at your own house while the doctor is afraid to give you that prescription or injection during your last moments. Yes, definitely keep this medication away from kids but do make it available to those who can benefit from it!

@KW

As a pregnant woman expecting a boy with a better than 1 in 100 change of being autistic, I am frightened, too. What do I do to prevent this? Anything? Nobody can tell me. These families really need help and NOW

If there’s as much of a genetic component that there seems to be, there ma be nothing you can do about it. The problem with places like thoughtful house is that they are giving the desparate parents hope that their child’s autsim can be cured. Most likely it can’t. So the quacks tell them to give the kids this supplement and that, subject them to endoscopes and enemas and the parents swallow it all, instead of accepting their child for who they are and helping them to cope with their illness instead of trying junk science to cure it.

Excellent post, and further evidence illustrating the decrepitude of ‘crumbling old media.’

To quote another lyric, Paul Brady from his “Nothing But the Same Old Story”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWjFVWKqOg8 :

“[…] the sound of the crumbling foundations
any fool can see the writing on the wall
but they just don’t believe that its happening.”

-r.c.

And others had to “preview” it before their husbands got to see it. Needless to say, the husbands don’t have to worry about spending an hour watching it.

Can I just say, women like this piss me off. I am a new parent, and have encountered a few who are this way, the ones who insist that in terms of parenting, it is their way only, and dad’s only job is to do whatever they say. And if dad has the gaul to question their decision, well, she’s the mother and she is always right.

I volunteer at Dad’s Boot Camp during baby classes, and one thing I always emphasize is that “team parenting” means that you work together, and that if you are a caring dad, then your “instincts” are just as legit as hers, and don’t let her tell you that your opinion doesn’t count.

This is just another example of this – mom has made up her mind that vaccines are evil, and dad can’t be allowed to question it. She won’t even allow him to learn about it from a source that she thinks could cause him to doubt her legitimacy.

I’m sure, however, that she will let him read Jenny McCarthy’s and Bob Sears’s books.

Research question for you. Assuming that the increase in autism numbers is due to 1) broader definition, and 2) better screening, has anyone tried to run numbers for “If we were still using [old definition] and were only detecting [old percentage] of cases, what would the numbers look like today?” I’m sure it’s not quite as simple as that, but it seems like it ought to be possible to control for those variables in a historical study.

Maybe it turns out they do account for ~100% of the increase; or maybe they turn out to only account for 75% and there is some other (as yet unidentified) environmental factor at work. I know that still wouldn’t convince the die-hards, but it might give a sharper tool for deflating their arguments.

OT, but Pablo, good for you! For about five years, every other month I led a two-hour “Fatherhood 101” workshop for new and expectant fathers at the local hospital. I always told them that there’s nothing a father can’t do other than breastfeed. That pre-screening comment really caught my attention, too. Fathers and mothers are parents. Any division of childrearing responsbilities should be made based on mutually agreed-upon and practical/logistical issues. (I also bristle at marketing showing how only mom can choose the right breakfast cereal, e.g, Kix, or the correct peanut butter, e.g., Jif.)

I’m stepping off my soapbox now…

Pablo,
The entire anti-vax movement is based in hypocrisy. The moms that post this stuff prattle on about being “educated”, but filter information from their husbands so they don’t get the whole story. I guess they don’t trust them enough to be “educated”.

They go on about how NBC must have been paid by pharma companies to have done that report and complain about Deer about his “questionable history”, but never even pose the most basic amount of skepticism towards Wakefield or his organization that are profiting from his “research”. And that is despite having it laid out in front of them.

It couldn’t be further from “education”. Legitimate education and research does not have to filter competing viewpoints. If what they believe is accurate then it should be able to withstand critical thinking. It’s telling that they would hide it from their spouses – it tells me that they hold their beliefs more sacred than their desire to share parenting with their husband.

It’s mind boggling to read posts talking about how well they have researched things and how educated they are and then they have quotes from Kevin Trudeau in their signatures …

So instead of following the “two sides of every story” format, why can’t they use the “true crime” format instead? Seems much more appropriate.

Oh boo hoo hoo.

NBC actually did a fair and balanced report on a complex medical issue and guess what, the side promoting more vaccines for children and stopping all research into the risks of these vaccines came off looking REALLY bad.

You know it is true.

Quick quiz. Anyone who saw the piece ask yourself which doctor came off as angry, entitled, prickly and feeling that he was being persecuted. That would be Dr. Paul Offit.

Who was called a baby killer, was said to have blood on his hands, admitted that he received millions from selling a vaccine and called for the end of research into the safety of vaccines.

Again, that would be Dr. Paul Offit.

Who came off as reasonable, not easily rattled and more interested in helping children than battling it out with his critics.

That would be Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

And who was admired by parents and said he did not know if vaccines caused autism, but said there should be more research.

That would be Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

Basically, Wakefield was JFK to Offit’s Nixon. As they said about Nixon, would you buy a used car from this man.

And I’m glad a reporter actually included that Offit has made millions from the sale of vaccines and that he has objectivity issues. You never see that fact in any AP, Reuters, USA Today or New York Times stories with Offit in them. They simply quote Offit trashing anyone who dares to question vaccines and they never mention his pretty serious conflict of interest.

A lot of people were hoping that this NBC story would be a big knock-out blow and send the anti-vaxers into a tizzy. Actually, it looks like the other way around.

One last thing to the fans of this blog. Please keep bashing celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and making fun of autistic parents and their children. And Doctors like T. Bruce keep telling anyone you disagrees with you to fuck off.

But, once and for all, please STOP the straw man argument that there are limited funds for research and that autism-vaccines studies are taking up too much time and valuable resources.

Last spring, the CDC actually did a study on…wait for it…the fact that pets actually trip their owners.

Below is the Wall Street Journal link. That says a lot about the priorities of the CDC.

http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/03/27/cdc-to-americans-dont-trip-over-your-dog/

Orac –
Didn’t Wakefield have a patent in the works for a single-shot measles vaccine as well?

“Didn’t Wakefield have a patent in the works for a single-shot measles vaccine as well? ”

Yes. The current spin is that this was a vaccine to treat people with persistent infections, not a vaccine to prevent disease. That’s what Dr. Wakefield claimed.

All well and good, except that this patent specifically calls for the vaccine to be used to prevent measles.

http://briandeer.com/wakefield/wakefield-patents.htm

I was diagnosed with autism long before there was ever an MMR vaccine.I have many other childhood medical onset medical condiations,that directly contribute to the severity of my autism.One of these is inflammatory bowel disease.My new DAN! doctor believes I may have an autoimmune complex,that mainstream doctors would not,or could not diagnose.I had autism,my doctors always said,so I either had to accept my symptoms as an unexplained part of it,or I had a “mental illness” (autism) and was making up factitious illnesses,because that’s what people with “mental illnesses” do.

Prior to the vaccine business in the late 90s, NOBODY believed anybody with autism had any immune or medical problems that went along with it.I think the better DAN! doctors,like mine, are probably a good ten or twenty years ahead of mainstream medicine as far as autism as treating autism as a medical disease is concerned.They all believe autism has many different causes and triggers,but they all believe there are serious medical conditions that go along with the autism,and contribute directly to its severity.Unlike most mainstream doctors who see it as a psychiatric disease.

I have had two major autistic regressions as an adult.Both were preceded by acute infection.My autism was probably triggered by acute meningitis as a baby.Many of the parents who say their children developed autism from vaccines,did not go directly from vaccination to autism.Many developed an acute febrile illness,after the vaccine,and then developed autism as a result of the post vaccine illness.

As a child,I had to have an enema at least once a week.Otherwise I was so backed up,I could not go on my own.I usually had a good five pounds or more,of fecal matter impacted in there at any given time time.It was not until I was in my twenties,that I started on very high doses of enzymes and probiotics,that I was able to have regular bowel movements. So I can easily understand an autistic child having to undergo a regular colon cleanse.

Sullivan said:
“All well and good, except that this patent specifically calls for the vaccine to be used to prevent measles.”

From your source, it says nothing of the sort. The vaccine that he calls for a patent for is for the Varicella virus. In case you didn’t know, that isn’t measles. The other patent for the Measles treatment says (directly from your link and highlighted)
“Pharmaceutical composition for *treatment of MMR virus mediated disease*” (*emphasis mine*).

It is very clear that you and Deer are misrepresenting the facts.

After further reading, I see where it mentions the vaccine. Please excuse my previous post.

However, the second patent application says for the treatment of MMR mediated disease. His idea that was posted on 2-2-98 is for a Varicella vaccine. It appears as if he revised his research and findings prior to releasing the Lancet article. Deer’s claims are merely speculation.

“NBC actually did a fair and balanced report on a complex medical issue . . . “

It is not a complex issue. The “vaccines cause autism” hypothesis is deader than Julius Caesar. To anyone who bothers to read the science on it, the issue is settled, with the vast majority of the most credible evidence being in favor of “no, there is no causative link between vaccines and autism”

“But, once and for all, please STOP the straw man argument that there are limited funds for research and that autism-vaccines studies are taking up too much time and valuable resources.

Last spring, the CDC actually did a study on…wait for it…the fact that pets actually trip their owners.”

A study was done on something you don’t consider important, ergo there is plenty of money for unnecessary studies to find a non-existent link between vaccines and autism ?

As for the “Ooh look, Wakefield happy-shiney, Offit Evil-Meanie” bit of nonsense, Science does not work by popularity contest. Newton was, by many accounts, quite the egotist, irascible and disdainful of his competitors.
This does not make sir Isaac wrong. (to be pedantic, Newton was incorrect in some respects once you throw in quantum mechanics, but his laws of physics still work as originally written in the Principia some 322 years ago.
For all that, health-scammer and con man Kevin Trudeau is considered to be quite the handsome and charming fellow.
So what ? His books are still scams and his criminal behavior is still criminal behavior.

@David M.: you said “Quick quiz. Anyone who saw the piece ask yourself which doctor came off as angry, entitled, prickly and feeling that he was being persecuted. That would be Dr. Paul Offit.
Who was called a baby killer, was said to have blood on his hands, admitted that he received millions from selling a vaccine and called for the end of research into the safety of vaccines.
Again, that would be Dr. Paul Offit.
Who came off as reasonable, not easily rattled and more interested in helping children than battling it out with his critics.
That would be Dr. Andrew Wakefield.
And who was admired by parents and said he did not know if vaccines caused autism, but said there should be more research.
That would be Dr. Andrew Wakefield.”

Well, gee, maybe Dr Wakefield has never had death threats through the mail, creditable enough that he had a bodyguard and the FBI involved, had his children’s lives threatened.

If that was me, I, like Dr. Offit, would come across as prickly (or possibly MORE than prickly), persecuted, etc. Dr Wakefield, even though he is NOT licensed in the US, is head of Thoughtful House.

He never declared his conflicts of interest until Brian Deer brought them out, and he tried (and LOST) to shut Mr. Deer up by suing him. Dr. Offit has always declared his conflict of interest AND recused himself when a vote on which rotovirus vaccine should be used so that he was not voting for or against a competing vaccine. Give me a honest, prickly man over a dishonest, “reasonable” man anyday.

@WScott, #40

Not exactly what you are looking for, but this paper, and the proceeding one by Chakrabarti and Fombonne looked at the preschoolers in the same geographic area. In the first study they looked at kids born between 1992-1995, and in the second one between 1996-1998. These are the dates over which the “epidemic” was supposed to be really taking off. They found a stable incidence when using the same diagnostic instruments. The full text is available through pubmed.

Am J Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;162(6):1133-41.
Pervasive developmental disorders in preschool children: confirmation of high prevalence.
Chakrabarti S, Fombonne E.

Child Development Centre, Central Clinic, Stafford, UK.

OBJECTIVE: The rate of reported pervasive developmental disorders has increased, and the authors found a rate of 62.6 per 10,000 in a previous study of preschoolers in Stafford, U.K. They conducted another survey in 2002 to estimate the prevalence in children in a later birth cohort and to compare it to previous findings from the same area. METHOD: Screening for developmental problems included 10,903 children ages 4.0 to 6.0 years who were living in a Midlands town on the survey date. Children with symptoms suggestive of pervasive developmental disorders were intensively assessed by a multidisciplinary team using standardized diagnostic interviews, psychometric tests, and medical workups. RESULTS: Sixty-four children (85.9% boys) were diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorders. The prevalence was 58.7 per 10,000, with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 45.2-74.9, for all pervasive developmental disorders, 22.0 per 10,000 (95% CI=14.1-32.7) for autistic disorder, and 36.7 per 10,000 (95% CI=26.2-49.9) for other variants. These rates were not significantly different from the previous rates. The mean age at diagnosis was 37.8 months, and 53.1% of the children were originally referred by health visitors. Of the 64 children with pervasive developmental disorders, 29.8% had mental retardation, but this rate varied by disorder subtype. Few children had associated medical conditions. CONCLUSIONS: The rate of pervasive developmental disorders is higher than reported 15 years ago. The rate in this study is comparable to that in previous birth cohorts from the same area and surveyed with the same methods, suggesting a stable incidence.

pD: You agree with most of Roger Kulp’s statements?! Hmm. A bit strange since most of them are personal anecdotes from his childhood. Exactly how are you supposed to agree with his testimony of five pounds of fecal matter 😉

Actually, who came off as angry, entitled, prickly and feeling that he was being persecuted, wouldn’t you when there’s been death threats and threats against your children all over this vaccine debate? What the public seen was a natural reaction that anyone would have had under those same circumstances and I would bet the public is thinking “who in their right mind would threaten the well-being of a mans children over this??” The one who appears unstable is those who made those threats, and a man still trying to conduct his life and profession through it all and not give in to mean cruel people. Also, at the mention of McCarthy, very few can maintain cool calm composure! Don’t think she isn’t making a pretty profit either off of all of this.
Has anyone’s child ever had rotovirus?? Mine has. So some see dollar signs, I see I wish that vaccine was available to prevent the damage it did to my child who has autism. Rotovirus can kill babies, I see nothing Wakefield is doing to save lives. And of those parents who admire Wakefield? It’s a blank statement without validation of what exactly he’s even done for their children and they make it out as if he’s the only doctor in the whole wide world that listens. Remember, Wakefield is no autism expert nor was he ever involved with autism until that phone call which resulted in his debunked study.
What the public seen was finally the face and voice behind the only thing the man is famous for, a debunked study of who hasn’t done much at all for the autism community in the past 15 years other than to be paid to ‘listen’ to parents. He’s not even suppose to have direct medical consults so one wonders if they should be investigating just what’s going on in Texas.

@Jennifer #55 – thanks. Looks interesting – tho I don’t have access to pubmed. (Not my field.)

Just a mom,

You nailed this on the head. I’ve been active in on-line autism discussion groups for years, and I can tell you that I’ve never seen anything but blind admiration for “Dr. McDreamy” the beautiful Dr. Wakefield. Part of his particular strength is that he IS so handsome and charismatic. Certainly no death threats! So handsome, so kind, listens so well to parents, tells them what they want to hear, a brave maverick doctor, unfairly persecuted. And all this despite the fact that the best cases they could find for the autism omnibus hearings did not demonstrate that he has actually helped children. Quite the reverse, actually.

On the other hand, Dr. Offit has demonstrably saved many children’s lives through his vaccine inventions. But the vitriol, threats (veiled and otherwise) as well as our-right hatred expressed on every major biomed discussion group towards him is frightening.

The factual content of the show was OK, but the show typically turned it into a “these guys vs. those guys” dispute: Wakefield and Healy on one side, Deer and Offit on the other, and I think that this is the message that most viewers will be left with. The fact that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that Wakefield is at best incompetent, and perhaps even a fraud, was passed over quickly with brief shots of the many publications refuting Wakefield’s claims, although I thought that it was good that they flashed on the screen the number of subjects in the larger studies that showed Wakefield to be wrong. Still, the underlying story was Wakefield vs. his critics, rather than Wakefield vs. pretty much everybody who has ever studied the subject.

A presentation that more fairly represented the science would have been to show Wakefield, and then a dozen or so autism researchers and public health experts talking about how very wrong and damaging Wakefield’s claims are. It would have been good to have another gastroenterologist, like Michael Gershon, addressing the fundamental implausibility of Wakefield’s claims.

Ok, let’s nail the Wakefield measles vaccine once and for all, and show him for the liar that he is.

Here, at Brian Deer’s website, is the issued patent document for Dr Wakefield’s vaccine.

http://briandeer.com/mmr/1998-vaccine-patent.pdf

You may notice that the patent BEGINS:

“The present invention relates to a new vaccine/immunisation for the prevention and/or prophylaxis against measles virus infection…”

What part of the words “vaccine”, “immunisation”, “prevention” and “prophylaxis” is it possible not to get?

And just to show that Dr Wakefield had this scheme going BEFORE he published his paper to start the vaccine scare, how about this one, the unpublished version submitted to the patent office:

http://briandeer.com/wakefield/vaccine-patent.htm

There are lies, damned lies, and “autistic enterocolitis”

Look. I have no doubt that parents of autistic kids suffer. But that’s it. It’s the parents who suffer. From my knowledge the quacky cures are going to cause the child more pain than the disorder does, not to mention the trauma of having a parent who is convinced that there’s something wrong with you! And I’m kind of tired of feeling sad for desperate parents of autistic kids.. Part of the problem is the attitude of the parents towards their child. Your kid is somehow imperfect because he’s mentally ill. You need a cure! NAO! Autism has gobs of money thrown after it. Celebrities bring it to general attention, even if the awareness is tainted with misinformation. People give a crap about autism!
Where’s the outcry for the lack of cure for bipolar of obsessive compulsive children? Where are the parents of teens with psychosis complaining about how they’ve been driven to dangerous quackry to cure their kid because they’re just so desperate? Where are the parents with kids who have congenital birth defects? They don’t have the limelight of public sympathy so they have to do what you desperate parents ought to be doing which is trying to raise a kid with a sense of right and wrong and the ability to cope and utilize the way their mind and body work.

“Who came off as reasonable, not easily rattled and more interested in helping children than battling it out with his critics.
That would be Dr. Andrew Wakefield.”

..in common with most successful conmen

“And Doctors like T. Bruce keep telling anyone you disagrees with you to fuck off.”

David M, I don’t recall telling you to fuck off. If I did, then my work is done.

You’re not subject to British libel laws. If Beer (sic) was wrong as to a “fact”, Wakefield could sue him (again). By stating “an opinion”, Beer won’t get sued and have to pay Wakefield’s attorneys.

Actually, Orac is subject to the English and Welsh libel laws (but possibly not Scottish). It’s enough that his blog can be read over there.

Also, IANAL but I’m not sure the “in your opinion” trick would work. The advice I’ve seen from lawyers is that the courts would happily see through such tricks.

What a shame that Dr. Wakefield’s study is such an easy target and that he, himself, appears to have economic conflicts of interest. I don’t know him personally, but I continue to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I have spoken with and exchanged email with Dr. Offit and I also give him the benefit of the doubt. I have foolishly made intemperate remarks about him and his very real economic conflicts of interest but I think that he is consistently motivated by his desire to save lives with vaccines. I disagree with his methods and many of his ideas but I will never again impugn his personal motives. He started in this field long before it became wildly lucrative for him and I believe that his vaccine profits–while not an insignificant reward–were not his primary aim.

I watched the TV show and was disappointed. I think that there was no in depth evaluation of Dr. Wakefield’s research, shortcomings or anything else.

Obviously, I’m biased and saw the show through a different lens than many of you and it felt like an unbalanced presentation against Dr. Wakefield. But . . . in further disagreement, how can one argue with Dr. Healy’s request for more scientific investigation of autism’s causes rather than less investigation?

Dave, I did see Pink Floyd perform The Wall, in 1979 I believe. It was incredible!! I would have traveled miles to spend an hour watching David Gilmour and the guys playing rather than watching Wakefield, Deer, Lauer and Offit!!! A point of easy agreement, right?

Best,

Jay

Best,

Jay

@Jay Gordon

how can one argue with Dr. Healy’s request for more scientific investigation of autism’s causes rather than less investigation?

Ah, but no one is saying to do less investigation into the causes of autism. What we’re saying is that vaccines as a cause is a dead end for further research. We’ve looked. We found no causal link. Time to move on to other potential causes.

Healy’s wrong about this, too. Her comment that implies the anti-anti-vaxers are saying “stop, we have all the answers, shut down the research” is, well, just wrong.

Overall, I’d give your and Healy’s attempts to spin the issue a D.

But . . . in further disagreement, how can one argue with Dr. Healy’s request for more scientific investigation of autism’s causes rather than less investigation?

But Jay, who is doing this? No one that I’ve seen. Admittedly, I have seen a call to move on from vaccines, but “quit wasting time looking for a vaccine/autism link” is a far cry from calling for an end to scientific investigation.

But . . . in further disagreement, how can one argue with Dr. Healy’s request for more scientific investigation of autism’s causes rather than less investigation?

Yes indeed, how can you and Healy possibly justify not researching the causes of autism in favor of pouring the money down the drain studying things where there’s already strong evidence that they are not involved?

YOU’RE the one trying to block effective research into the causes of autism. Those of us who are rational would rather move on from the discredited speculations and get on with the real, productive, research that might actually provide real answers.

I personally don’t think Wakefield is handsome at all and when I seen his wife, I still wonder how he landed her, she is gorgeous. I think the man has a striking resemblance to Jeffrey Dahmer. The thing is, is Wakefield these days other than his speaking engagements, isn’t suppose to have medical consults with patients and he confirmed this as well. Anything he is doing today, my son’s own GI doc has done. I don’t worship my kids doctor, either or any of my son’s therapists. They are there to do a job, and in the end it’s my kid who is doing all the hard work.

Yes indeed, how can you and Healy possibly justify not researching the causes of autism in favor of pouring the money down the drain studying things where there’s already strong evidence that they are not involved?

What we’re saying is that vaccines as a cause is a dead end for further research. We’ve looked. We found no causal link.

What evidence? Where have you looked. There may be no association but those who state the issue has been studied are living in a dreamworld

Since the MMR does not represent all vaccines the vaccine/autism link has never been studied. There are actually more autism studies on linoleum, TV and weather than there are on vaccines in general. Yet vaccine enthusiasts argue vaccines have been proven safe in regards to autism and therefore should not be studied in order to save money for more promising research.

Of course there’s really no reason to study the issue. After all the many reports of normal children regressing after vaccination(a highly unnatural intervention into a developing child) must all just be coincidental.

Common sense dictates that, if environmental factors were involved, vaccination would have to be a logical area of exploration. That’s apparently why there is, on this blog, such a strong bias to conclude the disorder is entirely genetic

Argue why you believe the association implausible but don’t pretend there has been any actual research done

Of course there’s really no reason to study the issue. After all the many reports of normal children regressing after vaccination(a highly unnatural intervention into a developing child) must all just be coincidental.

And how about the reports of unvaccinated children developing autistic symptoms around the time they would have received their vaccinations?. Are they coincidental? How about the Generation Rescue phone survey that found that autism was significantly more common in unvaccinated girls than vaccinated girls? Coincidence?

Given that it is clear that symptoms of autism become apparent is around the age when most children get their vaccines–even in children who don’t get vaccinated, the proximity in time does not constitute evidence of anything. One might as well blame Junior High School for puberty (Have you ever noticed that many children start exhibiting symptoms of puberty shortly after entering Junior High? Coincidence? I think not! I challenge you to show me the study that proves that Junior High School does not cause puberty!)

So if there is an environmental factor in autism (something that we have no actual evidence for), we need to look at everything. How about BPA? Or birth control medications in the water supply? Where do we start? There are thousands of substances in the water and air that weren’t there a few decades ago.

@Sid Offit

Let’s take a look at the evolution of the vaccine-autism kerfuffle.

First argument: “It must be thimerosal.” Okay. We studied it and found there was no link.

Second argument: “Oh. Hmm…then I guess it must be the MMR!” Hmm. An idea based on a flawed and most likely fraudulent study, but we looked at it anyway. Nope. No link.

Third argument: “You scientists are really getting annoying. Well, if it isn’t thimerosal or MMR, then it must be both together!” 🙄 Okay, we’ll look. Nope. Nothing there, either.

Fourth argument: “But the thimerosal! It’s mercury!” Look, we already examined that. Besides, it isn’t there anymore!

Fifth argument: “Aha! Aluminum! They switched out thimerosal and put it aluminum!” Good grief…thimerosal’s a preservative, aluminum salts are adjuvants. There wasn’t any substitution. Besides which, there is no evidence to suggest that aluminum causes autism. There’s more in breast milk and formula than in any vaccine, anyway!

Sixth argument: “Grrr…uh…formaldehyde! Fetal tissue! Squaleeeeeene! It’s gotta be something!” Look mate, before we go chasing rainbows, here, is there really an epidemic? Because, accounting for a number of things (criteria, awareness, etc.) the incidence seems pretty steady.

Seventh argument: “Aha! You didn’t study any of those things! Nor did you study vaccines in toto vs. completely unvaccinated!” You understand the problems with such a study, right? Ethics, money, logistics. Besides which, you haven’t even established that there is anything other than a coincidence going on between vaccines and autism.

Eighth argument: “But the mercury! MMR! Formalde–” Just stop. We’ve already gone over this. Why don’t we try something else. Show us the study that establishes a causal relationship between vaccines and autism.

“But the vaccines! It must be the vaccines!”

Sid, I know you’re a troll here, but could you at least try not to be a boneheadded troll? MMR is an unnatural interruption of a child’s development? Are you implying that the “natural” alternative is possibly interrupting that development permantly with measles mumps or rubella? I suppose you object to the use of formula for women who can’t lactate or the use of baby-gates and electrical plug covers too. Falling down the stairs and getting electrocuted are natural parts of a child’s development. I feel bad for your kid if he ever gets into poison ivy. “no, Timmy you can’t have any calamine lotion! it’s not natural! It has teh toxins!

“I personally don’t think Wakefield is handsome at all and when I seen his wife, I still wonder how he landed her, she is gorgeous.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/signlanguage/4246536/Sign-language-week-32.html

“Yes indeed, how can you and Healy possibly justify not researching the causes of autism in favor of pouring the money down the drain studying things where there’s already strong evidence that they are not involved?”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/signlanguage/3917183/The-best-of-Sign-Language.html

“There may be no association but those who state the issue has been studied are living in a dreamworld”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/3150841/Sign-language-week-19.html

“Since the MMR does not represent all vaccines the vaccine/autism link has never been studied.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/signlanguage/5163976/Sign-language-week-44.html

“There are actually more autism studies on linoleum, TV and weather than there are on vaccines in general.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/signlanguage/4603140/Sign-language-week-36.html

“Of course there’s really no reason to study the issue.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/signlanguage/4527079/Sign-language-week-35.html

“After all the many reports of normal children regressing after vaccination . . ”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/signlanguage/4943266/Sign-Language-week-39.html

“. . . must all just be coincidental.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/4029850/Sign-language-week-30.html

“That’s apparently why there is, on this blog, such a strong bias to conclude the disorder is entirely genetic”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/signlanguage/5093791/Sign-language-week-43.html

“Argue why you believe the association implausible but don’t pretend there has been any actual research done”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/3518392/Sign-language-week-26.html

@trrll

Obviously you’re not using phone surveys and personal anecdotes as scientific evidence. And I’m not aware of the department of Health and Human Services conceding that Junior High caused “puberty-like symptoms”. And you’ve avoided the real issue which is where are all these studies exonerating vaccines? As I stated, argue why you believe the association implausible but don’t pretend there has been any actual research done

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