Dr. Oz: Looking for parents afraid of autism?

If there’s a single TV show out there that has the widest reach when it abuses science-based medicine, there is no doubt that it’s Oprah Winfrey’s show. If there’s a show that has the second-widest reach when it abuses science-based medicine, arguably it’s Dr. Mehmet Oz’s show. Whether it be his recent show featuring quackmaster supreme, Joseph Mercola, or his upcoming show featuring a faith healer, I fear that Dr. Oz has given up whatever claim he once had to promoting science-based medicine. Yes, it’s true that he has had a soft spot for reiki for a long time, but other than that he’s generally remained mostly science-based; that is, until recently. For instance, last year he admitted that his children had not been vaccinated for H1N1 and showed a bit too much credulity to potential claims of vaccine injury than the actual evidence demonstrate. Then, a mere two weeks ago, he featured Joe Mercola on his show–defended him, even–and his unfounded claims, ignoring Mercola’s long history of support for the rankest quackery. Next week, assuming the schedule hasn’t changed, Dr. Oz will feature Issam Nemeh, a faith healer:

Dr Issam Nemeh is called a Faith Healer, but is he (or anyone for that matter) really a Faith Healer? Is there such a thing? A Faith Healer is said to be a person who helps to cure people of medical issues or other trouble through prayer and faith. Dr Oz’s segment will show two people who Dr Nemeh has “cured,” including one woman who Dr Nemeh cured of Lung Cancer. If you were one of the lucky people to already see this episode of Dr Oz, please leave a comment below to fill us in on what was said and if you believe that Dr Neme is really a Faith Healer or not!

As you probably figured out, this does not sound good at all. I might have to blog it.

It might be getting even worse, though. Bubbling up through the underground, I’ve gotten wind of an e-mail showing up on various anti-vaccine discussion forums, being passed around from parent to parent, from discussion group to discussion group. I’ve had it forwarded to me from at least three different sources now, and I’ve now seen it on at least two anti-vaccine groups, one an autism biomed group and another a more general group. Most recently, I saw it being forwarded by anti-vaccine homeopathy Sherri Nakken. For a show that will be taped on February 8, the producers of The Dr. Oz Show are apparently going to be doing a show about autism:

Hi Amy,

Sorry for the random email, however I work at The Dr. Oz Show, and we are having an Autism Town Hall on Tuesday, February 8th afternoon show, and I was hoping you would help us out by either posting this information for your moms or by sending it out to them via email. Our studio is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

We are looking for parents-to-be, parents of children up to 4 years old, that are worried their child may be diagnosed with Autism, to ask questions on air and be a part of our audience. If this is something you think any of your members might be interested in, please have them email us ASAP, no later than Tuesday, February 1st to: AutismTownHall@zoco.com with:

  • Your first and last name:
  • Daytime telephone number:
  • Age of your child:
  • Your fear of having your child diagnosed as Autistic.

Thank you for your help and consideration.

Have a great day!
Rosanna
The Dr. Oz Show Audience Services Department

When I first saw this, I was suspicious. However, a bit of investigation leads me to believe that it’s probably legit, not the least of which is this link I found at the Dr Oz website:

For the Tuesday, February 8 afternoon show, arrival time is 1:30 p.m.; “The Dr. Oz Show” will be hosting a town-hall discussion for parents of children 0-12 months that are worried their children may be diagnosed with autism, as well as parents of children with autism.

OK, OK, I know. This could just be a show about autism. However, other sources have brought some rather ugly rumors my way that lead me to think that, at best, this will be a “tell both sides” episode about vaccines. Let’s just say that, if the rumors are true, at least one Age of Autism blogger will be on the show. I’m sure we’ll see in the next few days if that’s true, because you know that AoA will pepper us with gloating blog entries about it just as soon as the producers of the Dr. Oz Show say it’s OK–perhaps even sooner. Apparently there will be one segment with parents and another segment with doctors. I haven’t been able to find out yet who the doctors will be.

Could I be wrong about this? Of course. Perhaps it will be a perfectly science-based show that seeks to assuage parents’ fears that vaccines cause autism. I certainly hope so. However, recall what Dr. Oz said a year ago during the H1N1 scare when asked, “What do you think about this controversy that`s going around about vaccinations and autism and other little things that happens to kids?” Dr. Oz replied:

I think kids like the canary and the coal mine. That they are more susceptible to some of the toxins maybe our generation was able to overcome. That`s why we have a lot more allergies now. Perhaps one of the reason why we have more autism. But I don`t think it`s just the vaccine.

Later in that same interview, Dr. Oz said:

We got exposed to ten vaccines when we were kids. Children today are now getting closer to 30. So there`s a big difference between the exposure amounts and, plus, we have a much purer environment that we grew up in and compared to what kids are exposed to today.

Color me not particularly optimistic that Dr. Oz will be forceful in pointing out that the scientific evidence does not support the idea that vaccines cause autism. True, Dr. Oz even said that we have no evidence that vaccines cause autism. However, his equivocating does not inspire confidence that he will take a roundly science-based approach in doing this show. Most likely, at the very best, he’ll have the AoA guest argue the point with real scientists. I wouldn’t even put it past him to have Jenny McCarthy on the show.

In the meantime, if there are any parents who favor science-based medicine and do not accept the fear mongering about vaccines that the anti-vaccine movement is so good at, maybe they could take this opportunity to contact Rosanna and tell her their story. In particular, I’d be interested in hearing what sort of response, if any, you get. It might even be rather interesting to see what sort of response Dr. Oz’s producers would have if neurodiversity advocates were to contact them. Somehow, though, I don’t get the feeling that that’s what they want to hear.