Dear Carla Johnson:
I found your article "Fringe Autism Treatment Could Get Federal Study" today on a potential federal study on chelation treatment for autism to be extremely one-sided and at times quite condescending of parents of children with autism. As a reporter for the Associated Press, we look to you to give us a fair and balanced view of the medical issues we face. As the parent of a child with autism, I was dismayed to consider how your report might be received by parents new to this debate who are drowning in the range of treatment options for their disabled children.
It’s worth repeating the first two sentences of your article for some perspective:
“Pressured by desperate parents, government researchers are pushing to test an unproven treatment on autistic children, a move some scientists see as an unethical experiment in voodoo medicine. The treatment removes heavy metals from the body and is based on the fringe theory that mercury in vaccines triggers autism — a theory never proved and rejected by mainstream science.”
We parents have grown very tired of being referred to as “desperate” by journalists.
Do you really think the NIH fund studies because parents are desperate? No, they fund studies because compelling anecdotal evidence leads them to believe that more work should be done to see if the anecdotes can be extrapolated to a broader conclusion to benefit more kids. This is how science progresses.
Why do you need to belittle it and call it “voodoo” medicine? Also, how can the “theory never proved” as you say be proven without doing studies? You can’t criticize that no studies have been done while a study is trying to be done! And, who is the “mainstream science” you refer to that has rejected this theory? I have never seen a document from “Mainstream Science” rejecting chelation therapy for autism. Isn’t the NIH about as mainstream as it gets and aren’t they the ones considering funding the study?
If your personal bias weren’t obvious enough in the way you wrote your article, I was even more dismayed to read your quote from Paul Offit, the Vaccine Industry’s well-funded spokesperson.
Quoting Paul Offit on an article on autism treatment is like quoting the Marlboro Man about a compelling treatment for lung cancer! Not only does Mr. Offit have zero expertise in the area of autism treatment—he has never treated a single child with autism and his specialty is infectious diseases—but also Mr. Offit is a paid spokesperson for Merck, he’s a vaccine patent holder on a vaccine currently in our recommended schedule, and he has been reprimanded by the US Congress for his conflicts when serving on a Vaccine Advisory Committee.
Worse, not one of Mr. Offit’s conflicts are mentioned by you in the article. Googling “Paul Offit and Autism” leads to more than 47,000 hits, which leads me to believe you were on deadline and chose the lazy way out to get a quote from the Vaccine Industry’s most reliable quote machine.
Unlike Dr. Offit, Dr. Insel of the NIH should be commended for listening to parents and pushing science to move faster. To date, neither the AAP nor the CDC nor Dr. Offit have any explanation for a crippling epidemic that is fast approaching 1 in every 100 children.
With deep disappointment,
Father to Jamison, Age 5
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JB Handley is co-founder of Generation Rescue and Editor At Large for Age of Autism.