Managing Editor's Note: You can read Dr. Wakefield's complete analysis of the "Lancet 12" in his new book, Callous Disregard from Skyhorse Publishing. Visit Dr. Wakefield's website HERE.
By Tim Kasemodel
On Monday, May 24, 2010, Dr. Andrew Wakefield was interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today show regarding the GMC decision to revoke his license to practice medicine. That day, we received a call from Ami Schmitz, the producer of the Dateline NBC episode “A Dose of Controversy,” to tell us they were going to rerun the show from last August with updates the following weekend, May 30. As we were the family who agreed to have our son’s procedure filmed for the original episode, she wanted an update on how our son Thomas was doing and what I thought of the interview.
Schmitz mentioned that “the first thing out of Matt’s mouth” after interviewing Dr. Wakefield was, “How is Thomas doing?” My wife and I gave her a long list of improvements we had seen in Thomas over the past twelve months. In the original interview, we had mentioned to Schmitz that the school had given up even trying to teach Thomas in November of 2007 due to his behaviors. Improvements since beginning his treatment included:
1) a significant decrease in the intensity and duration of his pain induced tantrums;
2) a dramatic increase in attempts at communication and language including orally reciting the alphabet (video sent to Dateline); counting up to 20 including skip counting; and a vocabulary of almost 50 words from 5 words;
3) an increase in self-help skills including showering and washing his hair and feeding himself with a spoon;
4) he is finally gaining weight after a failure to thrive diagnosis (he had lost 16 pounds while he was sick); and
5) a slow but steady improvement in his bowel issues.
We explained that there is a long way to go, but we did not expect to change a decade of bowel disease overnight.
I explained that I was disappointed to see Brian Deer getting airtime. I told Schmitz that I get “emotional” when I think about what treatments might have been available to my son had someone listened to Dr. Wakefield, instead of pretending what he described does not exist.
Schmitz expressed compassion and empathy and I was hoping that she would in turn show the world that Thomas’ pain and pain related behaviors had improved by going to Dr. Arthur Krigsman for help for Thomas’ bowel disease.
I was wrong. I believe that Ami Schmitz simply used our family’s story as many reporters do; portraying us merely the desperate gullible parents, seduced by the false promises of snake oil salesmen. As for Matt Lauer, if he cared so much about Thomas to ask Dr. Wakefield how he was doing, you would think he might care enough to acknowledge that my son’s condition actually exists.
My wife and I watched the show online on Tuesday evening, as we were away for the weekend. We were glad to see footage recorded a year earlier that was not part of the original airing of the show. My wife stated that we were not against all vaccination; that it is too many too soon. I stated that I believe 100% that vaccines caused my son’s autism. Most importantly, it was shown on national television that a child with autism can improve through biomedical treatment and it went unchallenged. Though the remainder of the program was spent on declaring my son’s condition did not even exist, many parents saw my son happily playing in a pool after treatment.
The remainder of the show was a prime example of why we can not believe that the Dateline producer was truly and sincerely compassionate towards Thomas’ incredible gut pain. It was mentioned that Dr. Krigsman had later found “inflammation” in Thomas, as though it were no more than a headache. Instead of mentioning the many milestones accomplished by our son, they merely report that he is “improving”. No further mention of how to help children like Thomas was made.
When Paul Offit then came on to say that what parents hear from people like Dr. Wakefield is “enormously seductive,” he forgets that it is because the alternative is to do nothing about our children’s pain. His lack of concern for the suffering of children with autism and bowel disease was unmistakable. His “attack the messenger” mentality came through loud and clear to many parents I spoke to about the show.
We feel truly honored to have been able to support Dr. Wakefield by sharing our story with others.
To get an idea of what information we gave the producer last year, please read
Thimerosal and Autism Rates: A Minnesota Perspective.