By Dan Olmsted
Sooner or later many people ask me why I'm interested in the autism epidemic, and the short answer is the same one David Kirby gives -- it's a great story. The longer answer has to do with a memorial gathering I'm attending tonight for a woman who jumped to her death from the observation tower of a national park.
This was a vibrant woman from Maryland who had gone to South Africa to coach athletes. She took two -- count 'em, two -- malaria pills recommended by the CDC and went completely psychotic.
She fell into a deep depression, tried to kill herself more than once, and finally succeeded earlier this year. If you want to know all the awful details about the government's failure to warn, acknowledge and otherwise prevent such needless suffering and death, Google "Mark Benjamin and Dan Olmsted" and malaria, and read all about it.
My point here is not to dwell on this sad story, but simply to say that's how I got interested in autism. There were enough questions about the CDC's unreserved recommendation of that malaria drug -- refusing to also recommend alternatives with a much better safety profile for nearly a decade -- and about the FDA's failure to adequately warn consumers of the well-known risk of severe mental problems ... enough questions that it began to look to me (and to Mark) as though the CDC was hellbent on Disease Control, which is its mandate, and maybe not so hellbent on uncovering and acknowledging Collateral Damage from its war on disease.
Sound familiar? The idea that CDC-recommended vaccines could have triggered the autism epidemic, that mercury is a nightmare substance to be injecting into humans let alone infants, that parents' first-hand observations of both regression and recovery count at least as much as conflicted studies -- those ideas did not seem beyond the pale to me. (Especially not when I got done reading David's brilliant "Evidence of Harm.")
Of course, just because the CDC/FDA flubbed the malaria drug doesn't mean it did exactly the same thing this time around -- past performance is no guarantee of future results, as the financial folks say. But when you add in the CDC's strange behavior in publishing clearly unsatisfactory research, refusing to get mercury out of ALL vaccines including flu shots, and rushing the IOM to judgment in its favor, you start to see something familiar. Time will tell, but we at Age of Autism hope to make that time as short as possible by getting to the bottom of the story as fast as we can -- and without the usual impediments of advertising pressure and the unspoken censorship of kowtowing to conventional wisdom.
And so, as I listen tonight to her friends and family talk about what a wonderful woman was lost to suicide in the prime of life, I'll also be thinking about a lot of people -- children, mostly, and not coincidentally -- who may never have the chance to get that far.