Below are Mark Blaxill's public comments to the IACC.
My name is Mark Blaxill. I am the co-author of the book, The Age of Autism and recently helped to launch a movement called The Canary Party, which was created to stand up for the victims of medical injury, environmental toxins and industrial foods. Unfortunately, we need to stand up for these victims, the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine,” because so many of them cannot speak for themselves. I am also the father of a 16 year old daughter diagnosed with autism. Thanks to biomedical interventions and therapy, Michaela is more verbal, social and flexible than most affected children, but sadly, she will not live independently. She most certainly does not have a capacity for self-advocacy, so (like most affected individuals) her parents must speak for her.
Unfortunately, the climate for parent advocates, never favorable in autism, has grown progressively more hostile. We have gone from being bad parents whose contempt for their infant children caused them to withdraw into autism, to raving lunatics who are a danger to the public health and whose opinions must be suppressed.
Why? Because the autism parent community refuses to stand down in offering inconvenient evidence to the makers of science and health policy. This evidence is simple. Before 1930, the rate of autism was effectively zero. Before 1990, autism in the United States was exceedingly rare, as low as 1 in 10,000. Three months ago, we learned that 1 in 88 children born in the year 2000 were autistic, 1 in 54 boys. The conclusion is inescapable: autism is manmade.
The health policy implications of this evidence are obvious. The only rational policy for autism would
- Declare a public health emergency as our country did with poliomyelitis (a much smaller epidemic) and AIDS.
- Urgently gather good numbers on the nature and extent of the epidemic
- Objectively and without financial conflict, consider the short list of candidates for such an unusual and massive scourge
- Collaborate closely with affected families to develop answers: prevention, treatments and resources throughout the lifespan.
Sadly, the policy response of the health agencies of our government has been precisely the opposite.
- The NIH has funded research to concoct arguments that the crisis is an artifact of better diagnosing. Instead of mobilizing for the epidemic, science policy has promoted denial.
- The CDC has organized surveillance to measure autism rates that are at least a decade old and trend evidence that starts just a few short years after the epidemic started. Instead of urgently gaining insight, health policy has promoted ignorance and delay.
- The agencies of HHS act in unison to promote vaccination, a candidate exposure of great concern to parents, while agency leaders rotate out of their government positions to take lucrative jobs at pharmaceutical companies. Instead of objectivity, the investigation of cause has become fraught with conflicts
- The IACC, newly reconstituted after the explosive 1 in 88 report, appears to have been recruited to rubber stamp this policy of epidemic denial. Instead of collaboration with parent leaders, public servants have turned their backs on us.
Autism parents spend a lot of time debating how the science and health policies surrounding autism have gotten to this place. Is it because autism is merely fodder to help recover and extend the massive research investment in the human genome? Is it because psychiatry grabbed hold of autism with Leo Kanner and refuses to release its grip? Is it because pediatricians are afraid to confront the idea that they may be harming more children than they are helping? Is it because the massive resources of the pharmaceutical industry have so tilted science and medicine in the direction of their financial goals that policy is now driven by money rather than reason? Is it because government officials are too busy worrying about their retirement, too afraid to rock the boat and confront inconvenient truths? Is it because the idea that there are human costs to some aspects of technical progress is too difficult for intelligent people to accept?
Or, more hopefully, is it because some people have simply made bad decisions that we have the freedom to unmake?
I don’t propose to answer all of these questions today. Instead I want to offer you all a challenge. Unmake your bad decisions. Treat autism as an emergency and not as something to celebrate. Approach the problem of prevention with the intellectual and moral urgency that an epidemic requires. Treat the canaries in the coalmine as signals of a crisis of public health not as a public relations problem. Offer respect and standing to those who speak for the injured, don’t handpick more convenient representatives to speak against us.
Most of all, I challenge you to do the right thing. Until you do, we will keep making you feel uncomfortable.