Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A book review

Not by me. found it while wandering aimlessly on Amazon.com. The review is of a book I would very much like to read, called Autism's False Prophets: Risky Medicine, Bad Science, and a Search for the Cure. Review is below.

By David C. Brayton "kestrel2000" (Santa Rosa, CA United States) - See all my reviews
I just read an article about Jenny McCarthy--yes, that Jenny McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has a child with autism and she is convinced that a vaccine caused her child's autism. She now considers herself an expert because she attended the "University of Google" (her words, not mine) and that she is right because "because there is an angry mob on my side" and "until [someone] walks in our shoes, [he/she] really has no idea."

That's right...because there is an angry mob on her side, the consensus of scientists that attended real schools and obtained real master and doctorate degrees in things like epidemiology and medicine, is wrong.

Dr. Offit faces a very challenging opponent and he did it with an exceptionally calm and rationale analysis of vaccines, why they are safe and more importantly, why the quacks and anti-vaxxers are wrong. And he did it in a style that is very readable by the lay person.

When Dr. Offit starts laying out damning facts against the anti-vaxxers, you will be left agape. For example, Dr. Wakefield took $800,000 from a plaintiff's attorney and used it to fund his studies and never disclosed where the funding came from, he never obtained informed consent and when he ran his studies past IRBs, they were anything but medically qualified. Just astounding. Of course, the results of his studies have never been duplicated and any physiological basis for his hypothesis has been debunked.

Yet, there are people who flock to Dr. Wakefield and give him lots of money for unproven and dubious-at-best treatments and cures. Very, very sad.

Dr. Offit also discusses how science is perceived in society. A lot of people simply don't "believe in" science and how science is done. Dr. Offit analyzes this later in the book and it is hardly comforting. (An excellent book about this phenomenon is Carl Sagan's Science as a Candle in the Dark.)

Probably the scariest part of the book is when groups like Generation Rescue hire public relations firms. Whilst I'm all for spirited debate, these groups will misrepresent any fact, omit crucial details and pander with the most vile and loathsome tactics.

Definitely a highly recommended book. Scary and depressing because science and vaccines have taken such a bad rap. But hopeful because there are folks out there like Dr. Offit, Orac and others that are willing to stand up for rational, evidence-based medicine.

While I feel for Jenny McCarthy and her struggles with autism, her incessant denial of huge amounts of science and evidence is causing thousands of parents to forego vaccinating their children. She is endangering our children and some will die from childhood disease that were once almost completely eradicated.

On the flip side, here is another view of the same book:

By H. Eisenberg "history instructor" (NE New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
People like Dr. Offit insist there is no scientific evidence linking autism to vaccinations. Could the reason for that be that powerful forces do not want any objective scientific study to be undertaken? Please consider:

There has NEVER been a definitive study of the autism rate among unvaccinated populations in the U.S.

Most Amish people do not vaccinate their children. Doctors who service these families have indicated that autism virtually never occurs among them.

Dr. Mayer Eisenstein of Chicago runs a number of pediatric offices the majority of whose patients are not given vaccinations. He says, "We have a fairly large practice [4 separate offices employing 5 doctors]. We have about 30,000 or 35,000 children that we've taken care of over the years, and I don't think we have a single case of autism in children delivered by us who never received vaccines." He goes on to say: "We do have enough of a sample. The numbers are too large to not see it. . . . It's not something that anyone would miss." Dr. Eisenstein is the author of the book "Don't Vaccinate Until You Educate," which I highly recommend.

It is therefore not surprising that former National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Bernadine Healy has called for more research into a possible vaccine link to autism and said the question had not been settled.

In 2006, a bill requiring the federal government to conduct a study of autism rates in unvaccinated American children was introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Tom Osborne (R-Neb.). When Rep. Osborne did not return to Congress the following year, Rep. Maloney introduced similar new legislation (H.R. 2832) and got Ron Paul (R-TX) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) to sign on as co-sponsors. 18 other representatives subsequently signed on (11 Democrats and 7 Republicans). However, the legislation has remained bottled up in committee for over a year in the face of intense, yet unpublicized opposition. One can only wonder where that opposition is coming from.

1 comment:

Liz Ditz said...

You're a bit busy right now, and probably don't have time to check the book out of the library. Try the ScienceBlogs Book Clubdiscussion of Autism's False Prophets.

The posts are in chronological order, so you need to scroll down to the bottom and read up.

And the negative reviews at Amazon are from the usual suspects and repeat such hoary old tropes as "the Amish don't vaccinate" and "the Amish don't have autism". Both assertions are false.