Sex, Politics, Religion….and Dr. Wakefield?

06 Jan

On February 2, 2010, The Lancet retracted Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study that “found” a link between the MMR vaccination and autism. Yesterday, a little over a year later, an investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes Dr. Wakefield is culpable for misrepresenting or altering the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study. “It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,” Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, told CNN. “But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

I’ve watched as the link above was tweeted over and over.  I tweeted: “DIDN’T WE KNOW THIS ALREADY?” I’ve “eavesdropped” on fervent conversations vilifying and paying homage to Dr. Wakefield. Then, I read a very simple tweet from @hollyrpeete: “I know it’s not provocative polarizing or ratings friendly but let’s please stop using #autism to attack each other.”

The autism community talks about pushing past awareness to the echelon of acceptance. We tweet snippets of advice that become golden nuggets to others. We commiserate about our successes and woes with an entire community listening, learning, and loving. We usually stand united. But, we aren’t standing united AGAINST autism. Or, at least I thought that.

Dr. Wakefield’s study is akin to sex, politics, and religion — a topic that not only decisively divides but inevitably leads to mudslinging and hurt feelings. You know the old saying and social rule about these three topics. The question is: Should the rule apply to Dr. Wakefield, too?


Posted by on January 6, 2011 in ASD in the Grand Scheme


2 responses to “Sex, Politics, Religion….and Dr. Wakefield?

  1. Tam

    January 6, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    I agree with you on most things…

    I think it would be great if the Wakefield thing died… but it won’t, because too many people fervently support him even though he’s been proven a fraud. Apparently they see him as their only hope of proving that their ideas about what caused their children’s autism are right… which is ridiculous because he’s the one that’s done the most *harm* to that opinion. By falsifying the data in that study he ensured that no one will take a study about those things seriously, especially if it agrees with his conclusions, for a long time to come.

    But I totally disagree with you on your main point here. The social rule about sex, politics and religion? It’s completely ridiculous! And you know that, because you’ve blogged about sex, here, yourself.

    Being completely silent about religion only makes any sense at all if you have no religion and/or don’t feel any concern for people’s souls. Being silent about politics only makes sense if you don’t give a flying flip about anything going on around you.

    The ‘rules’ are stupid, that’s why we ignore them, and that’s why we keep getting into debates and arguments… because in the end, it is needed. Because that’s how things get changed, that’s how people learn, and that’s how we grow as a society and as individuals.

  2. outoutout

    January 6, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    I understand what you’re saying, but I also have to agree with Tam on this one. Avoiding difficult topics completely is not the answer either. I think the real problem is that so many of us are so emotionally invested that we become overzealous and closed-minded. If we could just step back from that… difficult, I know. But even topics like sex, politics, and religion have a time and a place. It really need not be divisive.

    Re: “DIDN’T WE KNOW THIS ALREADY?” Indeed, for those of us ingrained into the autism community, it’s old news. But the story is getting national attention here in Australia, where the wider community is still quite in the dark about autism issues. So I see it as mainly for other people’s benefit, not mine?

    Re: “We usually stand united. But, we aren’t standing united AGAINST autism.” Well, many of us prefer to stand against ignorance. 😉


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