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Dr. Offit Revisited

Some medical professionals sell their souls to the highest bidder.

I have to start by saying thank you to Sandy Lunoe for writing “10,000 Crazy Vaccines!” I’ve wanted to share my feelings about Dr. Offit for quite a while, and your article inspired me to stop putting it off.

“What I’ve learned in all this is to stick to the truth, talk about the science. It’s not about me, it’s about the data. Above all else, it’s about doing right by the children.”

—Dr. Paul Offit, interview with Newsweek [1]

While I was writing Unlocking Jake: The Story of a Rabies Vaccine, Autism & Recovery, I frequently searched Amazon for books about autism. On February 21, 2009, I ran across Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Dr. Paul Offit. I had only ever commented on one book (Ellen Notbohm’s The Autism Trail Guide: Postcards from the Road Less Traveled), and that was because it’s one of my favorites.

Dr. Offit’s book prompted my second comment on Amazon. Not because it was one of my favorite autism books. Not even close. Here’s what I said (part of it, anyway):

Dear Dr. Offit …

I’m outraged!

Let me start by saying that when I wrote this review, I was forced to rate it from 1 to 5 stars. There was no choice for 0, or I would’ve rated it with 0 stars.

[Then, I provided a brief summary of my grandson’s regression into autism after the rabies vaccines, along with this statement: “For anyone to believe that vaccines have nothing to do with autism is ludicrous.”]

A couple of specific points. One, Dr. Offit claims that vaccines do not harm children. That you could give 100,000 in one day, no problem. Has anyone read his book that was published in 1999 about antibiotics, Breaking the Antibiotic Habit? Check out the product description on Amazon:

Protect your child. Leading pediatric experts answer all your questions about reducing the risks of antibiotic overuse.

An important book for parents…the best source I have seen about the dangers of antibiotic resistance and the risks of antibiotic overuse.”

 —Scott Dowell, M.D., M.P.H., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Finally, a book that discusses the problem of antibiotic overuse in a readable way, combining daily experiences in pediatric practice with scientific explanations.”

—S. Michael Marcy, M.D., American Academy of Pediatrics

If your child has a cough, cold, ear infection, or sore throat, will antibiotics help? The answer may surprise you. Overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, or “superbugs.” Antibiotics are increasingly ineffective because they are often prescribed inappropriately to treat viral infections, such as colds, bronchitis, and sore throats. Natural supplements may offer more relief. Clearly organized and packed with vital information, Breaking the Antibiotic Habit covers all the key issues, including: 

Distinguishing between strep throat and sore throat, sinus infection and the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis, and ear infections and ear fluids

Helping children with viral infections feel better—without antibiotics

Getting the most from over-the-counter remedies and natural supplements—which are best for specific symptoms, and which to avoid altogether [2]

Don’t get me wrong—I agree with Dr. Offit about antibiotics and the benefits of homeopathic remedies. If only he had the same concerns over vaccines, which are INJECTED IN UNSAFE AMOUNTS into our children’s tiny bodies for years AND CONTAIN ANTIBIOTICS [such as Neomycin and Chlortetracycline. The RabAvert rabies vaccine Jake had contained both of these as well as Amphotericin B. According to the CDC, antibiotics are “added to some vaccines to prevent the growth of germs (bacteria) during production and storage of the vaccine.”] [3]

Two. For Dr. Offit to claim that he doesn’t get paid to discuss vaccines is also ludicrous. Last I heard, he held a patent for a rotavirus vaccine that was eventually taken off the market because of the problems it caused in some children. Are we really going to rely on the word of someone who has an obvious financial interest in the outcome?

In Response

Soon the comments started rolling in. Here are several:

“… you should be ashamed of your ignorance—your type of idiocy is literally killing people by discouraging them from getting lifesaving vaccines. You have no answers to the science other than pathetic conspiracy theories. You have blood on your hands, you ignorant, ignorant person.”

The anti-vaccination people are deluded and have no concept of science or critical thinking. There is no provable link between vaccinations and autism. There isn’t even a clue about how it could happen. Vaccines are the greatest contribution of science to human health.… Get a clue and learn some science.”

Sadly you don’t understand science at all. … perhaps you could join an on-line University course [slamming Jenny McCarthy] and then reconsider science.”

Who’s Gaining What?

I responded by referring to Dr. Offit’s Newsweek interview. When he was asked how much of the $182 million patent royalties he received from the sale of the rotavirus vaccine, he refused to give a specific amount but said it was like ‘winning the lottery.’” If the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia stuck with its usual distribution policy, Dr. Offit could have received anywhere from $29 million to $55 million. [4] Shame on you, Dr. Offit. No financial interest in vaccines? Right. 

Offit’s book, says the Newsweek article, “is a critical assessment of the theories that have swirled around autism, the therapies marketed to fix it, and the people—the ‘false prophets’—who he says have taken emotional and financial advantage of parents seeking a cure.”

So, we have Dr. Offit, who clearly has a lot to gain from vaccines. Already has. And then we have the “false prophets” who also have something to gain. But what about the parents of children with autism? What do they have to gain by claiming that their kids developed autism after a vaccine? 

What’s in It for Us?

The other day, Amy, my oldest daughter, who stopped vaccinating her children after she saw what happened to Jake, said to me, “Mom, it would be so much easier just to vaccinate.” When I asked her to explain, she said it would be easier to believe that vaccines are safe instead of enduring the pressure of the pediatricians and the school and the looks of other moms who think you’re crazy and endangering their kids by not vaccinating yours.

I started thinking. She had a point. Wouldn’t it be easier just to take your child to the doctor and sit quietly while he’s injected with the recommended childhood vaccines? To take him home, give him some Tylenol, tuck him into bed, and go to sleep with no worries? Wouldn’t that be easier? 

Wouldn’t it be nice to get together with girlfriends for coffee, go to the movies, get your hair done—like you used to? Before … well, you know. Before that day when you took your child to the doctor and sat quietly while he was injected with the recommended childhood vaccines. And you took him home, gave him some Tylenol, tucked him into bed, and went to sleep with no worries. 

Wouldn’t it be easier—and nicer—to go to a job every day like you did before? To go out as a family like you used to when everyone didn’t stare at you and make nasty comments and wonder what the hell is wrong with your kid—and you as a parent?  To read a book at night—one recommended by your best friend if you still have a best friend or any friends—after the kids are tucked into bed? Or maybe watch a movie or the news with your spouse? Wouldn’t those things be nicer than spending every second of your time (when you’re not cleaning up poop and handling a meltdown and battling with the school for services your child desperately needs and deserves) researching autism and trying to figure out how you are going to help your child who is now sick when he used to never be sick, who now can’t talk when he used to never stop talking, who now takes all your time and energy—what energy you have left—to the neglect of your other children and your spouse and the rest of your family and friends? The ones you used to have before … yeah, you remember. How could you forget that day?

I ask again, what do we as parents have to gain? Don’t we have better, more pleasant things to do with our time than all the things that have become a way of life? For anyone who thinks we are making all this up and/or that our children were always like this and we just didn’t notice, step into our lives for 24 hours. Or just an hour. That’s all it would take to see that we’re not exaggerating. That autism is not something that was there all along and we just didn’t notice. Impossible to miss, trust me. Then, ask yourself what’s in it for us. Certainly not money. We’re all broke from paying for therapies our insurance companies won’t pay for—if we’re still employed and have insurance. Maybe sympathy so our family and friends will come and visit and even help us? Maybe attention? Wait—maybe we all have Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy. (See Andy Wakefield’s new book, Waging War on the Autistic Child: The Arizona 5 and the Legacy of Baron von Münchausen.) I’m sure there are as many “theories” about what parents stand to gain as there are causes of autism.  

Our reason for everything we do—our reason for being—is to advocate for our children and try to help others. That’s why we talk until we’re blue in the face and write articles and blogs and go to conferences. Because getting our children back and maybe, just maybe, preventing someone else’s child from going through the same thing, is what we have to gain. That’s what’s in it for us. And we won’t shut up or give up, because we love our children more than anything, and they have been injured and our lives have been turned upside down and it’s not fair and it should never have happened.

 

 References

1. www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/10/24/stomping-through-a-medical-minefield.html

2. www.amazon.com/Breaking-Antibiotic-Habit-Parents-Infections/dp/0471319821

3. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/additives.htm

4. www.ageofautism.com/2009/02/voting-himself-rich-cdc-vaccine-adviser-made-29-million-or-more-after-using-role-to-create-market.html

 

Photo Credit

Jennifer Hutchinson
 

Jennifer Hutchinson is a freelance editor and writer. She has devoted the last few years to helping Jake recover, researching autism and vaccines, and sharing what she knows with others. She lives in Winchester, Virginia, with Ann and Jake.