The Autism Wars: Frank Bruni vs. Jenny McCarthy

Perhaps to mark the end of Autism Awareness month, but seemingly out of the blue, New York Times op-ed contributor, Frank Bruni, decided to weigh in on the vaccination-autism non-connection issue with this April 21, 2014 article. He accused Jenny McCarthy of being an “agitator… the intemperate voice of a movement that posits a link between autism and childhood vaccinations and that badmouths vaccines in general, saying that they have toxins in them and that children get too many of them at once.”

In this corner – Foodie Frank
Who is Foodie Frank to attack Gorgeous Jenny? His bio in the Times describes, “Over his years… he has worn a wide variety of hats, including chief restaurant critic… Rome bureau chief…  also written two New York Times best sellers: Born Round (“as in as in stout, chubby, and always hungry”), and Ambling Into History, (about George Bush)… coauthor of A Gospel of Shame: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church.” Wikipedia adds that he “… became the first openly gay op-ed columnist…” of the Times.

Nothing in Mr. Bruni’s curriculum vitae points to any learned knowledge of science, biology, immunology, ecology or child development. The only extant association between Mr. Bruni and autism is this vacuous article that he penned. There is no evidence that he possesses any special information. Oh, that’s right, he did say that Yale’s autism expert, Dr. Fred Volkmar, told HIM that the vaccination controversy “diverts people from what’s really important, which is to focus on the science of really helping kids with autism.” A diversion from the important stuff, huh? As in, this bullshit op-ed story.

And, in this corner – Gorgeous Jenny
And what role does Jenny McCarthy play in this complicated, emotional and misunderstood quagmire that is the present autism epidemic? Her pediatricians didn’t even know what she was talking about when her child was diagnosed with autism. The conventional medical community says that, “Autism is what it is… you got what you got… deal with the situation and get (really expensive and difficult-to-find) therapies. Good luck.”

Parents are admonished not to listen to anyone who says that they can help with medical treatment, other than the standard psycho-stimulant meds. Even if Mom witnesses a change (from a GF/CF diet, e.g.), professionals warn that “It’s probably just a coincidence, like that disproven vaccination theory.”

Ms. McCarthy warned the country and the world that a storm was coming. Regarding ASD, doctors have displayed ignorance at best, and have even caused harm, due to delays and misdiagnosis. And, while we’re on the subject, if it turns out that her son, Evan, has one particular version of autism, that hardly constitutes some sort of fraud for the purpose of gaining visibility. Smack of bullying, Frank?

The child’s complicated diagnosis – made by the doctors –  doesn’t make McCarthy someone “who sows misinformation, stokes fear, abets behavior that endangers people’s health.”
Only the CDC, FDA, and AMA are allowed to do that.

I have been witness to the miraculous improvements served by childhood vaccinations. I recommend them to our patients; perhaps more diligently than might serve the ‘herd’, however, in susceptible individuals, doctors need to be very conservative. It shouldn’t be so complicated for the medical community to produce independent, prospective studies about the present vaccine schedule with 3 year follow-up aimed at developmental outcome, especially as it applies to higher risk infants.

No Winner is Declared
My advice is for Mr. Bruni to go back to his core competencies, Ms. McCathy to continue to fight for her child and help raise money for autism awareness-treatment-and-prevention, and for medical science to work on a better explanation(s) for this epidemic.

An agitator produces lots of heat with little light.
What a desperate mother does, is search for answers why her perfect, beautiful toddler became non-responsive and stopped talking.

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