The plot of an upcoming episode of ABC’s "Eli Stone" gives the impression that a child developed autism after being given a mercury-based vaccine. The medical establishment says that no such link has ever been demonstrated, and the fictional 5.2M in damages awarded to the fictional victims may be highly misleading to viewers facing their own real life choices about vaccinating their children. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is demanding that the episode, due to air 1/31/08, be cancelled.
"A television show that perpetuates the myth that vaccines cause autism is the height of reckless irresponsibility on the part of ABC and its parent company, The Walt Disney Co.," said Renee R. Jenkins, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP. "If parents watch this program and choose to deny their children immunizations, ABC will share in the responsibility for the suffering and deaths that occur as a result. The consequences of a decline in immunization rates could be devastating the health of our nation’s children."
Jenkins wrote to ABC noting that mercury is not a common preservative ingredient of vaccines, and noted that an erroneous link between measles vaccine and autism in Great Britain led to a drop in parental use of vaccines, a spike in cases of measles and even to several childhood fatalities.
According to Reuters, ABC has agreed to include a disclaimer at the beginning of the show noting that it is fictional, and at the end would refer viewers to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for further information on autism.
TVBR/RBR observation: One of the show’s writers reportedly said that he agrees children should be vaccinated, and that viewers should watch the show and draw their own conclusions. To that we can only say a rousing "HUH?" The way to encourage vaccination is to suggest that the expected result is autism? When it comes to our own children, we will cast our lot with AAP, not ABC, in the firm belief that ABC is not offering consumers a rational choice but is rather encouraging a wrong choice. The show is supposed to be about a lawyer, not about obfuscating medical facts. Putting such facts out there will not be a proud moment for the business.