Stone of Arc

  • by: |
  • 02/02/2008
Yes, Virginia, while some media will exploit public health myths for their own venal purposes, others can play an important role in advancing the public health.

By now you are certainly familiar with the controversy surrounding the ABC program “Eli Stone” – where the title character (an attorney who has spiritual visions) goes to court to prove that childhood vaccinations cause autism.

Well, rather than piling on to the already crowded anti-pharma bandwagon, here is what the New York Times said in an editorial:

“Nevermind that such authoritative bodies as the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have found no evidence of a causal link. Nevermind that the incidence of autism continued to rise even after mercury preservatives were phased out of almost all childhood vaccines. As far as Eli Stone is concerned, you can’t just rely on science. Sometimes you have to go on faith.

The American Academy of Pediatrics tried unsuccessfully to get the episode canceled, fearing that it could deter parents from getting their children vaccinated, exposing them to far greater dangers from disease. Let’s hope that any parents who watched don’t make that mistake. And let’s hope that in future episodes, Eli Stone and ABC show better judgment in picking causes.”

Here is a link to the editorial in its entirety:

And James Oliphant (Baltimore Sun) points out that good television shouldn’t be driven by bad science:

"In a statement yesterday, the association’s president, Sherman “Tiger” Joyce, said the show has the potential to scare millions of parents away from having their children properly vaccinated against dangerous diseases.”

Joyce cited a report from the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest’s, which offers case studies of real-life personal injury lawyers endangering public health by disseminating unfounded information that convinces some people to avoid drugs or other medical treatments that could improve their health or even save their lives. Now, Hollywood’s latest make-believe lawyer is getting in on the act, too."

Here’s a link to the complete Oliphant piece:

ABC needs a lesson on public responsibility -- and Eli Stone needs to lose his Joan of Arc complex.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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