Dear civilised world

22 Aug

Hi, I’m parent to an autistic child. I want to write a letter to apologise for the actions, inactions and unerring stupidity of some of my fellow parents of autistic people.

You see, we have become something of a scapegoat, us autism parents. But – it has to be said – a scapegoat who really can’t protest too much that we are so designated. A sizeable minority of us have done exactly what you accuse us of and what you are so irritated about. In fact, I know it goes beyond irritation to fear and I can understand that.

Measles Cases Grow in Number, and Officials Blame Parents’ Fear of Autism‘ says the New York Times. Officials have a good point. In the last two years, two teenagers in the UK have died from measles. In 2006, a 13 year old boy became the first person to die from measles in 14 years. In 2008, he was joined by a seventeen year old. Of particular poignancy was the fact that both of these children were genuinely unsuitable candidates for vaccination and were thus relying on herd immunity.

How sad that these children were victims of grown adults negligence and irresponsibility.

In the first six months of this year, 131 people in the US have contracted measles. Fifteen people were hospitalised. Thankfully, none have died. Of those 131 people, 63 chose (or their parents chose for them) not to vaccinate.

I guess what I really need to apologise for is the attitude displayed in the face of a disease that can kill. Some say that they’d rather measles than autism. One parent I know of said:

…..15 American children were hospitalized with Measles. None died. How many children with autism drowned least year? Deadly indeed.

Drowning would seem to be an elevated risk for autistic children (if anyone can get that paper I’d like to read it – got it now – thank you 🙂 ) however, I think that’s really besides the point. This is year one of what looks like the _start_ of a measles epidemic in the US. Over here, its about year four. If things continue at this pace, measles deaths will easily outstrip drowning deaths or any other accidental deaths of autistic kids. It should also be noted that its highly probable that the drowning deaths will be much more common in populations that have domestic pools. That’s a very uncommon feature in the UK for example.

So please civilised world, please remember that this vocal minority do not speak for us all. Please remember before we are all tarred with the same brush that many of us believe in and accept our social responsibilities as well as our parental responsibilities. We know vaccines don’t cause autism. We need you to make more noise about how unacceptable it is to live amongst those who _choose_ not to vaccinate.

8 Responses to “Dear civilised world”

  1. mike stanton August 22, 2008 at 12:51 #

    Thank you for this Kev. I suppose one way we can “make amends” is to make sure that IACC get lots of replies from parents who are not anti-vaccine in response to the RFI you blogged about yesterday.

  2. codeman38 August 22, 2008 at 14:52 #

    Gahhh… dealing with some people’s “logic” frustrates me. Just because nobody died from measles in… whatever unspecified time span that was… doesn’t mean that the disease can’t kill people still! >_<

    (Also, I’ve e-mailed you the PDF of the Shavelle paper; I have access to the journal it was in via the University of Georgia.)

  3. codeman38 August 22, 2008 at 14:54 #

    (…er, ignore the “unspecified time span” bit above; now I see the part about it being 6 months.)

  4. Patrick August 22, 2008 at 17:45 #

    How sad that these children were victims of a greedy short cutting practitioner’s negligence and irresponsibility.

  5. Bev August 22, 2008 at 19:18 #

    How many children, autistic or otherwise, died from drowning during that year? Without that information, how could anyone begin to take such an argument seriously?

  6. laurentius-rex August 22, 2008 at 19:29 #

    You talking to me Kev?

    What is civilisation? I always have this idea of Cavafy’s Barbarians poem floating around.

    What seems to unite people is having something to unite against rather than to unite for 😦

    Am I still banned? Does the vendetta still run deep, post this comment at least, I don’t see the harm in that.

    Do I disagree with you even about the criminal negligence of the anti vax people?

  7. Ms. Clark August 23, 2008 at 04:32 #

    Apparently, if you can get the antivaxers to think on it a minute, they’ll admit that wild-type measles infections could cause autism if the attenuated measles virus can.

    Bradstreet claimed that he had evidence of wild-type measles having caused the autism in one of his patients….

    So vaccinating the kid doesn’t increase the chance of autism from measles according to at least some of the more consistent antivaxers…. which probably doesn’t include the mom you quoted (shudder).

    It’s funny she didn’t give figures on how many autistic teens HAVE NOt died in traffic accidents (or from swimming while drunk, etc) compared to the number of typical teens that have.

  8. Ms. Clark August 23, 2008 at 04:54 #

    I have subscribed to several podcasts from various medical journals on iTunes. Right now I’m listening to one from “Neurology” the podcasts cover one issue of a journal, this one is from August 19, 2008.

    A woman from Stanford, an epilepsy expert interviewd a Dr. Sander from London.
    The article is called, “Drowning in people with epilepsy.” They found a risk: 18 times higher for epileptics for dying by drowning than non-epileptics in the UK.

    Considering that there seems to be an increase of epilepsy in autism, maybe that’s part of the problem… but then autism with epilepsy isn’t caused by the MMR vaccine so the mom you quoted (shudder) was just promoting the antivaccine point of view as usual (shudder).

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