Thrown under the bus…but for a good cause, right?

21 Apr

America is a wonderful place. Where else can someone publish absolute garbage, refuse to retract it, accuse the government of being involved in a massive conspiracy–and still end up on a government committee?

I am speaking of Lyn Redwood. She is one of the coauthors on ‘Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning’. This was ‘published’ in Medical Hypotheses. I put ‘published’ in quotes because Medical Hypotheses is a pay-to-publish pseudo-journal that has no review (peer or otherwise) at all. OK, the editor does check that the authors are talking about something medical, and makes sure that some sort of narrative is put together. But, scientifically? No review. Too many people, especially those parents with new autism diagnoses for their children, are unaware that “Medical Hypotheses” ‘papers’ have no place next to actual research papers.

If that piece of junk science wasn’t enough, Ms. Redwood was also a co-author on another less-than-worthless Medical Hypotheses ‘paper’, Thimerosal and autism? A plausible hypothesis that should not be dismissed. The first author on that “paper” was Mark Blaxill. Truly, one of the scary moments in the Omnibus proceeding came when the research head of ARI (Autism Research Institute) referred to Mark Blaxill as “brilliant”. No exaggeration–that was a frightening thought to this listener. Mr. Blaxill is probably rather bright and likely good at whatever he does professionally. But the idea that the information is traveling from him to the research head of the Autism Research Institute rather than the other way around is just scary.

The time to pay-to-publish retractions of these papers was years ago. Yet, both papers are still out there, and new parents usually won’t find out for a long time that those papers a junk.

Besides promoting bad science, what do Ms. Redwood and Mr. Blaxill have in common? Well, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, for one thing.

Ms. Redwood sits on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. This group helps coordinate the US Government’s research efforts on autism. Rather that fight for better understanding and services for, say, adults, the poor, or minorities with autism, Ms. Redwood filled meeting after meeting (after meeting) with struggles to get the wording of the Strategic Plan as close as possible to a government admission that vaccines cause autism.

Mark Blaxill sits on one of the working groups for the IACC, probably placed there by Ms. Redwood. Mr. Blaxill, also a co-author on a number of papers that any reasonable person would have retracted by now, has wasted considerable meeting time with long, insulting ramblings. I know there are people who appreciated Mr. Blaxill’s speeches, but I consider likening the other people on the committee to holocaust denialists insulting. Maybe I misinterpreted his repeated use of the phrase “Epidemic Denialists”. If so, I bet I’m not the only one. Somehow, I don’t think I’m wrong. It appears to be an insulting and deliberate choice of phrases.

Unfortunately for the undercounted communities like adults with autism, the poor with autism, minorities with autism–a number of our own–they present an “inconvenient truth” to people like Mark Blaxill and Lyn Redwood. They demonstrate that the numbers groups like SafeMinds use to promote the faux autism epidemic are terribly flawed. If we are still under counting people with autism in the U.S., how can we use the counts from the California Regional Centers or from education data so far as “evidence” of an “epidemic”?

I know I wrote about this issue recently. But, reading the expert report by Dr. Rodier, and writing about it, I realized anew that a few individuals have caused this harm. And, those few individuals could (and should) work hard to correct that harm.

So, in place of calling on the IACC to fund research that could help the under counted, Ms. Redwood and Mr. Blaxill got this paragraph:

Research on environmental risk factors is also underway. An Institute of Medicine workshop held in 2007 summarized what is known and what is needed in this field (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2007). Numerous epidemiological studies have found no relationship between ASD and vaccines containing the mercury based preservative, thimerosal (Immunization Safety Review Committee, 2004). These data, as well as subsequent research, indicate that the link between autism and vaccines is unsupported by the research literature. Some do not agree and remain concerned that ASD is linked or caused by vaccination through exposure to Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR), imposing challenges to a weakened immune system, or possibly due to mitochondrial disorder. Public comment to the Committee reflected opposing views on vaccines as a potential environmental cause. Those who are convinced by current data that vaccines do not play a causal role in autism argue against using a large proportion of limited autism research funding toward vaccine studies when many other scientific avenues remain to be explored. At the same time, those who believe that prior studies of the possible role of vaccines in ASD have been insufficient argue that investigation of a possible vaccine/ASD link should be a high priority for research (e.g., a large-scale study comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated groups). A third view urges shifting focus away from vaccines and onto much-needed attention toward the development of effective treatments, services and supports for those with ASD.

Let’s just pull that last sentence out for emphasis, shall we?

A third view urges shifting focus away from vaccines and onto much-needed attention toward the development of effective treatments, services and supports for those with ASD.

It’s odd to me–I would have fought that language if I were Lyn Redwood. I would have pointed out that I have a broader perspective than just vaccines, and that I also care about development of effective treatments, services and supports. Isn’t it just a little sad that the people who are pushing the vaccine connection don’t have the view that effective treatments, services and supports for those with ASD’s are a top priority?

But, it wasn’t their top priority. It still isn’t. In the end, Lyn Redwood and Mark Blaxill, people who are on the IACC to represent the interests of the entire stakeholder community, threw the underrepresented autistic communities under the bus.

4 Responses to “Thrown under the bus…but for a good cause, right?”

  1. cpu52362 April 21, 2009 at 22:42 #

    I tend to think that services and supports are very important, because at this time I receive neither (in USA), but know I need help with living conditions and socialization.

    LR and MB get a nice juicy Raspberry from me, for keeping their issues/goals in the way, and keeping needy people still needy.

  2. Roger April 22, 2009 at 02:32 #

    My question is why is lb/rb,or any blog that wants to take itself seriously,still blogging about vaccines,and antivaxers?Ms. Redwood’s paper was published in 2004,many of us have moved on since then.If there is a population of diehards out there,like Age of Autism,or JABS,that want to keep scientifically unproven claims alive,what possible good does it to to keep paying attention to their tired old claims,or even more fantastic new ones ?

    Far too much time,labor,and funding has been wasted proving thimerosol does not cause autism.Why can’t everybody just ignore the antivaxer flat earth society,and see if they eventually go away ?

    I tend to think that services and supports are very important, because at this time I receive neither (in USA), but know I need help with living conditions and socialization.

    LR and MB get a nice juicy Raspberry from me, for keeping their issues/goals in the way, and keeping needy people still needy.

    cpu52362,I couldn’t agree with you more.I would love to be able to try the adult version of ABA,that has been used in recent years,to see if it would help me develop any social skills.Yet this is used on such a limited basis,at least here in the US,that most adults will never have this has not spoken up enough about this,or taken an official position,so I don’t know how many here would approve of it,or an alternative form of therapy.There is a lot of criticism of ABA,but not enough putting forth suggestions of alternatives,especially for adults.

    Relationship Development Intervention,is one method bloggers like Michelle Dawson seems to promote,but Dr.Gustein does not seem to allow peer reviewed studies of it to be done,to see if it is indeed better than ABA.Pushing for such studies,as well as the expanded use of such therapies in adults,whatever they may be,ought to be one of the top priorities of blogs like lb/rb,or Ms. Dawson’s “The Autism Crisis” blog.

  3. Sullivan April 22, 2009 at 23:42 #

    I blog about vaccines for multiple reasons

    1) There are people making dangerous claims about vaccines. These can and do cause harm in the world–injuring and killing people. Correcting misinformation seems a worthy cause.

    2) Many of those promoting the dangerous claims about vaccines claim to be “autism advocates”. If/when a resurgence of vaccine preventable disease happens, I don’t want the blame attached to the autism community as a whole.

    3) Those who would promote the autism-is-vaccine-injury idea are taking resources away from other areas of autism research. Read the posts again–research into areas such as under-identified subgroups (ethnic minorities, the poor, adults, etc) isn’t happening–and this is partly because the discussions in the IACC meetings are dominated by vaccines.

    The vaccine debate–and the harm it causes–isn’t going away if we ignore it.


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