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The Show Must Go On


The American Academy of Pediatrics sent out a huffy press release this week, demanding that ABC cancel the premiere episode of a new television show, "Eli Stone," because the main character, a lawyer, successfully argues that a child's autism was caused by mercury in a vaccine. The show might scare parents away from vaccines, the release said.

ABC's response? No way. But the network has agreed to add a disclaimer to the premiere. (See The New York Times article here.)

Some disability advocates have argued that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, has played a role in the explosive growth of autism cases seen nationwide. Scientists have failed to find a link, however, as noted in an article I wrote in 2006. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the pediatrician group recommended in 1999 that the preservative be removed from childhood vaccines. Today, most childhood vaccines are thimerosal-free. "Eli Stone" is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Thursday.

Speaking of disabilities on TV, a young actor with cerebral palsy is being featured on a new cable television show,"Breaking Bad," on AMC. I can't speak to the realism of a burned-out chemistry teacher becoming a meth-cooking criminal in this dark comedy, but 15-year-old RJ Mitte offers a fine performance as his son. Interestingly, the biographical information on Mitte indicates that he had to re-learn some manifestations of cerebral palsy for this role that he had worked in real life to shed; for instance, his character uses crutches and has some problems with verbal articulation. I'd like to see more of him.


We need to remember that the story is fictional, even if it does resemble any possible cases. There are many improbable and even impossible scenarios played out in the courtrooms of television. Many do cause us to think, which is not a bad thing....But most of us do not rely on TV drama for our real information....It may seem or even turn out to be harmful for the occasional autistic child (I have a son with autism), but I think the first amendment must stand.

Have there been any studies indicating a reduction of autism in the children who have received these thimerosal-free vaccines?

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