Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Dear Ms. Kelland:
The Lancet can retract the 1998 article authored by Dr. Wakefield. Unfortunately, what cannot be retracted is the impact this article has had on promulgating misinformation about the cause of autism, increasing the number of unvaccinated children, and creating a media frenzy that allowed celebrities to be accepted as experts whose views, however misguided, are given more airtime than those of scientists.
Perhaps the saddest outcome of all, is that our national dialogue has been hijacked away from findings that are actually well established in the scientific literature (i.e., applied behavior analysis represents the treatment with the strongest scientific support).
There are important lessons to be learned here. The media frames the dialogue and when bad choices are made, children with autism and their families inevitably suffer, along with the public as a whole. Members of the media should stop showcasing single studies as if they represent complete paradigm shifts and look rather to bodies of evidence, particularly when that evidence is shared by researchers with little to gain financially from publication.
The very best outcomes for children with autism stand on the shoulders of good science not at the whim of pseudoscience.
David Celiberti, Ph.D., BCBA-D
President, Association for Science in Autism Treatment