May 18, 2013
What Really Causes Autism? Thousands of Parents Still Blame Vaccines
Posted on Jul 22, 2009
By Scott Thill, AlterNet
Some help from outside the battle terrain could be on the way, in the form of increased government support from the Obama administration, which has promised increased funding for research, treatment, public awareness and screenings, especially of infants. That’s a marked difference from the previous administration, which was no friend to science or parents in general, if you ask Karp.
"Throughout the past eight years with Bush," he said, "the government was unwilling to advance the issue on the scientific agenda. And that too-slow response by the government and the medical community has made parents feel they had to speak out even more. And it’s not that pediatricians are bad people, but it is true that with tighter insurance reimbursements, we are trying to address health, nutrition and prevention all within the space of a short office visit. What has to give is the conversation. Doctors tend to say, ‘Look just trust me.’"
But that ship just doesn’t sail anymore. Especially in our digital age, where everything from publicly edited knowledge sites like Wikipedia to critical opinion publications like The Huffington Post, which has given opinionated figures like Karp, Carrey and more a platform to share and moderate their theories with sizable readerships, carry just as much weight as the family doctor, who most families don’t actually see more than a few times a year, and too quickly at that. The skepticism extends even to the science itself, which spends billions a year to tear apart a massively complicated human disorder only to often, as Wakefield allegedly did, reassemble it wrongly, and then ask for more funding. And while trial and error are endemic to science, parents of autistic children are exacting in the search for more triumphs and less error, trials and tribulations.
"There seems to be an endless cycle of press releases touting some newfound gene to blame, with each new study failing to replicate the last," argued Johnson. "To date, it’s fair to say that little of use has been found in over a dozen genome scans, and our understanding of how genes work is changing. Many diseases, like heart disease and cancer, are a combination of genes and environment: You’re born with increased risk, but your behaviors and exposures will be pivotal in determining whether or not you get the disease." Wrangham agrees. "From SafeMinds’ perspective, there is a growing body of evidence and research demonstrating that autism is a disorder with a multifactorial etiology that is highly treatable with causation likely to be based on genetic susceptibilities and exposure to environmental factors. There is most likely a genetic predisposition which loads the gun, but ultimately, one or more environmental events are what pulls the trigger."
Karp understands both sides of the mindset. "The battle concerns me as a physician," he admitted. "My life has been dedicated to helping families and children, and I have sometimes put my own family aside to do so. And I’m not alone, so that there are these concerns against the doctors is unfortunate. But parents feel abandoned by the doctors and the system. If their children are diagnosed with a disease, parents have to fight through a bureaucracy that isn’t made to make it easier for them. And while the whole system is stacked against them, they are dealing with the pain and sorrow of their children."
The way forward demands that the political, scientific and medical community and the paying public that it supposedly serves, including parents of children with autism, meet in the middle of the battlefield, shake hands and rebuild that inefficient system from the ground up. Along the way, it must admit that it is not simply vaccines laced with heavy metal, or excessive reliance on deadly prescription pills, or even some undiscovered gene that is the problem. All of those are merely symptoms of a greater disorder, which is the current relationship off all the involved parties, and how they perceive and profit from, unwittingly and otherwise, the data they receive. From pharmaceutical companies capitalizing on autism’s treatment all the way to the parents, as Leary says, just looking to justify their crappy child-rearing skills by doping their kids with pointless antidepressants, everyone needs a wake-up call. Especially since the culture-at-large has been additionally complicated by a dramatic rise in environmental toxicity and increasing distraction, wherein narcotic overstimulation and omnipresent media and technology have given humanity’s collective amygdalae a run for its hard-earned time and money.
"All life is a combination of nature and nurture, or in the current jargon, genetic and epigenetic," Karp concluded. "But there has definitely been a drive towards the mass-production mentality in our lives. We see that in our school system and in the medical community as well. Progress is good, but at a certain point you get to the wrong side of the line where you are missing time to sit and discuss things with your doctor, time to ask a few more questions and to be seen as the full person as you are. Sometimes we are throwing out the baby with the bath water."
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