Thursday, January 06, 2011

Well I'll be damned

A little over two years ago, I did a writeup on something I found absolutely implausible: the idea that Jenny McCarthy had found a cure for autism.

McCarthy did indeed cure her son's autism by changing his diet, giving him vitamins, and detoxifying the body of metals and I don't know what the other word she used was; it sounded like Candido. I can get behind detoxifying the Candido from your body, but the rest of this is fucking hokum.

This was the second half of a two-part bullshit story that McCarthy was touring the world with at the time. The first half was the also specious claim that her son and many others had developed autism as a result of receiving the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccination.

Her belief was fueled by a 1998 study published in the Lancet, an international medical journal of high reputation. Everybody who isn't retarded lined up to call bullshit; in 2004 the Lancet retracted the claim and today an article in the British Medical Journal wrapped the study in barbed wire and powerbombed it through a flaming table into a crate of thumbtacks, broken glass, and rock salt. The aftermath:

The Lancet paper was a case series of 12 child patients; it reported a proposed "new syndrome" of enterocolitis and regressive autism and associated this with MMR as an "apparent precipitating event." But in fact:

Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism.

Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were "previously normal," five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns.

Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination.

In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results—noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations—were changed after a medical school "research review" to "non-specific colitis."

The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegations—all giving times to onset of problems in months—helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link.

Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation.

So what did we learn? Two things.

It's fine for anyone, including celebrities, to have an opinion; it's not fine for people of an advanced public profile to be openly retarded.


Science always wins.

(Picture unrelated.)

Go Tarheels!


Nate said...

[I]t's not fine for people of an advanced public profile to be openly retarded.

Quoted for truth.

Ron said...

My wife, as you know, works in this field. She has had, on regular occasion, parents bring their kids in for evaluations and quote Jenny McCarthy's book/tv appearances/blogs as scientific fact. I imagine that she will continue to do so for many years. The shame of it all is that people will believe anything if it is what they want to hear.

Celebrities should not be allowed to comment on anything relating to science, politics, or the economy. Look at how many people Dionne Warwick swindled with that Psychic Friends bollocks in the 1990s. Though, I would have to say, that her scam was more plausible than McCarthy's

Nate said...

So really, nothing helpful has ever been contributed by a McCarthy.

Ba-dum, *tsh*.

Rev. Joshua said...

Doing a little bit of ancillary research for this post, I found that this 2008 segment took place four years after the Lancet had retracted the study for the reasons that it would eventually be completely discredited. The problem isn't celebrity endorsement of bullshit, the problem is that traditional media has become shamelessly profit-driven. A homely bearded and bespectacled scientician saying "well, unfortunately we don't know much about autism but we know that it isn't caused by vaccinations" doesn't drive ratings like a pair of tits spouting bullshit. Of course, you can't book bullshit-spouting titties if you have a reputation for challenging their bullshit. People who call psychic hotlines are going to part with that money anyway; there's no difference between a psychic and a singing fish to hang on your wall.

Nate said...

Shhhh ... if that gets out, I'll be unemployed again!