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Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure

Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure

3.9 28
by Paul A. Offit

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ISBN-10: 023114637X

ISBN-13: 9780231146371

Pub. Date: 03/29/2010

Publisher: Columbia University Press

A London researcher was the first to assert that the combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine known as MMR caused autism in children. Following this "discovery," a handful of parents declared that a mercury-containing preservative in several vaccines was responsible for the disease. If mercury caused autism, they reasoned, eliminating it from a child's system


A London researcher was the first to assert that the combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine known as MMR caused autism in children. Following this "discovery," a handful of parents declared that a mercury-containing preservative in several vaccines was responsible for the disease. If mercury caused autism, they reasoned, eliminating it from a child's system should treat the disorder. Consequently, a number of untested alternative therapies arose, and, most tragically, in one such treatment, a doctor injected a five-year-old autistic boy with a chemical in an effort to cleanse him of mercury, which stopped his heart instead.

Children with autism have been placed on stringent diets, subjected to high-temperature saunas, bathed in magnetic clay, asked to swallow digestive enzymes and activated charcoal, and injected with various combinations of vitamins, minerals, and acids. Instead of helping, these therapies can hurt those who are most vulnerable, and particularly in the case of autism, they undermine childhood vaccination programs that have saved millions of lives. An overwhelming body of scientific evidence clearly shows that childhood vaccines are safe and does not cause autism. Yet widespread fear of vaccines on the part of parents persists.

In this book, Paul A. Offit, a national expert on vaccines, challenges the modern-day false prophets who have so egregiously misled the public and exposes the opportunism of the lawyers, journalists, celebrities, and politicians who support them. Offit recounts the history of autism research and the exploitation of this tragic condition by advocates and zealots. He considers the manipulation of science in the popular media and the courtroom, and he explores why society is susceptible to the bad science and risky therapies put forward by many antivaccination activists.

Product Details

Columbia University Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

Introduction1. The Tinderbox2. Lighting the Fuse3. The Implosion4. A Precautionary Tale5. Mercury Rising6. Mercury Falling7. Behind the Mercury Curtain8. Science in Court9. Science and the Media10. Science and Society11. A Place for AutismEpilogue

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Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book takes the autism world's dirty laundry out of the shadows and hangs it out in the open. Sunlight, they say, is the best disinfectant. I hope every family with an autistic child reads this book. It will save them a lot of frustration, and maybe protect their child from harm. P.S. To Matt the librarian: You complained - inaccurately - about people rating the book without having read it, and admitted you had not read it yourself, but went ahead and rated it 'poor' anyway? Way to keep an open mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a mom, I am so happy that Dr. Offit has written a clinical and scientific book to dispel this awful notion that vaccines cause autism. The American people will benefit from his knowledge and his stellar career at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Keep it up!!! The 30 second sound bites from the news room should pick up a copy and give this the same time they give the 'sensational' but untrue notion that celebrities have 'cured autisim.' The American people deserve better.
socialwrker More than 1 year ago
I am a senior therapist who works with children with autism. I picked up this book because I wanted to learn about vaccines and autism. I am both amazed and appalled by the negative reviews given to Dr. Offit, especially by those who haven't read the book. People cannot deny scientific fact yet many parents utilized anecdotes to justify why vaccines cause autism. Andrew Wakefield is being investigated, he fraudently published data and gave false hope to many parents. As a social worker who has to abide by a strong code of ethics I am deeply disturbed that a Dr. such as Wakefield would falsify data for his own financial gain and misinform his other more upstanding colleagues. Also, how can parents and DAN professional deny the sixteen epidemiological studies? One reviewer wrote that more studies needed to be done to determine if there is a link, is sixteen not enough because in my profession that is plenty. We have wasted enough time on this debate and children are suffering, as a community and population we should focus our resources on finding out the cause and working on creating more best practice methods to helping those with autism. Dr. Offit's book was very well presented and should be read by parents, siblings, students, teachers, anyone that wants to know truthful information about autism and vaccines. To respond to the reviewer who claims that Offit is biased in his opinion and he stands to make money off the patent of his vaccination and the sales of this book, you are grossly incorrect. Offit states in the prologue and author information section that he is the developer of the Rota Virus vaccine and has donated all roylaties from the book to fund autism research; if only Andrew Wakefield could say as much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing for it's clarity and readability and for the courage that is exemplifies. Dr. Offit is constantly vilified by people who think they know what they are talking about but who have their heads filled with utter nonsense that they've picked up on Internet bulletin boards and groups. The level of rank ignorance about the immune system of babies, about the immune system of autistic children in general, about all aspects of child development and autism in particular is stunning, but people don't let their mind-numbing ignorance stop them from spouting 'facts' about Dr. Offit and facts about autism and vaccines. Read this book. It exposes the insane, inane and lame history that is at the root of the belief that vaccines, vaccine ingredients and un-named 'toxins' can cause autism. This country has been totally taken for a ride by people like David Kirby, Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill, Lyn Redwood, Sallie Bernard and Lenny Schafer. What they along with greedy, lying, toxic tort law firms done to autistic children is monstrous and what they've done to confidence in vaccines is totally unforgivable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish more parents would just put down their "Dr. Sears books" for a minute and read this book. It is intellingently written and very helpful in this whole autism, vaccines, merucry etc. debate
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fastastic book, well written, loaded with good info
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's about time a book like this has come out. There is a lot of really questionable science/medicine in the alternative-medical side of autism. Some is downright dangerous. Kudo's to Dr. Offit for stepping forward to tell these sad stories. P.s. Matt the librarian should be aware that some people get advanced copies of books.
book-lovingPharmacist More than 1 year ago
There is so much garbage out there, written and talked about by people with their own agendas, on autism and vaccines. This is a balanced, well written book that debunks these "theories" and exposes the perpetrators for what they are- money and glory seeking false scientists who put their personal objectives before the health of children. The book is written as a time-line, so the reader must read the entire book to be informed on this issue, but anyone who puts in the time, will be amply rewarded.
mama-to-be More than 1 year ago
I am not a doctor, but I've read all the research and am staunchly pro-vaccine. It is impossible for me to imagine why doctors like Dr. Offit, a tireless researcher and bonafide expert in this field, would receive DEATH THREATS from parents! And it's ridiculous to think that the medical community is trying to hide the truth to make money off of vaccines... What about the hippocratic oath?

Why on earth would you choose to put your child's health in the hands of sanctimonious, sensationalist blowhard celebrities, when real doctors publish study after study debunking the pie-in-the-sky claims that vaccines cause autism?

VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN, PEOPLE! I am scared to death that my unborn child will one day contract measles, mumps or rubella from the blameless child of parents who believe this claptrap.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
This splendid book exposes the dangers of backing faith-based medicine over evidence-based medicine. Dr Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Andrew Wakefield’s first paper in The Lancet was based on tests by his research assistant Nicholas Chadwick, who later testified that he had found no measles RNA in the guts of any of the autistic children tested. Yet Wakefield claimed that they had found measles RNA there. (See pages 173-5.) Wakefield later falsely claimed to have found measles virus in the intestines of 150 autistic children, in tests done by Unigenetics Laboratories, an unaccredited company, now thankfully defunct. 16 epidemiological studies found that vaccines do not cause autism. Even then, Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail defended Wakefield, accusing ‘the medical establishment’ of ‘continuing to misrepresent the evidence’! As Offit writes, “the false alarm about vaccines and autism continues to harm a lot of children – harm from not getting needed vaccines, harm from potentially dangerous treatments to eliminate mercury, and harm from therapies as absurd as testosterone ablation and electric shock. … the feared vaccine-autism link, which has now been disproved, diverts research dollars from more promising leads.” A false alarm about thimerosal, a mercury derivative, harmed the USA’s hepatitis B immunisation programme. The number of children diagnosed with autism increased after thimerosal had been taken out of vaccines. Offit points out, “there wasn’t an epidemic of autism; rather, broadening the definition of the disability to include mildly affected children, as well as heightened awareness among parents and doctors, has accounted for the increase.” Five epidemiological studies found that thimerosal does not cause autism. Offit notes, “After examining the records of hundreds of thousands of children, investigators working in both North America and Europe couldn’t find any evidence of a relationship between thimerosal and autism. It wasn’t that their studies were poorly designed or that they had been part of a vast international conspiracy to hide the truth. They couldn’t find a relationship because it wasn’t there to be found.” The lobby opposing vaccination often accuses doctors of making money from backing vaccination, so it is worth noting that Wakefield got £435,643 from Richard Barr, a personal-injury lawyer representing parents who were suing pharmaceutical companies. Wakefield later took a US post at a salary of $280,000 a year.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Beware of any 'expert' who receives money for what they say. That's called Prophet-eering. Paul Offit receives money for vaccine sales. Paul Offit is also responsible for many children getting chronic illness and autism from their vaccines because he, like many in his camp, can't tell the simple truth. There are toxins in vaccines. Aluminum, Mercury, Radiator Fluid 'believe it or not', ether, human aborted fetal tissue, monkey kidney and more. Just do a search on vaccine ingredients or vaccine toxins. Vaccines hurt children, cause much chronic illness and many neurological disorders. It's time to stop profiting and using scare tactics and listen to the country and Green Our Vaccines so that we all can enjoy healthy children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dr. Offit is the patent holder for the new rotavirus vaccine, recently added to the Immunization Schedule. I hope he has this disclamier in his book. I have not read his book, but do have concerns on the topic of autism. At the alarming rate of 1 in 150, it is a major health issue. So much good cop / bad cop talk going on, we are forgetting the children and adults who are truly suffering. We need to focus our energy on a solution to the problem. I also think a lot of respect needs to go to the the families suffering with autism, and not disregard their stories. I have a hope that soon the world will really know the truth soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am the brother of an autistic man and I haven't read this book yet. But neither has the person who wrote the five star review, despite the book not having come out yet. To be honestly, I just recently got back into the autism activism after having spent most of my teen years working with autistic children. While I'm skeptical of their being a link between autism and vaccination, I do believe that more studies should be performed in order to confirm things once and for all, one way or the other. And the skeptic in me wonders why the companies making the vaccines seem to be reluctant to do this research since it would save them more money in the long run and confirm their good intent for public health. As such, I am somwhat skpetical of this book given Dr. Offit's reputation and financial connections to those who stand to lose millions if not billions should a link between autism and vaccination be proven. John Dobbs has reported upon Offit's questionable dealings (a Google search for 'John Dobbs' + 'autism' will bring it up) and as I said before, I can't help but wonder why so much effort is being put into denouncing the Green Vaccine movement instead of verifying their own claims. Nevertheless, I intend to read the book first and check the facts as I do so. I urge you all to do the same and not give into the cult of celebrity, one way or the other. I question Jenny McCarthy's wisdom on medical matters as much as I question Amanda Peet's wisdom in calling parents who don't choose to vaccinate 'parasites' in an attempt to win them over to the Every Child By Two program.