Why You Should Ignore Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy's Autism Delusions

Last Updated Feb 10, 2010 10:58 AM EST

When Andrew Wakefield's bogus autism-vaccine study was retracted by The Lancet, after Wakefield himself was the subject of a professional misconduct hearing, two people rushed to his defense: actors Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy.

The pair, who have an autistic child, have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to spreading the unfounded belief that vaccines and autism are somehow linked. Now, with Wakefield -- the godfather of their movement -- discredited, Carrey and McCarthy are painting him as a repressed dissident and themselves as the target of a campaign of misinformation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You can read Carrey and McCarthy's statement here:
Dr. Andrew Wakefield is being discredited to prevent an historic study from being published that for the first time looks at vaccinated versus unvaccinated primates and compares health outcomes, with potentially devastating consequences for vaccine makers and public health officials.
This study will do almost nothing to change the debate about autism because it contains no humans and far too few monkeys to be conclusive. And yet, even though it is not finished, Carrey and McCarthy have already decided that it will be a blockbuster:
There is no question that the publication of the monkey study will lend substantial credibility to the theory that over-vaccination of young children is leading to neurological damage, including autism.
Carrey and McCarthy haven't even got the details of the study they're touting right. It doesn't involve "fourteen" monkeys, it involves 20, and only 13 of those are in the vaccine arm. Some preliminary results were published here.

Make no mistake, large-scale studies in humans have already failed to find any vaccine-autism link. Here is one that included 140,000 kids in the U.S. And here's a literature review that looked 200 studies, and found no link.

You can read a good summary of them both here, including a discussion of how bizarrely difficult it is to convince people that vaccines and autism have nothing to do with each other even though that's what the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests. Even Fox News doesn't buy the autism-vaccine theory. You won't find either of these studies referenced on Carrey and McCarthy's Generation Rescue web pages, even though they have a whole section dedicated to autism science.

Yet Carrey and McCarthy paint themselves as charity workers innocently raising "awareness" of the condition:
In 2007, McCarthy announced that her son Evan had been diagnosed with the disorder. Since then, she has used her star power to raise awareness.
What they're really doing is irresponsibly using their disproportionately powerful media platform to spread misinformation about a condition for which there is no known cure, and rehabilitating the reputation of a doctor on whom history ought to turn the page.

Meanwhile, parents who have autistic kids but not enough scientific education to understand the debate are, like Carrey and McCarthy, engaged in a desperate search for a cure. Here's how bad it gets:
... so we consulted the local [Defeat Autism Now] doctor too. He charged thousands of dollars, most of it not covered by insurance, yet his waiting room was packed. Over the course of a year, he offered one cure du jour after another, quick to take advantage of our desperation. Finally, he insisted our 4-year-old had stealth birus. He urged us to give him a cytotoxic drug called ganciclovir then being used for AIDS patients and other severely immuno-compromised people.
"How many children have you treated with this?" I asked.

"I'm treating one patient right now," he said.
That's when we fled.
Some doctors have urged a treatment called "chelation" in which mercury is allegedly removed from the body. It's potentially fatal.

So please, ignore Carrey and McCarthy. They are comedians, and we should laugh at them, not take them seriously.

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