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Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure Paperback – March 29, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Attempting to answer the enormous frustration and unhappiness of parents "tired of watching their autistic children improve at rates so slow it's hard to tell if they are improving at all," pediatrics professor and vaccine researcher Offit explores purported causes and cures. Examining false approaches like facilitated communication ("a massive, nationwide delusion") and secretin injections ("no better than salt water"), and mistaken theories of origin (the MMR vaccine, thimerosol), Offit pleads with journalists to resist the lure of "dramatic headlines, advertising dollars, and ratings" rather than report an unconfirmed or untrustworthy study. The only worthwhile studies, Offit purports, are those meeting three criteria: "transparency of the funding source, internal consistency of the data, and reproducibility of the findings." Overall, Offit's text seems unbalanced: though he takes on the "$40-billion-a-year" alternative medicine industry, he's largely silent on the much larger pharmaceutical industry; and after 10 chapters of debunking the "false prophets," there's just one brief chapter on what is known about autism causes and cures. A thorough and convincing debunker, however, Offit will likely leave parents still hunting for information, albeit better armed to find it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Every child has a right to be vaccinated against deadly diseases. We started Every Child By Two to protect children from diseases. It didn't occur to me that I would also have to protect them from misinformation about life-saving vaccines. Paul A. Offit's book sets the facts straight. (Rosalynn Carter, former first lady, cofounder of Every Child By Two)
Autism's False Prophets is a compelling story of heartbroken parents, understandably desperate for an explanation of autism, being taken in by false hopes unsupported by genuine science. This book goes to the heart of a question that affects every aspect of American culture and political life. Are public policies to be determined by evidence and reason or by emotions that, however intense they may be, have nothing to do with reality? (Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason)
A definitive analysis of a dangerous and unnecessary controversy that has put the lives of children at risk. Paul A. Offit shows how bad science can take hold of the public consciousness and lead to personal decisions that endanger the health of small children. Every parent who has doubts about the wisdom of vaccinating their kids should read this book. (Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and Nobel Laureate in Medicine for fundamental contributions in Immunology)
In his latest book Paul A. Offit unfolds the story of autism, infectious diseases, and immunization that has captivated our attention for the last decade. His lively account explores the intersection of science, special interests, and personal courage. It is provocative reading for anyone whose life has been touched by the challenge of autism spectrum disorders. (Susan K. Klein, MD, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve Hospital, and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Medical Center)
[A] thoughtful and readable study. (Library Journal (starred review))
Enlightening, highly readable and... timely. (Rahul K. Parikh, M.D. Salon.com)
Arguably the most courageous and most knowledgeable scientist about vaccines in the United States. (Robert Goldberg New York Post)
[Dr. Offit] has done a huge public service by exposing the tragic and dangerous place the anti-vaccine hysteria has taken us. (Huntly Collins Philadelphia Inquirer)
An invaluable chronicle that relates some of the many ways in which the vulnerabilities of anxious parents have been exploited. (Linda Seebach Wall Street Journal)
A good read and an important piece of work. (Lisa Jo Rudy About.com)
More than a book about a disease, it is an ode to uncorrupted science and a cautionary tale that data alone is never enough. (SEED magazine)
[Offit] provides important insight into the fatal flaws of the key arguments of vaccine alarmists. (Buffalo News)
A very good read. (Dom Giordano The Bulletin)
A sobering indictment. (Isabelle Rapin, M.D. Neurology Today)
Highly recommended. (Choice)
A fascinating read... Eloquently and clearly written. (Stan L. Block, MD Infectious Diseases in Children)
A very helpful book for both medical personnel and parents. (The New England Journal of Medicine)
The book is a fantastic read. I recommend it to all physicians and their patients and families. (Brian Alverson, MD Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine)
This is a powerful book which should be read by all professionals working in the area ofmedicine. (Michael Fitzgerald Social History of Medicine)
Paul A. Offit is one of the most respected scientists and clinicians in a field of vital importance to public health. (Patricia M. Rodier BioScience)
[This] book doesn't just show that the anti-vaccine activists are wrong; it attempts to explain why, in our culture, they tend to win. (Jason Fagone Philadelphia Magazine)
Detailed but easily readable... should be required reading for any parents who are considering denying vaccination to their children. (Communication: The Magazine of the National Autistic Society)
Arguably the most detailed and thorough history available of the current anti-vaccine movement. (Roy Richard Grinker Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders)
[A] must-read... it will keep pediatricians and pediatric neurologists awake over the nightmarish possibilities of pseudoscience in the 21st century. (Roger A. Brumback, M.D. Journal of Child Neurology)
The vast range of professionals who may be enriched, professionally, by the book's contents extends to: psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, neuroscientists, speech pathologists, pediatricians, primary care physicians, geneticists, virologists, immunologists, vaccine experts, nurses, infectious disease experts, internists, gastroenterologists, epidemiologists, public health professionals, special education teachers, bioethicists, biochemists, biologists, biostatisticians, endocrinologists, pharmacists, pharmacologists, pharmaceutical industry professionals, health policy makers, journalists, politicians, and trial lawyers. (Leo Uzych Metapsychology)
Seeking to help readers realize the truth about Autism, Autism's False Prophets is a much need read, not to be missed. (Midwest Book Review)
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Top Customer Reviews
You can believe Jenny, who has absolutely no medical background, buy her questionable products and try to "cure" your autistic child.
Or you can read this book, written by Dr. Offit, who is an expert in vaccinations, infectious diseases, is a pediatrician, and who has received numerous awards for his pediatric work and research.
Autism is not really a disease, like chicken pox or pneumonia. It is a complex set of unusual behavioral symptoms. Because no cause is known, not cure is either. Parents will try anything. Sometimes, a parent gives up. Dr. Offirt relates a few stories of parents who have killed their children. It is not pretty, but relates what some parents have to go through who have severely autistic children and how they just cannot take it anymore.
If you only read Chapter One, do it...
Dr. Offir goes over a few autism solutions of the past and how they were shown not to be the cures they were supposed to be.
"Facilitated Communication": I remember that one. Early 1990's. It just didn't make sense to me. Too many great results. Children could do it with facilitators, but not with their parents at home. "If it seems to good to be true, it probably is." FC's bubble burst because of charges of one boy that his father was sexually abusing him, another fad of the same time. That led to experiments and the discovery that the facilitators were doing the communicating, not the children. It had a slow death, though.
Said one parent: "Something's happening here that is wonderful for all of us. And if it is a dream or a delusion, I'll stay on this narcotic." FC was accepted until testing was done, when it was shown to be bogus.
SECOND: Secretin. A hormone made from a pig's intestine. An autistic boy who also had GI problems, typical in autistic children, was treated with secretin. The results were totally amazing. Apart from any GI results, the child was much better behaviorally, in speech and in other area. After three months, his progress seemed to come to a halt. The mother screamed for more secretin, as she though it was curing her son's autims.
She went on several shows in 1998, explaining how her son had improved dramatically after being treated with the hormone Secretin. Other parents of autistic children who saw the shows tried to obtain it for their autistic children, and pretty soon it was in short supply, demand was higher than supply, and the price went sky high.
Finally, an American biochemist developed a synthetic form of secretin so that it would be available to the many parents who now demanded it. But first it had to get FDA approval to show that it did help autistic children's symptoms.
So double blind, control experiments were done in 1999: Half the children were given secretin and the other half served as a control group received a placebo, salt water, although the doctors and parents did not know who received what.
Results? The children who received the secretin hormone WERE dramatically better than before they took it parents reported. But the same results were reported re: the children who had received the placebo, salt water.
Moral: Anecdotal evidence is worthless. Only double blind, controlled experiments reveal the efficacy of a treatment. Especially in cases of autism treatments where drugs, vitamins, herbs, chelation, alternative meds, etc, are pushed as cures for autism.
For those in the medical and allied professions who understand the scientific process, hypothesis, testing and study results (a group I am a part of) this book makes a fascinating summary of a very controversial topic.
For those who have decided that the real causes of Autism are being hidden and denied by the medical profession, the Government and corporate interests; in other words, people who have made up their minds about Autism and refuse to accept current medical thinking: don't waste your time- this book will only make you angry.
But for those readers who are unsure...who think there may be some truth in the assertion that vaccines cause Autism...or that mercury preservatives cause Autism...or that there are some alternative therapies that can cure Autism but are shunned by mainstream medicine: this book is a MUST read for them.
Paul Offit takes the reader through the whole sad saga of the Autism debate and presents a cogent and reasoned argument for why the evidence overwhelmingly points to the fact that vaccines or their components do not cause Autism. The sad fact is that the Autism debate has been hijacked by parents who, while deeply loving their children, and wanting to do anything to help them, have been swayed by emotive and unscientific pronouncements, all of which can cause more heartache. Paul Offit presents the scientific facts about Autism: and for such an emotive topic, arguments free of emotion or vested interest, other than the truth, are sorely needed.
Very highly recommended.