Jenny McCarthy and autism quackery
Thank you, Joseph for posting these links to blogs on Jenny McCarthy
Jenny McCarthy has written a book, Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism. The book is receiving widespread publicity in the USA because of McCarthy’s celebrity status as an ex Playboy centrefold who turned to a career as an actor and a writer. So it is no surprise that her book is expected to climb up the best seller lists.
We live in a world where celebrity endorsement is often given more credence than evidence based judgements. Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), a Californian support group, which believes that autism is caused by thimerosal in vaccines and is reversible using biomedical interventions, has just recruited McCarthy as their official spokesperson. In reacting against what one commenter on Left Brain/Right Brain referred to as this ”celebritization of expertise,” it would be just as easy to discount McCarthy’s views because of who she is; just as easy and just as wrong.
I do not blame McCarthy for taking advantage of her celebrity status to get her message across. Having done so, we should critique her message rather than her status. McCarthy’s most important point concerns her injunction to, “Listen to your instincts. Follow your heart.”
“Because a child with autism has their own unique issues, it really is important that you use your mommy instinct when dealing with all the types of therapy that are available to you.”
When I read of children being abused or killed during so called ‘therapies’ while the parents stand by or even participate, I often wonder how many of them have been persuaded to suppress their parental instincts by feelings of powerlessness induced by the mystique that often surrounds autism reinforced by the status of the ’expert’ they are consulting. Every parent should be encouraged to follow their instincts. If it feels wrong it probably is wrong.
McCarthy goes on to say;
“When you meet your DAN! doctor you will get thrown so much information, so many different choices and things that you can choose. I did not want to make Evan a guinea pig. I wanted to go inside and listen to my instincts on what was most necessary and what made sense, type of treatment for Evan.”
When I go to the doctor I expect him or her to give me the medical advice. If there are choices to be made I expect guidance. If McCarthy is saying that DAN! practitioners hit you with this great wad of information and you are expected to evaluate it yourself and make your own treatment choices, then this is not empowering parents or respecting our instincts. This is health care professionals abrogating their responsibility to offer the best advice. Instead they are expecting us to evaluate the evidence and make the treatment choices. This must prove very handy if things go wrong.
Follow your instinct. Listen to the experts. Can we do both? Yes. You always follow your mommy instinct, or your daddy instinct for that matter, to keep your child from harm. That is a natural reaction. But there are times when you have to be proactive. When reflecting on the evidence or evaluating conflicting theories you have to rely on your intellect rather than your instinct and remember that Google is a synonym for “search” and not “research.” Otherwise you may finish up like Jenny McCarthy, lurching from new age mysticism to quack science without a second thought, or even a first thought.
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