An Open Letter to News-Medical.Net

Autism Diva has an excellent piece on The Contribution of Diagnostic Substitution to the Growing Administrative Prevalence of Autism in US Special Education by Paul Shattuck.

As far as I can tell from press reports and reading the abstract of Paul Shattuck's article, one of his major points was that school administrative data could not be used to justify arguments for an autism epidemic. Safe Minds responded with a press release that misrepresented Shattuck's position as using "Department of Education data to conclude no epidemic exists," which is not the same thing at all.

This should not matter too much. A pressure group bending the truth to fit its agenda should merit little attention from serious news organizations like News-Medical.Net

News-Medical.Net is a free to access global medical news service for the consumer, medical professional and researcher. Our mission is to segment, profile and distribute medical news to the widest possible audience of potential beneficiaries. The news provided is sourced from over 6000 qualified news sources each day. With over 1.35 million visitor sessions and in excess of 3.5 million page views each month News-Medical.Net is now recognised as one of the primary sources for medical related news.

So when I read the Safe Minds press release on their web site presented as a news story I decided to write them this letter.


In your article "Study on the rise of Autism creates debate" you end by saying
"More information about the Shattuck study and autism prevalence may be found at or by calling Jamie Shor at 202-628-7772." This along with two thirds of your article is taken verbatim from a Safe Minds press release dated April 3


Safe Minds is a parent led organization that believes that autism is caused by mercury poisoning. They blame this on the ethyl mercury that was used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines until recently in the USA. They advocate chelation therapy as a cure for autism. There is no credible evidence for this position which directly contradicts the findings of the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Safe Minds are not a reliable source of information on matters medical or scientific. Nor are they a news agency. Please compare the story they gave you with the this account, which is a report on Shattuck's paper and not an attempted rebuttal posing as reportage.

You state that "The news provided is sourced from over 6000 qualified news sources each day." If Safe Minds passes as a qualified news source that does not inspire me with confidence in the rest of your output.

Mike Stanton

mailed to and posted to
April 04, 2006

4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to News-Medical.Net

  1. Everything about them is reprehensible. There is an autism community. I think we are part of it. But, in the USA at least, they seem to have outpositioned us in the eyes of the media.

    Why does idiocy have so much resonance with people and what can we do about it?

  2. Thanks Mike.

    It would seem that many in the autism community and/or the autistic community do not agree with Safe Minds, but neither do they have the money or desire to hire PR agents to spread their view in the media in such a sophisticated way.

    Actually, Sally Bernard one of the main people in Safe Minds, is also the president of “Cure Autism Now,” which also uses very sophisticated and expensive means of spreading their view, they pay agencies to help them figure out “strategies” according to their publicly available tax forms. CAN is slightly toned down compared to Safe Minds, but still pushes the mercury-causes-autism idea and the epidemic idea and funds research in the thimerosal/autism arena.

    Sally Bernard made her money in Public Relations. Whoever wants to oppose her particular view in the media have their work cut out for them. Still, I think it needs to be done. Someone needs to try to oppose the junk messages.

  3. There are some steps we can take to counter all the publicity that the quacky non-profits are getting.

    Writing editors and reporters, TV stations and radio stations. These folks will be apt to write something since this is autism awareness month.

    Those who are comfortable with being available to respond to a telephone or email interview should let that be known to all sources available.

    Writing to our local legislature when a anti-thimerosal bill is on the docket.
    (I wrote mine yesterday)

    Writing to medical boards in your state that has a Dan? “doctor”.

    The quacky groups have a head start and lots of money to pay for public relation firms and lobbyists but that doesn’t mean a real grass roots campaign can’t be effective.

    Those are just my thoughts

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