Saturday, February 2, 2008

Diagnosing on Prime Time

Autism has been at the forefront of media attention for some time now taking the place of ADHD in pop-culture diagnosis. A while back I saw Jenny McArthy on Oprah discussing her then new book about her autistic son. I applauded her then, as I still do, for letting the public into such a personal and real situation. The media and information age fueled by the internet provide both help in raising children as well as providing an over abundance of information. Information is good, it creates an informative parent, but when does it cross the line to harmful?

ABC released a new television show this week, Eli Stone. The commercials for the show were entertaining. A lawyer suddenly starts seeing visions in his daily life due to a medical condition. No where in the shows concept does it claim to be medically correct. In fact, the premise involves vivid hallucinations involving such pop icons as George Michael. Yet many people seem to have expressed concern about the show and the information it provides for parents. In the first episode he tries a case in which a family sues a pharmaceutical company claiming the mercury in vaccinations made their child autistic. The family comes out on top. Parents of children with autism and such groups as American Academy of Pediatrics have expressed concerned about the show and asked ABC to cancel their premire. I didn't realize that ABC was a medical expert.

The truth is, no one really knows what causes autism, but there has certianly been no proof that it is because of mercury in vaccinations. The fear of an autistic child still creates situations where parents refuse vaccinations. But I sincerely hope that parents aren't getting their medical advice from prime time television. Next thing you know people will be scared of bringing the dead back to life, as on Pushing Daisies, or believe that if they find the island on LOST they will be cured of all ailments. Yes, this new show is more realistic but I would hope that parents have enough sense not to jump from a television show to canceling their child's next doctors appointment.

ABC agreed to a disclaimer on the subject. But if these parents and pediatricians are so concerned about the issue at hand I think there are other issues they should be focusing on. On watching a local news show about a year ago their was a segment on the under diagnosis of ADHD, I was appalled. Before I went to prime time television I would go to news shows and parent magazines, or even straight to the schools.

I think my disclaimer would read as follows, "Please avoid getting all medical advice from prime time television. Consult a real doctor or newspaper and have a nice day.

No comments: