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Show About Discredited Science Airs Tonight « The Washington Independent

Despite protest from the American Academy of Pediatrics, ABC has decided to air the controversial first episode of its daffy new show “Eli Stone” tonight. It’s about a money-grubbing drug company-representing lawyer who has a saintly conversion and helps a winsome momma win $5 million by convincing a jury that the mercury-containing preservative in a flu vaccine–thimerosal–gave her kid autism.

The AAP wanted ABC to cancel the show because the narrative gives credence to a theory long-since discredited by science. In doing so it may lead parents–especially the dopey ones who get their medical advice from fantastic TV dramas–to avoid vaccinating their kids. AAP’s effort elicited howls from David Kirby that it was trying to “crush artistic freedom.” Kirby’s tendentious 2006 book Evidence of Harm is largely responsible for the vaccines-cause-autism zeitgeist. In the face of growing evidence against his thesis, he’s been getting more and more shrill on Huffpo. (Yo, David. The AAP is a prestigious group, but it certainly doesn’t have the power to “crush artistic freedom” even if it wanted to).

The vaccines-cause-autism meme is particularly strong among Hollywood celebrities, fictional and otherwise. In the movie “Knocked Up,” for example, Katherine Hegl’s sister doesn’t vaccinate her kids. Anne Sweeney, president of ABC-Disney TV Group, sent her autistic child to a therapy center where most parents are obsessed with vaccines, according to a parent whose child was there. ABC will run a “this is just fiction” disclaimer on the show. What the hell, it’s all good publicity, right? But pediatricians–that’s kid doctors, for those of you who don’t know any–are worried. When vaccination rates in communities fall below certain levels, diseases like whooping cough and mumps can make comebacks. To get a share of the news cycle, the AAP yesterday released early a study from an upcoming issue of its journal, *Pediatrics *that adds more evidence thimerosal is quickly flushed out of the bodies of babies. This is not a major study, however, and it won’t convince any diehards. Besides, as I predicted in my book *Vaccine *(pp 421-3), the slow death of the thimerosal theory is only leading vaccine opponents like Barbara Loe Fisher to blame vaccines in general for autism.

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