I’m so glad Andy Wakefield
finally has the chance to tell his story. Perhaps no debate on
the planet right now is more confusing, more conflicting, or
more maddening for parents than the debate over the causes and
treatments of autism.
As the parent of a child who regressed into autism after his
vaccinations, I have always considered Andy Wakefield to
represent the kind of doctor and scientist who will ultimately
help us end the epidemic of children with autism.
If you understand Andy’s story completely, I think you will
quickly realize that he did the sort of thing most of us expect
out of our doctors and something most of us were taught by the
time we were in kindergarten: he
listened closely to the stories of parents and he told the
truth. I really wish the primary trigger for autism was
something everyone could dislike like cigarettes or rat poison.
It would make ending this epidemic so much easier.
Unfortunately, it appears that a product intended for good—
vaccines—also has a dark side, which is the ability to do harm
in certain children. This ability to do harm has unfortunately
increased quite a bit in the last few decades because children
today receive so many more shots than when most parents were
I understand that a portion of the population will continue to
believe that all of us parents are crazy and that vaccines
couldn’t possibly do any harm. I really wish some of these
people could have sat with me through
the thousands of conversations I have had with parents of
children with autism who have all told me the same story: their
child was developing normally, and after each vaccine
appointment things got worse until they ended up with autism.
You hear this story once, it’s disturbing, a dozen times it
starts to feel like a pattern, a thousand times and you begin to
wonder why this is still a debate.
Andy Wakefield did the same thing. He listened to parents who
reported two things: their children with autism were suffering
from severe bowel pain, and the children regressed into autism
after vaccination. He listened, he studied, and he published
what he learned.
I believe history will be very kind to Andy Wakefield. For the
moment, he is the symbol of a very unfortunate reality, a
reality that a medical system trying to do good may have done
just the opposite. With time, I believe he will also be the
symbol of someone who stood up for truth, despite extreme
pressure to stand down.
For hundreds of thousands of parents around the world, myself
included, Andy Wakefield is a symbol of strength and conviction
that all parents of children with autism can use to fight for
truth and the best lives possible for their kids.
April 22, 2010
Los Angeles, CA