Hear the Silence
A GP explains why he will not be staying quiet about Channel Five's 'scientifically dishonest and emotionally manipulative' MMR drama.
Hear the Silence, a UK documentary drama that portrays the flawed case against the MMR vaccine in a sympathetic light, has sparked controversy. A number of senior doctors have argued that the film is partial and misleading, and decided to boycott a discussion about MMR to be shown immediately afterwards on Channel Five. Dr Michael Fitzpatrick explains why he will not be joining the boycott:
Hear the Silence is a scientifically dishonest and emotionally manipulative film which can only compound the distress already experienced by families affected by autism as a result of the anti-MMR campaign. This campaign has made parents feel guilty that, by giving their children the MMR vaccine, they may have contributed to the development of autism – a notion for which there is, after more than five years, still not a shred of scientific evidence. It has also dragged more than 1000 families into a prolonged process of litigation (now halted by the Legal Services Commission), which could only lead to disappointment and disillusionment.
The campaign has also generated enormous anxiety among parents facing the decision over whether to give their children MMR – one of the most effective and safest vaccines in history – with the result that outbreaks of measles, mumps and rubella are now threatened. As a drama, Hear the Silence makes Wife Swap look sophisticated.
I can well understand why several leading authorities in the field of vaccines and child health have decided not to participate in the debate scheduled by Channel 5 to follow the broadcast of Hear the Silence. But I believe that the stakes in this debate are too high to allow the anti-MMR case to go unchallenged. As the parent of an autistic child and as a GP involved on a daily basis with families affected by this scare, I have been too directly affected by it to forgo the opportunity for our voice to be heard.
Viewers of Hear the Silence should know that the pro-MMR experts have refused to participate in the debate because they are outraged that such an utterly groundless scare is being given still more publicity. I would like to make it clear that I have decided to participate in this discussion as a parent of an autistic child and as a GP – not as a specialist in this area.
I also want to say that, just because we as parents have experienced this tragedy in our lives, this does not mean that we have been given a licence to be irresponsible in our reactions, and thereby to visit tragedy on other families. We have a duty to listen to the unanimous opinion of the real experts in this field.
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick is the author of MMR and Autism, Routledge, 2004 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)); and The Tyranny of Health: Doctors and the Regulation of Lifestyle, Routledge, 2000 (buy this book from Amazon UK or Amazon USA). He is also a contributor to Alternative Medicine: Should We Swallow It? Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).
MMR: Fact and fiction, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick
Hear the Silence, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, in the British Medical Journal
TV UK, 18 December, by Dolan Cummings
spiked-issue: MMR vaccine
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