On Thursday February 17, Dr. Oz will be dedicating his popular daytime TV show to the topic of autism.
To create the program, parents were invited to a "Town Hall" event: "...for parents of children 0-12 months that are worried their children may be diagnosed with autism, as well as parents of children with autism." The blurb describing the show says "The diagnosis parents fear most. Tune in."
I received a press release yesterday listing all of the program's planned guests - an eclectic mix which should provide some significant fireworks and debate. Here's the release:
Every 15 minutes, a family hears a diagnosis they fear the most. Today for the first time in the show's history, Dr. Oz is holding a town hall style discussion on the disorder that affects 1 in 110 U.S. kids: Autism. Panelists Alison Singer, President of The Autism Science Foundation, Dr. Bob Sears, pediatrician and author of The Autism Book & The Vaccine Book, Dr. Irva Hertz Picchiotto, environmental epidemiologist at the Mind Institute at U.C. Davis, Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician, AAP spokesperson and author of Expecting 411 and pediatricians Dr. Moshe Lazar,Pediatric Associates of Brooklyn LLP, Dr. Walter Molofsky, director of Pediatric Neurology, Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Dr.Lori Zbar, Mount Sinai Pediatrics, Dr. Michael E. Gabriel, Gabriel Pediatrics and PATH Family Center, Dr. Andrew Adesman, Chief of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics at Schneider Children's Hospital, Dr. George Lazarus, New York-Presbyterian hospital and Lenox Hill Hospital join the conversation about autism including the risks, importance of early detection and intervention. Parents Andrea (Bellmore, NY), Charles (Rosedale, NY),Kirsten (New York, NY), Janine (West New York, NJ), Tehya (New York, NY), Nancy (New York, NY), Arnand (Scarsdale, NY), Jennifer (New York, NY), Melissa (Floral Park, NY), Nicole (Yonkers, NY), Sharon (Rosedale, NY), Katherine (Greenwich, CT) and Jill (Totowa, NJ) ask questions, raise their concerns and share their fears and stories of autism.
What is Dr. Oz's perspective on autism? It's a little unclear, especially since the Dr. Oz website, while it's loaded with questions and answers about autism, features answers NOT from Dr. Oz (as advertised) but from the Cleveland Clinic. If we go by the Cleveland Clinic's responses to questions about autism, the perspective is very mainstream. For example, their answer to a question about preventing autism in utero is simply: "Stay healthy, eat right, and follow your doctor's orders. There are no specific steps you can take other than those mentioned. Just try to be as healthy as you can."
And here's the "Ask Dr. Oz" response to the a question about vaccines causing autism (again provided by the Cleveland Clinic):
The available scientific evidence indicates that vaccines don't cause autism. The recent finding about a girl who experienced a negative reaction to a vaccine with autism symptoms resulting was due to a preexisting metabolic disorder that was made worse by the vaccine. This is very different than what most people mean when they are asking whether vaccines cause autism. If vaccines do play a role, it is in making symptoms worse or more noticeable as would any immune challenge. The data on this will continue to be collected, but given the strong genetic basis of autism, it can be said that it is unlikely that any environmental event, including vaccinations, plays a big role in the majority of cases of autism.
All this seems very straightforward - until you listen to Dr. Oz himself on autism in this recent talk about vaccines on The View. On the one hand, Oz tells parents to follow the vaccine schedule that's recommended - but on the other hand he seems perfectly comfortable with the idea that parents might "spread vaccines out" if they have concerns about autism. He says on the one hand that vaccines are safe and beneficial, but on the other hand seems to be saying that at least some children who "were going to get autism anyway," or who are vaccinated while suffering from the flu, or who have a sibling with autism, might indeed develop autism as a result of vaccines.
If you're a Dr. Oz fan (or foe) you probably know much more than I do about what to expect from Thursday's show. Share your thoughts, concerns and insights!