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Posted by on Feb 18, 2011 in Children's Health, Help for Parents, In the News, Vaccinations in Children | 2 comments

Dr. Oz: Autism, fear, and “good TV”

I was looking forward to the Dr. Oz program entitled, “What Causes Autism?” As a pediatrician on the front lines, caring the future generation, I also want to find the answer. I was promised a show reflecting a collaboration of ideas and differing opinions. I wanted to hear about the latest research, the new theories, and the promising leads. I was hopeful that as a prominent health care voice, this show would be different. This time, a show about autism would move the discussion forward.

I was optimistic when Allison Singer, founder/president of Autism Science Foundation and mother of an autistic child, began speaking for the panel of experts. She stated,

We know that there is a strong genetic component to autism. We know this because of twin studies. For example, identical twins share 100% of their DNA. If one twin is diagnosed with autism, the likelihood that the other twin will also be diagnosed with autism is 90%. But 90% is not 100%. So we know that there has to be some environmental component that is interacting with the genes to cause autism. We have ruled out some environmental factors already, like vaccines, but there are many more environmental factors that have to be studied. And that’s why it is so important that we do the research.

After that glimmer of productive conversation, the show took an unfortunate turn into the death-spiral of yelling and blame. Dr. Oz sucked the discussion back into the black hole that is the vaccination debate. I was left feeling disappointed, let down, frustrated.

I felt the majority of the show that followed was clearly guided by biased direction, and basic fear-mongering techniques. I found Dr. Oz’s introduction offensive towards the families of children with autism, implying their child was the face of every mother’s fear. Even his very “definition” of autism was sensationalized, stating autism “robs a child of their emotional foundation.” Most upsetting was Dr. Oz’s brief, but powerful, comments regarding a delayed vaccine schedule. These misguided comments are damaging in two ways: they put children at risk for infections disease while getting us no closer to the truth about what causes autism.

I thought we, as a community, had turned a corner. For the sake of the kids struggling with autism, I thought we could get beyond what we have already disproven and spend time with the living knowledge of new research and development. Please tell me more about research being done on the genetic predisposition, the environmental triggers, the dietary changes. Tell all of us something besides overdone arguments fueling fire under the dead horse of the Vaccine/Autism debate. It is tiring, and tiresome.

This show was another example of well-meaning people losing sight of the common ground that we have. We ALL want to find the cause for autism. As we have these discussions, we must remember that central truth. United in our common goal, we find power and focus. Divided, we have chaos and “good TV.”

Let us instead choose to turn our eyes toward those truly fighting to find a cause and cure for autism. Give time and credit to the next generation of researchers, epidemiologists, and scientists who are devoting their careers to finding what so many parents of autistic children are desperately searching for. It would be a crowning achievement if the true cause(s) will be discovered during our lives. And the fear can be left behind us.

Click here for Dr. Ari Brown’s response to being on the show. Click here for a statement regarding why Autism Speaks chose not to appear on the show.


  1. The Dr Oz show was as predetermined and the trial of Dr Andrew Wakefield. They made sure they slipped Wakefield in too. Wakefield is utilized as being the messiah of the anti-MMR and more generally anti-vaccine. They continue to use him as the whipping boy, because he appears unable or unwilling to fight back. Wakefield’s professional castration and subsequent crucifixion has been cited over and over as if is proves there is no vaccine/ autism connection.

  2. I have created a petition online in the hopes of getting enough signatures to convince Dr. Oz and his producers to do a follow-up show. This time to talk about the ASD community, our fight, our love, our support for one another. To talk about early intervention, therapies and treatments. We shouldn’t be showing parents who think having autistic kids is a burden, instead we should show the good moments and how wonderful our kids are. We need to educate everyone of the real meaning of autism. Together I am confident that we can. Feel free to click on the link on my name or go to

    Thank you!


  1. Tweets that mention Dr. Oz: Autism, fear, and “good TV” | KC Kids Doc -- - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lance Agena, Jennifer Gunter and Natasha Burgert, Natasha Burgert. Natasha Burgert said: …
  2. Dr Brown on Dr Oz: Autism and Immunizations | Seattle Mama Doc - [...] post she wrote after being on the show. Many other pediatricians are writing about the show; read Dr Natasha …

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