Friday, January 9, 2009

Media Continues to Fuel Fear and Ignorance

Thursday nights are my television nights. It begins with Ugly Betty at 8, followed by Grey's Anatomy (YAY!), and now...Private Practice. For those who have never seen it, it is about a practice of doctors who offer all-around medicine. They have a Psychiatrist, a Pediatrician, 2 OB/GYNs, a Family Medicine Doc, an Alternative practitioner ( he does acupuncture, herbal therapy, etc ), and even a male student midwife who doubles as receptionist.

In the past, Private Practice hasn't exactly been unbiased in what they show for plot lines. In one episode, Addison Shepard made it perfectly clear that waterbirths are dangerous, disgusting, and a wading pool for disease.

Last night, I was beyond horrified and enfuriated with what I saw. It was media scare tactics at its best.

I'm not saying this in a judgemental way, but let's get serious for a minute here. The average American woman doesn't bother researching things like childbirth, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, circumcision, or vaccination past what easy-read books like "What To Expect...", "Girlfriend's Guide...", and their favorite shows have to offer. Ladies, I hate to tell you, but this is NOT research.

Last night's episode happened to be about vaccinations. There was a mother who had been coming to the Practice for years, since her oldest son was a baby. Apparently after his 2 year shots, he developed Autism. She blamed it on the vaccinations, as the symptoms appeared immediately after a round of boosters. She chose to not vaccinate anymore, which meant not vaccinating her younger sons at all. In this episode, she comes back from a trip from Switzerland, and it is found that her younger son has the Measles. The practice flips out, quarantines everyone until they can get vaccination confirmation on everyone...and then proceeds to talk horribly about the woman who did not vaccinate.

The words "Child Abuse" were thrown in. It was debated at the round table discussion of doctors whether or not the pediatrician should FORCE the mother to vaccinate the sick child, and the other 2 as well. Only 2 ( reluctantly, I might add ) out of 7 said that it should be the parents' choice. The other 5 said that it was child abuse, and that the pediatrician should report the mother to Child Services.

The child gets worse, and *dies* from the measles. After the child is pronounced dead, the pediatrician goes out into the waiting room with a syringe of the measles vaccine, and vaccinates the other child against the mother's consent.

At first mom cries and screams, saying she will SUE the doctor, IF the child has any adverse reactions...and then is lamenting over causing her son to die because she chose not to vaccinate.

Is this is what people are resorting to? Seriously?

The average American parent gets their information from sources like this. They see this, through an emotional episode, then agree with how crazy and stupid people are for choosing alternatives in the health of their children.

I admit - I was crying. For a SPLIT SECOND, I second guessed my choice in not vaccinating. And then I realized that if I, who have DONE a lot of research on this, was having a split second of questioning...what are ignorant mothers/parents doing after this episode? The ones who HAVEN'T done the research?

Let's get one thing straight....if vaccinations protect against these diseases, why on earth are the parents of VACCINATED children freaking out here?

Secondly, the TINY population of children who are NOT vaccinated, are not going to cause an outbreak of rare disease that's going to kill everyone. Again, if you're vaccinated and your children are vaccinated...what's the worry? Those of us "crazies" will all die off, and you won't have anything to worry about. ;)

And child abuse? Social Services? Is this what our society is boiling down to? I believe it's MAJOR child abuse to have parents smoke inside the home where children live and sleep. Am I calling child services though? I believe it's child abuse to have alcoholic adults in the homes where children reside.

The media has already succeeded in fueling the fear surrounding childbirth. Are we going to let them do it to vaccinations?

One of the ways that the government and the media fuels this fear, is by making the number of deaths in these cases sound huge!

Unfortunately, the death rate among those who contract measles has risen recently in the United States from one in 1,000 cases to 3.2 in 1,000 cases. This higher death rate in people who contract measles seems to be due to infection of very young children who have not received the vaccine and older children and young adults who have not been fully vaccinated.

You tell me...over how many years have we seen a total of 1,000 cases in the US? The "outbreak" in 2005 was said to be the largest in YEARS...and that totaled 66 cases. So we have, what?, roughly 3.2 deaths due to measles in the past decade? Two? Three? And how many of those were the elderly, or the ones with already weakened immune systems?

As I said...the media has a way to make everything look so scary. Let's do our own research parents!


Anonymous said...

I too was taken aback by the entire tone of the show, not to mention the blatant medical abuse that occurred when the doctor gave the child the vax without consent. We who are educated know what the show depicted was just that, a scare tactic, showing an extreme, but left to the viewer as thinking it's the "norm". I have written the producers with my shock and disgust, and linked them with information. I'm sure we'll all be ignored, but I tried. AUGH!

Anonymous said...

Like many dramas today, I think that show got its premise from the outbreak in San Diego, which I heard about on NPR's This American Life. (You can hear the whole episode online... stick around for the comedian's story -- about something entirely different -- it's HILARIOUS). No one died, but 11 were infected and 60+ quarantined. It's an interesting listen, if you have an hour.