Friday, May 22, 2009

PLEASE write to Oprah

Oprah Winfrey's production company has offered Jenny McCarthy her own television show. For anyone who cares about our children's health this is horrifying, as McCarthy is one of the most irrational of the anti-vaccinationists. She champions unproven and downright dangerous treatments yet is completely ignorant about health and science. Her idea of discussion is to yell down and swear at doctors, people who have spent years learning about disease and have done it because they care about children!

In her books and videos (yes, she makes money out of this) she claims that wheat and milk affect children like marijuana, this is the level of her understanding. She originally claimed that her son was a 'Crystal child' and she was an 'indigo mom,' however she has now changed her mind and blames vaccination for his possible autism. This blog post is about her latest video and shows another letter, this shows and discusses a video of her on Larry King Live. One of the reasons she is so dangerous is because of her celebrity status, she is being used as a spokesperson by the anti-vaccination lobby. An author on the Young Australian Skeptics blog has called for letters to Oprah condemning a show for McCarthy, as have other organisations.

We cannot allow our children's health to be under the influence of people so ignorant they don't even know what they don't know. This is my letter to Oprah, it required a bit of editing because there is only a 2000 character limit.

Dear Oprah,

I write as a concerned parent about the decision to give Jenny McCarthy a TV show. Your television shows are major sources mothers are turning to for the latest information and are very influential.

Your experiences in Africa will have given you an appreciation of the devastation of infectious diseases. They are killers of children, those who survive can be left with shattering disabilities including brain damage. It is vaccination that gives us our relative safety, not only directly but through herd immunity there is some safety for those who cannot be immunised. When people decide not to immunise it is a decision that affects other vulnerable children as well.

Science is our most reliable way of learning about the world. Our society is based on science – every time we switch on a TV or drive a car over a bridge, we know we are safe because science works. Science based medicine has given us treatments for cancer, diagnostic tools such as ultrasounds and the antibiotics which have saved literally millions. It has also given us vaccines, and demonstrated over and over again that they are not linked to autism. There is no link between mercury and autism, the evidence for a link between the MMR and autism was fraudulent, and you receive more antigens directly to your bloodstream from brushing your teeth than you do from a vaccination. Having an autistic child is a challenge to any family, but wasting time and money vilifying vaccines does not help those families. Let’s put that effort where it belongs – supporting autistic children.

Even without the evidence against her, is Jenny McCarthy a fit person to front one of your shows? Her language and behaviour are offensive, as a mother and a consumer I can’t support her. Maybe controversy sells on TV, but by shutting down discussion and refusing debate she is not helping children, she is hurting them. She supports ignorance and hatred rather than openness and learning. Is this the image you want to be associated with?

I can only hope that you will listen. Listen to mothers, listen to scientists, listen to people who have spent time and energy to learn. Rather than being taken in by arrogance and emotion and ultimately misusing your power and influence in a way you may come to regret.

Please write your own letter here. The more of us who write, Oprah and her production company may realise what a terrible mistake it would be to encourage those who know so little that they are truly dangerous.

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