Consequences and dangers of free speech
by leboudoir on April 3, 2015 - 5:29pm
In a democratic political system, people have freedom of speech, however, abusing such power, can lead to dangerous consequences. A recent controversy, which started in 1998, still causes confusion today, the research of Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist medical doctor who, under false pretenses, stated that the measles vaccine MMR causes autism in young children. Many research scientists have worked to prove that such theory is completely wrong, but even so, there are still people who now have their own belief on the matter, which supports Wakefield’s unethical research and irrelevant conclusions.
Furthermore, through news outlets such as online newspapers, TV and interviews, there are people who comment and question the effectiveness of the measles vaccine. Celebrities open up on the issue and express their own personal opinion which lacks in validity. However, because of their influential power on the public, people start agreeing with them and choose to not vaccinate their children against the measles. As a result, this shows an increase of the disease throughout the population even more so in countries where the constitution does not obligate parents to vaccinate their children, such is the case in the United States. Everything surrounding this medical subject is caused by the conflict between free expression and the dangers of it.
Moreover, Jenny McCarthy, a famous TV host and former Play Boy model, questions the safety of vaccine components and she expresses this opinion in public. The power associated to her fame can make people change their views and believe that indeed the measles vaccine causes autism. Her credibility in the public eye is strongly increased also by the fact that she has a ten year old autistic boy and this gets her empathy from the people. In an interview, she explains that she is not against vaccines altogether, instead she wants vaccines that are not toxic and that if she could choose between having a child suffering from measles or from autism, she would definitely opt for the measles (Kluger). Following her hypothesis, Dr. Paul Offit explains that vaccines are the safest substances injected in the human body, safer even than vitamins or antibiotics (Conis). Consequently, before opening up on such controversial matters, especially ones of medical concern, a celebrity who is unfamiliar or uneducated in the science field should do some research beforehand, in order to avoid any misconception.
Furthermore, the media coverage of the story regarding the link between MMR and autism puts so much emphasis on this subject that constantly listening to such news increases confusion and doubt among parents. For example,
U.S. newspapers mentioned the link four hundred times in 2001 and more than three thousand times in 2009. And there were five times the number of evening news stories on the link in 2010 than there had been in 2001. (Conis)
However, the same way that false information is spread, valid information can be spread as well, but even so, parents continue to fear the worse and refuse the MMR vaccine for their children. This choice leads to dangerous consequences and many children catch measles and spread it around to others. What is worse is that since there are children who are allergic to the MMR vaccine and cannot get it anyways, being exposed to the disease can be fatal for them.
Moreover, some articles try to clear out the confusion but some are not. For those supporting Wakefield’s theory, their media outspread on the subject is unethical. First, because one reason pushing them to debate on the matter is to get high ratings thus increase their profit and secondly, they take their information online from unreliable sources nonrelated to any scientific argument.
In conclusion, to raise awareness on the fraudulent article written by Andrew Wakefield, people should know that his medical license has been removed, that he was not specialized in any science related to the brain and that the data supporting his research was modified in order to make his results plausible. In addition, parents who fear for their children’s life tend to believe what they want to hear and those accusing their child’s autism to vaccines try to through away their blame because in reality autism is a genetic disease. Some believe that the reason why more infants and children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is due to vaccines, but actually it is due to the improvements of technology. Many symptoms can be misleading since some individuals can just simply have a slower social development than others or if they do not, then they are tested for substance poisoning.
Benson, Jonathan. “Breaking: Courts Discreetly Confirm MMR Vaccine Causes Autism.” NaturalNews. N.p., 03 Sept. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
Chai, Carmen. “Jenny McCarthy Backtracking on Anti-vaccination, but Is It Too Late?” Global News. Shaw Media Inc. 2015, 16 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
Conis, Elena. “Jenny McCarthy’s New War on Science: Vaccines, Autism and the Media’s Shame.” Saloncom RSS. N.p., 8 Nov. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
Kluger, Jeffrey. “Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines.” Time. Time Inc., 01 Apr. 2009. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.