The title of this post may suggest I’m making a point that’s beyond obvious. But sometimes the obvious needs to be stated, especially when it comes to the anti-vaccine movement. I was appalled after watching this clip from CBS news about Alex Spourdalakis, a 14-year old boy with severe autism who was brutally murdered by his mother and caregiver. The clip involves CBS journalist Sharyl Attkisson who is demonstrably anti-vaccine. So what does a well-known anti-vaccine journalist have to do with the brutal filicide of a 14-year old autistic boy?
In the clip, Attkisson shows clips from a documentary that was being filmed by the Autism Media Channel (more on this in a moment) in the months prior to Spourdalakis’s murder. There are some very disturbing scenes, including Alex fighting 4-point restraints. To me, the clips assembled by Attkisson paints a very sympathetic picture of the mother – focusing more on her “tireless struggles” and her claims that Alex’s medical needs went unaddressed and unheeded, so she could help him “recover”. The clip doesn’t even mention that the mother and the caregiver carefully planned the murder, which started with giving him an overdose of his prescription drugs. When that didn’t kill him, Alex’s mother stabbed him in the heart four times, and then cut his wrist, nearly severing his hand. After he died, they then killed the family cat and both took an overdose of drugs themselves, but failed to kill themselves. Both have been charged with first degree murder.
What’s not mentioned in the clip is that Alex’s case had been taken up by the “autism biomed” movement, and Alex was held up as a victim of vaccine harms. Help had been offered, and it had been refused by the mother. Alex and his mother had been visited by (disgraced and stripped of his medical licence) Andrew Wakefield, who used his case to make an appeal for money. Wakefield, perhaps not surprisingly, he’s one of the Directors of the Autism Media Channel. So also not surprisingly, Alex’s mother believed that vaccines caused her son’s autism. In her words, before his death:
Vaccines have maimed too many already and there are many more to come. The CDC’s latest stats confirm that. We are not going away, nor are we giving up. My son Alex is just one of millions of children and adults who no longer will be silenced. We as a group have been deceived and lied to long enough. Our children have paid and are continuing to pay the ultimate price because of greed. The health care system has failed terribly. It is our responsibility to continue to bring about change.
These types of delusions about vaccines are sadly quite prevalent among a small but very vocal segment of the autism community, who view autism as an avoidable disease, that can potentially be “recovered” from. Hence they reject “conventional” medical treatments because they don’t confirm to the beliefs about the cause of the disease. Hence the appeal of the “autism biomed” movement that espouses bizarre treatments (like bleach enemas) with the intent of “curing” autism. As David Gorski noted last week:
The entire narrative of the autism biomed movement is that autism “stole” the parents’ “real child” away from them. Since the idea that vaccines cause autism is basically holy writ for the autism biomed movement, that means vaccines “stole” the real child away by making him autistic. Parents who try to “recover” that “real” child are thus viewed as heroic, rather than abusive, because they’re willing to do whatever it takes to defeat the scourge of autism (and vaccines) in order to rescue the “real” child within. One can’t help but wonder whether what was really happening was that DFCS was going to put Alex into a conventional long term care facility because his mother clearly couldn’t handle him anymore and was treating him with autism biomed. Unfortunately, it appears from what we know right now that Alex’s mother seems to have thought that he would be better-off dead than not being given access to what she viewed as “curative” treatments for autism. Events and evidence from the investigation and trial might prove that initial assessment incorrect, but for now it seems to fit with what we know.
It’s horrifying when a parent murders a child. It’s unbelievable when an anti-vaccine journalist paints the story in a sympathetic light. Even Age of Autism, the notorious anti-vaccine blog, is thrilled with the coverage and with Sharyl Attkisson. The only sensible voice in the clip comes from Ari Ne’eman of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network:
I think an ideology, a dangerous ideology that preaches that people are better off dead than disabled is what led to Alex Spourdalakis’ murder.
Your child having autism doesn’t give you the right to murder him. Yet some anti-vaccinationists, and CBS, seem to be strongly sympathetic to the idea.