Private Practice Takes On Anti-Vaxxers
I have a lot of guilty TV pleasures, one of which is Private Practice, a spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy, on ABC. However, I gained a new level of respect for the show upon watching last nights episode, which dealt with anti-vaxxers and the vaccine-autism myth, and did so quite well. You can watch the episode on abc.com but I will give a brief summary (spoiler alert) after the jump. A mother of three brings her sons to Dr. Cooper Freedman, the pediatrician at Oceanside Wellness. The eldest of the three sons, Jeffery, has autism, and the family just got back from an experimental treatment program in Switzerland. However, they are at the doctors office for the second oldest son, Michael, who according to the mother, “caught a cold on the plane.” However, Cooper quickly realizes that that Michael has the measles. It is made clear that the mother has not vaccinated her two younger sons, Michael and Will, after Jeffery showed symptoms of autism around the same time he was vaccinated. Cooper tries to convince the mother that there is no link between vaccinations and autism, but the mother interjects, claiming that she has spoken to “dozens of parents” and it was like “a light went out in him” after he was vaccinated. Cooper is unable to convice the mother to vaccinate.
We then see Cooper talking to the other doctors in the practice about the situation. They are currently in the process of shutting their doors and looking at all their patients records to see whether they have been vaccinated or whether are at risk for catching the measles from Michael. There is some disagreement among the doctors about whether practices should refuse to treat patients who have not been vaccinated, but it is clear that all of the doctors agree that vaccinations do not cause autism. Here is the dialog from that scene:
Dr. Naomi Bennet: Whether or not to vaccinate should not even be open for debate
Dr. Cooper Freedman: Well, it isn’t, but I agree with the Academy of American Pediatrics that we shouldn’t abandon patients who choose not to vaccinate.
Dr. Peter Wilder: Cooper’s right. We can’t kick a kid out just cause the parents believe in a conspiracy theory about vaccines.
Dr. Sam Bennet: The CDC is clear, vaccines do not cause autism, they save lives, end of story.
The strong pro-vaccination stance from these TV doctors is refreshing. I was worried that the show would feel the need to present two sides of an issue in which one side is clearly right (as the media so often does).
Micheal’s conditions worsens and he ends up in the ICU. Cooper tries again to convince the mother to vaccinate her youngest son, who is obviously at risk for getting the measles from his brother, but she still objects, telling the doctor: “I don’t care what you know. I know what I know. I know what I lost. I can’t risk it again.”
Cooper is talking to the rest of the doctors again and some of them suggest that he report the mother to family services, since she is “knowingly putting her child at risk for getting really sick.” However, two of the doctors object to this (interestingly, the psychiatrist and the eastern medicine guy), stating that it should be a parents choice whether or not to vaccinate.
Meanwhile, Michael is just getting worse. He is unable to breathe and Cooper intubates him. After doing so, Cooper walks out into the lobby and gives Will, the youngest son, the MMR vaccine. Obviously, the mother freaks out and threatens to sue. Just as she is yelling at Cooper, there is a code blue from Michael’s room. Cooper is unable to resuscitate him, and he dies.
I thought it was very brave of the show to take on anti-vaxxers, and I’m betting they are going to get some very angry emails in the next few days. I also think they handled the issue quite well. With people like Jenny McCarthy out there, we need more voices in the media dispelling the vaccine-autism myth.