While we were looking at the "big fish"-- the typical assortment of Japanese Koi that you would find at the entrance of a restaurant-- in the pond at the front of the store, a women and her autistic daughter entered so her daughter could feed the "big fish." While Megs and Sweet Toddler J went to look at other fish, the women with the autistic daughter turned to me and said:
How cute your son, I mean daughter,-- I just saw the blue jacket-- is. I just wanted to let you know, watch the children when they receive their shots. Watch them after every shot and every booster. I worked full time and never could pay that close attention... Now I want to tell people.... My daughter, at age three, lost all language, the ability to point, to jump... It's the mercury. I just want to tell parents because no one told me. Do your research. But I just feel as if I need to tell people.
Now, certainly there is a lot to unpack in this scenario. First, if one were to "do your research," a person would find that, first, the scientist who claimed there was a connection with the MMR shots and autism would find out that the scientist manipulated the data to create the appearance of a link.
In addition, a recent court case that reviewed the evidence between the shots with mercury and autism and, consequently, ruled against families who brought forth a suit against drug companies, also found that no link existed between the shots and autism. According to CNN, in the trial, scientists have failed to establish a link between the shots and audience. Of course, even with the Court's ruling, people who believed in the link rejected the Court's decision, claiming a conflict of interest existed as the Court ruled in favor of the government (Health and Human Services), since a person must bring forth a claim against HHS rather than the drug manufacturer. This tends to lead to conspiracy rhetoric though, which usually brings forth a dangerous set of arguments.
Second, even though science has failed to establish a connection, some people with autistic children still advance the argument that the shots are the cause. In my encounter, rather than mention this, for what good would it have done to disagree with here, especially at a fish store, I listened to her story. What struck my while listening to her was her outpouring of guilt ("I worked full time" and "could not pay attention,") and the scapegoating of the vaccinations, even without a evidence of a connection between the MMr vaccines and autism.
I wonder if it would be appropriate to mention this in a public setting. It seems that because of not knowing the other person, there would be no credibility to engage in a debate about this topic with the mother. Further, with her child as an inartistic proof, the mother would just say here is my daughter who regressed, especially in her communicative abilities, after receiving vaccinations.
While I certainly was not in any condition to debate with the mother, it also seems I may have an ethical responsibility as a professor to try and correct what seems to be incorrect assumptions about the link between the vaccinations and autism. I would do this in a classroom and, hence, I should be willing to do it when speaking with others about a topic I could address with some credibility. Granted, I am not a physician, but because of professional and personal relationships, I have followed this debate.