Panel of medical experts refuted by Jenny McCarthy – ABC's idea of balance?

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David Whelan of Forbes blogs about how ABC News turned to Jenny McCarthy as its one “expert” source on an autism story yesterday.

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Excerpt of his blog:

“When the medical journal Pediatrics released a consensus report yesterday by a large panel of experts saying that autistic children do not benefit from special diets, ABC News’ Diane Sawyer knew just which expert to consult. Jenny McCarthy, former MTV game show host, nude model, and now mother of an autistic son Evan, got the call and enthusiastically denounced the study. “Until doctors start listening to our anecdotal evidence, which is it’s working, it’s going to take so many more years for these kids to get better,” she said. …Is this responsible science journalism on ABC’s part?”

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Comments (18)

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Matthew Holt

January 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Gary–why don’t you understand that having great breasts makes for a great interview?

David Kroll

January 5, 2010 at 7:10 pm

After I sing the praises of the ABC News Medical Unit, this happens? Well, at least Dan Harris chose to interview me when he was anchoring this weekend.

Frank Hammer

January 11, 2010 at 8:47 am

Ms. McCarthy because she has an autistic son wishes that diets help this affliction. She want this to be true so ardently, this is true to her, even if it is not.


January 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

Pardon me, but these days while there are close to 1 in 100 children in the US now living with full-out diagnosed Autism or symptoms of a similarly challenging psycho-neurological nature, such as Asperger’s, it would behoove any and all medical experts to LISTEN to [not berate] parents, like Jenny, [no matter what her gender, professional history or size of breasts] who are THE primary care providers on a day-to-day basis with these special needs children. In this case, if changes to the DIET [to lower brain inflammation/increase antioxidant Glutathione] have shown ‘any’ success [rather than another drug] this IS an outcome for ALL to acknowledge as being beyond anecdotally useful. Otherwise, as that famous quote comes rapidly to mind, “Methinks thou doest protest too much” it is not the parents, but the abject arrogance of closed-minded experts who reveal themselves to be neither investigative nor compassionate ENOUGH. By now, what I believe is so dismally missing from the conventional provision of care is the ‘quality and quantity of human touch’ and thus, for medical experts to dismiss outright the in-place reality of any parent, this is not only a rebuff to their own Oath, but so does it reveal their professional laziness due to the lack of curiosity and a willing partnership with the family for the TEAM effort that is critically necessary when striving for common goals with any, and especially the pediatric, patient. Needless to say, if a celebrity like Jenny McCarthy can keep this topic in the news longer, I say “more power to her” since it is she who stands in a position of integrity while speaking to her daily TRUTH, not denial.

Lori P.

January 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I don’t think Jenny McCarthy or Soaring Canary actually read the journal article that Diane Sawyer was reporting on. In fact, Ms. Sawyer clearly did not read it either. But I have.
It is not a new clinical “study” as Ms. Sawyer/ABC intimated. Instead, it is the report of a panel of experts who were trying to determine if there is enough evidence to develop clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of GI complaints in children with autism. It’s actually a very reasonable article that does not condescend to parents or ignore their anecdotes. Indeed, the fact that this panel convened to look at the issue proves that they are listening to parents and taking their complaints seriously! They looked for published data to guide their recommendations, but since there aren’t a lot of published scientific data, they came to many common-sense conclusions instead.
Among many recommendations, the experts suggests that doctors take seriously a parent’s concerns and individualize their recommendations to each patient’s needs. They said while there isn’t enough data to support the efficacy of special diets for all children, there also isn’t enough evidence to rule out possible benefit. They don’t tell their colleagues to try to talk parents out of trying restrictive diets. Instead, they recommend consulting with a nutritionist to ensure that children receive appropriate nutrition while undergoing parent-chosen restrictive diets.
That Diane Sawyer got it so wrong, didn’t interview any of the authors of the paper, but instead turned for comment to a celebrity who also had not read the paper is an abomination and a prime example of irresponsible journalism.


February 3, 2010 at 7:20 pm

How sad it is when the media endorses anecdote over science.
Jenny McCarthy is subjecting her son to an afflicted lifetime. She needs to understand that by refuting every bit of scientific evidence attained about autism, she is hindering the progress that could be saving her son.


March 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm

This is what happens when persons with no scientific background or knowledge are given credibility by the media. Unfortunately they mislead others, and often cause great harm.
As a side note, Ms. McCarthy recently found out that her child is not autistic.


March 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Nobody’s an expert in most autistic cases, but the parents. Case in point: Here’s a case that’s been in news and has baffled experts for years. You can find it on you tube under:
“Portrait of severely autistic student with self-injurious behaviors” or “sweet sides of autism” or “autism epidemic out of control” Be prepared to consider this case has been seen by 23 behavioral experts….what would you do differently? What could you offer this family that they haven’t already been told and the boy hasn’t been subjected to? Most experts, don’t know, aren’t sure, are baffled or are forever looking into something. It’d be nice to see people finally admit, there just aren’t many experts out there, so we need to work as a team to bring hope, healing and awareness to the autism epidemic


November 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm

MS. McCarthy who dropped out of college the first semester and was spreading her legs in Playboy soon after, is a medical expert?
She seems as reputable as Sarah Palin on economics.
Many Autism cases are just given to parents who refuse to believe their child has Intellectual Disabilities.
Now, the simple act of making friends can lead to a diagnosis of autism. Lacking in social graces? It’s not your fault. You’re autistic! Have trouble sitting still in class? It’s not your fault. You’re autistic! Can’t sit still and read a book? You guessed it, it’s not your fault. You’re autistic!