I’m shocked. It takes a lot to shock me these days, but I am admittedly shocked. My alarm has been set off by numerous recent studies into the “cause” of Autism. I’m not alarmed purely because of the research, but rather what it may implicate and the resulting frightening thoughts of how we, as a society, would implement a “cure”.
There were studies attempting to link childhood vaccinations to Autism, but those studies were found to be faulty and in one case “an elaborate fraud”, but nevertheless absent of a link between vaccines and Autism. See Autism Speaks Policy Statement on Vaccinations and Autism, http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/policy-statements/information-about-vaccines-and-autism; and CNN report about the British Medical Journal’s retraction of Dr. Wakefield’s studies as fraudulent, http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/06/autism.vaccines/index.html.
Another recent study published in the August 12, 2013 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics links induced or augmented labor to Autism. See http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20130812/induced-labor-linked-to-raised-risk-of-autism-study-suggests. Still another report by the New York Times attempting to say that Autism and cancer were linked via a “cancer gene” was exposed as extremely unreliable. See http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2013/08/11/autism-and-cancer-are-not-parallels/.
This brings me to my concern; actually, two concerns. The first – that because Autism is a hot topic and the rapid increase in the number of cases of Autism in the population is startling to some (disregarding the fact that proper techniques to diagnosis Autism are a recent event proving that there is not an increase in the development of Autism, but rather an increase in number of discovered incidence) the media jumps on any report that seems to find the “cause” of Autism – I can do nothing about. What sells “news” and media is beyond my control and I can do nothing other than be exasperated.
The second concern, about which I believe I CAN do something, is what I believe is the next step that follows the discovery of the “cause” of Autism – the “cure” for Autism. This should be a source of alarm and concern for everyone and, frankly, is a disturbing and dangerous use of the otherwise constructive term “cure”.
This dangerous use is attempting to redefine “cure” to mean “prevention” rather than its true definition. Most dictionaries define “cure” as follows:
- a means of healing or restoring to health; remedy.
- a method or course of remedial treatment, as for disease.
- successful remedial treatment; restoration to health.
Source: Dictionary.com, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cure?s=t
Thus, “cure” means to “restore to health” or “remedy”. In other words, if you have a virus or disease, the cure may be a drug or treatment that restores you to health. In a sense, chicken soup may be viewed as the cure for the common cold. (I know several Jewish mothers who swear by that.) This definition refers to healing people who are currently alive.
How can this be bad?
On August 14, 2013, the Autism Support Network’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Autism-Support-Network/150100405892, posted this question: “Would you terminate your pregnancy if you knew your child would have autism?” Thankfully, the responses were unanimously “no” and several people were puzzled why an “Autism support network” would even pose that question. The members of this network are parents of live children who have already been born.
The insidious and heinous implication of this question is that we, as a society, will view abortion or intra-uterus genetic alterations as a “cure” for Autism. People are seeking to prevent Autism. While that, too, sounds like a noble pursuit, it is extremely dangerous and Orwellian in its possibilities. What is next? Sterilization of those who have a gene that causes Autism or those who have Autism? Government-imposed removal of reproductive parts of people who have Autism in their family history?
I know these examples are extreme and hopefully absurd, but I do wonder how this urge to find the cause of Autism has led to tenuous research projects and where such research might lead.
I have a better idea. Rather than spend millions (perhaps billions) of dollars on fruitless research into the cause of Autism (which is most likely genetic and not “curable” absent one of the horrific methods I describe above), redirect those funds to research into therapies or providing services for families that have living, breathing, wonderful children with Autism. The daily lives of such families are rife with challenges and they deserve all of the help and support that we, as a society, can muster.
If you want to redefine the word “cure” when it comes to Autism, redefine it to mean “support”.