When I read about science pushing the boundaries so that women can give birth in their sixties, I thank God for giving me children when I was much younger. Not only do I look back with amazement at the energy I had that eludes me now (and I haven’t hit my sixties yet), but today’s parents have to grapple with daunting challenges that weren’t on my radar screen.
Jenny McCarthy’s selection as a host of The View, along with new measles and mump outbreaks has once again put the vaccination/anti-vaccination debate on the front pages. When I took my own children in for their vaccinations, I did so with intense gratitude. My mother contracted polio as an infant and spent much of her childhood in hospitals or recuperating from various operations at home while longingly watching from the window as her siblings went off to school or play. While my mother possessed a cheerful, sunny personality, every once in a while I would get a glimpse of the lonely little girl in her past. The temporary discomfort that vaccinations caused my babies were a price I paid with great appreciation in exchange for protecting them from similar circumstances.
What would I do if I had the responsibility to make decisions about vaccinations today? I do not know. Many pro-vaccination articles that I read act as if those parents choosing not to vaccinate are low-information people who don’t know that Dr. Wakefield’s 1990’s research linking vaccinations and autism has been discredited. My experience is the opposite. The parents I know who don’t vaccinate are super-high-information people. They are intelligent and knowledgeable. They include physicians and scientists. Autism is only one of many issues about which they are concerned.
Yet, they question authority by not blindly accepting information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, government sources or the media. Can I blame them? Is there any question that the medical and scientific communities sometimes have placed, and continue to place, political considerations ahead of medical integrity? Is there any question that the majority of media today mostly report news that fits their social engineering agenda while suppressing, as much as they can, news with which they personally disagree? Can anyone really keep a straight face while asking young parents to trust the government? When those in authority act deceitfully, imprudently, and too frequently only in their own self-interest, they cannot be surprised that pleas to trust them are scornfully dismissed.
Sadly, lack of principle and uprightness in medical issues, are not new phenomena. A little research will reveal shocking levels of malfeasance promoted in the name of science in the 20th century, even if you remove Nazi Germany from the picture. My mother herself had cause to be suspicious of doctors. She credited her ability to walk to Australian nurse, Elizabeth Kenny (1880-1952), who was ignored, discredited and lied about by doctors when she insisted that her methods showed greater success than the medical community’s standard treatment of polio patients. She was right. For many doctors who were in powerful positions at the time, their egos proved larger than truth.
I certainly worry when I see a recurrence of diseases from which we have been safe in the past few decades. However, in a society where, day in and day out, we see emperors with no clothes, asking young parents to pretend that on one issue he is royally garbed demands a level of loyalty and respect that has not been earned.