TV episode could frighten parents from vaccinations, doctors say

January 31, 2008 4:08:34 PM PST
A new TV drama that premieres Thursday night on ABC has stirred up a controversy among some medical professionals.In the first episode of "Eli Stone," the show's star is a lawyer who argues in court that a flu vaccine made a child autistic.

Amanda and her mom head to school in Algonquin. Such a normal thing isn't taken for granted. Until three years ago, Amanda had been in classes with other autistic children. Her mother says a treatment that removes metals from her body made the difference.

"She wasn't able to be in a regular classroom. She couldn't function. But today she can," said mom Sara Difucci. She believes mercury in Amanda's infant vaccines triggered autism.

"The skills my child had, began to disappear. In addition, we had all these odd behaviors come up. She started toe-walking. She would line her toys up in a row. If you touched them, she'd had a complete meltdown," said Difucci.

In the premiere episode of "Eli Stone," the title character successfully sues a pharmaceutical company for hiding the effects of metal-laden vaccines on behalf of an autistic child. The American Academy of Pediatrics sent a letter to ABC requesting the network cancel the episode.

"The potential impact of spreading further misinformation, of attempting to reignite this active controversy, I think really caused us to respond," said Dr. Renee Jenkins, American Academy of Pediatrics.

ABC said it will air the episode.

The academy's president, who says mercury has been removed from American vaccines, still persists. She said she fears the dramatization of this controversial issue will scare parents away from vaccinations.

"We've done so well to prevent these serious infections. We counsel parents to do all they can in terms of keeping children vaccinated," said Jenkins.

While doctors prepared to answer questions by anxious parents after the episode airs, some parents of autistic children said they hope the drama will push scientists to find a conclusive cause of autism.