By now you’ve all heard about the upcoming “Eli Stone” premier tomorrow on ABC/Disney. At the core of this show are a number of important issues:
1. Responsible journalism
2. Entertainment and ratings
I would think that entertainment and ratings issues aside, ABC would not want to air a show about such an important topic as Autism without fact checking over and over again. This is not a topic where stretching a truth or omitting important scientific evidence is in anyone’s best interest and is certainly not worth the entertainment value. In fact, I would argue, it 100% detracts from that value but going for the cheap, gratuitous, emotional hit.
Why bother pushing ABC to pull the show? Because it impacts the lives of kids directly. That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics , the American Medical Association , the March of Dimes (together with seven former CDC directors) and the Immunization Action Coalition have all sent letters to ABC since last week asking ABC to either pull this episode from the air or add a strong disclaimer with factual information on autism for the families viewing the show.
According to Reuters, ABC has decided to air this episode of Eli Stone “but would run a disclaimer at the opening of the show stating the story is fictional. A message at the end will refer viewers to a CDC Web site for information about autism.”
Reuters further reports that “the show’s two creators, Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, disputed the notion that their show would frighten parents away from vaccines.
“‘We actually share the concern of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We believe that children should be vaccinated,’ Berlanti told Reuters. But he also said, ‘We hope that people do watch the episode and draw their own conclusions.’”
That is where the ABC team is missing the point and refusing to hear the advise of all the countries leading physicians. This is not about “drawing conclusions” because science has already concluded that there is no link between autism and vaccines.
So, if you watch Eli Stone tomorrow night, and I hope you do not, remember that. This show is 100% fiction. ABC would not have agreed to a disclaimer at all if they didn’t realize they dropped a collective ball.
And, before someone asks, the entire medical community (AMA, AAP, IAC, and March of Dimes) is not banning together for a financial reason or to blindly support vaccination. The only thing any of us have to gain is ensuring the safety of children. It really is that simple. In fact, the only folks with any financial gain here is ABC.