Ethics Quiz: The Jenny McCarthy Body Count

Sure, bet your kid’s life on the wisdom of Jenny McCarthy. Makes sense to me!

From The Jenny McCarthy Body Count:

“In June 2007 Jenny McCarthy began promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric. Because of her celebrity status she has appeared on several television shows and has published multiple books advising parents not to vaccinate their children. This has led to an increase in the number of vaccine preventable illnesses as well as an increase in the number of vaccine preventable deaths. Jenny McCarthy has a body count attached to her name. This website will publish the total number of vaccine preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths that have happened in the United States since June 2007 when she began publicly speaking out against vaccines.

“Is Jenny McCarthy directly responsible for every vaccine preventable illness and every vaccine preventable death listed here? No. However, as the unofficial spokesperson for the United States anti-vaccination movement she may be indirectly responsible for at least some of these illnesses and deaths and even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.”

You can visit the Jenny McCarthy Body Count, which stands at 888 preventable deaths as of May 31, 2012, here.

Your Ethics Quiz is simple: Is the website fair?

My answer: sure.

McCarthy is an engaging, attractive, well-meaning woman and semi-talented comic actress who has misused her celebrity, as many celebrities do and have, to exert more influence over the public and media than her experience, education, intelligence, wisdom and expertise justify. Are the various television programs, media outlets and hysteria-peddlers also accountable for giving someone with McCarthy’s thin credentials and outsize influence a platform to frighten and mislead the many members of the public who are even more ignorant than she is? Absolutely. Does that reduce McCarthy’s culpability for spreading misinformation that leads to potentially deadly neglect of the health needs of children? Not one bit.

Using the Jenny McCarthy Body Count to call attention to the foolishness of anti- vaccine hysteria is a clever idea, and if it keeps even one parent from being misled by the medical nonsense pushed McCarthy and her allies. it is performing a public service.

_____________________________________

Pointer: Instapundit

Facts: Jenny McCarthy Body Count

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

34 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Jenny McCarthy Body Count

  1. If Jenny is responsible to a degree for these preventable deaths, how much blame should we also assign to Dr. Wakefield? McCarthy, as far as I know, didn’t come to her current, misguided thinking all on her own. Though McCarthy may have had more power for publicity in her crusade on vaccinations, her credibility is somewhat questionable even amongst the uneducated masses; however, a trained surgeon and medical researcher’s credibility is inherently superior in the discourse of medicine. As such, I would argue that Wakefield’s culpability may exceed McCarthy’s not only because of the direct harm he caused, but also because as a member of the medical community, his actions served to undermine public trust in science and medicine.

      • Not sure your correctly interpreted my post. Nowhere did I say the site was unethical; nor am I refuting the original claim. I’m simply pointing out that McCarthy might not be the best target. If you want to solve the problem, you go to the source. McCarthy is simply a symptom of a much larger and troublesome problem: that is, the undermining of science and the validity of medical research. Although she may be most responsible for publicizing the anti-vaccination message (at least in America), she is simply a mouthpiece, albeit a clamourous one.

        • “simply a mouthpiece”. The science community has already dealt with wakefield. The reason these beliefs live on are because of these mouthpieces.

  2. And the Lancet, for publishing a case study of 8 children, based on self-reporting of the onset of autism symptoms in those 8 children…I know doctors who have had better papers rejected due to ‘small sample size’ based on 20-30 patients’ cases. By what criteria was this poorly written baseless paper published?

    McCarthy can read. She did no back-up research, but ran with the data as is.

    • Wakefield is clearly the main villain in this tragedy, but the American public doesn’t pay attention to scientists. It took pretty Jenny’s “mother’s heart” to close the deal. Yes, the media types and Congressional hacks that let her preach and testify also bear a burden of responsibility too.

    • Who cares? At least their decision to follow her advice has diminished the gene pool from further contamination of morons.

      • I’m thinking of the kids, Gregory. Some vaccinations are unnecessary and ALL of them carry a certain risk of allergic reaction. Weighed against that is the medical risk. Unfortunately, faith in the “uncontaminated” opinions of researchers, medical or otherwise, has diminished in recent times. Parents should have the final say. But when an alternative opinion is expressed- not by other physicians, but by an R-rated actress and Playmate- then people need to perk up. Sex may sell movies, but it shouldn’t sell advice on children’s health. People have just been swamped by a celebrity culture and need to stop and re-evaluate themselves.

        • SMP, I agree completely about the harmful influence of celebrity (actor, musician, athlete, Jack, etc.) culture. However, I disagree with your categorization of McCarthy as an R-rated actress and Playmate that disqualifies her. It should be sufficient to cite her lack of medical credentials and/or research degree(s). Period. Character assassinations don’t further your argument.

          As for uncontaminated opinions–this is more scary. Western medicine has created an unfortunate paradox with regards to human life that assumes that science and drugs will cure all. We’re only now beginning to observe the harm that this potential “good” has created with drug resistant virus strains. The approach to build stronger drugs will ultimately backfire. And just because someone is licensed to practice medicine doesn’t mean she knows what is best for you.

          • I was suggesting that character is an issue that shouldn’t be overlooked, Gregory. There are any number of people out there with degrees and endorsements like the grains of sand on the Sahara that I would STILL not trust because of that factor. It was no “assassination” on my part, but a matter of public record.

            As for medicine; I acknowledge that resistant microorganisms are continually arising in response to current drugs. This is nothing new. In fact, there are a number of biological reasons why this is only to be expected. But that is no reason to deny medicines that have proven viable in the past. As other virulent organisms arise, other medicines and preventative procedures will be derived to combat them. There will never be a disease free world. As in so many things, it’s a perpetual struggle.

      • Failing to vaccinate doesn’t just affect that particular person. Herd immunity is necessary to protect those who can’t be vaccinated.

        • True, but my answer was also a sarcastic response.

          In terms of herd immunity, I wonder if we’re weakening the human species and setting up for catastrophic failure by relying on medicine to take care of natural selection.

            • My point is that medicine may not necessarily be a good thing in the long run. Especially if it messes with the process of natural selection.

                • Natural selection is about life best-suited to its environment continuing to thrive, adapt and procreate. If medicine compensates for a deficiency then it is propping someone up that potentially shouldn’t be around for one or another reasons. When that person passes on her same genes the process repeats. Eventually this may come around to bite us.

                  • Sentence 1 is correct, but everything else is wrong. You know the words, but you don’t understand them. There’s no reason to think that someone who isn’t immune to whooping cough or measles shouldn’t be around. You are reading intent into the process for no identifiable reason.

                    • Intent? I’m writing about the generic case. Some diseases may/not be eradicated. Others are just symptomatic of the mortality of human life. But the endless desire to prolong life indefinitely may be bad in the long run.

                      Flipside of medicine is that if we use technology to combat bugs/viruses that some of them will respond via natural selection and get stronger/deadlier too. It’s an unpredictable dynamic relationship.

                    • Yes, wide usage of drugs creates a selection pressure on various bacteria and viruses. That doesn’t back up any of the junk you had previously spewed.

                      You claimed that certain people are supposed to live or die, but there is no correct path. Natural selection is unguided.

                      You linked susceptibility to a disease to being otherwise flawed. This is akin to claiming that a car with a poorly placed gas tank is more likely to have a bad stereo, poor seating, or faulty electric than a car with a better placed tank.

                      You said medicine messes with the process of natural selection. It’s quite the opposite. Medicine is part of natural selection.

                      You said we’re relying on medicine to take care of natural selection, as if natural selection is something to be fought.

                      I stand by my statements. There is a valid point in your posts (we might be sacrificing our species’ long term survivability to save more people now), but your arguments for why that’s occurring are incredibly misguided.

                    • tgt, I call a truce. I never hoped to be on the opposite end or your replies, but alas it happened. Perhaps my word choice in some posts was poor but the message was finally received.

                    • Jack, ahhh, you’ve been there before. Does the cake and hot chocolate help remove the taste left in the mouth after licking one’s wounds?

          • Natural selection gave us the brains to use medicine, just like the ability to use spears overcomes our lack of claws.

  3. They latched on to squalene as the big bad boogeyman now that they found out that the MMR doesn’t contain thimerosol. If they want to ban squalene, they better ban brown rice and shark oil supplements…our bodies also produce it, it’s present in fingerprint oils, so nice try but again, no cigar, Jenny.

    I’ve often thought that these people should be held responsible.

  4. This website is highly unethical because it is implying a link between JM activism and actual deaths. The “count” numbers are taken from the CDC and it is not clarified if the individuals who died were adult (and few of us have any current immunity as adults as shots wear off) or child, vaccinated or unvaccinated or had other conditions making them unable to endure an illness or a vaccine. It’s idiotic and the site will likely get sued.

    • If it’s sued, the lawsuit will get thrown out. It is clearly making a point, not claiming a statistical link. The point is that Jenny McCarthy’s ignorant and unsupported scare campaign against vaccinations is irresponsible and dangerous, and risks the lives of children. And it does. The website is completely ethical, and intentionally misinterpreting it doesn’t make it less so. Paranoid about vaccinations too, are you, Catherina? Keep it to yourself. Tell Jenny the same.

  5. “In 1986, the pharmaceutical industry came to their friends in government and said they were going to go broke paying claims for vaccine injury. This would interfere with their ability to make a profit, and continue developing new vaccines. They threatened to stop manufacturing vaccines, saying a return to infectious disease would result and it would all be Congress’ fault.

    In 1986, Congress acquiesced, passing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, giving unparalleled immunity to the pharmaceutical industry for product liability because vaccines are, in the wording of the law, “unavoidably unsafe.” The law established an excise tax on every vaccine which would fund a program that was supposed to quickly and generously compensate those who were injured. Nothing about the vaccine injury compensation program could remotely be called generous or quick.

    When the law was enacted in 1988, major changes were made in the early childhood vaccine schedule, signaling unprecedented growth in the program. In 1983 a child would receive 10 vaccines by age six. Today that number is 35.

    A 2010 EPA study has identified 1988 as the year autism rates went from horizontal to vertical.

    Public health officials cite several studies (sometimes fourteen, sometimes fewer) claiming they exonerate vaccines in the development of autism. But these studies examine only one vaccine of 11 recommended for pediatric patients (MMR) and one ingredient (thimerosal). There has never been a study looking at the cumulative effect of so many vaccines, given so early in life and comparing the health outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated children. There is simply no way, I repeat, NO WAY, the available science rules out vaccines as a cause of autism.

    Federal vaccine court has in fact paid out claims to children whose vaccines caused autism. They get around this by compensating children for a brain injury and calling symptoms “autistic-like”. Autism is defined by behavior. If you meet the diagnostic criteria for autism, you have autism. We don’t get to call it something else because we don’t like how it happened.

    So, the weight of the world rests on the CDC’s shoulders. Thus far, they have failed to prevent a single case of autism. Our children’s health depends on their integrity, their steadfastness, their complete devotion to finding the truth, no matter how unpopular, about what is happening to more than one percent of our children. Almost two percent of our boys. And what does the CDC do? They shrug.

    Americans, it’s time to wake up and smell the napalm. Pretending there is no emergency won’t make the emergency go away. It’s time to demand Congress hold hearings on autism, including the role of vaccines. If autism isn’t in your house already, it’s knocking at your door.”

    • There is no credible research, medical authority or evidence that supports your paranoid contention.

      All vaccines carry risk, like all surgery. The fact that damages have been paid out proves nothing at all—there are good reasons to settle cases, even bad ones. Juries will often make corporations pay for injuries to children whether the companies are truly at fault or not.

    • Americans, it’s time to wake up and smell the napalm. Pretending there is no emergency won’t make the emergency go away. It’s time to demand Congress hold hearings on autism, including the role of invisible pink unicorns. If autism isn’t in your house already, it’s knocking at your door….on the back of an invisible pink unicorn.

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