Celebrities cross a line when they suggest therapies

A story in USA Today asks whether or not celebrities are crossing a line when suggesting therapies for fans. The article says doctors and public health groups say they struggle over the best way to respond to celebrity claims.

Many doctors say they’re troubled by stars who cross the line from sharing their stories to championing questionable or even dangerous medical advice.

This hits such a nerve with me in so many ways. I applaud celebrities that support causes and want to help out, but it crosses the line with me when they want to give advice or tell individuals how they should live their lives or provide treatment to their own family members. The article says that maybe we get “comfort” knowing celebrities have medical issues, too, but I’m not so sure about that.

“It helps people to realize that health problems they have affect even celebrities,” says pediatrician Aaron Carroll, director of Indiana University’s Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. “Knowing that a rich and famous person can have the same problem as you or me makes it seem more fair, maybe.

“It also can make it easier to talk about your own problem, because a celebrity has the same issue.”

Celebrities have access to more funds and a wider array of resources than the general public, so to state that their circumstances are similar is far from equal. Celebrities have a host of others to support them when they are raising any child, but then, a child with special needs, well, they can afford the additional resources and time to implement a new fangled diet or whatever. Was it the diet that helped the child, or was it all the attention given to the structure that has been added to the child’s life that did the trick?

Each individual diagnosis of autism is an individual diagnosis of autism. Not all children have the exact same needs. There are so many other variables. What scares me is that parents are so eager for a solution that they will read these celebrity endorsements and follow their advice without medical intervention and then possibly cause greater problems for their child, either medical or behavioral. This makes it even harder for treatment professionals to really assist the family, creating a cycle of confusion/disillusionment and frustration for the parents and the child.

A case in point — the article calls out Jenny McCarthy and all of the attention she has received:

Actress Jenny McCarthy, who has an autistic son, has written several books linking autism with childhood vaccinations, even though a host of scientific studies show that vaccines are safe and not the cause of increasing autism rates.

Celebrities are not professionals, and if they truly understood autism they would not be making such broad statements.

Again, I think it is great for celebrities to be engaged in awareness campaigns, but treatment campaigns … no. They are causing more harm than good.


 

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  1. Debbie Smith Says:

    Kim,
    I totally agree with you that Jenny McCarthy is not trying to give a guide to parents on how they should provide or seek services for their child. My statement is more around the impact that celebrities have on parents who are eager for immediate answers/treatments/protocols for their child. You have the appropriate response, you are going to take what she provides as input and a “possible” solution…not “the solution”. Exactly what you should do, as we know that when you meet one person with Autism, you have met one person with Autism. My concern is around the celebrity voice that lays on the ears of the parent does not do their own research and is looking for the immediate “cure/antidote/treatment” that will fix if all for them as they do not take the time to do their research and learn more about their individual Childs needs. I see this too often.
    You are right that Jenny McCarthy is an authority on Autism…her own Childs Autism, not all children with Autism. She knows what works and has worked with her child. I commend her for that. I worry about parents that do not have her tenacity, resources or ability to research the needs for their child.
    Thanks for the replay. I commend you for the work you have done to ensure your Childs success. Best of everything to you and your family.

    Debbie Smith


  2. Debbie Smith Says:

    Cory,
    The wording you mentioned is what concerns me the most…”cure”. Parents that are devastated by the diagnosis are looking for a “cure” and are easily misled. Parents need to learn to their own research for their indivdiual child..that is what should be telling parents and if celebrities had this message in their voice, I would support it. But when they endorse or recommend “treatment” methods, they are giving families false hope and sending them down paths of confusion and frustration.
    Thanks for the post and the best to you and your family.


  3. Kim Abrinko Says:

    I think that you may be missing the point that Jenny McCarthy is trying to make. The point is that nobody hands you a guide that says “here’s how you help your child with autism.” It is up to you as the parent to research it and find the things that work best for your child. I am a parent of a 5-year-old daughter with autism and have found that no matter how many therapists or neurologists we see, there is no easy answer to resolve issues with autism.
    Jenny is very fortunate to have been able to find things that have helped Evan and she is rightfully excited to share her story of success. Her story brings hope to alot of us parents who are struggling with many of the same issues. Does that mean that I think I should try everything that worked for her? Not really, but I will certainly do my own research on these techniques and I will try the ones that I feel are safe and could possibly help. That doesn’t mean I won’t ask the advice of our doctor, but I also won’t just sit back and wait for him to suggest things to me.

    As for Jenny thinking she an authority on Autism, she is an authority on it, she lives with it everyday. Nobody can ever understand what that is like, unless they live it themselves. There is no medical degree a doctor can ever earn that will ever trump a parent who actually spends every waking moment trying to help their child and every sleepless night wondering what direction to head in next.
    So don’t for one minute assume that Jenny doesn’t know what she is talking about, because she is speaking from experience and she is speaking from her heart.


  4. cory schroeder Says:

    I agree with you 100% !!! I can’t believe i found this article ! I was just talking to my husband about the whole Jenny Mccarthy all of a sudden being the authority on autism . I told him what she says is not true or proven in anyway to help. When she comes on tv or is in a magazine it infuriates me , it is so dangerous for celebrities to say that they know how to “cure” autism and you can too if you follow these diets and other ideas .


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