A Damaging Delusion
Routledge – 2009 – 166 pages
Autism: disease, disorder or difference?
What causes autism – genes or environment?
Can biomedical treatments cure autism, and are they safe?
An increased public awareness of autism has resulted in a rising trend of diagnoses, creating the impression of an ‘epidemic’. Many parents of children newly diagnosed with autism have been impressed by plausible theories blaming vaccines and other environmental causes. Many have also been captivated by claims that ‘biomedical’ treatments – including special diets and supplements, detoxification and medications – can achieve dramatic results.
In Defeating Autism, Michael Fitzpatrick, a family doctor and father of a son with autism, questions the scientific basis of environmental explanations of autism and exposes the incoherence of unorthodox ‘biomedical’ theories and therapies. This book reveals that these therapies are far from pioneering interventions and they remain unsubstantiated by scientific authorities. Campaigns promising to ‘defeat or cure autism now’ have attracted much support among parents struggling with their difficult children. But the crusade against autism risks dehumanising and stigmatising those who are identified as autistic and their families. This compelling book is essential reading for students and professionals working in the field of autism, as well as academics concerned with the public understanding of science and the treatment of scientific and medical controversies in the media.
'Medicine has limits. Despite tremendous technological advances several diseases remain without a clear cause or cure, autism among them. Unfortunately, where medicine fails, charlatanism and quackery abounds, often with damaging results. In his book, Defeating Autism, Michael Fitzpatrick, a physician and himself the father of an autistic son, explores the therapies that have been proffered for autistic children with clarity and compassion. This is a must read for any parent trying to wade through the Arabian bazaar of autism therapies.' - Paul A. Offit, M.D., Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, USA
'With eloquent and persuasive writing, Fitzpatrick uncovers the political agendas that lie behind current fears of an autism crisis, and challenges the epidemic of unproven and expensive treatments. He shows us that our children are indeed being helped tremendously, not by unscientific autism treatments that falsely promise cure or recovery, but by educators, scientists, evidence-based therapies, and new understandings of what it means to be human, and different, in the twenty first century. If my child were diagnosed with autism today, I would turn to Dr Michael Fitzpatrick for guidance.' - Roy Richard Grinker, Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University, USA and author of Unstrange Minds
‘Fitzpatrick has begun a much-needed conversation… A disembodied attitude of incredulity toward what is known and true can lead parents and scientists to dark places. Fitzpatrick’s book is a superb effort to reverse these negative trends.’ – Contemporary Psychology
Introduction 1. Introduction: when quackery kills 2. Toxic childhood 3. Age of autism 4. Angry parents 5. Unorthodox biomedics 6. Genes or toxins 7. MMR ten years on 8. Mercury and beyond 9. From diet to detox 10. Treatment issues 11. Conclusion: Being appropriately critical
Michael Fitzpatrick has worked as a general practitioner in East London for 25 years. He writes on health matters for a range of medical and mainstream publications, including two previous books for Routledge: The Tyranny of Health and MMR and Autism.