TV drama draws public health ire

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 18, 2008

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The premier episode of the new ABC lawyer drama "Eli Stone" aired Jan. 31 despite the concerns of major physician organizations.

In separate letters sent before the TV show's debut, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and other health and physician groups called on ABC to pull the program from its lineup. At issue was a story line in which the title character argued in court that a vaccine containing mercury caused autism.

While the show included statements acknowledging that science has refuted any link between autism and vaccines, the groups felt the episode's conclusion delivered a contrary impression. Specifically, a fictional jury awarded $5.2 million to the mother of an autistic child who sued a vaccine maker, leaving audiences with the idea that vaccines do cause autism.

The physician groups pointed out to ABC their concern about the show's "misleading medical content." They noted that mercury is no longer used in routinely offered vaccines and that no scientific link exists between autism and vaccines. The groups were particularly alarmed because many people trust the health information presented on fictional TV shows. The AMA also pointed to a recent scenario in the U.K., where erroneous reports linking the measles vaccine to autism prompted a decline in vaccination and the worst outbreak of measles in two decades.

Since the network opted to go forward with the episode, both groups urged ABC to include disclaimers at the show's beginning and end to communicate that its themes did not reflect the reality of current scientific and medical opinion and that no scientific link exists between vaccines and autism.

ABC decided to run an "information card" at the end of the show, referring viewers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site to find out more about autism.

Note: This item originally appeared at

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn