Two bioethicists are offering up to $11,000 for the identification and release of the medical records of the person whom Michele Bachmann claimed became mentally retarded after getting the HPV vaccine. These kinds of irresponsible statements can cause great harm if not quickly challenged, as we saw with the claim that the MMR vaccination causes autism, and the media’s idiotic ‘balanced’ approach that treats even empirical questions as matters of opinon (“Some say this but others say that”) does nothing to dispel them.
I am glad that in this vacuum, private citizens are stepping up to clear the record.
“These types of messages in this climate have the capacity to do enormous public health harm,” [Steven Miles, a U of M bioethics professor] said of why he made the offer. “The woman, assuming she exists, put this claim into the public domain and it’s an extremely serious claim and it deserves to be analyzed.
Bachmann is sensing trouble and trying to wriggle out.
Bachmann somewhat walked back her comments Tuesday on Sean Hannity’s radio show, where she said she had “no idea” if the HPV vaccine was linked to mental illness. “I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a physician,” Bachmann said. “All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me last night at the debate.”
No, you are none of those things. But you are a high profile elected official running for the presidency, which means that your words get hugely amplified and so should know not to pass along stories that have the potential to cause panic and harm until you have had time to substantiate them. Why is that so hard to understand?