Generation Rescue is a nonprofit organization that advocates the incorrect view that autism and related disorders are primarily caused by environmental factors, particularly vaccines. These claims are biologically implausible and are disproven by scientific evidence. The organization was established in 2005 by Lisa and J.B. Handley. They have gained attention through use of a media campaign, including full page ads in the New York Times and USA Today. Today, Generation Rescue is known as a platform for Jenny McCarthy's autism and anti-vaccine advocacy.
The organization was established in 2005 by Lisa and J.B. Handley and 150 volunteer "Rescue Angels" that included many members of the biomedical treatment movement at the time. Beginning in the spring of 2005 and running through January 2007, Generation Rescue began a national media campaign in the US, placing advertisements in such publications as USA Today. More recently it has been led by Jenny McCarthy, an author, television personality and former Playboy model. Since McCarthy has become president, the organization has been rebranded variously as "Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey's Autism Organization", "Jenny McCarthy's Generation Rescue" and "Jenny McCarthy's Autism Organization". Bonnie Rochman wrote in Time, "...McCarthy’s celebrity status has meant that her affiliation with Generation Rescue, an organization that links autism with immunization, has spooked thousands of parents, encouraging them to reject vaccines for their children — the same vaccines that are responsible for saving lives around the world."
Causes of autism
Generation Rescue has proposed a number of possible causes for developmental-related issues, such as vaccines, the increase in the number of vaccines administered, and thiomersal, a mercury-based vaccine preservative. Generation Rescue claims that biomedical intervention can help children recover. The hypotheses that vaccines, such as MMR, or thiomersal cause autism have been refuted by scientific research, as have claims that diets, drugs or chelation can cure autism. Because of Generation Rescue's public profile through national advertising and because its point of view is not shared by the mainstream medical community, its message has been controversial, and the organization has been described as anti-vaccine.
Generation Rescue has previously co-sponsored an annual conference in Chicago along with another controversial charity, AutismOne. The choice of speakers at these conferences led critics to accuse both organizations of promoting unproven therapies, such as bleach enemas, as a purported cure for autism. These conferences have also been criticized because Andrew Wakefield has spoken at them. They have also been criticized because many of the speakers presenting "so-called treatments" have a financial interest in them.
J.B. Handley said of Andrew Wakefield, originator of the claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism: "To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one. He’s a symbol of how all of us feel." However, Wakefield's work has been characterized as "an elaborate fraud", and parental fears over vaccines sparked by the controversy, and by its continued advocacy by groups such as Generation Rescue despite its scientific refutation, have led, in turn, to decreased immunization rates and an increased incidence of whooping cough and measles, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease.
Generation Rescue issued a statement that the "media circus" following the revelation of Wakefield's fraud and manipulation of data was "much ado about nothing". Salon responded to Generation Rescue's statement with:
But any organization using a celebrity to mislead parents with claims of "new" data that rely on decade-old vaccine formulas and schedules is more than disingenuous, it's flat-out dangerous.
— Mary Elizabeth Williams
Much of Generation Rescue's case is based on publications that do not go through a proper peer review process. Writing for Forbes, Emily Willingham characterized Generation Rescue as "an organization devoted to the debunked notion that vaccines cause autism and that autistic people can be 'recovered' from their autism by way of various unproven and sometimes dangerous interventions, including chelation."
- Vaccines and autism:
- Doja, A; Roberts, W (2006). "Immunizations and autism: A review of the literature". Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences 33 (4): 341–6. doi:10.1017/s031716710000528x. PMID 17168158.
- Gerber, JS; Offit, PA (2009). "Vaccines and autism: A tale of shifting hypotheses". Clinical Infectious Diseases 48 (4): 456–61. doi:10.1086/596476. PMC 2908388. PMID 19128068.
- Gross, L (2009). "A broken trust: Lessons from the vaccine–autism wars". PLOS Biology 7 (5): e1000114. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000114. PMC 2682483. PMID 19478850.
- Offit, PA (2007). "Thimerosal and vaccines—a cautionary tale". The New England Journal of Medicine 357 (13): 1278–9. doi:10.1056/NEJMp078187. PMID 17898096.
- Paul, R (2009). "Parents ask: Am I risking autism if I vaccinate my children?". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 39 (6): 962–3. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0739-y. PMID 19363650.
- "Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey's autism organization – Generation Rescue". generationrescue.org. Generation Rescue. Archived from the original on 2009-06-05.
- "About vaccines". generationrescue.org. Generation Rescue. Archived from the original on 2007-05-04.
- Salzberg, Steven (2010-12-31). "Why do we need to 'recontrol' Whooping Cough?". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
- Herper, Matthew; Langreth, Robert (2007-09-27). "Fear factor". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
- "USA Today Ad". generationrescue.org. Generation Rescue. Archived from the original on 2008-04-14.
- Coombes, R (2009). "Vaccine disputes" (PDF). BMJ 2009 (338): b2435. doi:10.1136/bmj.b2435. PMID 19546136.
- Mnookin, Seth (2012). The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 258. ISBN 9781439158654.
- Rochman, Bonnie (2012-05-23). "Why Jenny McCarthy doesn’t matter". Family Matters. Time. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
- "Is it the mercury?". generationrescue.org. Generation Rescue. Archived from the original on 2009-11-26.
- Willingham, Emily (2014-02-20). "On autism, environmental toxicants, and bias". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
- "Treatment: What's biomedical treatment?". generationrescue.org. Generation Rescue. Archived from the original on 2009-11-26.
- Willingham, Emily (2012-11-05). "We can now add forced sweating to the faux autism treatment list". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
- Claims of autism cures:
- Christison, GW; Ivany, K (2006). "Elimination diets in autism spectrum disorders: Any wheat amidst the chaff?". Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 27 (2 Suppl 2): S162–71. doi:10.1097/00004703-200604002-00015. PMID 16685183.
- Broadstock, M; Doughty, C; Eggleston, M (2007). "Systematic review of the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder". Autism 11 (4): 335–48. doi:10.1177/1362361307078132. PMID 17656398.
- Davis, TN; O’Reilly, M; Kang, S; Lang, R et al. (2013). "Chelation treatment for autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review". Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 7 (1): 49–55. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2012.06.005.
- Miller, Nick (2010-02-04). "Debunking the link between autism and vaccination". The Age (Melbourne).
- Begley, Sharon (2009-02-21). "Anatomy of a scare". Newsweek.
- Steinhauer, Jennifer (2009-10-15). "Swine flu shots revive a debate about vaccines". The New York Times.
- "AutismOne / Generation Rescue Conference 2012". autismone.org. Autism International Assoc. May 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-05-11.
- On conferences:
- Salzberg, Steven (2012-05-27). "Nobel laureate joins anti-vaccination crowd at Autism One". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
- "AutismOne throws their support behind the Geiers in Autism Science Digest". leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk. 2011-06-16.
- Gorski, David (2012-05-28). "Bleaching away what ails you". ScienceBasedMedicine.org.
- "MMS, or how to cure autism with bleach. Brought to you by AutismOne.". LeftBrainRightBrain.co.uk. 2012-05-29.
- Perry, David M. (2013-07-17). "Jenny McCarthy and fear-based parenting". CNN. Retrieved 2014-09-29.
- Salzberg 2012.
- Dominus, Susan (2011-04-20). "Crash and burn of an autism guru". The New York Times.
- McNamee, David (2014-03-26). "Evidence supports it, so why are parents still reluctant to vaccinate their children?". Medical News Today. MediLexicon. Retrieved 2014-10-03.
- On Wakefield's fraudulent study:
- Godlee, F; Smith, J; Marcovitch, H (2011). "Wakefield's article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent". BMJ 342: c7452. doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452. PMID 21209060.
- Deer, B (2011). "How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed". BMJ 342: c5347. doi:10.1136/bmj.c5347. PMID 21209059.
- Hensley, Scott (2011-01-06). "Study linking childhood vaccine and autism was fraudulent". NPR. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
- "Retracted autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds". Atlanta: CNN. 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- Lin, RG, II (2008-05-02). "Rise in measles prompts concern". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
- "Jenny McCarthy's Generation Rescue". generationrescue.org. Generation Rescue. Archived from the original on 2011-01-12.
- Williams, Mary Elizabeth (2011-01-06). "Jenny McCarthy's autism fight grows more misguided". Salon. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
- Barrett, Alan D.T.; Stanberry, Lawrence R. (2009). Vaccines for Biodefense and Emerging and Neglected Diseases. p. 264. ISBN 0080919022.
- Willingham, Emily (2012-10-22). "Jenny McCarthy is a newspaper columnist". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-10-03.