Are antivaxxers liable for preventable deaths?

By Phil Plait | May 19, 2009 10:42 am
Jenny Mccarthy and syringe, small

Scott Hurst, a skeptic and JREF friend, has written an entry for Swift asking how much responsibility antivax mouthpieces like Meryl Dorey and Jenny McCarthy have for deaths caused by their rhetoric. It’s a solidly-written piece that is well-researched and brings up what I think is a valid point. While we do have the right to free speech in the U.S., there are ramifications to it. Are they responsible if parents don’t vaccinate their children, and deaths follow? It’s a fair question.

Somewhat less fair, perhaps, is a video that has been made making fun of Jenny McCarthy. While I think it provides an outlet for the visceral need to do something to stop her relentless nonsense about vaccinations and autism, I don’t know if this sort of thing really helps. I don’t know if it will convince any fence-sitters or believers, and can come across as being mean-spirited. I think there’s a difference between being angry and showing it, and being simply mean. What do you think? I’ve heard opinions going both ways on this video.

I’m scratching my head over Cracked Magazine’s take on McCarthy, though (NSFW though, since it has some, um, adult content). It’s accurate, snarky, and takes her to task really well, but I doubt it’s any more fair to her than the video is, but it bugs me less. I wonder if the graphic imagery in the video is what troubles me, given that Cracked article has a ridiculous (and generally juvenile) nature. Pictures of sick babies is, well, it’s tough. Hmmm.

Finally, a great new website has been created called, where people can post images of themselves and tell their personal stories about why they chose to get vaccinated. Anecdotes are not data, but they do sway opinion. And unlike the antivax anecdotes, we have reality on our side. So it’s not evil or wrong to use personal stories to urge people to vaccinate, and in fact I think it’s an important aspect that has not been used to its full potential. I’m all for it.

Tip o’ the syringe to BABloggee Heather Steingruebl.


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