Generation Rescue is a nonprofit organization established in 2005 by Lisa and J.B. Handley. The organization targets ADHD, Asperger's, PDD-NOS, and autism. It claims that they are primarily caused by vaccines containing mercury, aluminum, and live viruses, by heavy metals in the environment, and by overuse of antibiotics. It is funded and managed by its organizing members, and its "mission is to share the truth with parents about the cause of their child's NDs [neurological disorders] so they can focus on treatment." The group gained awareness from an aggressive media campaign that sponsored full page ads in the New York Times and USA Today.
Generation Rescue believes that autism and other developmental issues are environmental illnesses and partially blames thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, as a source of the poisoning. It claims that biomedical intervention can cure these various ailments. Because of Generation Rescue's public profile through national advertising and because its point of view is not shared by the mainstream medical community, their message has been controversial. While they claim that their position is supported by published research, reliable medical sources say there is no convincing scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism or that diets or drugs can cure it.
The organization maintains two websites, Generation Rescue and PutChildrenFirst. The former details the organization’s points of view described above. The latter alleges a cover-up by the Centers for Disease Control concerning the role that vaccines have played in recent increases in the number of reported autism cases.
Childhood neurological disorders and heavy metal poisoning
The group has collected scientific papers, opinion pieces, and journalistic reports to substantiate their case of the role of heavy metal poisoning in autism, all of which are presented on their website.
The group advocates the use of biomedical intervention and other autism therapies to help reverse autistic symptoms. Although some characterize the group as focused only on chelation therapy, Generation Rescue states that they promote dietary change and supplementation, toxin reduction, and many different forms of detoxification.
In May, 2005, over 150 parents, led by Lisa and J.B. Handley of Oregon launched Generation Rescue as a non-profit, international support group dedicated to treating autism spectrum and other neurological disorders. As of January, 2007, more than 360 families have joined the organization.
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. The print and internet advertisements are part of a broader campaign to send the group's message about the possible connection between autism and mercury poisoning to politicians, medical professionals and parents. Generation Rescue's founders have also been featured in interviews on both NBC and Fox as well as in a cover story in Willamette Week.
Rescue Angel program
Generation Rescue has developed a mentoring program, 'Rescue Angels', for other parents. These 'Rescue Angels' are parents of autism spectrum children who agree with the organisations methods, willing to help other parents in treating their children, sharing expertise, local knowledge and experience. The website states that "Rescue Angels are parent-Founders of Generation Rescue who are volunteering their time and knowledge to help you. They are parents of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder who have either recovered their own children and/or are currently treating their children biomedically."
Criticisms and responses
Lack of peer-reviewed research
Some claim that Generation Rescue bases much of their case on publications that do not go through a proper peer review process. The works cited by Generation Rescue are criticized as being poorly regarded by mainstream medicine. In particular, an article Generation Rescue cites in the Evidence section of its website, "Autism: A Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning" has been disputed.
Bradford Handley, a Generation Rescue founder, claims that autism symptoms can be reversed using chelation. This is in contradiction of the scientific capabilities of chelation, as evidenced by at least one study. The Encyclopedia of Children's Health states that "the chelation process can only halt further effects of the poisoning; it cannot reverse neurological damage already sustained."
Disassociation of cited researchers
Generation Rescue's second New York Times advertisement had to undergo one alteration due to one scientist who asked to be removed from the ad. Also, after the ad ran, several of the scientists thanked in the ad wanted to disassociate their work from the mercury/autism connection. This group of scientists wrote: "we believe GenerationRescue’s advertisement, at first appearance an innocuous gesture of appreciation, may actually mislead the public into thinking that the mercury-autism hypothesis has stronger support in the scientific literature than it actually does." One of the scientists who signed that letter asking not to be associated with the mercury/autism hypothesis, Martha Herbert, is still frequently cited by Generation Rescue and others as a supporter.
Claims of inaccurate statistics
Generation Rescue's home page has been criticized for containing inaccuracies regarding the prevalence of autism. As of 2006, it claimed that the prevalence of autism in the 1970s was 1 in 10,000. In reality, the prevalence of autism was known to be 4-5 in 10,000 in the 1960s. Additionally, the site does not clarify that the prevalence of 1 in 166 is for ASD, not Kanner autism as is the lower prevalence number. The increase of 6000% (60 times) claimed in the GR home page should be about 1200% (12 times) if the lower prevalence number is corrected.
In February 2005 J.B. Handley stated on a TV interview that the notion of autism is mythical, since it is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning. He also claimed that autism did not exist before thimerosal was put in vaccines, and that chelation therapy can cure autism in two years or less.
- "Generation rescue". 2007-07-19. Retrieved 2007-08-20. Check date values in:
- Ad in USA Today, April 6, 2006: unveiled the new website, PutChildrenFirst.org
- Rutter M (2005). "Incidence of autism spectrum disorders: changes over time and their meaning". Acta Paediatr. 94 (1): 2–15. PMID 15858952.
- Christison GW, Ivany K (2006). "Elimination diets in autism spectrum disorders: any wheat amidst the chaff?". J Dev Behav Pediatr. 27 (2 Suppl 2): S162–71. 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.
- "PutChildrenFirst.org". 2006-11-12. Retrieved 2007-08-20. Check date values in:
- Generation Rescue featured in the Willamette Week local newsweekly
- "Treatment: find a Rescue Angel". Generation Rescue. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
- Bernard, S., Enayati, A., Redwood, L., Roger, H., Binstock, T. (2001). Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning. Medical Hypotheses, 56(4), 462-471.
- Encyclopedia of Children's Health entry on heavy metal poisoning
- Issues arise concerning citations used in Generation Rescue's advertisements
- Videos and critiques
- GenerationRescue.org - Organisation's Website
- Mothering.com - 'Is the American Academy of Pediatrics losing credibility with parents and pediatricians?' Bobby Manning, Mothering (October, 2005)
- ScienceDaily.com - 'The Age of Autism: Heavy metal', Dan Olmsted, UPI' (May 24, 2005)
- SFGate.com - 'A child's return from autism: Couple eager to share their conviction that mercury poisoning was the culprit' Leslie Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle (May 25, 2005)