Opinion: Irresponsible article links risk for Violence with Autism creating more Misunderstanding of ASD

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A controversial article published in the “journal” Medical Hypotheses adds to the on-going misunderstanding of autism through speculation and imagination. The article, “Autism plus psychosis, a ‘one-two punch’ risk for tragic violence?” is riddled with unanswered questions. The overriding concern is that the public simple reads the title of the article and will assume that it has some validity and credibility and not a work of unbridled speculation.

It starts with the very journal of publication; Medical Hypotheses. The title alone should raise suspicions but the title and language implies some pseudo credibly.  One would assume that there were some facts used to develop the hypothesis but this does not appear to be the case. The authors of the paper state at the outset that individuals with autism are neither known to have violent tendencies nor were the individuals studied in the paper autistic. The concerned subjects, the criminals responsible for the Colorado, Norway and Connecticut mass murders, were nowhere even on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) scale. So it becomes unclear where the origins of this hypothesis originated.

The men in concern were socially isolated, the team argued, but this is common amongst those who are depressed, alcoholic and schizophrenic. The team said that it was the comorbid association of psychosis that made an autistic violent. The NSCR (National Comorbidity Survey Replication) published in 2005, stated that 45% people who were diagnosed with one mental disorder also fulfilled criteria for 2 or more other psychiatric disorders. This hints that not just an autistic, but a manic, a depressive, a schizophrenic, 45% of whom will also have two other disorders, of which psychosis could be one, all stand a chance of committing horrific violent acts like mass murders.

The third and the largest speculation is that individuals with ASD are “readier” than their typical peers to put to test psychotic impulses. The authors offer no evidence except that the statement alone should be sufficient enough to strengthen their claim.

Their conclusion is that if we recognize conditions that could exist but don’t, we could treat these individuals to prevent possible violent actions  One might argue that the article is entertaining to read if not inaccurate. However, the past has shown us the very real dangers of mandating preventative measures that infringe on the freedoms and rights of individuals when no such justification exists.

Medical Hypotheses states their aim as follows:

Medical Hypotheses is a forum for ideas in medicine and related biomedical sciences. It will publish interesting and important theoretical papers that foster the diversity and debate upon which the scientific process thrives.

While we at Autism Daily Newscast firmly believe in freedom of speech and the open discussion of ideas, we express concern that such speculative arguments are reported in a way that suggests credibility. The danger is that it continues the misunderstanding and lack of awareness on the issues of Autism.

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