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Who benefits from childhood vaccinations, and should families be able to opt out? When Dr. Darshak Sanghavi posed the question on December 4, the replies were thoughtful – and very personal. Meanwhile, other readers offered suggestions for Miss Conduct and for Sudoku, the logic game.


Marjorie and I appreciated Dr. Darshak Sanghavi’s attempt to understand our side of this vital issue (“The Secret Truth,” December 4). He was clearly sympathetic to us, if not in agreement with our conclusions.

Both sides want the same outcome: freedom from dreaded diseases, safer vaccination programs, and fewer children with autism. Strong rhetoric wins no allies in a polarized debate, but only cements the gulf by forcing each side to view the other as unreasonable.

To regain the trust of “dangerous” parents like us – who, due to our misfortune, discovered we were left on our own to weigh the risks of injury from vaccines – doctors must take back the responsibility of asking the right questions. Your patients are not “the herd,” but individuals. When doctors stop asking “Has this child been vaccinated?” and begin asking “Should this child be vaccinated?” they will again be healers we can trust with the health of our children.

JARED HANSEN /// Framingham

Soon after my teenager was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, I recognized autistic traits in my 72-year old father, other family members and – surprise! – a few in myself (though I fall far short of being diagnosable).

I do not blame thimerosal or any other potentially toxic substance for any of this. Rather, I recognize the fact that God has many different ways to build a brain. And I am grateful for the protection afforded by vaccines, since I am intimately familiar with the long-term consequences of one particularly nasty infectious disease – namely, polio, which cost my father the use of his right leg in 1943.

KATHLEEN SEIDEL /// Peterborough, New Hampshire

Dr. Darshak Sanghavi aims to be respectful to loving, committed parents, but damns them with faint praise. In autism and other mysteries of human behavior, we ignore parents’ observations at our peril. Let’s remember what energized and smart parents have done in key health topics such as crib death and drunken driving. Yes, there is risk in making a false connection between mercury and autism. But there may be greater risk in moving slowly to study the possible contribution of toxins to the explosion in cases of autism and other disorders. Between parents’ love and science’s purity, it’s not either/or. We can embrace the mystery of autism and also support good science.

GRACE BARON /// Norton

As the parent of an autistic teen, I feel the need to correct this point by Dr. Darshak Sanghavi: “Autism frightens parents more than almost any disorder, since it implies that the child can never function independently in society and may never fully reciprocate, or ever fully appreciate, expressions of love.”

Let’s get some perspective here. As difficult as it is to manage at times, autism is merely a different kind of neurological wiring and not an evil spirit taking our children away. Many people with autism do function independently in society and reciprocate expressions of love just as well as any other human being. In other words, getting someone to reciprocate love is never a perfect process, whether he is neurotypical or not.

SUSAN SENATOR /// Brookline


I strongly disagree with Robin Abrahams’s advice that putting “no gifts” on an invitation is mildly tacky (“Miss Conduct,” December 4). My children are given the choice of a small party with gifts from friends or a bigger party with all their friends and a “no gifts” request. We are sure to give them the special presents that they like, but who needs the mountains of toys that are hauled away from children’s birthday parties. Now that is something that I consider tacky!

DIANE O’KELLY /// Wakefield


Please do not put the puzzle solutions in such close proximity to the crossword and the Sudoku puzzles. When the answer is next to the puzzle, it is too easy to “cheat,” even if you do not intend to.

SALLY BOND /// Acton

The editor replies: We are exploring ways to move the answers – but no promises. In the meantime, try putting your morning coffee over them.

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