Boston Legal episode on food allergies

January 20, 2007 at 9:58 am (Allergy News!, education, kids, medical, nut-free, peanut, school, social issues, television, USA)

According to Gina, I missed a TV show featuring food allergies.  A child died of peanut allergy in a classroom scenario–I’M GLAD I MISSED IT.  However, I do hope the show spread some awareness.  Here is a statement from FAAN about peanut allergy, food allergy, reactions, etc:

Boston Legal: It’s not about who is liable

The fictional Boston Legal episode which aired on Tuesday, January 16 th on ABC featured a peanut-allergic child who died after accepting candy brought in from home by a classmate. Unbeknownst to the child, the candy contained traces of peanuts. The teacher was on her cell phone with her back to the class when the reaction began.

When the teacher turned to face the class, she recognized the reaction was occurring and quickly administered epinephrine. Unfortunately, the child died (within 20 seconds of ingestion). The family sued the teacher and lost.  The fictional defense lawyers contended that teachers are over-worked, there are a lack of school nurses to care for students, the family had the means to hire a “shadow nurse or aide” for the child and didn’t, and that they could have sent the child to private school where there is a lower student to teacher ratio and didn’t.

The show accurately depicted the fear and constant vigilance individuals with food allergies live with day in and day out. Hopefully, the lucky viewers who do not have food allergies have a better appreciation for food allergies and will understand when someone says that even trace amounts of an allergy-causing food can be fatal—that they are not kidding.

The show has generated outrage and fear in parents of children with food allergies throughout the country. It also misrepresented a few key facts, which have caused great concern for families raising children with food allergies.

The time sequence presented was designed to be dramatic. It achieved that but was misleading. Fatalities don’t occur 20 seconds after ingestion. Epinephrine, the medication of choice for handling a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, works quickly and patients often respond within minutes.

The lawyers on the show suggested that the family should have sent their child to a private school in order to receive the best care. This argument, however, ignores the fact that federal law grants every child the right to receive free public education. What is more, there is no data to support the notion that children are somehow “safer” in a private school setting.

The lawyers on the show also stated that the family should have hired a nurse to follow the student around and keep the child safe because teachers can’t be expected to keep children safe. This show unfairly depicted how teachers handle food allergies in the classroom. Millions of school-age children with food allergies are kept safe because of the systems in place by teachers, parents, and students working together.

If you have a child with a food allergy:

  • Talk to your child’s doctor and be sure you know what symptoms to look for during a reaction and what action to take. Share this information with anyone who is caring for your child.
  • Speak to your school principal about any concerns for keeping your child safe. Be sure systems are in place to recognize and treat allergic reactions quickly—quick response is key.
  • Remember that the real power lies within the child. Role play various situations, stress not sharing food with others, and suggest the use of FAAN’s Be A PAL: Protect A Life from food allergies program to educate classmates and friends.
  • Let the show’s producers and the network know what it’s like to live with a food allergy. Send a copy of your letter to FAAN.

David E. Kelly Productions
David Kelly, Executive Producer
1600 Rosecrans Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 ABC Audience Relations Department

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An open letter to Martha Stewart

January 16, 2007 at 8:46 pm (Allergy News!, Blog & Websites, cooking, education, social issues, television, USA, Websites)

In anticipation of her upcoming episodes on food allergies:

Thank you so much for doing a show on food allergies.  There is a lot of societal dissatisfaction, poo-poo’ing, and general ignorance about the seriousness of food allergies, and in my experience, people with food allergies are often treated as rude, or somehow demanding, just by trying to cover their strict dietary needs.  It ends up excluding children from friends’ birthday parties, family from extended family traditional holiday occassions, and co-workers from office social events, not to mention church pitch-ins, neighborhood barbecues, team trips out to get ice cream, etc.  Food is such an important part of our culture, and Martha is the standard-bearer for gracious entertaining.  It means so much to have her champion graceful entertaining of ALL people–true civility, in this age of civil rights awareness.  Thank you, Martha!!!!

To send your own letter, please visit her site.

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