Thursday, 28 January 2010

Surprise: Dr. Wakefield 'abused position of trust'

The Independent reports on the General Medical Council (GMC) hearing, regarding Andrew Wakefield, which observed his:
conduct brought the medical profession "into disrepute" after he took blood samples from youngsters at his son's birthday party in return for payments of £5.
And it found that he:
"failed in his duties as a responsible consultant" and went against the interests of children in his care in conducting research. He further acted dishonestly and was misleading and irresponsible in the way he described a study which was later published in The Lancet medical journal.
This article claimed a relationship between MMR vaccination, bowel disease and autism, and became the cornerstone of the "infectious disease promotion movement." The Times notes that this study
sparked the biggest vaccine scare in a generation and has been blamed for the resurgence of measles in Britain.
Subsequent investigations repeatedly established its unscientific nature, confirmed by the GMC today, and medical science has refuted those proposed links as non-existent. The Times describes the ensuing debate following the article:
The research has since been discredited by subsequent studies involving millions of children, which found no evidence for the link between the triple jab and autism. It has since been retracted by the Lancet, and ten of the original 13 authors disowned the research. But the claims sparked a massive drop in the number of children given the triple jab for measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates have still not fully recovered to levels before the scare.
The Guardian discusses the same ruling, and Steven Novella has an elaborate overview of who Wakefield is and what he has accomplished.

Update: A somewhat superfluous, to those following the "infectious disease promotion movement," rersponse is given by Orac who describes Wakefield's legacy as:
The resurgence of a once-defeated vaccine-preventable disease, with all the attendant suffering its return brought with it. Truly, few people can be said to have done more harm to public health in a nation than Andrew Wakefield did in the U.K. with his incompetent, unethical, callous research.
The post is a detailed review of the ruling and includes the delusional, and inherently cult-like anti-science, platitudes his defenders use to prove the GMC's conclusions were nothing less than blasphemy. Of course, this difference of opinion is best explained by Tim Minchin:
Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
The Lay Scientist, Science-Based Medicine, and Skeptico also comment on the outcome of this science vs. Paranoid R Us spectacle.

Update II:very unusual decision has led The Lancet to retract the original article. Steven Novella details the high threshhold journals have for retracting articles such as this. Even when it is obvious fraud is involved.

Update III: Oddly enough the Paranoid R Us Crowd -while claiming "The Censorship of Autism Treatment"-is objecting to the scientific principle, rational thought, and plain decency by asking us to support poor persecuted Mr. Wakefield.

Update IV: More from Orac and The Globe and Mail.

Update V: ABC has a big article too.

Update VI: More here.

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