The strange case of Ex-Dr Wakefield and the MMR vaccine…

Andrew Wakefield is the ex-doctor, whose scant regard for scientific accuracy or ethics has led to him being struck off the medical register. Yesterday the General Medical Council (GMC) found him guilty of serious professional misconduct, having found him guilty last January of having “showed a callous disregard” for the suffering of children, saying also that he had “abused his position of trust.”

Wakefield has caused untold harm to autistic people by leading those falsely describing the condition as vaccination damage with all negative rhetoric they propagate. Thousands of parents were confused by the reporting in most major media outlet of his woeful, fraudulent (and retracted) Lancet paper. The disgraced ex-doctor’s utterly lacks remorse for having falsified his data, experimented on children, tricked patients, the ethics board and his employers. Together with a credulous media, he is culpable in the decision of so many parents to avoid vaccinating their children.

The subsequent rise in measles cases caused death and disability in children when it could have been avoided.

Andrew Wakefield was a gut surgeon, a maverick with a hunch and in the pay of lawyers. He held the patent on a rival measles vaccine and stood to benefit if somehow he could sully the MMR vaccine approved of by the health department and have it replaced with his own measles vaccine. For a while he tried to link the MMR with Crohn’s disease (pdf) to no avail, before being recruited to support a failed attempt by a group of parents to sue the makers of the MMR vaccine for (as they claimed) having caused their children’s autism. Wakefield wasn’t a paediatrician but still ordered invasive and painful procedures on children to obtain samples which were analysed at a badly run lab, then he proceded to concoct the results he needed to make out there was a strong association.

Wakefield can’t handle the rigours of engaging with the scientific community and resorts to the circus of the chat show and YouTube interview to make his case. He’s penned a book in which he sets out his defense; it’s all a big conspiracy of governments, scientists and pharmaceutical companies. He called none of the parents who even yet adulate the man as a hero, to give evidence at his GMC trial, preferring instead to sneak back to the USA to try yet another way to find the fame and respect he clearly craves.

The time and money spent attempting to reassure the public of the MMR’s safety could have been used to do make actual progress in health and science. If the smallest fraction of that effort had focused instead on helping autistic people live and thrive, the benefits would be immense.

And Andrew Wakefield should have formed a rock band.

Interested in disability; especially autism, feminism, parenting and learning. Pro-diversity, science and anti-quackery, I enjoy constructive, entertaining discussion and strive to be the best mum I can to my 3 children, one of whom is perfectly autistic.