Britain bans doctor who linked autism to vaccine

May 24, 2010 MARIA CHENG , AP Medical Writer
In this photo taken on July 17, 2007 file photo, Dr Andrew Wakefield in London. The doctor who sparked an international vaccine scare by claiming autism was linked to a common vaccine has been banned from practising medicine in Britain, the country's top medical body ruled on Monday. Dr. Andrew Wakefield was the first to publish research suggesting a connection between the measles vaccine and autism. After the vaccine scandal hit, Wakefield moved to the U.S. and set up an autism center in Texas, where he faces similar skepticism from the medical community. (AP Photo/Steve Parsons/PA File)

(AP) -- Britain's top medical group banned a doctor who was the first to publish peer-reviewed research suggesting a connection between a common vaccine and autism from practicing in the country, finding him guilty Monday of serious professional misconduct.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield's research led to millions of parents worldwide abandoning the shot for measles, and rubella, even though the study was later widely discredited.

Wakefield, 53, then moved to the U.S. and set up an center in Texas, where he has a wide following, but faces similar skepticism from the . The ruling in Britain only applies to his right to practice medicine in the U.K., not in other countries.

Wakefield was not immediately available for comment. He has the right to appeal the ruling, which takes effect within 28 days.

Vaccination rates in Britain have never recovered since Wakefield's research was published in 1998 and there are measles outbreaks in the country every year. The disease is also on the rise in the U.S.

Numerous other studies have been conducted since then and none have found a connection between autism and any vaccine.

Wakefield has been a central figure in the anti-vaccine lobby and has garnered much support from parents suspicious of vaccines, including some Hollywood celebrities. In February, U.S. actress Jenny McCarthy, who has an autistic son, issued a statement with her former partner Jim Carrey.

"It is our most sincere belief that Dr. Wakefield and parents of children with autism around the world are being subjected to a remarkable media campaign engineered by vaccine manufacturers," McCarthy and Carrey said in February. "Dr. Wakefield is being vilified through a well-orchestrated smear campaign."

Britain's General Medical Council struck Wakefield from the medical register Monday and found him guilty of "serious professional misconduct." The council was investigating how Wakefield and colleagues carried out their research, not the science behind it.

Wakefield and colleagues published a study in the medical journal Lancet in 1998 alleging a link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

At the time, Wakefield was working as a gastroenterologist at London's Royal Free Hospital and did not have the ethical approval to conduct the study. He had also been paid to advise lawyers representing parents who believed their children had been hurt by the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

Ten of the study's authors later renounced its conclusions and it was retracted by the Lancet in February.

In 2005, Wakefield founded a nonprofit autism center in Austin, Texas, but quit earlier this year.

In January, Britain's medical council ruled that Wakefield and two other doctors acted unethically and showed a "callous disregard" for the children in their study. The medical body said Wakefield took blood samples from children at his son's birthday party, paying them 5 pounds (today worth $7.20) each and later joked about the incident.

In a statement then, Wakefield said the medical council's investigation was an effort to "discredit and silence" him to "shield the government from exposure on the (measles) vaccine scandal."

In Monday's ruling, the medical council said Wakefield abused his position as a doctor and "brought the medical profession into disrepute."

In the U.S., several court rulings have found no connection between vaccines and autism. More than 5,500 claims have been filed by families seeking compensation for children believed to have been hurt by the measles vaccine.

At least a dozen British medical associations including the Royal College of Physicians, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust have issued statements verifying the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

"I hope this ruling will finally persuade the public and some misguided journalists that Dr. Wakefield behaved irresponsibly," said Dr. Jennifer Best, a virologist at King's College University in London. "(The ) vaccine is a safe ."

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

More information: General Medical Council's ruling on Wakefield:
http://www.gmc-uk.org/Wakefield-SPM-and-SANCTION.pdf-32595267.pdf

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User comments : 9

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frajo
3.7 / 5 (6) May 24, 2010
"I hope this ruling will finally persuade the public and some misguided journalists that Dr. Wakefield behaved irresponsibly," said Dr. Jennifer Best
The public could very well come to another conclusion: That a medic was punished because he damaged the profits of a mighty industry.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) May 24, 2010
"I hope this ruling will finally persuade the public and some misguided journalists that Dr. Wakefield behaved irresponsibly," said Dr. Jennifer Best
The public could very well come to another conclusion: That a medic was punished because he damaged the profits of a mighty industry.

Just as many called the ruling against ID to be scientific censorship.

Difference is, vaccinations will have a profound effect on the survival rates of those who believe that vaccinations do no good. A rather ghastly thing to take comfort in, but at least we'll have the issue settled over time.
marjon
1.9 / 5 (8) May 24, 2010
the first to publish peer-reviewed research

It must be true if it was peer reviewed.
In the U.S., several court rulings have found no connection between vaccines and autism.

When do courts decide what is and is not valid science?
SteveL
3.2 / 5 (5) May 24, 2010

When do courts decide what is and is not valid science?

Since the mid 70's the courts have decided everything for us. Much to the loss of our freedoms - which must be OK, as we didn't stop them. Apparently the archaic concepts of self-governance, self-accountability and self-determination were left out of and not protected by the constitution.
Foolish1
2.3 / 5 (9) May 24, 2010
Discredit the work, not the man. Either provide an equally vigorous peer-reviwed paper discrediting Wakefields findings or shut up.

While ethics is critically important in all scientific endeavours seeking the truth in good faith even if your misguided and wrong must not be allowed to be discouraged on political grounds. It wasn't just one person and one paper that lead to the current climate and it will take more than ad hominem to undo it.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.4 / 5 (7) May 24, 2010
Discredit the work, not the man. Either provide an equally vigorous peer-reviwed paper discrediting Wakefields findings or shut up.

http://www.medsca...e/514585
It must be true if it was peer reviewed.

Then they reviewed Wakefield's work to see what exactly happened and they found he never went through a proper peer review process. This is why the man, and not the work is being wholly discredited. It's called lack of integrity.

frajo
3.7 / 5 (3) May 24, 2010
"I hope this ruling will finally persuade the public and some misguided journalists that Dr. Wakefield behaved irresponsibly," said Dr. Jennifer Best
The public could very well come to another conclusion: That a medic was punished because he damaged the profits of a mighty industry.

Just as many called the ruling against ID to be scientific censorship.

Difference is, vaccinations will have a profound effect on the survival rates of those who believe that vaccinations do no good.
I don't doubt that. But some people don't seem to care too much which impressions will be fathered by their decisions.
And I don't doubt that there are influential connections between industries and the institutions of the state.
frajo
3.5 / 5 (6) May 24, 2010
Discredit the work, not the man. Either provide an equally vigorous peer-reviwed paper discrediting Wakefields findings or shut up.

http://www.medsca...e/514585
It must be true if it was peer reviewed.

Then they reviewed Wakefield's work to see what exactly happened and they found he never went through a proper peer review process. This is why the man, and not the work is being wholly discredited. It's called lack of integrity.
We also could say that they always will find a fault with somebody if they want to.
Or: "You think you are healthy? Obviously your doctor didn't look rigorously enough."
slaveunit
3.4 / 5 (5) May 24, 2010
This is a great example of how one lie can be pushed all over the world because it seems sensational and the conspiracy nuts grab it and run like mad.
The man was a corrupt scientist his science was rubbish and morons who would rather believe that the whole world is out to trick them re vaccines (which make manufacturers very little money for the record) seem to get more press than the scientist who do good work and who can back it up with evidence.
For goodness sake why do people give credence to jim carrey and his wife over the royal college and wellcome trust etc. Now a lot of kids are going to get sick from the very real measels mumps and rubella and quite possibly spread it to adults rebirthing a set of diseases that should be eradicated.
It is a shame the lancet didnt reveiw his work more properly at the time.
Doesnt surprise me that this guy found a home in texas they breed idiots big down there.

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