Facts, not Fantasy

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Andrew Wakefield Unethical so Age of Autism Stands By Him

All too often, I am shocked and dismayed, but not at all surprised, at how unethical some people will behave to promote their anti-reality agendas. So, it's of course no surprise that I see this information posted throughout the web. I am shocked and puzzled why anyone would bankrupt any shred of morality they may have to continue to perpetrate these lies and deceptions. I guess after a while, there is no moral ground to stand on, so throwing out any lie or accusation they can make up off the top of their heads should be easy enough...

Here are a couple stories on this latest fiasco that clearly demonstrates the level of dishonesty we are dealing with here:

Andrew Wakefield Unethical so Age of Autism Stands By Him

The British General Medical Council (GMC) has just announced its verdict in their investigation into Andrew Wakefield, ruling that he had acted dishonestly and irresponsibly:

The verdict, read out by panel chairman Dr Surendra Kumar, criticised Dr Wakefield for the invasive tests, such as spinal taps, that were carried out on children and which were found to be against their best clinical interests.

The panel said Dr Wakefield, who was working at London's Royal Free Hospital as a gastroenterologist at the time, did not have the ethical approval or relevant qualifications for such tests.


Dr Kumar said he had acted with "callous disregard for the distress and pain the children might suffer".

He also said Dr Wakefield should have disclosed the fact that he had been paid to advise solicitors acting for parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR.

[My bold.]

In 1998, Wakefield claimed to have found a link between the measles virus in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of children (following the MMR vaccine), and autism. Wakefield’s small study, popularized by idiotic news media, led to an MMR-autism scare, a significant drop in vaccine rates and a resurgence of measles in the UK. Wakefield may claim he didn’t say that MMR causes autism, but he certainly implied it strongly enough (and again, with the help of the press), that many people believed (and still believe) that the MMR vaccine causes GI problems which causes autism. The evidence though, from a panel of 28 experts, clearly showed that this was not true. The GMC have now, with this ruling, confirmed that in addition to Wakefield’s conclusions being false, he also acted unethically. We still have to wait to see what sanctions they hand down.

Various vaccines-cause-autism groups immediately revised their positions, based on the conclusions of this independent expert body, and stated that they were wrong previously to claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

Ha – just kidding. Of course they haven’t. Nothing would ever convince these people that their previously determined conclusion could ever be wrong. Just take a look at the flurry of activity from the Age of Autism blog in the last three days:

A Sad Day for the Future of Children – where they “unequivocally renounce the GMC’s findings” – no evidence, nothing they can say that is wrong with the GMC’s findings – they just renounce them because, well, because they do, so there.

Then from Mark Blaxill we have Naked Intimidation: The Wakefield Inquisition is Only the Tip of the Autism Censorship Iceberg - where he smears the witnesses in the case, oh and anecdotes, anecdotes I tell you (un-sourced) about anti-vaccination scientists being censored. And “the only thing for the autism community to do now is stand by Andy Wakefield” – because clearly “the only thing” you can do when a discredited doctor is also found guilty of ethical violations, is to “stand by” him. That’s “the only thing” you can do. No other options, obviously. Their hands are tied, you see.

And if that wasn’t clear enough, we have National Autism Association Supports Dr. Andrew Wakefield – the title says all you need to know.

Celebrity idiot Jenny McCarthy’s charity chimes in with Generation Rescue Supports Dr. Andrew Wakefield - (beginning to see a trend here).

Finally, we have fearless conversation advocate and fearless litigant to anyone who disagrees with her, Barbara Loe Fisher, who writes Vaccines: Doctor Judges & Juries Hanging Their Own – a touching story of the first time she met Wakefield. (Why? Who knows.)

And a couple more that I couldn’t be bothered to read.

Nothing could possibly ever convince these people that they might have been wrong. Nothing. Ever. If you want to read some good sources on the GMC’s verdict, see below.

Further Reading

Steven Novella writes Andrew Wakefield “Acted Unethically”.

Investigative reporter Brian Deer (writing a year ago) MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism – on how Wakefield changed and misreported results in his research:

Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the [MMR shot], in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

Ben Goldacre The Wakefield MMR verdict.

And finally, there is the GMC’s actual report.

Antivaxxer movement leader found to have acted unethically

Continuing a month of skeptical victories, the UK’s General Medical Council has found that Andrew Wakefield — the founder of the modern antivaccination movement — acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" when doing the research that led him to conclude that vaccinations were linked with autism. This is being reported everywhere, including the BBC, Sky News, the Yorkshire Evening Post, and more.

Syringe, from  http://www.flickr.com/photos/8499561@N02/2756332192/The GMC (the independent body of medical regulators in the UK, rather like the AMA in the US) didn’t investigate whether his claims were correct or not — and let’s be very clear, his claims have been shown beyond any doubt to be totally wrong — only whether he acted ethically in his research. What they found is that his research (involving spinal taps of children) was against the children’s clinical interest, that Wakefield was unqualified to perform the test, and that he had no ethical approval to do them.

Wow. Again, let’s be clear: that’s a whole lot of ethical damnation from the UK’s leading medical board.

Not to pile on here, but I was rather surprised that they didn’t mention the claims — supported by a lot of evidence — that on top of all that unethical behavior, he may have faked his results, too. There’s also no mention of his grave conflict of interest– at the time he published his paper slamming vaccines and which started the antivax craze, he was developing an alternative to vaccinations, so he had a very large monetary incentive to make the public distrust vaccines.

The GMC has not announced whether he (and two of his cohorts) will be sanctioned or not. I’ll be very curious to see what they do.

Will this deter Wakefield and the antivax movement? Ha! Of course not. Note that supporters of Wakefield heckled the GMC members as they read their announcements.

Also, the evidence was already overwhelming that Wakefield was wrong, just as it’s overwhelming that vaccines are totally and completely unrelated to autism. But the antivaxxers’ world is not based on evidence. It’s more like a dogmatic religion, since many of its believers will twist and distort the truth to fit their views, even, tragically, if it means babies will die.

The antivax movement is resulting in the deaths of children from preventable diseases, many of which were all but gone in the United States. We’re seeing the return of measles, mumps, pertussis, even polio — polio, which was eradicated entirely in the US by 1994. Because vaccines are so effective, people don’t remember these diseases and how they would kill, and now the antivaxxers are paving the way for their return.

This ruling against Wakefield is a step in the right direction, but the path is long and the antivaxxers will be there at every one of these steps, trying desperately to trip up reality. It’s up to us to make sure that we keep walking.


  1. I sometimes write a post that collates blog responses, both positive and negative, to a given issue.

    I'm keeping one now on responses to the GMC's ruling on Andrew Wakefield's conduct.

    I've added your blog to the list.

    It's interesting that so few of the anti-vaccination faithful have posted responses to the GMC decision. I'm also impressed with the range of positive responses to the decision -- not just from the usual suspects in skepticism and science-based medicine, but from (for example) parents who agonized over the safety of the MMR vaccines and resented being lied to.

    The post is at


  2. Dear Liz,

    Thank you so much for your words. Please feel free to add the source blogs to your list of blogs as well. They really deserve the credit, I am just repeating and reporting. :)

  3. I wanted to add this email I received from someone else regarding this subject as well:

    Hi Larian,

    I recently read your post on the controversy surrounding Andrew Wakefield and his supposed "research" on links between the MMR vaccine and autism. You include a few different articles on the issue, such as Dr. Novella's thoughts and the GMC's report. I think you will find the following video interesting and relevant to this discussion:


    The video summarizes what Wakefield actually did, including his acceptance of payment from dishonest lawyers and the health risks he created for children who did not receive proper vaccinations because of his report.

    Newsy.com videos analyze and synthesize news coverage from multiple
    sources. Its unique method of showing how different media portray the news helps viewers better understand complex stories.

    Please email me with any questions on either the video or Newsy.com.

    For instructions on how to embed videos, read #3 on this page:


    Newsy Community Team


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