Parent activists who say vaccines can trigger autism, and scientists who say that hypothesis has been discredited, agreed on one point last week.
It won’t change their debate if Dr. Andrew Wakefield — the British doctor known widely for sparking international fear that vaccines cause autism — loses his medical license for unethical behavior.
Wakefield has been found guilty of acting unethically during the time he conducted the famous, and now retracted, 1998 case report of 12 children that questioned if a childhood vaccine caused a new form of autism.
The United Kingdom’s General Medical Council concluded Jan. 28 that Wakefield participated in “dishonesty and misleading conduct” while he conducted the 1998 research. Most of the findings against Wakefield are breaches of standard ethical codes meant to keep bias out of scientific journals.
But, according to one of the findings against the doctor, Wakefield took blood samples from children at his own child’s birthday party, and paid them five British pounds for their trouble.
On Feb. 2, the Lancet retracted Wakefield’s paper, explaining in a statement: “Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect … in particular, the claims in the original paper that children were ‘consecutively referred’ and that investigations were ‘approved’ by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.”
“In some ways I think it’s irrelevant,” said Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who has been twice threatened with lawsuits for critical statements he has made of Wakefield’s work. …
… the parent groups who stood behind him in rallies and in press statements say his theories have led to anecdotally successful treatment in their children and also doubt that a finding by the GMC will change any minds.
Is there anyone dispassionate and neutral, any intelligent and informed person not beholden to any side who can explain the actual experimental evidence?