Researcher Who Sparked the Vaccine/Autism Scare "Acted Unethically"

As I reported a while back, in the past few years the percentage of American children who receive childhood vaccinations has been dropping, and educated, well-off parents are leading the retreat. What has spooked them? Parents fear that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may trigger autism, a neurological disorder that typically appears before a child reaches the age of three.

The MMR/autism hypothesis took off in 1998 with the publication of a study of 12 autistic children by Canadian gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield’s study found traces of the measles virus in the guts of children he tested. He concluded that the virus derived from the MMR vaccination, and suggested that it caused inflammation possibly related to the children’s neuropsychiatric dysfunction . 

Since then study after study has debunked Wakefield's research. The Bad Astronomy blog over at Discover magazine reports:

...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.

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.

Hurray! Let's hope this ruling gets as wide a distribution as possible so that more children will receive vaccinations. Still no word on what sanctions Wakefield might suffer.

Kudos to Steve Skutnik.

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  • ||

    Next thing you know it will be revealed that scientists in other areas are acting unethically and doing things like destroying data, corrupt the pier review process and violating UK and American freedom of information laws.

  • ||

    What could you possibly be referring to?

    At first I thought you were referring to AGW, but then I realized how idiotic it would be to compare a well-studied, diversely-supported scientific consensus to a lone fraud who was quickly and soundly disproven by real scientists.

  • ||

    So well studied and so well done that it's main proponents felt the need to lie and break the law.

  • ||

    Please substantiate this claim with actual evidence. Only the reputation of one major proponent, out of many many researchers, has been tarnished. There is no evidence that shows that single researcher has broken the law or lied about AGW.

  • Tacos mmm...||

    Tsk tsk. You know better than that; the fact that Piltdown man was a hoax does not discredit the rest of hominid evolution. In the end, you have to deal with the ideas, not the people. In this case, the ideas were crap and the person was a fraud, but the connection to global warming is specious.

  • ||

    And the revelation that the pier review process had been compromised ended any validity to the claim that there is any sort of legitimate scientific consensus. There can't be a consensus without a legitimate pier review process.

  • ||

    By revelation do you mean one example about the Himalayan glaciers? Anecdotes about political motivations are not substitutes for evidence against AGW. You can attack political motivations for as long as you want, but the science is still there.

  • ||

    I can offer you thousands of examples of the success of the peer review process for every single example you come up with against it. Shouldn't you be doubting the scientists who affirmed that vaccines are safe and that Wakefield is a fraud? After all, those are the most politically motivated to protect their own position on vaccines being safe. Where are the consensus deniers now?

  • Old Mexican||

    Heller,

    "Peer review" just means that a paper is looked at by people purported to have the expertise to determine if the paper looks kosher. But science is NOT done through having peers review papers; it is done by corroborating or falsifying theories.

    And just to let you know, in the same way I concluded AGW is pure bunk and flim-flam, I concluded that the assertions behind the vaccination and autism connection were based on bunk as well.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Heller,

    By the way, this is the mindset behind the promotion of AGW to the point of committing fraud:

    Re: Chad,

    Prudence would dictate that we would slow down and be cautious - the exact opposite of what you are calling for, which is to ignore the data and charge full speed ahead because there is a remote chance the entire scientific establishment could be wrong.


    You have a very funny (i.e. totally fantastic) view of things. How is calling for prudence become imposing an economy-destroying juggernaut, and how can one construe as "flooring it" the call to NOT commit pillaging and thievery against productive people?
  • ||

    Review THIS pier!

    I keed, I keed.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    That pier is totally unpleasant looking. I should visit it.

  • ||

    I have pier reviewed your pier, and find it piery

  • ||

    Pier review? You buying a boat or what?

  • Joe_D||

    "pier review"?... wonderful!, worthy of Roland Pericles!

  • monolith||

    aren't piers just badly built bridges?

  • Dello||

    In all fairness, however; you can hardly blame folks for not trusting government to act in their best interest, even if they do keep voting for them.

  • Suki||

    Especially when a racist talk radio guy was the main one doubting the government.

    Ron, is it true that 20% (or some crazy percent) of all newborns who get vaccinated become autistic now?

  • ||

    Suki - that's not true. There is no link between vaccination and autism. The "rise" in autism reflects children coming off the "developmentally/mentally retarded" column into the autism column. Kids who had autism used to be thought to have development issues which becomes evident around 2 or so.

  • ed||

    This has nothing to do with autism (that I know of) but I finally installed an adblocker in conjunction with Firefox and now I can browse this site, articles and comments almost instantaneously without waiting for all the goddamn ads to load. It had become unbearable. Now it's bearable. The end.

  • ||

    Got have the ad. Somebody has to pay the jacket's dry cleaning bills.

  • Suki||

    You need to click through and buy for it to really mean anything.

  • ||

    You'll have to turn abp off occasionally to get some joke in the h&r forum, ya' know russian brides and the such.

  • ed||

    Nah. It's too beautiful now. Pure white margins! I can never go back.

  • helicopter mom||

    ...but but but Joe Kennedy said it was so!

  • Suki||

    Nappy headed hoe dude too!

  • ||

    I don't care what any study says. I've seen plenty of people go into convulsions within 1/2 an hour of getting their vaccinations when I was a child. I'd go with my mother who would administer the shots in clinics. She was a nurse at the time. For the record, she doesn't get vaccinations anymore, either.

  • ||

    well, that settles it. too bad nobody thought to ask a nurse or her son yet!

  • ||

    Maybe your mom sucked at giving shots.

  • ||

    No offense, but this isn't really relevant. The number of patients any one health care giver sees, even if that health care professional sees an exceptionally high number of patients, pales in comparison to the plethora of studies existing on vaccines saftey.

    Furthermore, in the case of autism specifically, there are anti-correlations between autism and vaccination, the most popular one being that autism case rates are also rising in countries with no vaccination programs.

    Again, I don't doubt that a healtcare giver has seen some seriously bad reactions. But that doesn't change the fact that the trend over decades is clear in regards to vaccinations and their risks vs. benefits. The trend is clearly in favor of the benefits, with the risks being the very clear, near microscopic minority.

  • ms||

    "the most popular one being that autism case rates are also rising in countries with no vaccination programs." Cite which country/countries?

  • ||

    "I don't care what any study says"?

    Let me get this straight: your mother, a nurse, brought you, a child, to "clinics" where she administered vaccinations. This sounds like the work of a good woman for, perhaps, a charity? Because I've never been to a doctor's office where nurses were allowed to have their children with them while giving shots (or doing anything else - patient privacy, etc.). Naturally I'm countering your anecdotal statement - "I've seen plenty of people" - with my own - "I've never been to a doctor's office where..." But my point is, might there've been some risk factors in the population your mother was serving that could've skewed the result? This is a real question.

  • ||

    John may be seeming a bit snarky, but there's a serious point here: people abuse trust, power, and positions of authority. There is no segment of humanity that does not do this, whether they are scientists, politicians, cops, non-profit workers, UN employees, whatever.

    This cannot be overstated, and we are now seeing what happens when you give any of these segments too much trust. Prime current examples are the police and scientists.

    Skepticism, skepticism, skepticism. As soon as someone tells you something, the first thing you look at is how does this benefit them? How does it fit with their politics; their biases?

    If it's just a little too perfect for them, watch out.

  • Warty||

    There is no segment of humanity that does not do this

    Reminds me of:

    Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.

    This place does need more Mark Twain.

  • ||

    Right, because non-reasoning animals by comparison live in social and technological splendor compared to us poop-throwers. Mark Twain was a great defender of classical liberalism, but the Unreasoning Animal is an idiotic Christianity-inspired fad. Don't judge humanity by it's most animalastic members.

  • ||

    *animalistic

  • Warty||

    Way to grasp that point there, chief.

  • ||

    I did grasp the point, buddy.

  • Warty||

    No, shithead. You didn't.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Where the fuck did you come from? Get the fuck out of here.

  • ||

    Fuck off.

  • ||

    I'm skeptical about all your skepticism, Episiarch. What's your skeptical agenda?

  • ||

    I feed on skepticism, and you just provided me with dinner. Ha ha ha ha, you fell into my trap!

  • ||

    It's all part of your master plan to replace Randi, the Skeptic General.

  • ||

    "Drugs are for losers, and skepticism is for losers with big, weird eyebrows!"

  • Suki||

    So you are Pro L AND Warty? That explains a few things.

  • ||

    a cynic may find your skepticism ircromulent and unsatisflying

  • ||

    Actually, this is no laughing matter. Episiarch is exactly right. When someone goes around saying that absolutely every bit of evidence supports his position, and that position also has major political biases built in, you've got to wear your skeptical hat.

    AGW isn't the only place this is true, but it is an example. The certainty claimed is the ultimate proof of that. It's obvious--blindingly obvious--that we do not have a strong grasp on the climate, particularly over time. If cautionary warnings were being issued, along with statements that more advances in the science were necessary before we could conclude anything, this would be a different story.

    The huge flaw in the politics of this is the push for specific cures to the AGW disease. There's not consensus that the recent warming trend even has a substantial anthropogenic component. Think about that. If that's not agreed upon, no "solution" can be presented. We don't even know if projections of continued warming have any merit.

    People who use the word consensus usually have an ax to grind and just use the term to shut up opposition.

  • ||

    Exactly. And Thank you.

  • ms||

    "By two years of age, U.S. children receive as many as 24 vaccine injections, and might receive up to five shots during one visit to the doctor". I don't blame parents for their concern since it is unclear what causes autism.

  • The Man||

    Unless you have had a child diagnosed with autism, it is very difficult (perhaps impossible) to understand the straws that will be grasped at for an explanation or as a guide for the future. This is true regardless of one's background, training or skeptical nature. In 2001 my son was diagnosed with "autism spectrum disorder." Having published research in the area, I was a very sophisticated parent (with personal access to the psychologists and physicians that could offer advice) and with my special training and qualifications I was able to convince *myself* that we were not to blame for my son's condition. When my wife decided that she did not want our, then eight month old, daughter vaccinated, I accepted her judgment. At some point, in some situations, we're all liable to act in irrational ways because we just don't have the strength to fight the doubt.

  • ||

    When my wife decided that she did not want our, then eight month old, daughter vaccinated, I accepted her judgment.

    Except that your decision has impact on children whose parents choose not to grasp at straws. I hope you do not plan on sending her to public schools. Contagious disease policy is one area that most libertarians agree warrants government involvement.

  • ||

    of course if vaccines worked the way they are supposed to, the other children at school would be immune right?

  • ||

    Not every child can get vaccinated, chief.

  • ||

    of course if vaccines worked the way they are supposed to, the other children at school would be immune right?

    As one of the links makes clear, not every child who is vaccinated actually becomes immune.

  • ||

    Google "herd immunity" and learn, grasshopper.

  • ms||

    The Man, as educated parents you both know the risk. I had my children vaccinated but in different countries. There is less controversy in places that do not have additives in some of the shots. I also asked for the lot # of the drugs to research if there had been any unusual reactions. I don't fault your wife's decision because of her situation of coping with the pressure of an autistic child and giving birth which takes physical and mental recovery time. I don't think it was an irrational act but the best choice for her to make during that time.

  • ||

    As I understand it there is no way to test a batch of vaccine to determine if it is safe before it is administered. Additionally, if some reaction were to occur, the manufacturer may not be sued. Finally, there are traces of formaldehyde and mercury in some vaccines as well. I find it a little disappointing that the editors of REASON are so dismissive of concerns that some people may have concerning vaccinations. Maybe their wrong in this particular case, but is it really true that no vaccine has ever caused an adverse reaction of any kind?

  • The Man||

    You're right, it's not true---every intervention has the risk of negative consequence. And while most people posting here seem to think that a link between vaccination and autism is just laughable junk science, the link (although pretty much precluded by subsequent research) was not implausible. Hindsight is 20/20 and too many people here feel competent to pronounce in areas in which they have no knowledge or understanding at all. Much scientific research looks foolish and misguided 10, 50 or 100 years later, but the fact is some of the smartest, deepest thinkers have been shown to be wrong by later research.

  • ||

    the fact is some of the smartest, deepest thinkers have been shown to be wrong by later research.

    So you are saying that Jenny McCarthy is one of our smartest, deepest thinkers? If every "not improbable" concern consumes time and resources progress stands still. This was considered junk science from Day 1; it never enjoyed a moment of credibility.

  • ms||

    This drug had a day 1 and a day 2 and..."The drug thalidomide was sold from 1957-1961 in about 50 countries under approximately 40 different names. It was given to pregnant women for morning sickness, stress, and to help them sleep. Between 1956 and 1962, roughly 10,000 children were born with severe malformations."

  • ||

    The drug thalidomide was sold from 1957-1961 in about 50 countries under approximately 40 different names.

    and your point is?

  • ms||

    Does this sound familiar? "This was considered junk science from Day 1; it never enjoyed a moment of credibility."

  • ||

    I, for one, am willing to simply trust our betters to tell me what I need to do. As history has shown, under no circumstances would they engage in CYA at my expense.

    The people at the CDC care about me. Did you know that they were "public servants"? They are bureaucrats who have told me that the "science is settled". The pharma company that produces the drugs also really, really care about my health. Knowing that the Federal government is on top of this just makes me all warm and fuzzy.

  • ||

    Does this sound familiar? "This was considered junk science from Day 1; it never enjoyed a moment of credibility."

    So you are secretly suspicious that all of the evidence establishing a link between thalidomide and birth defects is tenuous and further studies are needed? Just like you are openly suspicious of all of the evidence establishing no link between vaccines and ASD?

  • ms||

    SP,
    "So you are secretly suspicious that all of the evidence establishing a link between thalidomide and birth defects is tenuous and further studies are needed? Just like you are openly suspicious of all of the evidence establishing no link between vaccines and ASD?" No I am suspicious that the same jackasses who kept thalidomide in the market for four years are the same jackasses who have dismissed any link between autism and vaccinations.

  • ||

    No I am suspicious that the same jackasses who kept thalidomide in the market for four years are the same jackasses who have dismissed any link between autism and vaccinations.

    Except the science is conclusive that in a percentage of cases the children of women who used thalidomide to treat morning sickness did have birth defects while the science is equally conclusive that there is no link between ASDs and vaccinations. The link you are looking for has been sought several decades and nothing has been found.

  • ms||

    The cause of autism is unknown. Neither of us can conclude what is the catalyst for the disease. I am only libertarian in the sense that I respect the decision parents make with their own children. It is valid if they feel nutrition alleviates autistic symptoms. It is valid if they conclude their child was not ever the same after vaccinations.

  • ||

    That's cute, and suffers lies of omission.

    Thalidomide was never lab tested against pregnant mice at the time, so it was not known it was tetraogenic. Once the tests were done it was proven to be so and was contraindicated against pregnant mothers.

    The other lie of omission is that thalidomide is still in use today.

    Always remember boys and girls: selectively quoting from Wikipedia is not a substitute for real research.

  • ms||

    #1 I know that thalidomide was still in use today but did not state it because it is not relevant to this discussion.
    #2 "Thalidomide was never lab tested against pregnant mice at the time, so it was not known it was tetraogenic. Once the tests were done it was proven to be so and was contraindicated against pregnant mothers." You are right but your omission is the fact that it was tested on pregnant women and it took only four short years to see the results.

  • Abdul||

    I don't care about autism.

    I just can't believe that Jenny McCarthy's boobs lied to me.

    I may not recover from this.

  • ||

    The link initially may not have been implausible, but the important thing to realize is that the cumulation of many research efforts has built an overall picture that clearly shows that the link is nonexistent.

    What matters is not what early states of research indicated. What matters is what **current** ones do. And the current state of research - for example, the 2004 L Smeeth et. al meta-analysis published in the UK, the 2008 Mrozek-Budzyn, Kiełtyka study from Poland, and the 2005 Honda, Shimizu, and Rutter (i.e. the "Yokohama") MMR-autism study - contradicts links between vaccinations and autism.

    It might have been that initial links seemed plausible, but the important thing is what the cumulation of knowledge is. And it is against any link between vaccinations and autism.

  • Nipplemancer||

    but is it really true that no vaccine has ever caused an adverse reaction of any kind?


    no, nor is anyone saying that.

  • ||

    "there are traces of formaldehyde and mercury in some vaccines as well."

    Formaldehyde is a natural by-product of single carbon metabolism. A banana contains more FA than any five pediatric shots combined.

    You know what else contains trace amounts of mercury? Everything! Water, apples, tuna fish, Jack Daniels. There's no getting away from it, and our bodies each contain about 5 mg of hg.

    Dose makes the poison.

  • ||

    I was going to post a "here comes the stoopid" message but thought that I might encourage trolls/troofers. But, ah, here came the stoopid anyway.

  • ||

    It's the CHEMTRAILS of educated, upper middle class parents.

    OH NOES LITTLE JOHNNIE MIGHT NOT BE PERFECT IF WE GET HIM VACCINATED

  • ||

    It is definitely all about the upper middle class vanity. "My kid would've been an Einstein!"

  • ||

    Be kind, dbcooper; parents whose child is uncommunicative and may never be able to live independently may validly wish for an external cause. Doesn't make their wish come true, sadly - and not just sadly for them, but sadly for future children whose autism can't be prevented simply by not vaccinating them.

  • ||

    GMOs are the Chemtrails of urban hipsters.

  • Warty||

    WE DONT NO WHAT CASUS ATISM SO SOTP GETTING YOR CHRIDLEN VACKSINATED

  • ||

    And make sure you buy Baby Einstein.

  • ||

    The evil done by this guy cannot be overstated. People are going to die because of this vaccine fearmongering.

  • Warty||

    Hm. Maybe it isn't so bad.

  • ||

    Not necessarily the people who deserve death, perhaps I should add.

  • ||

    The funny thing is that it is our so called smartest group or parents who are buying into this.

  • ||

    Becoming a parent instantly qualifies you in becoming a moron.

    I say this out of personal experience.

  • ||

    Hear hear, says the mom of three...

  • ||

    Some blame does rest with parents who are dumb enough to have believed this, you know.

  • ||

    eugenicist!

  • ||

    Exactly!

  • ||

    yes. too bad many people can't discern passive eugenics vs. proactive eugenics...

  • libertarian jackasses LLC ||

    You whinny little shits. Are you telling me the science is settled?

  • ||

    The evil done by this guy cannot be overstated. People are going to die because of this vaccine fearmongering in order to line how own pockets.

    Lets not forget.

  • ||

    Man, are they actually teaching scientists how to be unethical in the UK now? That's two major breeches in two critical areas of science. Is this just their way at getting back for giving them Madonna?

  • ||

    OT. Salinger croaked.

    I've never read CitR. Worth the time?

  • Warty||

    It depends. Are you 13 and/or a virgin?

  • ||

    No and no.

    So no, I guess.

  • Warty||

    Actually, I was just doing my due diligence. You're safe.

  • ||

    On-topic.

    I have found that it is basically impossible to overestimate people's capacity to believe pretty much anything. The vaccine/autism panic is one of the most bizarre examples of this I've ever seen. There has not been one study which conclusively proved that any of the ingredients in any vaccine contribute, by any measurable process, to the development of autism.

  • ||

    I'm regularly put in the position of having to explain why it's not my burden to prove that nothing could possibly be wrong with any vaccine for any person ever. I cite the millions and millions without trouble, but that's inadequate.

    Doctors think the whole business is total nonsense, from my experience.

  • ||

    While I chose to have my child vaccinated, I would totally still bang Jenny McCarthy.

  • ||

    ick.

  • ||

    crap!

  • Sam Grove||

    Is that the best you can do?

  • ||

    just an opinion. little bit too subjective to jump up and down about, no?

  • ||

    or are you referring to my handle fail? was not intentionally engaged in spoofing jones when i posted that.

  • ||

    Yeah, but you'd have to take the good with the bad: SHE'D be the one who wouldn't respect YOU the next morning for vaccinating your child.

    ;)

  • ||

    Which study conclusively proves an association between vaccines and autism?

  • ||

    So,
    1) His results were never replicated
    2) May well have simply faked them
    3) Had conflicting incentives
    4) Was unqualified to do the tests
    5) Endangered the patients
    Hitting for the cycle only takes 4; this guy added a grand-slam. What a guy! Can we introduce him to Jenny McCarthy? They should have a *great* time together.

  • Tacos mmm...||

    Well, I don't know if HE would have a great time.

  • Old Mexican||

    Maybe he took some complementary courses at the University of East Anglia - those guys are the experts on flim-flam . . .

  • ||

    Believe me, they know each other.

  • ||

    too bad they did not think of an autism vaccine. what would we do then? that's like a gun to your head!

  • ||

    Ironically, the MMR shot is the closest thing we have to an autism vaccine. One of the components is rubella vaccine. A woman is who infected with rubella in her first trimester has a very high probability of delivering a child with congenital rubella syndrome, which can present as autism.

  • PIRS||

    The Mary Baker Eddy worshippers still won't get their kids vaccinated. They put out a decent newspaper but they put their children at risk.

  • ||

    It's great that this info is officially coming out. Sadly, though, most of the anti-vaccine nuts I know personally have moved on from autism as their big worry. They have lists of things they're freaking out about now, from chicken egg allergies with flu shots, to cells from aborted fetuses being used, to aluminum poisoning, and so on and so forth. Getting people to believe that vaccinating their kids is a good idea is going to take more than a disproven study. I HOPE it will turn around with the right info getting out there. But I worry that it will actually end up continuing until there are significant disease outbreaks and deaths.

    I would be all "survival of the vaccinated" about it, but I'm actually somewhat worried given that part of the effectiveness of vaccines relies on herd immunity. I am a bit concerned that given a disease outbreak one of my (vaccinated) kids could end up being one of the vaccine failure rate statistics - which would piss me off immensely.

  • ||

    I'm a physician and no fan of this guy, but I don't understand this claim: "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."

    ANY physician is qualified to perform a lumbar puncture ("spinal tap"). It's something we all learn as medical students and all do as interns/residents. As to "ethical approval" to do them, what is needed beyond permission of the child's parents? Is the claim he lied as to the rationale for doing them?

  • ms ||

    RL, "The GMC's disciplinary panel of experts ruled Dr Wakefield showed a "callous disregard" for children's suffering and abused his position of trust. 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" The dispute may be a technical one because in England you register with a physician in your area. "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." Again, a technical issue. The politics is that the rate of vaccination for MMR has dropped but the parents of the children who were studied were supportive. Interestingly Dr Wakefield is living and working in the US.

  • The Man||

    Unless the procedure was performed in the course of and as a part of medically required treatment, then there are ethical considerations. My PhD research was much less intrusive but still had to get the approval of the human research ethics committee, both at my school and at the institution where my subjects lived. In addition to this I was required to produce a letter that explained in detail what procedures I was going to perform, under what conditions and for how long. It also had to explain what personal benefits each of my subjects would receive if he/she participated in the program. In this case, there was no personal benefit since the program was purely investigational, i.e. it was not testing the efficacy of a drug or treatment. I had to make that statement explicitly. The reason for all this (as my better informed colleagues from psychology) told me was that there has been a history of mentally retarded and autistic research subjects being mistreated by researchers (all with the best of motives of course). And let's not forget: no "puncture" is risk free. A bad tap can cause permanent, disabling injury or even death.

  • ms ||

    "Unless the procedure was performed in the course of and as a part of medically required treatment, then there are ethical considerations." My understanding from a quote of a parent is that he was treating her autistic son. The investigation was sparked by a reporter (Times journalist Brian Deer) and not at the request of a parent. Dr Wakefield also received support from autism groups. Europeans tend to distrust drug companies and vaccinations have always been an issue. The government has become frustrated with parents who prefer homeopathic and or exposure to some of the diseases.

  • The Man||

    I don't know what he was treating the child for, but unless the tap was *required* for that treatment then the performance of the procedure was not warranted. Invasive, potentially deadly procedures are not things that the medical profession typically allows their members to do simply in order to satisfy their curiosity. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think that it would be allowed even if a parent had fully understood the risks and consented anyway.

  • ||

    Aside from the dubious ethics of doing spinal taps (not exactly risk-free procedures) on children without any clinical benefit to the kids . . . .

    He did this outside of any research program. Now, I'm no fan of bureaucracy, but I do believe that things like Institutional Review Boards and the like have a very real purpose.

    This guy was out on a lark, trying to gin up results, to make himself rich, putting children at very real risk to create research that could not, could not, have any scientific value.

  • ||


    Wakefield was unqualified to perform the test

    seems you're assuming it was the spinal tap the writer is claiming he was not qualified to perform. how do you deduce that from the information given?

  • ||

    "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,"
    Uh, unless you have better resources, I'd say this: "Wakefield was unqualified to perform the test" pretty much says he was unqualified to perform the spinal taps.
    If I'm missing something, please let me know.

  • ||

    i honestly have no clue. but the implication of that sentence is so ambiguous, i would not say for certain that the "test" it refers to is in fact the spinal tap mentioned, or the overall scientific research, or something else for that matter.

  • ||

    Spinal taps are pretty basic shit; I've performed them on monkeys myself. But it's impossible to parse the language of doctors who will claim anything for "certified doctors only" that they can.

  • ||

    That's actually one of the most insightful, and unfortunately true, things you've ever said on this board, Epi.

  • ||

    Maybe you should have been at my daughter's birth then.

    The resident giving the missus her epidural stuck her 5 times before giving up. The Dr. sighed and performed it in seconds.

  • ||

    Residents are doctors. In fact, if it was an anesthesiology resident, it was someone who was qualified to hang out a shingle right then and there - they've finished all their general medical training.

    Some people got the touch, some don't.

    (I'm a professor of anesthesiology. And there are some of my residents I'd rather have doing a technical procedure on me than some of my colleagues.)

  • ||

    Yes, I do know that (hey, I watch Scrubs, but not the "new" one). I was trying to draw the distinction with being pedantic.

  • ¢||

    It is definitely all about the upper middle class vanity. "My kid would've been an Einstein!"

    It was the quasi-autistic wrongness of Einstein's brain that made him Einstein. No respectable parent wants one of him. It's "My kid would've written grants for diversity murals!"

  • PIRS||

    & apparently Einstein was a late talking child.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....5J55VG1BPV

  • ||

    Ohmygosh, this strikes me as SO true! Regression to the mean == bad, in terms of looking for genius...

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I have said before, the ideas of who can be regarded as experts badly need to be challenged. We give too much credit to a lot of career academics who have no real world experience outside their NSF grants and peer reviewed egos, because they are afraid of "soiling" their credentials. Its happening slowly, the academic types are bitching about the gradual shift away from traditional higher education to more for-profit and community college educations. They feel threatened by things like wikipedia and ways for people to get their ideas known without going through someone who is an "authority" on the subject.

  • ||

    I actually wouldn't worry too much about this. The fact of the matter is that, as far as scientific research goes, an individual's expertise is far less relevant to the data he or she produces. Sure, sham science may even get past peer review, but if it does not agree with the accumulation of knowledge from other independent research products, then that scientist either has to show why all the others are wrong, or admit that his/her own findings were in error.

    The latter has in fact happened before. I forget the first name, but a researcher by the last name Cox worked for an East Coast petroleum producer (Exxon?? I'm struggling to remember...). He was on record as disbelieving in the allotrope of carbon known as a fullerene (also now commonly called a "Bucky Ball", after Richard Buckminster Fuller, who designed geodesic domes that resemble that allotrope). Yet, after much accumulation of research findings very clearly and unambiguously showed that they existed, he in turn demonstrated that he was a dedicated, honest scientist and turned his own views around to the point where he became a leading researcher of such molecules for his company.

    The expertise is relevant only as far as getting one's foot in the publication door. After that, the data and conclusions must hold up on their own merits. So while I sympathize with your stance here - I, too, worry about the assualt on the respectability of the medical profession after Wakefield's work - I don't see any reason to worry about the labeling of "experts". People in research realize that it's the data that counts, not the lab coat producing it.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Funny how autism is much more prevalent when the parents are older, and people are having kids at more advanced ages these days, and there has been an increase in autism over that same time span.

    But it must be the vaccines.

  • PIRS||

    The stigma attached to teenage pregnancy may be one of the most UNhealthy and counterproductive stigmas ever invented by mankind. Women who keep putting off childbearing for education and career advancement are the very women to which you refer. Meanwhile high schoolers who get pregnant can often get college scholarships and have their cake and eat it too.

  • ||

    Yeah, but they don't get to have as much fun.

    Who wants to be tied down to a kid through their 20s and 30s?

  • PIRS||

    Have you ever had a child?

  • ||

    No. Are you suggesting that it's not a burden? Because I have lots of friends with kids. It's a burden - one that they're happy to take on, but a burden.

  • PIRS||

    Simply that the rewards outweigh the inconvenience of not being able to get drunk on a Friday night.

  • Jim||

    You're kidding, right?

  • PIRS||

    No. Why would you assume that I am?

  • ||

    But that is just as goofy and unscientific of a theory as the vaccine link. Who knows, maybe age is a factor, but until someone does a successful study it's something external, I'm more likely to believe that it's just a difference in what we diagnose and how we diagnose it. I mean there are plenty of examples throughout history of people who are mentally atypical. Who knows how many of them would be diagnosed with autism if they lived today...

  • PIRS||

    "but until someone does a successful study it's something external"

    Guess what? Someone did.

    http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/kwn250

  • BakedPenguin||

    Thx, PIRS. Leah, apparently not as goofy as vaccines, since there is at least one study with a statistical correlation. Assuming there are no leaked emails and hockey stick parental age graphs in the future...

  • ||

    I don't know, given that correlation does not equal causation, and the medical community are themselves divided about causes, and that autism has been correlated to pretty much anything and everything by different researchers (from age to genetics to environmental factors to heavy metal toxicity), I guess I'm just not convinced that a single study about a single possible triggering factor figured out the cause.

    There are way too many variables included in analyzing why someone's brain is miswired to just point to all the older parents as the cause.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Cells lose DNA each time they split. This partly contributes to aging. I have no idea how this affects reproductive cells. If it does, it would probably be sperm. Egg cells form early in life.

  • ||

    And how about the women-in-the-workplace thing? Back in the day, the geeky engineer would probably have married, what, a secretary or a teacher? If she had been a working woman inclined to get married at all? The geeky FEMALE engineers were not, ISTM, considered to be very wifely material. But now?

    No offense to engineers is intended. Some of my best friends, including my dad (who married a teacher, thank goodness, because I'm geeky enough without reinforcing the trait), are geeky engineers.

  • sedition||

    i can't provide a link, but i did read in the paper a couple of weeks ago that the likleyhood of a down syndrome child rises for mothers over the age of 35.

  • PIRS||

  • PIRS||

    In case this gets separated by a comment thread my link refers to sedition's comment at

    sedition|1.28.10 @ 10:40PM|#

  • ||

    yay! the jacket's on stossel!

  • ||

    Regardless of any supposed cause, I still have a very great problem in that "autism" is defined as 'whatever we want to call it'.
    If we're to hope to find a cure or a treatment, we should have some idea of what we hope to cure or treat. We don't have that.

  • Maxwell||

    You know what I haven't seen in a while? Polio.

    Also, autism is over diagnosed because the diagnosis is the only way for many children with a broad spectrum of developmental disorders to be eligible for government assistance.

  • ||

    Bingo.

    I think there is a disorder that has the symptoms that are associated with "autism". I also think that those symptom definitions have been stretched beyond reason, and that dilutes the diagnosis to the point of pointlessness. Think of ADD. I've known kids who definitely had a problem in the way that one thinks of ADD. But then they go and start throwing every kid who daydreams in class in there, and it ceases to have meaning.

    Regardless, I'd kill for a Ritalin prescription, so any kid in my family that I can borrow for a few hours is going to the doctor for an ADD consultation. No, no, this prescription isn't for you, Steve, I'll just hold on to it.

  • ||

    You know what I haven't seen in a while? Polio.

    For what purpose, today, does a polio vaccine serve?

  • ||

    The thread of failed handle thread spoofs?

    Note to self, leave the cute stuff to the "professionals".

  • ||

    Polio is still found in India, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. A plane ride away, so to speak.

  • Neu Mejican||

    \m/(^_^)\m/

  • The Man||

    Now, now...none of your perl regexes here. We won't stand for it.

  • j.i.am||

    I thought the problem with vaccines was that they contained a small amount of mercury used as a preservative. Here in CA mercury has been illegal in vaccines for about 9 years. Any decline in autism yet?

  • Abdul||

    The data is better than you suspect. Mercury vaccines were phased out in Europe first, but autism diagnoses increased instead of decreased.

    Most sane--tin-foil-hatless folks believe it's because autism has become a trendy way of saying the fruit of your loins is a 'tard.

  • ||

    Believe we have the crux of the problem identified; life in it's infinite randomness has delt me a shitty hand, someone must be at fault.

  • ||

    This was observed in Japan too.

  • ||

    Whoops. Pardon; didn't realize the threading of this page would make my comment seem devoid of context. What I was referring to was the issue of mercury in vaccines and the comment that it was removed in Europe, yet autism diagnoses increased. This also happend in Japan: The thimerosol-free variant of MMR became the norm, yet autism diagnoses rose.

  • ||

    MMR never contained thimerosal, because it contains a live virus. There was a three year window in the early 90s when the Japanese suspended the MMR vaccine. Autism did not decline for that birth cohort, and in the late 90s several universities were shut down due to a mumps outbreak.

  • Guy Smiley||

    The Germ Theory Of Disease (and the mainstream view of Cancer) is the greatest evil plaguing humanity.

    Educate yourselves:

    http://learninggnm.ca/documents/virus_theory.html

  • ||

    So how about doing a little research into how these vaccines came about, and what goes into them? For starters, why was mercury, of all things, included until 2001? And what about those 150,000 vets with Gulf War Syndrome? Gee, we really trust the government after that debacle (for those unaware, Gulf War Syndrome is a side-effect from the vaccines that the soldiers were required to receive prior to deployment.)

  • ||

    "For starters, why was mercury, of all things, included until 2001?"

    Thiomersal was included as a preservative. And some vaccines and other sorts of shots still contain it. But to be blunt, the amount of mercury you get from a single vaccination pales in comparison to what would be received from other sources like atmospheric pollution from coal burning, paint, runoff into the water supply, tuna (not a joke), etc.

    Preservatives such as thiomersal were added when people died after being innoculated with shots that contained either spoiled components or were contaminated by some pathogen. The textbook case was the 1928 staphylococcus contamination of diptheria shots in Australia (I think... someone correct me if I'm wrong). 12 out of 42 children died in that event. Incidents like this one persuaded governments to mandate preservatives in vaccinations in order to guard against the risk of such contaminations reoccuring.

    There is no question that thiomersal is toxic; that's what makes it such a good preservative. But, like all things, dosage matters, and the amounts of thiomersal in a vaccine is minute. It's enough to kill bacteria, but far from enough to be toxic to a human. Furthermore, studies such as the 2002 Pichichero, Cernichiari , Lopreiato, and Treanor study of vaccinated infants stools (what a lousy job *that* would've been!) showed a high incidence of mercury there, but a low (in some cases, nonexistent) level of that in the same patients' blood samples, the point being that thiomersal showed itself to be nearly totally excreted by the body. So exposure to it would have to be continuous and at high levels that exceeded the body's ability to excrete it to become dangerous.

    The ultimate point is that thiomersal - the mercury containing compound in question in vaccines - was shown to have a very low risk relative to the reward of keeping vaccines free of contaminants.

  • ||

    Any comment on chelation? I have a friend who's conVINCED that the mercury (or heavy metals generally) is (are) there; you just can't see them.

    Hmm...

  • ||

    Wish I too could long for the good old pre-vaccine days; polio, measles, whopping cough, consumption, the random pox. Love me some idiocracy.

    I blame Bush.

  • Guy Smiley||

    There is a small problem with the "viruses cured polio, measles, whopping cough, etc." "meme" (as the kids say): all of those diseases were already declining to the point of near nonexistence BEFORE the vaccine was introduced, and after its introduction, merely continued declining at the previous rate. So the decline of these diseases is actually proof that the vaccine had absolutely nothing to do with the decline of these diseases.

  • ||

    Even is this was true - Are you proposing we just wait for the die off to complete and forgoe any intervention? Wecome to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. How Darwinian of you.

  • Guy Smiley||

    Well, if the intervention in question is completely useless, then I say we forego it.

    Unfortunately, the vaccine lie is only part of the bigger, and deadlier lie: The Germ Theory Of Disease.

    When our enlightened progeny look back on the many who actually believed this theory, and all the torture that it caused, they will feel like angels looking down at the inhabitants of hell.

    http://learninggnm.ca/home.html

  • ||

    all of those diseases were already declining to the point of near nonexistence BEFORE the vaccine was introduced

    Do you actually have any evidence supporting this assertion?

  • ||

    Oh, wait, never mind.

    My post above was made before I read your previous post.

    The Germ Theory Of Disease (and the mainstream view of Cancer) is the greatest evil plaguing humanity.

    Yeah, right. And if we just dilute the homeopathic agent to the point where it has disappeared, its imprint will stiil be on the "medicine".

  • ||

    Can't post any more today, though. Got to get to my doctor for my weekly bleeding.

    Yep, none of that fancy modern science for me. Just got to get my humors balanced.

  • Guy Smiley||

    You're right: diluting a supposed cause of harmful symptoms, then administering it, to cure those very symptoms, is homeopathic nonsense. Unless you call it "a vaccine".

    http://barbfeick.com/vaccinati....._rates.jpg

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Google "antibody" and learn.

  • Guy Smiley||

    I know what antibodies are: they are the protein molecules that the "virus tests" test for, instead of actually testing for viruses.

  • ||

    Electron microscope images of human disease viruses: http://www.scottcamazine.com/p...../index.htm

    The world is flat and the sun circles it. May Cernunnos visit your clan.

  • ||

    It's too bad that scientists are so unreliable and science is so rife with fraud. People don't know who the liars are, or who to believe. It's too bad. Some say one scientist is wrong/deceptive/incompetent/has a conflict of interest, but for all we know it's his critics who are wrong/deceptive/incompetent/have a conflict of interest.

    What about mecury poisioning from vaccines? Is there any truth to that? How can anyone believe the answer?

  • ||

    "What about mecury poisioning from vaccines? Is there any truth to that?"

    No. Multiple studies conducted by researchers around the world and in turn analyzed as groups of studies to reveal larger trends (this is called "meta analysis") shows that there are no standing links between vaccinations and reports of ill effects from mercury. There are only anecdotes that fail to demonstrate trends in the population.

    "How can anyone believe the answer?"

    By looking at the data, continuously comparing those past conclusions against new knowledge generated by continuing studies, and letting that accumulation of knowledge inform your current conclusion.

  • Geoff||

    Vaccines save lives? That's not what Lew Rockwell's bloggers think.

  • korla pundit||

    >What about mecury poisioning from vaccines? Is there any truth to that? How can anyone believe the answer?

    Listen up. There is no mercury. That was years ago, and even then, there was absolutely no connection to autism. Why is this so hard for people to grasp?

    I'll tell you one thing that is proving true: a lot more children are dying now from measles and other preventable diseases thanks to this fraud. Just like the olden days before vaccines. Ever visit an old graveyard? That's what the antivaccine nuts want to bring back.

    This should be considered murder for profit.

  • ||

    Google "19th century post-mortem photography" to see what life was like before all these vaccines.

  • BDR||

    MSNBC piece on Wakefield today: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/.....5#35141455

  • Liz Ditz||

    One of my blogging habits is to collate pro and con posts on a particular issue.

    One reason to do is that each blog has its own set of commenters and often the comments reveal aspects of the issue previously not considered elsewhere.

    Today's issue is the UK's General Medical Council's ruling on Andrew Wakefield.

    I've included this post in the list.

    The list can be found at

    http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_s.....nduct.html

    It will be interesting to see the blog responses over the next few days. Currently the "Andy Wakefield is a hero of science and will be vindicated" posts stand at 13; the "GMC findings are correct. Good science is eventually self-correcting" posts stand at 50.

  • ||

    I have never seen so many fifth form type comments on a serious subject, I need to see where your commentors are coming from.

    I worked in the industry that invented good science in the sixties I know how long it is possible to overturn the facts before you are found out. Andrew Wakefield's GMC fiasco is a red herring. MMR may certainly cause autism but only when damage has been done by something else first.

    All your critical faculties cannot change the facts on the ground. Unvaccinated autistic people are almost non-existent in the UK unvaccinated population of over three millions. Look up Sir Richard Doll and his conclusions about the cause of lung cancer. He said it was something to do with 90% of lung cancer sufferers having been former smokers whilst only 30% of the population smoked. To those who deride the informed consent lobby, Stick That in Your Pipe and Smoke It!

    Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK.

  • MS||

    Tony, "Unvaccinated autistic people are almost non-existent in the UK unvaccinated population of over three millions" Do you have a study to cite?

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