Fitzpatrick on the recent Wakefield news

11 Feb

Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick has written the article I wish I could have done–

The MMR scare: from foolishness to fraud?

For anyone looking to understand the timeline and the important questions raised by the Brian Deer investigations, this is a must read.

Dr. Fitzpatrick asks a very important question one must consider–if there is such a big disconnect between what the Wakefield papers report and the actual histories of the children (and the disconnects seem to be very significant), shouldn’t the journals print retractions?

Following Brian Deer’s 2004 revelations about Dr Wakefield’s conflicts of interest arising from undisclosed legal aid funding, 10 of his Lancet co-authors retracted the suggestion of a link between MMR and autism (while upholding the paper’s claim to have identified a distinctive form of bowel inflammation in autistic children). It is now clear that, given the selection bias confirmed by Deer – quite apart from his other allegations – it is not possible to make such a claim on the basis of the Lancet cases. Surely it is now time for the authors to withdraw this paper in its entirety? Perhaps the editor of the Lancet – together with those of the other journals involved – could submit Deer’s allegations to some sort of tribunal, perhaps arranged by the Medical Research Council. For 10 years the world of science has witnessed Dr Wakefield’s foolishness; now it has to ask: has he crossed the line into fraud?

Another good source on the Wakefield studies is in Paul Offit’s book “Autism’s False Prophets“.

You may recall that someone has YouTube’d Autism’s False Prophets. Yes, Story Time with Darwin. If you have problems reading or just want to listen in to the sections on Dr. Wakefield, give “Story Time” a try.

There are a LOT of blogs discussing this. I Speak of Dreams is keeping a running list.

Picking a couple–Respectful Insolence has Why am I not surprised? It looks as though Andrew Wakefield probably falsified his data.

Bad Astronomy has Did the founder of the antivax movement fake autism-vaccine link?

It is worth noting that Dr. Wakefield published a statement of his own as In his desperation, Deer gets it wrong once again.

Dr. Wakefield is in a strange position, since the GMC hearings are still ongoing to determine whether his methods warrant disciplinary action. That said, Dr. Wakefield’s statement responds to a letter that Brian Deer sent prior to publication. It is unclear if this response was sent to Mr. Deer before publication, or if any response was made pre-publication. That said, I wonder why Dr. Wakefield didn’t respond to the specific information from the children’s records which contradicts the story presented in Dr. Wakefield’s papers. What Dr. Wakefield does do is offload responsibility to others–other authors and the parents.

The reporting of the children in the Lancet paper is an accurate account of the clinical histories as reported to Professor Walker-Smith and his clinical colleagues.

One comment that has been made to a blog is worth paraphrasing here. Dr. Wakefield comments in his response:

Finally, I did not “create” a scare but rather, I responded to a scare that parents brought to my attention.

Perhaps Dr. Wakefield didn’t “create” a scare. But, what he did was throw gasoline on a lit match. To stand back and claim no responsibility for burning down the house is quite disingenuous.

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