Andrew Wakefield has been a major subject of discussion here on LeftBrainRightBrain and elsewhere for many years. The question comes up repeatedly as to what is the value of continuing to discuss someone whose ideas have been discredited, and who is no longer having much of an impact on the autism research discussion.
Mr. Wakefield has publicly stated that he is “not going away”. His book has come and, for all practical purposes, gone. He no longer works for Thoughtful House. His name is being dropped from papers for projects he has worked on.
He does have a new business venture to consult with some vaccine-advocacy groups, and I am sure that from time to time he will appear in the public’s eye.
We have already discussed here at LeftBrainRightBrain the outcome of the General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practice hearings, which found Mr. Wakefield guilty of multiple ethics violations. I recently posted observations on Mr. Wakefield’s patent activities, based on the transcripts of the GMC hearings. A valid question is why? Why go through those transcripts? The GMC already reported the results when they struck Mr. Wakefield off the register. Brian Deer has covered the Wakefield story much more thoroughly than we can here. Some people are just tired to the point of being annoyed with discussions of a Mr. Wakefield, and I can understand that.
All that said, I find the transcripts very interesting. No way I can read them all, but what I have read leaves me even more dismayed. I didn’t think it possible, but there it is.
I have already read important facts that surprised me. As I already wrote, Mr. Wakefield applied for his patent without the knowledge of his hospital. That is an amazingly foolish maneuver. This could have invalidated the patent. It was also foolish in that he could have left out key claims that could have protected the Hospital’s intellectual property. On many, many levels, this was a foolish thing to do.
I remain intrigued by the hearing transcripts. I am finding things I didn’t know. I assume those who don’t want to read will skip the posts, and some will read and a discussion will ensue.
So, I will blog about the hearing transcripts. With apologies to those who are tired of the Wakefield story. With no apologies to those who defend Mr. Wakefield and have accepted his rationalizations.
One problem is that there are so many details, so many ethical lapses, multiple conflicts of interest, so many details that it is easy to lose sight of what all this means.
This is long saga. For the most part, each day is a separate Word document and there 155 of them. A typical day’s testimony can be 80 pages long. Even the GMC decision is long. But what it shows is a pattern of multiple instances of lack of respect for the disabled children in his group’s care, multiple instances of disregard for ethical standards, multiple instances of conflicts of interest.
There is a pattern here. And it is pretty ugly.