Andrew Wakefield has sent a threatening letter to Forbes and Emily Willingham claiming harm over their use of the word “fraud” in a recent article. I wrote about this recently but then thought, “I wonder how often the term ‘fraud’ shows up in the press. Here are some examples from a recent Google News search.
But before I continue, realize that a few years later Wakefield was found guilty of falsifying data in order to fit a desired conclusion and was stripped of his license to practice medicine. The hypothesis that MMR caused autism was declared fraudulent, and Wakefield is now living in Texas pushing homeopathic medicine (read: watered-down to the point it needs no FDA approval) to the gullible.
First, let’s put to bed one of the more outlandish conspiracy theories brought on by the anti-vaccine movements that vaccines cause autism. Jenny McCarthy, fueled by a biased and fraudulent study in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield claiming autism was linked to the combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, used her celebrity stature to “raise awareness” for parents to reconsider vaccines for their children.
In retrospect, it was the correct decision. Wakefield’s work was later found to be fraudulent. His research practices were ethically dubious, he falsified data and failed to declare certain vested interests.
The MMR vaccine became the centre of a controversy following claims (which were subsequently established as fraudulent) that the vaccine was responsible for causing Autism-spectrum disorders in children. The controversy was kicked off in 1998 by the publication of a paper by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield in the medical journal The Lancet. Investigations later revealed that Wakefield had multiple undeclared conflicts of interest, had manipulated evidence, and had broken other ethical codes. The Lancet paper was partially retracted in 2004 and fully retracted in 2010, and Wakefield was found guilty by the General Medical Council of serious professional misconduct in May 2010 and was struck off the Medical Register.
Not only have countless follow-up studies directly contradicted this result, but The Lancet actually retracted the original article in 2010 when it was revealed to be fraudulent. Wakefield was also stripped of his medical license
British researcher Dr. Andrew Wakefield authored completely bogus research in 1998 that linked the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism. His fraudulent research was finally exposed; he was completely discredited and lost his British medical license.
In 2011, the British Medical Journal published an investigative piece by Sunday Times reporter Brian Deer, debunking Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s vaccine/autism study as “an elaborate fraud.”
Only 12 children were studied. Doubts were raised about the manner in which they were recruited and the science with which the study was conducted.
As well, it was discovered Wakefield was on the payroll of a group that had launched a lawsuit against manufacturers of the MMR vaccine — and their claim would be based on his evidence.
What’s most shocking about this is that well-meaning, concerned parents around the world stopped vaccinating their children on the basis of this fraudulent study and Wakefield became the darling of the anti-vaccine activists movement.
Even though it’s been shown to be a giant fraud, there are those who still persist in parroting the untruths.
Reasons vary. Some parents prefer a “natural immunity” to vaccine-acquired immunity; others believe vaccines overload a child’s immune system; others say we shouldn’t worry about diseases that have “disappeared.” Then there’s the Jenny McCarthy phenomenon. The former Playboy model has convinced some parents that vaccines cause autism. The one study that linked the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism, by British doctor Andrew Wakefield in 1998, has been discredited as fraudulent, and the published paper was retracted. Autism rates are the same in vaccinated and unvaccinated children.
Editors of BMJ, the British medical journal, have even called the study “an elaborate fraud,” accusing author Andrew Wakefield of deliberately falsifying medical data.
It was also reported that his research methodology was questionable as patient data was manipulated to create the appearance of a link to autism. This conflict of interest plus the fraudulent research resulted in the withdrawal of Wakefield’s paper from The Lancet and revocation of his medical licence.
That’s, what, 10 examples in only the past few weeks?
None have any notation that Mr. Wakefield has contacted them. I have not heard of any such letters being sent other than the one to Forbes and the lawsuit instigated against Brian Deer and the BMJ.
Odd, isn’t it, that all of a sudden Mr. Wakefield decides to threaten one of the Age of Autism’s favorite targets and no one else?
By Matt Carey