Wakefield on Ethics: “I’m perfectly willing to accept my understanding was wrong.”

11 Apr

Remarkably, Wakefield has now admitted that he may have ‘misunderstood’ the ethical guidelines for research on children. Apparently, Wakefield “was not aware of ‘detailed guidance’ on the treatment of children provided by the British Paediatric Association” and is “perfectly willing to accept [his] understanding [of ethics] wrong”. Wakefield thus seems to be claiming ignorance of the fact that that certain research practices – such as when he allegedly “paid children at party £5 to give blood samples” – are unethical. Partly because of Wakefield’s apparent violation of ethical guidelines, he is accused “of acting against the clinical interests of the children who took part in his trial.”

This is bizarre. Frankly, one wonders as to how a researcher could not realise that practises such as paying kids for their blood at a birthday party might – just perhaps – be a teeny bit ethically problematic. But, even putting that aside, one should remember that Wakefield has been quick to claim [PDF] that

My actions were at times taken in the best interests of children potentially damaged by the MMR vaccine….I remain dedicated to helping these children and resolving the issue of whether vaccines are involved in this disorder or not. I will not be intimidated or coerced into stopping this work prematurely.

If Wakefield was doing this research ‘for the children’, one would have expected him to pay more attention to the ethical guidelines for research on children – and thus to the interests of the children involved in his research.

See also: Autism Vox has just put up a nice post on Wakefield and Ethics.

14 Responses to “Wakefield on Ethics: “I’m perfectly willing to accept my understanding was wrong.””

  1. Patrick April 11, 2008 at 19:24 #

    Sooo Is it unethical to bankroll a vanity lab (Unigenetics) with Legal Aid money?

    Is it unethical to claim results and publish a study (for later retraction) with contaminated results from said vanity lab?

    Is it unethical to let that lab fail instead of cleaning it up and trying to reproduce the study that caused all this flap to start with?

    I can see where this ‘admission’ might be true, but in light of the number of other ethical challenges remaining to deal with, I would not be supportive of his continuing to claim any form of ethical ‘responsibility’.

  2. Catherina April 11, 2008 at 19:51 #

    meanwhile, one of my children just told me that a child in their class has measles. Scotland has had over 50 cases so far in 2008. More than the United States in a year.

  3. century April 11, 2008 at 20:18 #

    Dear Brian


  4. Catherina April 11, 2008 at 20:43 #

    century – what strange drivel. Can you explain to me what sexual orientation has to do with this topic?

  5. pv April 11, 2008 at 20:46 #

    century on April 11th, 2008 20:18:26

    Dear Brian


    So let’s smear Brian Deer now shall we?
    Are the Wakefield supporters club are gay-bashers too, as well as being thoroughly deluded?

  6. Kev April 11, 2008 at 22:56 #


    Century, is that a joke? A bunch of people hectoring one person who in the course of responding is told to ‘get away’? And then when _Brian_ asks for security, they’re faux ‘glad’ he did to protect the multitude of them from the one man?

    I saw the Sky News clip of the Sky journo attempting to interview Brian and the bunch of people standing directly in between them and holding placards up between them. They sure didn’t seem to concerned about the big bad Brian then.

    This country is fast losing all sense of proportion and dignity.

  7. Kev April 11, 2008 at 23:07 #

    By all accounts a gay man and therefore unlikely ever to have to face the multiple vaccine risk agonised over by parents

    Good God.

    And there I was thinking that the rampant homophobia was the sole province of John Best Jr.

    Quite apart from the fact that LGBT adoption is entirely legal in this and many other countries around the world and also the fact that I would assume that many gay uncles/aunts/cousins etc would be concerned and interested in their neice/nephews/whatever upbringing, the fact is that sexual orientation was used in that appalling hitpiece solely as a weapon. That is the act of a rampant homophobe. No wonder Brain might’ve felt just a little bit on edge if that was the atmosphere.

    Shame on the author. This is 2008.

  8. HCN April 12, 2008 at 05:26 #

    pv said “Are the Wakefield supporters club are gay-bashers too, as well as being thoroughly deluded?”

    So, does David Kirby deserve the same treatment that is being given to Brian Deer?

    Or is it more of a case of “we can’t counter with facts, let us just go with innuendo”!

  9. Margaret Romao Toigo April 12, 2008 at 17:27 #

    In the US, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Isn’t this also true in the UK? (I honestly don’t know.)

    Because, unless ignorance is an acceptable legal excuse, it seems rather lame to offer, “I’m perfectly willing to accept my understanding was wrong,” as a defense.

  10. Science Mom April 13, 2008 at 14:32 #

    Century, That kind of rubbish you posted is indicative of the tenuous arguments anti-vaxxers have. The self-applied noose around Wakers neck is tightening and that is all ‘your side’ can come up with? Pathetic and predictably so.

  11. Kev April 14, 2008 at 16:55 #

    Margaret – no, its not.

  12. century April 17, 2008 at 07:57 #

    “The self-applied noose around Wakers neck is tightening..”

    go to..


    and read

    “JABS Briefing Note 9th April 2008

    GMC’s disciplinary hearing into Dr Andrew Wakefield, Professor Simon Murch and Professor John Walker-Smith

    Dr Horton and the GMC hearing”

  13. Kev April 17, 2008 at 14:00 #

    Interesting – what does Horton say?

    He apparently says Wakefield’s role was never made clear. That said, he has made himself look fairly foolish.

  14. isles April 19, 2008 at 14:22 #

    Wakefield’s claim is just perplexing. Is it permissible to give *anyone* money for donating blood in the UK? In the US, only plasma donors ever get money, and that’s well known as a tactic of the financially desperate. No one here would ever be mistaken about the permissibility of paying people to give whole blood.

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