What are the allegations against Dr. Wakefield?

16 Sep

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, not of Thoughtful House in the U.S., has recently been called before the General Medical Council for a “fitness to practice hearing”. The allegations stem from activities related to his research of about 10 years ago on children (many autistic).

I recently discussed two of incidents being investigated: a birthday party where blood was drawn from typically developing children (for controls) and activities related to his invention and the subsequent patent his hospital (the Royal Free) applied for. I found it interesting to see these layed out, so I decided to post them here for others to read as well.

These are allegations. The process has not concluded, nor has any decision been reached.

This is a short version. A detailed list (93 pages) can be found on Brian Deer’s website. Note that these 93 pages include allegations against Doctors Murch and Walker-Smith.

Dr Andrew WAKEFIELD GMC Reference number: 2733564

Professor John WALKER-SMITH GMC Reference number: 1700583

Professor Simon MURCH GMC Reference number: 2540201

The GMC’s statutory purpose is to protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public by ensuring proper standards in the practice of medicine.

We investigate complaints about individual doctors in order to establish whether their fitness to practise is impaired and whether to remove or restrict a doctor’s registration.

The GMC does not regard its remit as extending to arbitrating between competing scientific theories generated in the course of medical research.

The following is a summary only of the allegations which will be made before the Panel at the forthcoming hearing.

The Panel will inquire into allegations of serious professional misconduct by Dr Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch, in relation to the conduct of a research study involving young children from 1996-98.

Dr Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch, were at the relevant times employed by the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine with Honorary Clinical contracts at the Royal Free Hospital.

It is alleged that the three practitioners were named as Responsible Consultants on an application made to the Ethical Practices Committee of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust (“the ethics committee”) in 1996 to undertake a research study involving children who suffered from gastrointestinal symptoms and a rare behavioural condition called disintegrative disorder. The title of the study was “A new paediatric syndrome: enteritis and disintegrative disorder following measles/rubella vaccination”. The Panel will inquire into allegations that the three practitioners undertook research during the period 1996-98 without proper ethical approval, failed to conduct the research in accordance with the application submitted to the ethics committee, and failed to treat the children admitted into the study in accordance with the terms of the approval given by the ethics committee. For example, it will be alleged that some of the children did not qualify for the study on the basis of their behavioural symptoms.

It is further alleged that the three practitioners permitted a programme of investigations to be carried out on a number of children as part of the research study, some of which were not clinically indicated when the Ethics Committee had been assured that they were all clinically indicated. These investigations included colonoscopies and lumbar punctures. It is alleged that the performance of these investigations was contrary to the clinical interests of the children.

The research undertaken by the three practitioners was subsequently written up in a paper published in the Lancet in February 1998 entitled “Ileal-Lymphoid-Nodular Hyperplasia, Non-Specific Colitis and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children” (“the Lancet paper”).

It is alleged that the three practitioners inaccurately stated in the Lancet paper that the investigations reported in it were approved by the ethics committee.

The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield and Professor Walker-Smith acted dishonestly and irresponsibly in failing to disclose in the Lancet paper the method by which they recruited patients for inclusion in the research which resulted in a misleading description of the patient population in the Lancet paper. It is further alleged that Dr Wakefield gave a dishonest description of the patient population to the Medical Research Council.

The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield and Professor Walker-Smith administered a purportedly therapeutic substance to a child for experimental reasons prior to obtaining information about the safety of the substance. It is alleged that such actions were irresponsible and contrary to the clinical interests of the child.

The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield was involved in advising solicitors acting for persons alleged to have suffered harm by the administration of the MMR vaccine. It is alleged that Dr Wakefield’s conduct in relation to research funds obtained from the Legal Aid Board (“LAB”) was dishonest and misleading. It will be alleged that Dr Wakefield ought to have disclosed his funding from the LAB to the Ethics Committee but did not.

The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield ordered investigations on some children as part of the research carried out at the Royal Free Hospital from 1996-98 without the requisite paediatric qualifications to do so and in contravention of his Honorary Consultant appointment.

The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield failed to disclose his involvement in the MMR litigation, his receipt of funding from the LAB and his involvement in a Patent relating to a new vaccine to the Editor of the Lancet which was contrary to his duties as a senior author of the Lancet paper.

The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield acted unethically and abused his position of trust as a medical practitioner by taking blood from children at a birthday party to use for research purposes without ethics committee approval, in an inappropriate social setting, and whilst offering financial inducement.

We cannot guarantee that all those wishing to attend the hearing will be able to do so, as seating is limited. If you plan to attend the hearing please email the GMC press office press@gmc-uk.org. In the event that we have to allocate seats those people who have notified the press office will be seated before others.

Greater detail can be found in this document, hosted on Brian Deer’s website. It is 93 pages of details of the allegations against Dr. Wakefield, Dr. Walker-Smith and Dr. Murch.

5 Responses to “What are the allegations against Dr. Wakefield?”

  1. symball September 17, 2009 at 11:34 #

    Phew- it is the first time I have seen the actual allegations- he is lucky this was done before the 2004 GCP statutory instrument. I can’t believe some people think this was just a few minor misdemeanors- I’m not sure if there is much of the Declaration of Helsinki that he hasn’t contravened!

  2. Michael Kingsford Gray September 17, 2009 at 12:57 #

    The listed alleged infractions are naught when compared to his palpably real and lethal effects upon children who would otherwise be alive today, were it not for his specious medical claims.

  3. WEL September 17, 2009 at 19:36 #

    A very worthwhile excercise reminding ourselves of the numerous charges brought by the GMC some two years down the line, if only to look at them in relationship to the vast amount of material in the public domain since they were first read.
    Child 2 in the Lancet study quoted on the list of charges against Dr Wakefield was recently identified as Mrs Rosemary Kessick’s child in a statement by her on the Age of Autism site.


    In an article in The Independent (law page 25) November 27th 1996 which can be viewed on Brian Deer’s website,

    Mrs Kessick’s child who had joined some 300 others “bringing claims” in the February of 1996, was quoted as being one of 10 children taking part in a “pilot study” at the Royal Free Hospital, a study which was being organised by the Norfolk solicitors, Dawbarns, who were jointly awarded the contract in 1994 to co – ordinate claims “resulting from MMR vaccine”.
    In a newsletter circulated by Dawbarns in May 1997(to be found on Brian Deer’s website http://briandeer.com/wakefield/dawbarns-news.htm) litigants were advised that the “pilot study”, already begun, was being co-ordinated by Dr Andrew Wakefield of the Royal Free Hospital

    According to a statement issued by the Legal Services Commission (formerly the LAB) on December 10th 2004, the solicitor managing the MMR case at the LAB granted the authority for a clinical and scientific study to be undertaken on the 22nd August 1996

    It appears from the article in the Independent that Ms Kessick’s child identified as child 2 in the Lancet study, published on 28th February 1998, had joined a group bringing a claim via Dawbarns solicitors in February 1996, some six months before being admitted to the RFH in September of that year for investigations, a date which was “admitted and found proved” in the list of GMC charges against Dr Wakefield at item 8(e).
    The fact that at least one of the children in the Lancet study was also one of the 10 “pilot study” children from as far back as 1996, the purpose of which was to support a possible causal link between the MMR vaccine and ASD/IBD in a class action,and funded by the LAB, is neatly side stepped by Wakefield in the Matt Lauer interview.

    The commentary runs………..”so what about the charge that his (Wakefield’s) study was biased because the children involved were part of a class action suit”?

    To which Wakefield responds……”none of the children in the Lancet study at the time of their referral for investigation ………none of them were involved in litigation”

    I think the answer everyone needed to hear in order to quell the suggestion of bias was that none of the children in the Lancet study prior to publication were involved in any way in a class action suit. This reassurance it seems, was understandably not forthcoming.

  4. Allison September 17, 2009 at 21:46 #

    An equipment of the American Hospital of Children of Boston concluded that the high cholesterol levels accelerate the growth of tumors in the prostate, and also that the medicines to reduce to the cholesterol, calls estatina, can inhibit the growth of the prostate cancer, well said by the last findrxonline bill being debated at this time. The findings of the study could help to understand why the prostate cancer is commonest in the West, where the diets tend to be high in cholesterol. The rates of cancer of the prostate in the countryside of China and Japan, where generally the diets are low in fats, are 90% less than in the West. Nevertheless, when Eastern men emigrate towards the West increase the possibilities of being diagnosed with cancer of the prostate. That has lead the doctors to suspect that factors of the environment, like the diet, could play a significant role in the development of the disease.

  5. Liz Lucy Robillard January 12, 2010 at 15:25 #

    I dont know why the GMC refuse to accept evidence in our case that Dr.Murch gave my son a colonoscopy without my permission then prescribed Vancomycin after already saying there was nothing wrong with my sons bowel- despite saing he was in pain and had this ‘LNH 3′ -we have the records (online) clearly stating there was nothing wrong prior to that colonoscopy- the man clealy was using -my son anyway- as a guinea-pig- and I want answers- whatever they are, all I want is for my sons’ pain to subside and for the truth – not taking ANY sides just want the facts out as it is weird the GMC have blocked my evidence.

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