Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Organization?

22 Feb

There has been a major push to show support for Dr. Andrew Wakefield following the clear and decisive ruling against him in by the General Medical Council and the retraction of his flagship paper in The Lancet and his departure from Thoughtful House.

I have some advice for those who are supporting Dr. Wakefield. I realize advice from me is about as welcome to them as me seeing Dr. Wakefield in my pediatricians’ office, but here goes:

If you want to show real support, add him to your board of directors. Add him to your Science Advisory Boards. Call yourselves “Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Organization”. When big donors call, have them speak with Dr. Wakefield. When you lobby the legislature, bring Dr. Wakefield.

Don’t keep him at arm’s length while trying to rehabilitate his reputation.

The way I see it, right now Dr. Wakefield is a liability. It is one thing to write blog posts or letters to newspapers. It is quite another to spend your organizations reputation.

Between the time I started a draft of this post and it now, Dr. Wakefield has made his first public statement about his departure from Thoughtful House. He mentions that he has an “entirely new sort of opportunity that will allow me to continue my work on behalf of autism families”. Who knows, maybe one or more of the existing orgs will take him on.

3 Responses to “Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Organization?”

  1. Laurentius Rex February 22, 2010 at 09:26 #

    I don’t know how competent he was as a gut doctor, obviously not enough to actually practise at the Royal Free, but it is the ultimate gall for anyone to assume he has any knowlege or training in autism at all. Just what does he know about the condition? A lot less than many posters here I am willing to guarantee.

    The NAS has a vacancy for a trustee at the moment, looking for someone with financial acumen, maybe he should apply ……

  2. Dr Aust February 22, 2010 at 18:02 #

    It seems clear that Wakefield chose not to be a doctor treating patients, and not to retain any clinical role whatsoever, at the RFH. This is quite an unusual thing to do among medically trained researchers. Most take a kind of “dual track” approach, and carry on doing both clinical work and research. For someone trained in GI surgery, but concentrating on research, an obvious and common way to do this is to do endoscopy clinics once or twice a week.

    Anyway, Wakers consciously turned his back on clinical care of patients early on in his career, though we have no explanation of why. Perhaps he simply wasn’t interested. Why he then went back to playing at it, e.g. by contacting parents directly and offering advice, is the interesting question.

  3. sheldon101 February 22, 2010 at 21:57 #

    My experience is the same as Dr. Aust, but that is a sample size of one. My gastroenterologist for many years was both a clinician and a world renowned researcher and lecturer. I don’t think he taught full courses at the medical school.

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