by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
andrew wakefield, autism, fraud, vaccines

Report Claims Discredited Study That Linked Vaccines To Autism Wasn't Just A Mistake, But An Outright Fraud

from the hide-your-kids,-hide-your-wife dept

One of the more controversial stories over the last decade (plus a few years) has been the claims linking childhood vaccinations to autism. A study in 1998 lead by Dr. Andrew Wakefield suggested a possible link, leading many parents to start shunning vaccines (and, in turn, resulting in an increase in children getting diseases that the vaccines prevent). The study did not, specifically, claim that the vaccines caused autism -- but suggested they may have a "role" -- so it was widely interpreted as meaning that the vaccines resulted in autism. However, the study itself was quickly called into question, and over the years, almost all support for the study has fallen away. Back in 2004, it was revealed that there was a major conflict of interest with Wakefield, in that he was funded by a law firm that was planning on suing vaccine makers, and wanted evidence to support their case. Wakefield had never disclosed that. Co-authors of the paper soon withdrew their support of the paper, and the publisher who originally published the paper finally (way too late) retracted it.

Last year, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in the UK, after he was found guilty of "serious professional misconduct." That was because of serious ethical lapses in how he conducted the study. He apparently did invasive tests that were unnecessary and without the proper permission. He also tested a new vaccine -- which was going to be sold by a company Wakefield had set up -- on a child, without telling the child's doctor, or mentioning the test in the child's medical notes. And the kicker: "He was also found to have unethically arranged for his son's friends to have blood samples taken from them during his birthday party -- for which he paid them £5 each."

The latest news is that a study of the original research has concluded that the problems with the original report do not appear to have been mere mistakes, but were almost certainly fraud. The report states that there is clear evidence that the data was falsified. The report does not beat around the bush:
Deer unearthed clear evidence of falsification. He found that not one of the 12 cases reported in the 1998 Lancet paper was free of misrepresentation or undisclosed alteration, and that in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal.

Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross.
The report also notes that Wakefield has never been able to replicate his findings. However, Wakefield is still standing by the original research, even as his co-authors have disavowed it and given all of the problems associated with it. That link goes to CNN and is a perfect example of what Jay Rosen refers to as "the view from nowhere" journalism. It seems to bend over backwards to let "both sides" weigh in on the story with some people supporting Wakefield, and others disagreeing, but appears to do nothing to help establish what is factual and what is not.

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  1. icon
    weneedhelp (profile), 6 Jan 2011 @ 11:51am

    All of the ppl I now know with Autistic children, which totals 17 including my cousin, they all noticed it hours after the MMR shot.

    After my daughter was born I was concerned as any good parent should and went to the CDC to do research. There were three main links on the homepage at the time. The 1st link was an article about the wonders of vaccines, and the two that followed... links on how to report adverse effects from vaccines... yeah.

    So I asked my doctor if we could get the MMR in three different shots. Well she looked at my wife and I like we had three heads, and said like I was some kind of A-hole, no we dont do that here. Well B, I dont spend money here anymore.

    More research needs to be done to find the cause in the astronomical increase in Autism cases, and now no one will touch it. Yeah that's the answer.

    In addition one of my friends is a well known spinal surgeon and he also did not give his children the MMR shot.

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