UK doctor at centre of scare over measles vaccine struck off

Andrew WakefieldAndrew Wakefield, the British doctor at the centre of a scare over the link between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella triple vaccine (MMR) has been deregistered in the UK for serious professional misconduct. A 73-year-old retired colleague, John Walker-Smith, was also found guilty.

The General Medical Council, Britain’s body for regulating the medical profession, declared that Wakefield had had "abused his position of trust" and "brought the medical profession into disrepute" in studies he carried out on children.

The suggestion that MMR might have caused autism caused a near panic in the UK. Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Guardian: "The false suggestion of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine has done untold damage to the UK vaccination programme."

In January the GMC found that Wakefield had made a number of ethical breaches in the small trial at the heart of his research. He failed to acknowledge that he had a financial interest in the research; he performed invasive and painful tests, such as lumbar punctures and colonoscopies, on children without any clinical indication; and he even took blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party, paying them £5. This week’s verdict sealed his professional fate.

As Sarah Boseley, health writer for the Guardian, points out, Wakefield’s defiant stance will ensure that the controversy will not end soon. He is now doing research in the UK and still claims that he acted "appropriately in the children's best interests to determine what the nature of their problem was".

“It was his cavalier attitude to ethics and rules, which he swept aside in his certainty that he was right, that has sunk his medical career… But Wakefield's disgrace will not stop him arguing over the science, flawed as experts say his arguments are. Based in the US, where he will still be able to work as a scientist ? if not a doctor ? and with a considerable following among the desperate parents of autistic children who get too few answers about the distressing illness, he will continue to portray himself as the victim of the British medical establishment.

~ Guardian, May 24

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