Autism – Persecute The Doctors That Dare Challenge

Dr. Wakefield’s GMC Findings Delivered Today in London

January 28, 2010
Prepared by Rebecca Estepp, TACA Manager, Strategic Partnerships

Despite jeers from the audience filled with supportive parents, The General Medical Council (GMC) found Dr. Andrew Wakefield to have “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant,” and “abused his position of trust” when conducting research in the late 1990s. Another hearing will be held to decide the sanctions of these findings. Coming to these decisions has been a long drawn out process. Here is a quick explanation of the proceedings.

What is the GMC?
The GMC is responsible for registering doctors to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.  Their purpose is to protect, promote and maintain the public health safety. They ensure proper standards in the practice of medicine. In July of 2007, the GMC began a “Fitness to Practice” hearing that charges Dr. Wakefield with serious professional misconduct. This trial is the largest hearing the GMC has ever conducted. It lasted 148 days over a two-and-a-half year period, called 36 witnesses and has cost more than £1 million pounds.

Why did the GMC bring this case against Dr. Wakefield?
In February of 1998, The British Medical Journal The Lancet published a paper authored by Dr. Wakefield.  Dr. Wakefield’s article suggested a possible but yet unproven connection between bowel disease and the MMR vaccine. His article focused on a case study of 12 children with neuropsychiatric disorders and bowel disease. At a press conference highlighting the release of his article, Dr. Wakefield suggested breaking up the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine into three separate injections for safety reasons. After that suggestion, MMR vaccination rates dropped in Great Britain, causing great concern to public health officials.

Was Dr. Wakefield the only doctor brought up on GMC charges?
No, Professors John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, colleagues of Dr. Wakefield were also charged with allegations.

What did the GMC find?
Ninety-three pages of allegations against Dr. Wakefield and his associates were answered by a 143-page report.

In a nutshell, the GMC found Dr. Wakefield to have “showed callous disregard for the suffering of children” when he conducted his research of bowel disease and autism. The GMC was particularly upset about how Dr. Wakefield obtained blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party as controls for his study. They believe that his conduct at this birthday party has brought the medical profession “into disrepute.” The GMC also stated that Dr. Wakefield acted dishonestly, misleading and irresponsible when proposing his study that was later published in The Lancet.

What happens now?
Since the GMC found Dr. Wakefield to have “failed in his duty to act in the best interest of the children in his care,” he and his colleagues will have to face further sanctions from the GMC council. The next stage of the hearing is to decide if serious professional misconduct occurred.  Unfortunately, medical licenses may be at stake at some point of these proceedings.

Implications to consider
The most frightening aspect of these GMC findings is the silencing effect it could cause to scientist and researchers. These verdicts now prove that researchers who stumble upon science that is controversial have to worry about losing their licenses and careers.

Unfortunately, it seems that it is far easier for the GMC to destroy Dr. Wakefield’s career than to thoroughly research the uncomfortable hypothesis he brought to light. Could it be possible that the GMC is shooting the messenger instead of attempting to understand and solve the problem? As the parent of a child who suffered a vaccine reaction this point makes me really upset. My son and all the children like him to deserve objective, unbiased science looking into Dr. Wakefield’s hypothesis. I learned today that may not happen.

Today in

London Dr. Wakefield

said, “There’s the political backlash to consider. I fear the GMC want to make an example of us. The issue was not about me, but about how to crush dissent. I scare the establishment because I care and I am diligent. I think they’re terrified because they’ve not done adequate safety studies. I’ve been treated in the standard way in which people who raise these kinds of questions are treated. It’s extremely challenging, but if I fail to stand up to the bullies, the price to be paid is enormous.” Watch video

This leads me to wonder, “Are these findings truly based on sound scientific standards and practices or are these findings politically motivated? Is this really about science or is this about the perceived safety reputation of the MMR vaccine?”

Dr. Wakefield’s original study never stated that the MMR vaccine caused autism. The following is taken straight from his original study:

“We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome (autistic enterocolitis) described.”

Dr. Wakefield’s study ends with a call for additional research.

“We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.”

That is clear language. It is sincerely ridiculous to have a doctor’s career and license at stake for merely suggesting that there might be a problem with the MMR vaccine and autism. It’s an extremely high price to pay for suggesting a hypothesis. Dr. Wakefield never said to skip the vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. He suggested breaking up the shot into three different injections if parents had safety concerns.

The Age of Autism has a short Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on this GMC hearing that is worth reading. It delves into what the researchers said and what they did not say.

Duplication of findings is the gold standard in scientific research. Just yesterday a duplication of Dr. Wakefield’s study was published in the United States.

Our website also contains several studies that back up Dr. Wakefield’s 1998 study.

I ran across this quote last week. It applies perfectly to Dr. Wakefield.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
TACA very much stands behind Dr. Wakefield, Professor John Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch in this time of challenge and controversy. Our thoughts and prayers are with these courageous men and their families.

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