Thursday, January 6, 2011

Study Showing Link between Vaccines and Autism was 'Elaborate Fraud'

Measles incidence England&Wales 1940-2007Image via Wikipedia
British journal finds retracted autism study an 'elaborate fraud':
An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was 'no doubt' Wakefield was responsible.

'It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,' Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. 'But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.'
 Wikipedia adds some interesting tidbits about Andrew Wakefield's professional misconduct:
Between July 2007 and May 2010, a 217-day 'fitness to practise' hearing of the UK General Medical Council examined charges of professional misconduct against Wakefield and two colleagues involved in the Lancet paper.[55][56] The charges included that he:
  • Was being paid to conduct the study by solicitors representing parents who believed their children had been harmed by MMR, and failed to disclose this in his application to the Ethical Practices Sub-Committee of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust.[22]
  • Ordered investigations 'without the requisite paediatric qualifications'.
  • Acted 'dishonestly and irresponsibly' in failing to disclose how patients were recruited for the study, and that some were paid to take part.
  • Caused to be performed colonoscopies, colon biopsies and lumbar punctures ('spinal taps') on his research subjects without proper approval and contrary to the children's clinical interests, when these diagnostic tests were not indicated by the children's symptoms or medical history.
  • Conducted the study on a basis which was not approved by the hospital's ethics committee.
  • Purchased blood samples - for £5 each - from children present at his son's birthday party, as described by Wakefield himself in a videotaped public conference.
While I do not agree with parents that refuse to have their children vaccinated, I do support their right to make that decision. The healthcare debate has highlighted the encroachment of government into patient autonomy. Obamacare would trample that autonomy and much of the nannystatism behind universal childhood vaccinations is a forerunner to that trampling. The compromise that I would like to see in the debate over childhood vaccinations is that parents have the right to refuse childhood vaccines, but that health insurers are not obligated to pay healthcare costs related to a disease that could've been vaccinated against (unless, in fact, it was vaccinated against). This would lead to a secondary health insurance market where parents who refused vaccines for their children could buy insurance for small pox, measles, dengue fever, etc. That secondary market would help parents evaluate the cost of their morale vanity by putting a price on it.

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