Anti-Vaccine Crusader Andrew Wakefield Marked by Science Community as Discredited, Fraudulent

So … I was read­ing FARK today when I came across this: the man cit­ed as the ini­tia­tor for much of the cur­rent cli­mate of anti-vac­ci­na­tion fear has been called out as fraud­u­lent and dis­cred­it­ed by the British Med­ical Jour­nal (see also: cov­er­age via Seth Mnookin and NYT Mag­a­zine). Wake­field was the per­son who tried to claim that MMR vac­cines cause autism — an unproven alle­ga­tion that has unfor­tu­nate­ly car­ried a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of weight in the minds of some par­ents.

Accord­ing to sources, Mr. Wake­field­’s paper has been com­plete­ly with­drawn; addi­tion­al­ly, he has been struck off of the Gen­er­al Med­ical Coun­cil’s reg­is­ter due to pro­fes­sion­al mis­con­duct and was found by the med­ical body to have act­ed uneth­i­cal­ly in the course of his research.

Quot­ing the cov­er­age at briandeer.com:

The goal was to find evi­dence of what the two men claimed to be a “new syn­drome”, intend­ed to be the cen­tre­piece of (lat­er failed) lit­i­ga­tion on behalf of an even­tu­al 1,600 British fam­i­lies, recruit­ed through media sto­ries. This pub­licly undis­closed role for Wake­field cre­at­ed the gross­est con­flict of inter­est, and the expo­sure of it by Deer, in Feb­ru­ary 2004, led to pub­lic uproar in Britain, the retrac­tion of the Lancet report’s con­clu­sions sec­tion, and, from July 2007 to May 2010, the longest-ever pro­fes­sion­al mis­con­duct hear­ing by the UK’s Gen­er­al Med­ical Coun­cil (GMC).”

Mr. Wake­field­’s efforts rep­re­sent a very grave pack­et of dis­in­for­ma­tion that con­tin­ues to sur­vive even to this day, large­ly among the fringes of soci­ety and those who aren’t yet aware of the full extent of his mis­con­duct. His anti-vax the­o­ry has been dis­cred­it­ed as it does not rep­re­sent sci­en­tif­ic fact or the con­sen­sus of the com­mu­ni­ty.

Thank­ful­ly, the end result has been that the truth came out, and it’s offi­cial­ly safe to put your­self out there and get up to date on those vac­ci­na­tions.

Inci­dents like these ought to give us pause to con­sid­er the man­ner in which we inter­pret infor­ma­tion. It’s not only a good idea to ques­tion the source, it’s advis­able to delve a few lev­els deep­er and fact-check the mate­r­i­al that was used to pro­duce the con­clu­sions they are try­ing to sell you, espe­cial­ly when it comes to peo­ple deal­ing in pol­i­tics, mon­ey, or con­tro­ver­sial top­ics.

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