Monday, February 1, 2010

Dr. Andrew Wakefield and Autism

This is pretty interesting. If you know about the autism/vaccine controversy, you have heard about Dr. Wakefield. Here is the story that aired on NBC last week. I wish I had seen it! I am curious to know what you guys think about this one...

FROM NBC: It's been a controversy for years: is there a link between autism and a common childhood vaccine? Now, one medical group has declared that Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who first raised that possibility, carried out his research in an unethical and irresponsible manner. A finding he flatly denies.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield's 1998 study suggesting the possibility of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine gave many parents around the world a reason to stop vaccinating and parents of children with autism a possible answer to the devastating question---- why?

Dr. Wakefield: "They took their children to be vaccinated, and then something happened; their children fell apart." But in the years following his publication in the "Lancet", no large-scale study could reproduce exactly what Dr. Wakefield's small study found and to investigative reporter Brian Deer, **that** raised a lot more questions than answers.

Deer: "He was not an independent researcher." Deer learned that Wakefield was working as a paid expert in a class action suit being planned against makers of the MMR by parents who believed their children were damaged by the vaccine.
Brian Deer: "Dr. Wakefield was being paid by a firm of lawyers for two years before he ever published this report." sot matt lauer "no disputing that?" Brian deer "no disputing that."

Deer says it was a conflict of interest that should have been disclosed in the study, but never was. In an exclusive interview this summer, Dr. Wakefield *admitted* he was paid to conduct research on behalf of the plaintiffs, but said it was for a **later** study, one that never got published.

Matt Lauer: "So you'll look at me in the eye and say that at the time you were doing your research, you were guilty of no conflict of interest whatsoever in-- in either research or the dealing with those children you studied?"

Andrew Wakefield "No, not at all. And had I been, it would've been disclosed."

Because of Deer's reports, the general medical council -- which licenses physicians in the UK-- began investigating Dr Wakefield, including looking at the unusual way he got children's blood samples for his research.

Andrew Wakefield "We needed some control blood from children who were entirely normal. and So I asked my children and my wife said, 'we've got a birthday party coming up. we've got some medical friends. why don't we ask them if they'd be prepared to let their children do it, too?' so seven or eight children said, 'sure.'"

Matt Lauer "I don't know why that sounds funny to me, but it does. At a children's birthday party, blood samples being drawn from children. Were they paid for the samples?"
Andrew Wakefield "They were rewarded. They weren't paid."

Matt Lauer "How were they rewarded?"
Andrew Wakefield "At-- at the end of the party, they were given five pounds about-- at the time, I guess about-- eight dollars." Matt Lauer"Why isn't that paying them?" Andrew Wakefield: "Well, it's not saying up front by coercing them, 'you do this. we're gonna give you money.' it's saying at the end of it, 'here's a reward for-- for helping.' it's a-- it's a different thing in-- in ethical terms."

The British Medical Council disagreed. Now, two and half years after they began their inquiry, found that Wakefield's actions were unethical, and that he had acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly."
Still, Wakefield's supporters are standing firm and Dr. Wakefield vows to press on. Wakefield: "The allegations against me and against my colleagues are both unfounded and unjust. The science will continue in earnest."

Dr. Wakefield will learn his fate this summer, when the general medical council decides whether to strip him of his license to practice or to do nothing at all. In the meantime, he continues his work here in the U.S., where he is Director of Research for an Autism Treatment Center in Austin, Texas.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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