May 24, 2010

Doctor Banned After Discredited Vaccine Research

The doctor who claimed there were links between vaccination and autism, which was widely discredited, was struck off Britain's medical register on Monday for professional misconduct.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield's 1998 study claimed that children vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot was the reason for a big rise in autism cases in the United States and in parts of Europe in recent years.

A disciplinary panel of the General Medical Council (GMC) found that Wakefield had acted in a "dishonest," "misleading" and "irresponsible" way while conducing his research.

Wakefield, who now lives and works in the U.S., can no longer practice as a doctor in Britain, but can continue to work in medicine outside the U.K.

His paper caused one of the biggest medical rows in a generation.  It was published in The Lancet medical journal and has since been widely discredited.

"The panel has determined that Dr Wakefield's name should be erased from the medical register," the GMC said in a statement.

Wakefield failed to disclose various details about the study and had acted "country to the clinical interest" of the children involved in his research.  The GMC described the failure as "dishonest and misleading."'

The statement said that pulling Wakefield off the medical register was "the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients" and was in the wider public interest.  It also said it was "proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him."

Data released last February from England and Wales showed a rise in measles cases of over 70 percent in 2008 from the previous year, mostly caused by a fall in the number of children being vaccinated. 

Wakefield has always defended his work and has accused his critics of making "unfounded and unjust" allegations.

The GMC said that his refusal to accept his mistakes means that a temporary suspension of Wakefield's license was not enough and he should be banned altogether.

"Dr Wakefield's continued lack of insight as to his misconduct serve only to satisfy the panel that suspension is not sufficient and that his actions are incompatible with his continued registration as a medical practitioner," it said.


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