December 23, 2005
Medical Frauds: Korean Scientist Hardly the First
Disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk faked data in a landmark paper that purported to show he and his team produced tailored embryonic stem cells and cloned a dog.
Other notable medical frauds, some of which continue to have believers, include:
- A 1998 study in the Lancet appeared to show the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella was causing autism in children. A majority of the article's authors later retracted the paper's conclusion, and the lead author was found to have been paid by lawyers representing families with autistic children. Subsequent scientific studies have found no link between vaccines and autism, but the topic remains controversial.
- In 2002, an article published in journal Science said scientists had found Parkinson's disease-like damage in the brains of monkeys injected just a few times with the drug Ecstasy. They later withdrew their findings, saying the bottle that they thought contained the drug was mislabeled and contained methamphetamine instead of Ecstasy.
- In a 2001 study published in Nature, scientists said genetically engineered corn was contaminating Mexican crops. The journal's editors later found so many problems with the research that they questioned whether any altered corn had been found at all.
- In 1999, federal investigators concluded that a scientist at California's Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory faked what had been hailed as crucial evidence linking power lines to cancer.
- Fertility doctor Landrum Shettles of Colombia University in New York sold more than a million copies of his book, "How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby," that supposedly offered couples sexual techniques and timing that would ensure their offspring's gender. The Shettles Method has never been shown to have any validity.
- Laetrile, a drug derived from apricot pits and other fruits, was touted as a cancer cure but most scientists debunked the nostrum as having no medicinal value other than as a source of cyanide. Other quack cures of the 20th century included Harry Hoxsey's cancer-curing paste that contained arsenic, the Kaadt brothers' formula to cure diabetes, and electronic belts that promised healing and energy-boosting properties.