The Death of A Myth: Dr. Wakefield and the MMR-Autism Link
As a result of Brian Deer’s work, Dr. Wakefield was investigated by the British General Medical Council and lost his license to practice medicine because of dishonesty. In 2010, the Lancet retracted his paper. Brian Deer published an article this week in the British Medical Journal that showed not only was Wakefield’s work scientifically flawed, it was fraudulent.
What is so frightening about this case is the life it took on – Wakefield’s findings became a fact in the public’s mind even though his study only had 12 children in it, a very small number for research standards. Turns out that the 12 children were all from one clinic and recruited by Wakefield to fit his thesis. Mr. Deer discovered that all 12 children’s medical records, histories, and diagnoses were altered to ensure that autism symptoms arose within 2 weeks of receiving the MMR vaccine.
We live in an information age, yet here is fraudulent research that has not gone away and remained a possible cause for autism the public’s mind. It has become the cornerstone and mission focus for many an autism group. Parents have opted out of vaccinations because of this research. I was one of those parents, but interestingly I did vaccinate my son but not my daughter and both share the same diagnosis of autism.
Just this week, a friend of mine asked if I believed vaccines were the cause of autism. She had heard Jenny McCarthy talk about it on some TV show. I wanted to scream because here we go again – a celebrity talks about an issue and it is taken as fact. I will be showing my friend the excellent Globe and Mail article about Dr. Wakefield.
What has this situation taught us? That we have to be more careful and discerning about what we read, see or hear through the media and others around us. Autism is a complex disorder with no easy answers or solutions. What works for one child or what is true for one child, may not be for another. There is no one method that works with autism nor is there one cause or factor. Until we have more scientific evidence, it is best not to speculate on causes and cures. Parents, use your common sense. If it doesn’t feel or sound right, it more than likely isn’t. Sometimes you have to go with your instincts.
Hopefully, this latest exposure of Dr. Wakefield’s great lie to the world will now be buried. Unfortunately, it will take years to repair the damage this one man has caused because these myths die hard. This theory has been in our collective consciousness for the past 13 years. Maybe this has been a valuable lesson not to give credence to what we read, even if we want it to be true. Blaming vaccines has been so easy – finding the real cause of autism won’t be so evident.
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