Andrew Wakefield was found to have acted unethically in his controversial research

Finally the biggest controversy in medicine of the last two decades is coming to an end.

Andrew Wakefield was found to have acted unethically, dishonestly and irresponsibly by the General Medical Council (GMC) in his controversial research which linked the MMR vaccine to autism.

From April the GMC will decide if he showed serious professional misconduct and what sanctions should be imposed, which could include being struck off.

The hearing that lasted for two and a half years didn’t attempt to prove or disprove a link between autism and MMR but to detail if he acted ethically in his methods of research.

So just what did they find…

He had communicated with a solicitor who was representing those who had allegedly suffered harm due to the MMR vaccine. Not only that, but Wakefield had his research funded by the Legal Aid Board which the solicitor had applied for.

He was also involved with a patent for a safer vaccine which could replace MMR.

Furthermore he failed to mention the disclosable interests of the legal aid and patent to the Lancet, the paper which originally published the paper.

Wakefield admitted to being aware that the paper he wrote would form a link between autism and MMR and that this would have public health implications.

He was dishonest in the paper by stating that the children in the study had come from a normal referral pathway i.e. referred from a GP to the paediatric gastroenterology department. However four of the children were referred for investigated into the role of MMR in the development of their autism. And another four were actively referred by Wakefield. Together this produced a biased selection of patients.

Andrew Wakefield was also found to have taken blood from children at his sons birthday party and paid each child £5. He then joked about this incident and said he would do it again. This represented a callous disregard for the distress and pain the children suffered and abused his position of trust.

When Wakefield linked autism to MMR the rate of vaccination fell and children started to suffer from the three deadly infectious diseases. He has since moved to Austin, Texas, where he doesn’t practice medicine but does receive a high salary for his involvement with a centre for autism.

The rates of vaccination have never recovered.

Image: m_bartosch /