An update on the ‘MMR vaccines cause autism’ business

A while ago I wrote this generic thing about how vaccines don’t cause autism, and part of it dealt with the case of one Andrew Wakefield – specifically reports of him being a fraud who hid conflicts of interest and faked his data.

Now some kind of legal action against Wakefield is imminent. From The Guardian:

Dr Andrew Wakefield, the expert at the centre of the MMR controversy, “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant” and showed a “callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research, the General Medical Council (GMC) ruled today.
Wakefield also acted dishonestly and was misleading and irresponsible in the way he described research which was later published in the Lancet medical journal, the GMC said.

The thing is that this is all happened in England. Meanwhile, Wakefield already moved over here to the colonies and is running a center for autistic children in Texas. And if the FDA or the NIH goes after him here, he’ll probably just pick up and move to South America and try to sell his quackery there.

This doesn’t even have much of an effect on believers either. They’re still backing him up:

The panel chairman, Dr Surendra Kumar, was heckled by parents who support Wakefield as he delivered the verdicts.
One woman shouted: “These doctors have not failed our children. You are outrageous.” She called the panel of experts “bastards” and accused the GMC of being a “kangaroo court”. Another shouted: “This is a set-up.”

This is the problem with injecting a conspiracy without evidence into these kinds of issues. No matter what evidence is presented and no matter what judgement is made against someone, they can always say that the lines of evidence presented are just another part of the conspiracy. Does taking thimerosol out of the MMR vaccine cause autism rates to decrease? Well, no, but that’s just because the conspiracy set it up that way. Does it look like Oswald shot Kennedy? Well, that’s just because the conspiracy wanted you to think that.

You get to have it both ways when you take that kind of position. So when Wakefield’s “research” was originally published, it was kind of taken seriously as possibly having some merit. To his followers, this vindicated Wakefield. Apparently there was no such thing as a huge medical conspiracy against Wakefield back then. And now when the real story comes out about how he acted unethically, that also vindicates Wakefield because it proves how desperate the conspiracy is to, you know, get him. That’s about as close as one can get to being absolutely close-minded because nothing can convince someone in that position to change their mind.

UPDATE: A media representative from the autistic children’s center run by Wakefield which I mentioned e-mailed me asking that I link to a press release they made in response to the GMC ruling, which is of course not hypocritical or anything at all because the alt med industry always cites their critics. Here is my response:

Sure, I’ll be happy to do that as soon as your organization starts linking to Science-Based Medicine and Respectful Insolence.

Seriously though, I think it’s enough to give your side of the story by citing Wakefield supporters cited in the Guardian article. Thanks

Josh

Still no word back…

UPDATE II: The Lancet has finally retracted Wakefield’s article which started this phony controversy in the first place.

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3 Responses to “An update on the ‘MMR vaccines cause autism’ business”

  1. Liz Ditz Says:

    One of my blogging habits is to collate pro and con posts on a particular issue. One reason to do is that each blog has its own set of commenters and often the comments reveal aspects of the issue previously not considered elsewhere.

    Today’s issue is the UK’s General Medical Council’s ruling on Andrew Wakefield.

    I’ve included this post in the list.

    The list can be found at

    http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2010/01/andrew-wakefield-dishonesty-misleading-conduct-and-serious-professional-misconduct.html

    I think your suspicions, as outlined above, are correct. If you arrive at a belief by a method other than reason, reason will not be able to correct that belief.

  2. The BEAST » Blog Archive » The 5 Worst Quacks Around Today Says:

    […] doesn’t involve him reading minds or astral projection or that kind of crap. This is where the disgraced Dr. Andrew Wakefield enters the story with his stories about how the MMR vaccine causes autism, even though it […]

  3. The 5 Worst Quacks Around Today « Atheist Hobos Says:

    […] doesn’t involve him reading minds or astral projection or that kind of crap. This is where the disgraced Dr. Andrew Wakefield enters the story with his stories about how the MMR vaccine causes autism, even though […]

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