Wakefield will not be “struck off for…challenging the status quo”; in other news, bear defecates in the woods

22I wasn’t at all sure if I wanted to post this. I’m with Dr Crippen in being less than happy about the additional publicity going to the ‘evidence’ that MMR causes autism. However, I think it’s worth returning to Holford’s claim that “Dr Andrew Wakefield…is facing a hearing with the General Medical Council, and may be struck off for, in effect, challenging the status quo”. With Wakefield’s GMC hearing coming up, these issues will get a lot of publicity anyway…

Holford’s claims was not just wrong – it was very predictably wrong (I predicted it, not that I’d expect any credit for predicting something this obvious). The GMC has now released its charges against Wakefield – challenging the status quo is, unsurprisingly, not among them. Autism Diva covers this well – the GMC allege that Wakefield and his colleagues

undertook research during the period 1996-98 without proper ethical approval, failed to conduct the research in accordance with the application submitted to the ethics committee, and failed to treat the children admitted into the study in accordance with the terms of the approval given by the ethics committee…It is further alleged that the three practitioners permitted a programme of investigations to be carried out on a number of children as part of the research study, some of which were not clinically indicated when the Ethics Committee had been assured that they were all clinically indicated. These investigations included colonoscopies and lumbar punctures. It is alleged that the performance of these investigations was contrary to the clinical interests of the children…The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield acted unethically and abused his position of trust as a medical practitioner by taking blood from children at a birthday party to use for research purposes without ethics committee approval, in an inappropriate social setting, and whilst offering financial inducement.

Clearly, allegations of unethical experiments on children should be investigated – it is not appropriate to dismiss this as a hearing where Wakefield is charged with ‘challenging the status quo’. Shinga argues that Holford “owes it to the people who rely upon him to revise his acceptance of Wakefield’s science and findings”. I would argue that Holford also owes the people who rely on him an accurate summary of the allegations against Wakefield that will be tested at the forthcoming GMC hearing. It’s an insult both to Holford’s audience, and to the children involved in Wakefield’s allegedly unethical experiments, to claim that this is just about Wakefield ‘challenging the status quo’.


Filed under autism, MMR, patrick holford, Wakefield

3 responses to “Wakefield will not be “struck off for…challenging the status quo”; in other news, bear defecates in the woods

  1. Yes, you’re right, Jon. There does need to be some clarification about the wrongful interpretation of the charges – but I doubt that that would give as much opportunity to promote the treatment programme. I’d like it to happen but I will be startled if there is an emailed amendment. Time is ticking by and Holford has had plenty of opportunity to correct that email.

  2. tifosi246

    This is a classic example of Holford provoking hysteria and using that as a cover for self-promotion. If the press could be bothered to expose the holes in Wakefield’s arguments (extremely hard work as they’d need to actually cut, paste and slightly change the clear explanations here and on Breath Spa for Kids – which would no doubt exhaust them), then Holford would have a lot more to apologise for than just grossly mis-stating the aims of the GMC enquiry.

    But then, that would require paid journalists to be the 4th estate champions they proclaim themselves to be, against the “of course my article is just a few press releases and PR company supplied quotes, I don’t have the time to do the research or check the facts” charlatans that many of them seem to be

  3. I am torn on this – I think that newspaper editors are quite upfront about the fact that science doesn’t sell newspapers. There is no decent profit margin in running an accurate or well-researched story. On the other hand, some of the science and medicine stories are so important that they should be reported appropriately.

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