Dr. Andrew Wakefield and Professors John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch are appearing before the General Medical Council (GMC) in London, accused of professional misconduct relating to investigations for their study on twelve children with bowel disorders. The study, published in the Lancet in 1998, reported on unexpected intestinal lesions in children with pervasive developmental disorder and suggested the possibility of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Among other allegations, they are accused of carrying out procedures on the children in the study (lumbar punctures and colonoscopies) that were not in their best interests. (It is important to note that Autism Speaks published a consensus statement from leaders in the field of gastroenterology that now endorses the consideration of colonoscopy for children with GI symptoms.)
Autism is a complicated and controversial disease, and many myths have been perpetuated through press and media coverage on the research in this field. One myth is that Dr. Wakefield’s work has been discredited. The editor of the Lancet has confirmed that the original paper still stands. Furthermore, several subsequent research efforts have replicated, and built on, Wakefield’s findings. The UK inquiry is solely based on allegations made by a single reporter, not by any patient’s family--not one has ever complained; in fact, they are protesting the inquiry. As the fastest growing developmental disability, autism merits a thorough and unbiased examination of the facts.
Rather than being scapegoated, Dr. Wakefield should be lauded for his landmark research. Most would agree that he has advanced our understanding of autism immensely; and at the very least, he has raised society's awareness of the possible connection between the MMR and autism.
The Autism Research Institute would like to invite concerned and grateful parents worldwide to send their wishes of encouragement and support to Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues during these unfair proceedings.
-- Steve M. Edelson, Ph.D., Director, Autism Research Institute.
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