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Is there value in continuing to report on Andrew Wakefield’s ethical lapses?

Posted Oct 15 2010 3:20pm

Andrew Wakefield has been a major subject of discussion here on LeftBrainRightBrain and elsewhere for many years. The question comes up repeatedly as to what is the value of continuing to discuss someone whose ideas have been discredited, and who is no longer having much of an impact on the autism research discussion.

Mr. Wakefield has publicly stated that he is “not going away”. His book has come and, for all practical purposes, gone. He no longer works for Thoughtful House. His name is being dropped from papers for projects he has worked on.

He does have a new business venture to consult with some vaccine-advocacy groups, and I am sure that from time to time he will appear in the public’s eye.

We have already discussed here at LeftBrainRightBrain the outcome of the General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practice hearings, which found Mr. Wakefield guilty of multiple ethics violations. I recently posted observations on Mr. Wakefield’s patent activities, based on the transcripts of the GMC hearings. A valid question is why? Why go through those transcripts? The GMC already reported the results when they struck Mr. Wakefield off the register. Brian Deer has covered the Wakefield story much more thoroughly than we can here. Some people are just tired to the point of being annoyed with discussions of a Mr. Wakefield, and I can understand that.

All that said, I find the transcripts very interesting. No way I can read them all, but what I have read leaves me even more dismayed. I didn’t think it possible, but there it is.

I have already read important facts that surprised me. As I already wrote, Mr. Wakefield applied for his patent without the knowledge of his hospital. That is an amazingly foolish maneuver. This could have invalidated the patent. It was also foolish in that he could have left out key claims that could have protected the Hospital’s intellectual property. On many, many levels, this was a foolish thing to do.

I remain intrigued by the hearing transcripts. I am finding things I didn’t know. I assume those who don’t want to read will skip the posts, and some will read and a discussion will ensue.

So, I will blog about the hearing transcripts. With apologies to those who are tired of the Wakefield story. With no apologies to those who defend Mr. Wakefield and have accepted his rationalizations.

One problem is that there are so many details, so many ethical lapses, multiple conflicts of interest, so many details that it is easy to lose sight of what all this means.

This is long saga. For the most part, each day is a separate Word document and there 155 of them. A typical day’s testimony can be 80 pages long. Even the GMC decision is long. But what it shows is a pattern of multiple instances of lack of respect for the disabled children in his group’s care, multiple instances of disregard for ethical standards, multiple instances of conflicts of interest.

There is a pattern here. And it is pretty ugly.

  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Is there value in continuing to report on Andrew Wakefield’s ethical lapses? « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com:
    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Alltop Autism. Alltop Autism said: Is there value in continuing to report on Andrew Wakefield’s ethical lapses? http://bit.ly/b7tHtn [...]
  2. daedalus2u:
    I think there is value, even though the cost to you may be higher than what it is worth, but that is a decision only you can make. It is not something I want to read about, but it is important that it is not forgotten, how an evil person can exploit the vulnerable even while the vulnerable sing his high praises. As Edmund Burke said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Countering Wakefield's evil has taken much hard work by many good men and women. If even one person gets vaccinated because of reading this, and only one vaccine preventable death is prevented, then it will be worth it.
  3. Liz Ditz:
    Sully, if you can stomach it, I think there is value in blogging bite-size pieces of General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practice hearings. Why? 1. As we have seen again and again at comments at Shannon Rosa's essay at Shot of Prevention http://shotofprevention.com/2010/10/04/why-my-child-with-autism-is-fully-vaccinated/ There are still many many people who believe that Wakefield was...well unjustly deprived of his license because he "told truth to power"... or something. The whole brave maverick doctor meme, or "I fought the man, and the man won." 2. because you aren't Brian Deer. 3. Erm. I am not a psychiatrist, nor am I qualified to use the DSM-IV_TR. But Wakefield, well, I believe he is deceiving both himself and those around him.
  4. Science Mom:
    I'm finding your reporting of the transcripts very illuminating. His defenders have only heard the fictional ranting of Martin Walker (what happened to him any way?)of the GMC trial. So if you are up to slogging through what must be a very difficult read, I see benefit to it.
  5. Catherina:
    What SM says - also, I would *really* like to have a read myself, especially because of Walker's allegations that the GMC was poorly prepared and the proceedings essentially a joke. I have read the entire 2000+ pages of the Cedillo proceedings and have learned a tremendous amount. If you saw a way to pass the transcripts on, I'd appreciate it, Sullivan.

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