Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 24 May 2010

Andrew Wakefield is not the only guilty one

The news today that Dr Andrew Wakefield (the doctor who suggested there was a link between the MMR triple-jab and autism) has been struck off the medical register having been found guilty of serious professional misconduct will be welcomed by many people who value a proper evidence base for medical decisions. His research was hopelessly flawed in a number of ways and the consequences that have flowed from it in terms of unneccessary (sometimes very severe) measles cases and loss of herd immunity in some areas are still reverberating now.

However Dr Wakefield is not the only one who is culpable for causing this problem. As least as guilty if not more so are those in the media who perpetuated the scare stories long after it became clear that Wakefield's evidence was flawed. All those journalists who published stories containing anecdotal "evidence" that suggested Wakefield was right and those columnists who used their national voice to imply that there was some sort of cover up by the medical establishment going on, some of whom still persist with this even today should also take their share of the blame.

I hope that all of them will now feel moved to publish apologies for the misleading and damaging things that they have written over the years. They are the first to insist people from other walks of life apologise and/or resign when they get something wrong. The same standards should apply to them.

I won't hold my breath though.

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