An influential study linking childhood vaccines to autism has been exposed as a fraud, funded by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine makers. CNN reports:
A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.
An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.
"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."
Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May. "Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work.
Many parents were panicked into foregoing childhood vaccinations as a result of this fraud. One example of the consequences:
In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.
The author Wakefield was paid by law firms which planned to sue vaccine makers.
According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers.
The sad truth is that science, one of the crowning achievements of western civilization, is seriously endangered because of fraud. This study is the tip of the iceberg. Global warming research, explicitly designed to find certain outcomes ("hide the decline") comes to mind.