Magazine article The Spectator

Wakefield Is Probably Wrong about MMR, but I Am Glad He Has Taken His Stand

Magazine article The Spectator

Wakefield Is Probably Wrong about MMR, but I Am Glad He Has Taken His Stand

Article excerpt

Dr Andrew Wakefield, if he is still a doctor by the time you read this, seems to be a baddun. A disciplinary panel heard that when children arrived at his house for a birthday party he grabbed a syringe and extracted blood from each one of them, giving the kids five pounds in exchange. Some fainted or vomited following this unexpected procedure, just before the cake was cut. So, already we have a vampire trope to be going on with. Also, he now works at a clinic in West Texas, the last worldly refuge of all manner of scoundrels.

As he arrived at the General Medical Council hearing which was to deliberate his fitness to continue practising in Britain he was surrounded by his usual cabal of autism groupies, all those mums and dads with placards who cannot bring themselves to shed the idea that the terrible illness which afflicts their kids was caused by anything other than some government imposed pathogen, something dark, mysterious and catastrophic lurking within the MMR vaccine. They howled their usual protests, cleaving to the notion that Wakefield is a brave and persecuted man of honour. The medical profession, almost as one, and the government insist that he is a charlatan, a quack -- and go about the business of persecuting him. It is pointed out, drily, that his animus towards the MMR was not inconsistent with a patent he'd taken out on a single measles vaccine -- so, financial greed is the final nail to be hammered into Wakefield's professional coffin.

He is this year's Sir Roy Meadow. In the summer of punk, 1977, Sir Roy concocted a suitably nihilistic illness, Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy which, once he had invented it and given it a name, existed as an unquestioned scientific fact, like the boiling point of water or the mass of an electron, for the next quarter of a century. Sir Roy's illness was a cunning creature; no symptoms save for mums murdering their kids while they slept. No cure. Sure form of telling if the patient has Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy is their fervent denial of it. Everything peer reviewed, published data in the most learned of medical journals and all ticketyboo. The courts swallowed it whole and plenty of women were sent to prison or the booby hatch on the basis of this circular theory which, by definition, was impervious to argument -- a little like the Anthropic Principle which explains away the existence of the universe by insisting that it is like it is because it couldn't be any different.

Anyway, in the early years of this century a procession of embittered women were suddenly let out of prison or the booby hatch and Sir Roy Meadow was struck off the register by the GMC. Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy by now didn't exist; it was a fiction;

it had never existed. Sir Roy allegedly fiddled some of his statistics and that is what he was done for. But the earliest objections to his illness were not predicated upon his dubious figures. It was the incarcerated women, their husbands and the defence lawyers crying out, repeatedly, 'This cannot be!' So it is with Wakefield. His linkage of the MMR vaccine and the onset of autism was peer reviewed and published in the Lancet; it existed, for a while, as a contentious fact and led to many parents refusing to give their kids the three-jabs-in-one vaccine. …

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