It’s been over 11 years since Andrew Wakefield first published his paper in the Lancet that kicked off the whole media MMR hoax. So I’m not entirely sure why there’s still news coming out now about the whole palaver. But evidently the General Medical Council has just recently been investigating him for serious professional misconduct.
As I understand it, they’ve not formally ruled on the misconduct issue yet, but as far as their “finding of fact” goes, Wakefield doesn’t come off well. Accusations of doing “shoddy, litigation- and profit-driven pseudoscience”, being “misleading and irresponsible”, and having “changed and misreported results in his research” are flying thick and fast. We’re also being reminded of the conflicts of interest he failed to declare, such as the patent that he’d applied for on an alternate MMR vaccine (thus giving him a strong financial stake in seeing the current one fall out of favour).
I’m skimping on the full details and assuming that you’ll be at least partially familiar with the backstory here. If I were really going to go into detail about the MMR hoax, it’d merit a Skeptictionary entry of itself, and maybe someday it will, but I wanted to get a brief comment done tonight. For background info, this extract from Bad Science, the utterly indispensable book by Ben Goldacre, is pretty much all you need.
(Edit: Ben Goldacre just posted a new piece about Andrew Wakefield, also worth a look.)
Also, Steve Novella has a great summary, and a graph showing the upsurge of measles cases as MMR vaccine uptake slipped. Podblack Cat has links to where the mainstream media are covering the news about the GMC investigation. And jdc325 reminds us not to let the media themselves off the hook, for uncritically bellowing at the entire country about pretty much whatever they thought would be most effective in getting people to buy their newspapers, and mongering fear at the expense of journalistic integrity with disastrous results.
Speaking of the media, the Daily Mail had a poll on their site attached to their article on this earlier today, asking its readers if they thought the MMR jab was safe. They’ve since taken it down, possibly because somebody realised that Daily Mail readers’ opinions on an empirical subject solidly established by scientific fact doesn’t fucking matter. When I voted, the response percentages were 56/44 in favour of “Yes”.
Head. Meet desk. At velocity.
In lighter news, the 129th Skeptics’ Circle is up over at The SkeptVet Blog. It’s a really fun round-up of some great posts, so go have a look.
And in even lighter news, here’s a snapshot of what my inbox looked like earlier this evening. It’s amazing what coming up with a few jokes to pass the time at work and being retweeted by Dave Gorman or Marcus Brigstocke will do…
Even allowing for a few of them being spam-bots (who names their kid The Car Disco?), that’s not a bad day’s work. Go on. Follow the herd.