By John Stone
December 14, 2010
Nearly a year after the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council (GMC) brought in its findings on fact against Andrew Wakefield, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, one of Wakefield’s principal adversaries, doctor and Guardian newspaper journalist Ben Goldacre, has published comments in IrishHealth which challenge the basis of the GMC’s central finding against the three doctors at its foundations. Goldacre, who initially welcomed the verdict has reverted to the views he expressed in an award winning article in 2005, in which he expressed the opinion that the Lancet paper was a legitimate study. He told the Irish on-line publication:
“But you have to remember this paper didn’t actually say MMR causes autism, it didn’t even speculate on that. It was accompanied by an editorial that said by the way people should be very clear that it doesn’t mean that MMR causes autism.
“Also, this was a 12 subject case series report – it was a description of only 12 children’s clinical anecdotes, and while this is not good evidence to say MMR causes autism, it is a perfectly legitimate thing to publish.”
This is at variance with the GMC finding that rather than being “a 12 case series report” it was an ill-conducted version of a protocol sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Legal Aid Board (now Legal Services Commission), and a totally different kind of study. The lack of correspondence between the Lancet paper and the LAB protocol led in turn to the panel finding the three doctors were in detailed breach of the protocol despite their representations that they had never been doing it, and also to the single most distressing finding against Wakefield that he was dishonest because he had failed to account for the LAB’s sponsorship.