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Agent MattPosted: Jan 14, 2011 - 11:51

Genuine American Monster

Level: 70
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British Medical Council Bars Doctor Who Linked Vaccine With Autism

LONDON — A doctor whose research and public statements caused widespread alarm that a common childhood vaccine could cause autism was banned on Monday from practicing medicine in his native Britain for ethical lapses, including conducting invasive medical procedures on children that they did not need.

The General Medical Council applied its most severe sanction against the doctor, Andrew Wakefield, 53, who abandoned his medical practice in Britain in 2004 as questions intensified about his research and set up a center to study childhood developmental disorders in Texas, despite not being licensed as a physician there.

In January, after the longest investigation in its history, the council found several instances of what it said was unprofessional conduct by Dr. Wakefield. It cited his taking blood samples for his study from children at his son’s birthday party; he paid each child £5, about $7.20 today, and joked about it later. It also noted that part of the costs of Dr. Wakefield’s research was paid by lawyers for parents seeking to sue vaccine makers for damages.

Dr. Wakefield left the Texas center in February, but continued to speak out against his treatment in Britain, as he did in interviews in New York on Monday, when he called the British decision to strike him off the medical register an effort to “discredit and silence” him. He said he would appeal the decision, which will take effect, unless suspended for legal reasons, within 28 days.

The disciplinary tribunal’s action came after more than a decade of controversy over the links Dr. Wakefield and associates in Britain, as well as supporters among parents of some autistic children in Britain and the United States, have made between autism and a commonly used vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. The suggestion of a link caused use of the vaccine in Britain and elsewhere in the world to plummet, a development that critics of Dr. Wakefield said contributed to a sharp rise in measles cases in countries where the vaccine was in use.

Most scientific papers have failed to find any links between vaccines and autism.

The furor was touched off by a 1998 article in The Lancet, a British medical journal. The journal retracted the study in February after the medical council in London concluded in January that Dr. Wakefield had been dishonest and that he had violated ethical rules.

The council said he had shown “a callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research. The ruling banning him from practicing medicine on Tuesday was a sequel to the January finding.

Dr. Surendra Kumar, the medical council’s chairman, said that Dr. Wakefield had “brought the medical profession into disrepute” and that his behavior constituted “multiple separate instances of professional misconduct.” In all, Dr. Wakefield was found guilty of more than 30 charges.

“The panel concluded,” Dr. Kumar said, “that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession.” He said the sanction was “proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.”

The council also barred from practice one of Dr. Wakefield’s associates, Dr. John Walker-Smith, 73, who had been found guilty of professional misconduct and retired from medicine 10 years ago. A second associate, Dr. Simon Murch, was found not guilty of professional misconduct and allowed to continue practicing.

Dr. Wakefield resigned in February from his position as a staff researcher at Thoughtful House, an alternative medicine clinic in Austin, Tex. A spokeswoman for the clinic said she did not know where Dr. Wakefield worked now.

A 2007 annual report for the clinic has a picture of Dr. Wakefield looking into microscope with a caption that reads: “Where would we be without Dr. Wakefield and your entire team? Thank you for your courageous efforts in swimming against the tide. Without you we would still be hearing, ‘There is nothing we can do.’ Because of you we know the hope is great and the progress is attainable.”

In New York on Monday, Dr. Wakefield rejected the medical council’s findings. In an interview with the “Today” show on NBC, he described the ban on his practicing as “a little bump in the road” and said the council’s decision had been predetermined “from the outset.” He also said he would continue his research into the link between vaccines and autism.

“These parents are not going away,” he said. “The children are not going away. And I am most certainly not going away.”

Gardiner Harris contributed reporting from Washington.

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