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MMR-autism 'link' doctor struck off

Dr Andrew Wakefield, who authored a 1998 Lancet study alleging a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, has been struck off by the GMC

Dr Andrew Wakefield, who authored a 1998 Lancet study alleging a link between the MMR vaccine, inflammatory bowel disease and autism, has been struck off by the UK's General Medical Council (GMC). He was this morning found guilty of a total of 30 offences, including serious professional misconduct, following an original ruling by the GMC fitness to practise panel in January this year that Dr Wakefield had acted unethically when conducting the research.

At the time of conducting the research, Dr Wakefield was working as a gastroenterologist and did not have the relevant qualifications to conduct the tests, which included carrying out invasive procedures on children and paying children who attended his son's birthday party for blood samples. These methods were found to be against the best clinical interests of the patients.

The Lancet paper, which was based on research conducted on 12 children, caused a dramatic drop in the rate of MMR vaccinations across the UK and a subsequent rise in the number of measles cases. Sections of the paper were withdrawn in 2004 when the Lancet claimed previously-undisclosed conflicts of interest, after stating that Dr Wakefield had not disclosed he was receiving payment to advise the solicitors of parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR vaccination.

Following a 2009 investigation by the Sunday Times into data manipulation, the Lancet officially retracted the paper in full in February 2010, noting that elements of the manuscript had been falsified.

In 2001, Dr Wakefield was made a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in recognition of his research work. Since relocating to the US he has worked at the International Child Development Resource Center in Florida and until February was executive director of Thoughtful House, a centre for children with autism in Texas.

The GMC's investigations took almost three years, and represent the longest misconduct hearing in its history.

Dr Wakefield, who still claims his research is valid, now has 28 days to appeal against this morning's verdict.

24th May 2010

From: Healthcare

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