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Monday, March 31, 2008

MMR Doctor denies submitting kids to painful tests just to prove his Theories

Dr. Andrew Wakefield told a General Medical Council (GMC) disciplinary panel he did not submit young children to painful tests just to further his theories linking vaccinations to autism. He stressed that the tests were clinically necessary to diagnose and treat the young children - he said the children had autistic-like symptoms as well as debilitating bowel diseases.

A decade ago Dr. Wakefield said the MMR vaccine may cause autism.

Professor John Walker-Smith, the doctor of the young children, had ordered all the tests, according to Wakefield. The investigations - including painful colonoscopies, lumbar punctures (taking spinal fluid), brain scans, blood tests, and urine tests - were stopped when they could not reveal a link to the children's problems. He insisted that the well-being of the children was "our foremost consideration".

Dr. Wakefield is not a practicing clinician, he is an academic. He is accused of ordering tests against the children's best interests in order to further his own research - and by doing so breaking rules. However, he says he played no role whatsoever in deciding whether the tests should or should not take place. According to Wakefield, all the parents were very keen for their children to be included in the tests, and knew about the research program.

He said parents had told him about their 'normal' children who developed autism after receiving the MMR vaccine and started investigating a potential link in 1995. He had previously investigated a possible link between the MMR vaccine and Crohn's disease. "They were telling what turned out to be a remarkably consistent story of a normal child who they had lost, who had lost speech, communication, play, interaction with siblings, had sometimes become incontinent … was bloated, off their food, was losing weight, was failing to thrive."

While answering the Panel's questions (during the hearing) several supporters were gathered outside with banners indicating support for Wakefield. Professor Walker-Smith, Professor Simon Murch and Dr. Wakefield all deny serious professional conduct.

According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Wakefield charged over £150 ($300) per hour to a law firm that had planned to sue the vaccine's manufacturer. He invoiced Richard Barr, a lawyer, the hourly rate for investigating alleged dangerous side-effects of the MMR vaccine. Two years later Wakefield published his research paper, alleging a causal link between MMR and autism in young children. However, he did not disclose that he was being paid as an expert adviser for Mr. Barr, who was in legal proceedings against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine - a clear conflict of interest.

Most of the children who were examined were represented by Mr. Barr. When Dr. Wakefield's report came out, it led to a dramatic drop in the number of children receiving the MMR jab, and a subsequent rise in children developing measles.

According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Wakefield "was also accused of dishonesty in applying for £55,000 of legal-aid money for his research, even though these costs had already been met by the NHS." According to Wakefield, he needed two funding sources for two separate investigations.

Wakefield told the Panel that the Royal Free Hospital's (London) ethics committee had fully approved the invasive tests on the children. Dr. Michael Pegg, who was the Committee's chairman said this was not true - Wakefield suggested that Dr. Pegg's memory is at fault.

The hearing continues.

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