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Doctor Whose Research Prompted Autism-Vaccine Scare Acted Unethically

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The doctor whose research first triggered fears of a link between autism and vaccines acted unethically, a British medical panel has found.

After a two and a half year investigation, Britain’s General Medical Council ruled Thursday that Dr. Andrew Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” when he conducted his 1998 study which first suggested a connection between the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine and autism.

The council’s investigation did not examine the results of Wakefield’s work, but looked instead at the means by which he conducted his research. It was alleged during the course of the hearings that Wakefield paid children for blood samples and did tests that were invasive.

Wakefield said that he was “extremely disappointed” with the result of the hearings.

Even though the study in question did not look specifically at the relationship between autism and vaccines, Wakefield and his colleagues reported that eight of the 12 children in their study experienced signs of autism within days of receiving the MMR vaccine.

The study and subsequent comments from Wakefield gave rise to an anti-vaccine movement that led many parents to forgo childhood vaccination out of concerns about autism. This came even as further scientific research disputed any link between vaccines and the developmental disorder.

Now the General Medical Council will decide if Wakefield, who currently lives and practices in Austin, Texas, should face consequences for the ethical breach, but such a decision is not expected for several months, reports the BBC. To read more click here.

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