One of the biggest stories on the web today reveals evidence of exactly how Dan Wakefield, former medical doctor and defacto leader of the vaccines-cause-autism movement, falsified the data he used to create the 1998 Lancet study which connected both connected autism and an intestinal disorder as a new syndrome and connected the root cause of this syndrome to be the MMR vaccine. BMJ writer Brain Deer throws back the curtains and reveals all in the first part of a series exposing the extent of Wakefield’s deception in his piece How the Case Against the MMR Vaccine was Fixed.
As it turns out, the discrepancies originally considered potential errors in data collection were just outright lies. Data cited in the study doesn’t match, in some cases even slightly, with the actual medical histories of the children who participated. The most damaging of the falsehoods changed the date of the onset of the first autistic symptoms to within a week to ten days after the vaccine he hoped to discredit was given. Some of the children experienced symptoms months before the injection, some didn’t display symptoms until months after the immunization.
Why fake all the data? Because Wakefield aimed to misbehave, and not in the sexy Captain Reynolds sort of way. Wakefield wanted to get rich, plain and simple. Science, vulnerable parents, sick kids, public health and even a marginal sense of morality be damned. In addition to hoping to benefit from a lawsuit against the vaccine manufacturers, Wakefield also patented his own vaccination injection and distribution method, as well as creating several other patents related to starting businesses, creating treatment protocols and selling snake oil products aimed at his now captive audience – parents who believed his dirty, lying ass.
Many discussions about autism and vaccines quickly devolve into one anecdotal horror story after another about people who know someone who has a kid with autism, and their sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s wife won’t vaccinate, and how can parents be so stupid?! Isn’t a kid with autism better than a dead kid? (Saying this automatically earns one a negative ten in the Registry of Awesome.) With a few well thought out comments about locking Wakefield in a tower for a few decades while all his assets are distributed to the families he duped and public health organizations, there are always so many comments about stupid parents.
None of us who hasn’t been there can understand what it’s like for a parent of child with a pervasive disability. Most of my friends and colleagues who are parents would do anything to help their children if they were sick or suffering. Sometimes even if it defies reason. Aren’t we all more susceptible to predators like Wakefield when we’re vulnerable and scared?
Parents – especially mothers – of children with autism have been blamed in one way or another for their child’s disorder since it was first diagnosed in the 1920’s. Let’s consider cutting them a little slack this round and keep the blame where it belongs, on no good, dirty deceivers like Wakefield.