'Dishonest' doctor in MMR vaccine row is struck off

THE doctor at the centre of the MMR row will be struck off the medical register, the General Medical Council (GMC) ruled.

Andrew Wakefield, who caused controversy when he published a study suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease and autism, was found guilty of serious professional misconduct at a hearing yesterday in central London.

A GMC panel ruled Dr Wakefield acted in a way that was "dishonest", "misleading" and "irresponsible" while carrying out research into a possible link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, bowel disease and autism.

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Furthermore, he "abused his position of trust" and "brought the medical profession into disrepute" in studies he carried out on children.

The 53-year-old, who is currently in New York, is expected to appeal against the decision, which is effective within 28 days.

In a statement, Dr Wakefield said: "In reporting their findings the GMC panel sought to deny that the case against me and my colleagues is related to issues of MMR vaccine safety and, specifically, the role of this vaccine in causing autism.

"This is not in fact the case.

"Efforts to discredit and silence me through the GMC process have provided a screen to shield the Government from exposure on the (Pluserix) MMR vaccine scandal."

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Another doctor involved in the research, Professor John Walker-Smith, 73, was also found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the medical register. A third doctor, Professor Simon Murch, was found not guilty.

The research, which appeared in The Lancet medical journal in 1998, sparked a massive decline in the number of children given the triple jab.

The GMC described how Dr Wakefield took blood from his son's friends at a birthday party, paying the youngsters 5 each, before joking about it during a US presentation in March 1999.

"In causing blood samples to be taken from children at a birthday party, he callously disregarded the pain and distress young children might suffer and behaved in a way which brought the profession into disrepute," panel chairman Dr Surendra Kumar said.

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Dr Wakefield ordered some youngsters to undergo unnecessary colonoscopies, lumbar punctures (spinal taps), barium meals, blood and urine tests and brain scans. Yet most of the children did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the research, the GMC ruled.

Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the suggestion of a link between autism and MMR had done "untold damage" to the UK vaccination programme.

"We cannot stress too strongly that all children and young people should have the MMR vaccine."

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