Medic who set off MMR row guilty of misconduct

THE doctor who sparked a major health scare by claiming the MMR vaccine could cause autism faces being struck off the medical register after he was found guilty of a series of misconduct charges.

A General Medical Council (GMC) inquiry – which is said to have cost more than 1m – said Dr Andrew Wakefield showed "a callous disregard" for the suffering of children and abused his position of trust.

Dr Wakefield believed he had uncovered a link between the jab and bowel disease and autism but was told he "acted dishonestly" and had been misleading in the way he described his research, published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998.

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The GMC said the doctor took blood samples from children at his son's birthday party in return for payments of 5 in the late 1990s, and then laughed about it during a US presentation in March 1999.

Panel chairman Dr Surendra Kumar, who was heckled by Dr Wakefield's supporters as he delivered the verdicts, said: "Despite your explanation that you did not consider it unethical to obtain blood in this way, the panel found that it was unethical and that you did not have ethical approval for such an undertaking.

"It also found that you caused blood to be taken in an inappropriate social setting and you showed a callous disregard for the distress and pain you knew or ought to have known the children involved might suffer."

The GMC found Dr Wakefield "failed in his duties as a responsible consultant" and went against the interests of children in his care in conducting research.

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He further acted dishonestly and was "misleading and irresponsible" in the way he described the study.

The research sparked a massive drop in the number of children given the triple jab for measles, mumps and rubella. Many concerned parents travelling overseas to obtain single vaccinations.

Subsequent studies involving millions of children have found no evidence for the link between the triple jab and autism. The claim was also retracted by The Lancet, and 10 of the original 13 authors disowned the research.

Dr Wakefield said he was dismayed at the panel's decision and praised the parents who had supported him.

The hearing was yesterday adjourned and will resume this summer to deliberate a final verdict and sanctions.

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