Bad medicine

While the public humiliation of Dr Andrew Wakefield over the quality of his MMR research marks the end of a two-and-a-half year inquiry, itdoes little for parents who have endured an age of uncertainty over what is best for their children.

That climate of doubt, which now looks to be over, owes much to the poor quality of Dr Wakefield's study of the vaccination, autism and the way he acted over several years.

The findings of the General Medical Council cannot be dismissed,

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despite the angry protests of parents who believe their children were damaged by the MMR jab.

The panel spent a long time considering Dr Wakefield's case, sitting for 148 days at a reported cost of more than 1m, and found he had failed to be a responsible consultant and brought his profession into disrepute. Taking blood samples from youngsters at his son's birthday party, in return for payments of 5, was an extraordinary act and utterly unprofessional.

The research project led by Dr Wakefield, which purported to show a link between the MMR jab, bowel disease and autism, sparked a slump to about 80 per cent in the number of children given the triple jab for measles, mumps and rubella. As such, he has had an enormous impact on public health.

The later decision by 10 of his co-authors to partially retract some of the study's findings and to speak out against him underlined the gravity of the concerns over his research.

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In finding against him so strongly, the GMC was effectively saying that the fight to help sick children had been handicapped by Dr Wakefield's work.

This is deeply important because the young patients he studied had serious problems including the loss of acquired skills such as language, intestinal disorders including diarrhoea and constipation and, of course, autism.

For these children, it is also deeply sad. The man who claimed to be helping them only hindered understanding of their problems.

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