Reason Freely

Wakefield MMR Study is Fraud

Posted in news by reasonfreely on January 7, 2011

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) retracted the Wakefield study and called it a fraud.  Finally!

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study — and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.”


The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

Anderson Cooper 360


Health News Reviews

Posted in review by reasonfreely on May 27, 2010

GOOD:  Paid for by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, this site uses a standardized set of ten criteria to review medical news articles, judging them by how completely and accurately they inform the consumer.  The site is run by doctors, and the reviewers are doctors and public health professionals mixed with journalism professionals.

BAD:  To date the site has reviewed just 1,062 articles in 4 years.  That’s not even one per day.  Your chances of finding a review of a specific article on a given day are slim, especially if it’s a specialized topic or a secondary news source (e.g. blog, website, TV).

Overall, this site is great and I intend to follow it as time permits.  I’ll probably use it for future health posts.

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MMR-Autism Researcher Loses Medical License in UK

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 25, 2010

Dr. Andrew Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in Britain yesterday.  Unfortunately, in addition to martyring him to his supporters, this decision has no impact on him.  He stopped practicing medicine in 2004, and has been running an autism recovery clinic since.

Some of the crap this guy pulled is just offensive.  To quote NYT:  “taking blood samples for his study from children at his son’s birthday party” and “the costs of Dr. Wakefield’s research was paid by lawyers for parents seeking to sue vaccine makers” and “he had shown “a callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research…”  Ultimately they slapped him with 30 charges of professional misconduct.

The ban does not prevent him from continuing to do research and publish it, though at this point no professional medical journal will print his work.  Wakefield became  an alternative medicine practitioner since 2004, working in both the US and UK.  This goes to show you what value alternative medicine has — it’s the last refuge for quacks, hacks, greedy liars and cheats.

(I was recently alerted to this comic strip on the subject: )

If she weighs the same as a duck, she’s made of wood?

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 18, 2010


Posted in news by reasonfreely on March 26, 2010

Terrorism — when people use violence to hurt and scare others over political, ethnic, or religious differences — is the enemy of free thought.  Recall that free thought is free of influence from authority, tradition and manipulation.  Terrorism is manipulation of the most crude and basic sort.

In the lead-up to the health care reform vote, the Republican party set fire to their extreme-right base.  They lied to them, telling them that the health care bill was going to kill babies (even after the Stupak amendment, which explicitly prohibits the bill subsidizing abortion procedures).  They said it was an unconstitutional to make health insurance mandatory (despite the other mandatory insurance premiums we all pay…  for medicare).  They said that Americans hated the bill (yes, more Americans disliked the bill than liked it before it passed, but it was basically an even split) and that Obama was pushing it through despite democratic objection (despite the fact that the majority of elected representatives were for it) and were using dirty legislative tricks to get it passed (as opposed to the Republicans, aka the Filibusticans, who decided that their success is Obama’s failure, and have basically gone on strike — real mature guys).

So in short, they created a monster.  PELOSI BAD!

Now their monster has wandered into the town and started threatening Democrats’ families and children, smashing windows, and cutting gas lines.  Now they’re faced with a tough decision, where the ethical thing is to take back their lies, ask for peace and understanding, and eat some crow.  I’m not saying that opposing the health care bill is wrong per se.  But how they went about it, inflaming the extreme wing of their base to violence (“We came unarmed (this time)” comes to mind), was wrong.

So now they’ve created terrorists.  Terrorists.  Terrorists.  Terrorists. People who threaten violence and destroy property to scare others into submission to their ideology are terrorists.

Why won’t the media call them terrorists?  That’s my question.  I think they’re cowards.

Update: Republican response to the violence.   Not adequate.

MMR Conspiracy Theorists: The Power of Fear

Posted in news by reasonfreely on February 4, 2010

Yesterday, The Lancet posted the following retraction of the MMR vaccine/autism article that started the whole vaccine/autism kerfluffle.

Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al. are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record. [click for original source]

I don’t want to go into the history of the “controversy” (see wikipedia for that) but I’ll summarize it in brief:  Dr. Andrew Wakefield (et al.), in 1998, wrote a paper in The Lancet whereby he claimed (and showed evidence supporting this claim, mind you) that the mercury-based preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine caused a bowel problem he called “autistic enterocolitis” which then quickly led to autism in these twelve children.  Panic ensued.

In 2004, ten of the paper’s co-authors retracted their support for Wakefield’s conclusions, and between 1998 and 2004, researchers spent millions on epidemiological studies of the vaccine and autism finding no evidence, but the damage was done.  The two things I will discuss here are 1) speculation on why this misinformed theory was so appealing to young mothers, and 2) why people still believe it despite a staggering amount of evidence to the contrary, including a full retraction.