Monkeying with the truth
March 29th 2010, 10:20
The US and UK governments and the press are exulting in the recent highly public hanging of Dr Andrew Wakefield, found guilty of misconduct by the British General Medical Council (GMC). Wakefield, you may recall, is the British gastroenterologist who first raised the alarm bells over the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR).
In the minds of many medicos and in the press, the MMR vaccine now stands fully vindicated. The scientist who claimed that the MMR vaccine causes autism has been discredited. Order has been restored.
In our Special Report this month, publisher Bryan Hubbard set out both to investigate the Wakefield decision and to uncover any evidence purporting to demonstrate the safety of the vaccine.
Wakefield never maintained that the MMR vaccine caused autism. All he did was raise a cautious alarm after finding that a number of children with autism were presenting with the same gut problems that seemed to have developed right after their MMR jabs.
Now, he and his colleagues in America have carried out a subsequent study on monkeys, which demonstrated that the hepatitis B vaccine can cause neurological damage and progressively severe chronic inflammation in gastrointestinal tissue-exactly what he originally discovered with the MMR vaccine and autistic children.
Despite being exhaustively peer-reviewed and accepted for publication, Wakefield's monkey study was subsequently pulled as 'not suitable' for publication after the GMC delivered its verdict. The pulling of the study ultimately became the centrepiece of our story. The more that Bryan dug into this issue, the more layers of deceit he uncovered in the form of censorship, data-massaging and burying of damning data.
He found dirty tricks at the heart of medicine that would have made Richard Nixon's Watergate henchmen proud. He found journalism bought and paid for by drug companies.
But what has been most shocking to us as journalists is the misinformation spread about by our own colleagues in the press. Virtually no major newspaper, or TV or radio station (save the Huffington Post) has bothered to look beyond the official releases of the GMC or government agencies to learn the truth about MMR. Some journalists have even allowed themselves to get in bed with drug companies.
The safety of the vaccine is now beside the point. Wakefield's error was to challenge medicine's most sacred cow: vaccination is now in a sense a standard-bearer for a certain mindset. It represents the triumph of Science over the randomness of Nature. Most doctors look to vaccination as proof that medicine has conquered infectious disease.
Researchers, scientific publications, doctors, drug companies and even journalists are willing to do almost anything to maintain that assumption of a priori benefit. Vaccination is now performed for its own sake-whether or not it is necessary, beneficial or even safe. To attack anything about any jab has come to be viewed as treason.
What needs to be put on display is not an honest scientist like Wakefield, but the level of deceit that is now routine-among scientists, researchers and reporters-all in the name of the public 'interest'.