Friday, February 5, 2010
Bad Science leads to Bad Medicine
So, I've posted before about how there is absolutely no substantive evidence to back the claim that vaccines cause autism. The one and only study to make such a claim was published in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who has been all over the news this week in the wake of investigations into unethical research practices. Now, even before the revelations of the past week, many people had reason to doubt the study that kicked off the anti-vaccination movement. For example, Wakefield had a financial (and huge conflict of) interest in developing an alternative to traditional vaccines at the time he published the study. Also, the original study only included 12 children, which is too small of a sample to infer anything meaningful about the population at large. And that would be if the data could be trusted, but since it seems that much of the data was faked, I guess the point is moot. It's no wonder that the rest of Wakefield's co-authors on the study demurred from the conclusions he had drawn, and most of them withdrew their names from the paper. In addition to all of this, however, the past week has been even more enlightening... an investigation into Wakefield's practices by Britain's General Medical Council (GMC) revealed unethical practices by the good doctor, including giving painful spinal taps to children in the study "without clinical reason". Additionally, in the past week, the medical journal, the Lancet completely removed the paper from its publication record. I wish that all of this would finally convince people that there is no truth to Wakefield's ridiculous claims, but sadly, as this article in the London Times points out, many of the antivaxers will only see this as "a setup" or a witch hunt, and the "persecution" of Andrew Wakefield will only strengthen their belief that he is right.