Based on the findings of Britain's General Medical Council, the journal had no choice but to retract the twelve-year-old research and I agree with their retraction. At the very least, the study was far too small, and -- as I've said repeatedly -- had too many methodological flaws, to be used as proof of anything at all.
Neither The Lancet nor Britain's General Medical Council have stated that there is not a connection between vaccines in autism, just that they deem this particular piece of research unethical and incorrect.
This prestigious journal is now forced to cover their own embarrassment at having done virtually no rigorous due diligence of Dr. Wakefield's methodology, data gathering and conclusions before they published the paper in 1998.
Whether or not you believe that Andrew Wakefield is a savior, a misguided researcher with "his heart in the right place" or an attention-mongering, unethical "biostitute" the real blame must be shared by the world's most-respected medical journal, The Lancet, for allowing the flaws and potential conflicts of interest to go unnoticed. The self-righteous attitude they now assume serves no one, least of all families affected by autism.
I am on record recognizing the importance of Dr. Wakefield's research for calling attention to a potential connection between the vaccines and autism. I strongly support looking at this possible etiology alongside other possible environmental influences on genetic predisposition to Autism Spectrum Disorders.
A large leap was made in assigning any sort of "proof" from the small Lancet study. I'm not certain that Dr. Wakefield, himself, feels that anything was proven. I continue to join him and others in urgently requesting much more study of the possible causal link between vaccines and autism.
There are no easy answers to this and there continues to be no sufficient proof that a connection does not exist between the MMR and autism. What is clear is that a sloppy evaluation by a medical journal combined with research poorly done is being used to discredit those of us who believe that real research into the causes of autism must continue. This must take place with great respect shown for children and their families and adequate funding for ethical thorough investigation of all possible etiologies including immunizations.
Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
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