It’s beginning to look a bit, and maybe a lot, like “Vaccinegate”—if I may so dub the whole furor-tinged controversy surrounding claims that vaccines might be “linked” to autism—may be coming to its inevitable finale.
Two weeks ago it was announced that the 1998 Lancet study linking the MMR vaccine to autism published by Andrew Wakefield et al. had been retracted by that medical journal. The week before, the UK’s General Medical Council had ruled that Wakefield was “unethical” and had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in conducting his research.
And today, the Times of London has reported that Wakefield has “resigned unexpectedly from the American clinic he set up after his work was widely discredited in Britain.” That clinic, Austin, TX-based Thoughtful House, said today that
Dr Wakefield had left his post, with an annual salary of $270,000 (£170,000), “voluntarily” to avoid tarnishing the clinic by association. However, there were suggestions of a disagreement with some board members, who felt that his position was untenable. (Times of London)
Another doctor, Arthur Krigsman, the director of the gastroenterology clinic at Thoughtful House, has also recently stepped down. Dr Krigsman, as Left Brain/Right Brain notes, is the “lead author on a paper which came out recently purporting to support Dr. Wakefield’s research.”
From a statement from Thoughtful House:
The needs of the children we serve must always come first……All of us at Thoughtful House are grateful to Dr Wakefield for the valuable work he has done here.
“We fully support his decision to leave Thoughtful House in order to make sure that the controversy surrounding the recent findings of the General Medical Council does not interfere with the important work that our dedicated team of clinicians and researchers is doing on behalf of children with autism and their families.”
The “important work” done at Thoughtful House, which Wakefield helped to found in 2001, is to “[fight] for the recovery of children with developmental disorders through the unique combination of medical care, education, and research.” Thoughtful House is one of a number of centers and clinics that use biomedical and alternative medical methods to “treat” autistic children. The safety—not to mention the efficacy, the usefulness, and the necessiry—of many if not most of these treatments (such as chelation) have been the subject of much dispute. The use of biomedical and alternative medical treatments has yet to be supported by conclusive scientific evidence.
Was Wakefield “pushed out” of the Board of Directors of Thoughtful House, as Orac writes on Respectful Insolence?
And what about Krigsman?
Is it possible that the purported link between vaccines and autism is withering away, to take its place in the annals of Really Wrong Ideas About What Causes Autism, right next to Bruno Bettelheim‘s widely discredited claims that bad “refrigerator” parents caused autism?
Actually, based on the news of the past few weeks, I’ll warrant that “Vaccinegate” has already achieved such historic, has-been status.
Photo of syringes by I woz ere.