In the news: Andrew Wakefield

Andrew Wakefield is back in the news after being accused of concealing a potential conflict of interest in his 1998 study purporting to link the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism and bowel cancer.

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet , this week said he would not have published the paper had he known that Dr Wakefield was being paid for a study looking for evidence to support legal action by parents who thought their children had been damaged by the vaccine.

The General Medical Council is considering whether to take action against Dr Wakefield. Dr Wakefield has insisted on an inquiry.

The original controversy surrounding the study has already cost Dr Wakefield his post at the Royal Free Medical School - he resigned in 2001.

Speaking at the time, he said: "I have been asked to go because my research results are unpopular."

The 46-year-old medic was born into the profession - his mother was a GP and his father a neurologist. He studied medicine at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London then trained in bowel transplantation at Toronto University, Canada, where he worked as a transplant surgeon.

In the late 1980s, he returned to the UK and published studies that, he suggested, showed a link between measles and Crohn's disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease. By the mid-1990s, Dr Wakefield started to consider whether there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease.

His study focused on tests carried out on 12 children referred to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead for gastrointestinal problems. At the same time, Dr Wakefield was paid to carry out another study to find out if parents who claimed their children were damaged by the MMR vaccine had a case. He insists that the two studies were completely separate.

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

  • Man measuring bar graphs with tape measure

An Elsevier analysis explores the viability of a ‘smarter and cheaper’ model

  • David Willetts

The former universities minister discusses the reforms that reshaped higher education and his first steps into academia

  • Man holding a box filled with work-related items

Refusal by John Allen to obey instruction from manager at Queen Mary University of London led to his sacking, tribunal rules

  • A black and white crowd scene with a few people highlighted

What are the key issues local union branches are dealing with, and how do they manage relationships with institutions in what many activists argue is an increasingly confrontational environment?

  • Muslim woman at graduation ceremony, Barbican, London

Sector called on to embrace faith-related concerns in intellectual debates