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Wakefield's Wake

Picture of William Heisel

A good friend of mine read my recent posts about Andrew Wakefield and the controversy over whether vaccines have any role in causing autism and asked me whether I was concerned for my safety.

Picture of William Heisel

For a field rooted in fact and reason, science sure loves witchcraft.

One of the most common responses to the decade-long effort to hold Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues accountable for creating one of the biggest public health scares in modern history – linking autism to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine – is to call the effort a “witch hunt.”

Picture of William Heisel

One of the main groups involved in Andrew Wakefield’s vaccines-cause-autism scare was called JABS.

The letters stood for Justice Awareness and Basic Support. It billed itself as the “support group for vaccine-damaged children.” A jab, in British parlance, is the same as a shot in the US. And the group was focused on jabs from vaccines as the cause of autism and other disorders.

Picture of William Heisel

Parents of children with autism (or any other condition) may be reluctant to hand over medical records to a health writer. Physicians may say the records are confidential and that the patients shouldn’t be talking to a reporter all. Hospitals may invoke the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

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Health writers too often take patient stories at face value and don't ask for medical records.

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Anyone who has written about a topic as emotional as autism knows that patients and their families can be both invaluable and unreliable.

Picture of William Heisel

Andrew Wakefield — creator of one of the greatest scares in medical history — had many accomplices in misleading the world about a link between vaccines and autism. Many in the media helped him spread his intellectual poison. Celebrities rallied behind his fake cause. And the scientific community helped keep the hoax alive by citing his work as if it were legitimate.

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