But while the disciplinary panel was examining the children’s medical records in public, Deer compared them with what was published in the .His focus was now on whether the research was true.
Any effect of the scare on the incidence of mumps remains in question.
In epidemics in the UK, the US, and the Netherlands, peak prevalence was in 18-24 year olds, of whom 70-88% had been immunised with at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.21 22 Any consequence of a fall in uptake after 1998 may not become apparent until the cohorts of children affected reach adolescence.
The Office of Research Integrity in the United States defines fraud as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism.13 Deer unearthed clear evidence of falsification. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross.
He found that not one of the 12 cases reported in the 1998 paper was free of misrepresentation or undisclosed alteration, and that in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal. Moreover, although the scale of the GMC’s 217 day hearing precluded additional charges focused directly on the fraud, the panel found him guilty of dishonesty concerning the study’s admissions criteria, its funding by the Legal Aid Board, and his statements about it afterwards.14Furthermore, Wakefield has been given ample opportunity either to replicate the paper’s findings, or to say he was mistaken. He refused to join 10 of his coauthors in retracting the paper’s interpretation in 2004,15 and has repeatedly denied doing anything wrong at all.
Some of the same scientists published an earlier article on this topic in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, based on data from 537,303 Danish children born between 19. Because the misplaced concern hasn’t gone away, said Anders Hviid, one of the researchers involved in the study.
“The idea that vaccines cause autism is still going around.But it has taken the diligent scepticism of one man, standing outside medicine and science, to show that the paper was in fact an elaborate fraud.In a series of articles starting this week, and seven years after first looking into the MMR scare, journalist Brian Deer now shows the extent of Wakefield’s fraud and how it was perpetrated (doi:10.1136/bmj.c5347).His coauthors seem to have been unaware of what he was doing under the cover of their names and reputations.As the GMC panel heard, they did not even know which child was which in the paper’s patient anonymised text and tables. Although only two (John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch) were charged by the GMC, and only one, the paper’s senior author Walker-Smith, was found guilty of misconduct, they all failed in their duties as authors.The retraction statement cites the GMC’s findings that the patients were not consecutively referred and the study did not have ethical approval, leaving the door open for those who want to continue to believe that the science, flawed though it always was, still stands.We hope that declaring the paper a fraud will close that door for good.Secondly, research ethics committees should not only scrutinise proposals but have systems to check that what is done is what was permitted (with an audit trail for any changes) and work to a governance procedure that can impose sanctions where an eventual publication proves this was not the case. In light of this new information their veracity must be questioned.Finally, there are lessons for the Royal Free Hospital, the , and the wider scientific community. Past experience tells us that research misconduct is rarely isolated behaviour.25 Over the years, the have published a number of articles, including letters and abstracts, by Wakefield and colleagues.That two-month total is higher than the entire year’s tally for 2017.Measles outbreaks have also been reported in a number of other countries around the world.