Monday, 23 July 2007

Ben Goldacre tears the Observer a new arsehole

As usual, Ben Goldacre does an excellent job of deconstructing the drivelling MMR/autism piece that appeared on the front of the Absurder a couple of weeks ago. The Absurder published a 'clarification' yesterday, which somehow failed to clarify that the basic thrust of the piece was entirely wrong.

UPDATE: The original story has now been removed from the Observer website. I sent them an e-mail asking what had become of it, and they said "The article was removed from the website for legal reasons. We are unable to provide a copy."

The reasons behind this are not clear, but it seems likely that legal action has been launched by Dr. Fiona Scott, who was described in the original piece as believing that the MMR jab might be partly responsible for a purported rise in autistic spectrum disorders. Dr. Scott says she believes no such thing, was never contacted by the Observer, and her attempts to point this out have fallen on deaf ears.

This would all be to the good, and Dr. Scott does seem to have been treated particularly badly. But it seems unlikely that the Observer will have to take any action to correct its basic misunderstanding of an unpublished report, which has the potential to do further damage to the public understanding of an issue that is already surrounded by misinformation.

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