Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Private Eye still believes in Wakefield...

As discussed in my previous post, and many other places all over the internet, the GMC ruling against Andrew Wakefield was damning. But not so much if you write for Private Eye, who have been defending Wakefield for years. So, in the light of the GMC findings that Wakefield behaved unethically, with "callous disregard" for the wellbeing of the children involved, and that parts of his research were fraudulent, is it time for the Eye to admit it was wrong?

Apparently not. In an "In the Back" piece, the Eye had the following to say:
Although the GMC said the hearing was not about vaccination and autism, it is fairly clear that the two and a half years of disciplinary proceedings were to bring the MMR debate to a conclusion. The three doctors were to some degree being accused (and found guilty) of causing a public health scare which led to a fall in vaccination rates, so damaging "herd immunity", particularly with regard to measles.
Nope. They were found guilty of conducting invasive diagnostic procedures, against the children's interests and without ethical approval; of not disclosing serious conflicts of interest; and of presenting false information in the publication of their research (which finally led to the Lancet retracting the paper).
Several parents of the children who featured in the team's original research paper, which was at the centre of the GMC case, stormed out of the hearing in angry protest at the findings - particularly the suggestion that their children's tests were not clinically necessary...They say they would have told the GMC that the treatment they received at the hospital helped their children's symptoms - but they were never called to testify.
Eh? We're not talking about treatment here, we're talking about invasive diagnostic tests. These were done without ethical approval, without the required expertise, and against the interests of the children. Perhaps we should just get rid of ethical approval, as it gets in the way of heroic doctors doing whatever they need to vunerable patients.

And finally:
None of this debate about conduct, however, changes the fact that no subsequent research has supported Wakefield's thesis of a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Nor does it change the fact that despite previous attempts to justify the Eye's coverage at the time, some readers are still deeply critical of the magazine's reporting of the MMR debate between 2001 and 2007, when we wrote about the concerns of Wakefield, the families and their lawyers, and endorsed calls for more research (see Letters).
Well, indeed. So why is the Eye still apparently defending the indefensible? I still buy the Eye, for all the other good that they do, but they've made a mistake over MMR and they ought to be big enough to admit it. They would surely ask the same of any of the politicians and industry figures they regularly lampoon.

5 comments:

teekblog said...

It's really quite astonishing to see an otherwise excellent publication get it so wrong for so long...

Mike Eslea said...

Bloody hell, have you seen the new one this week? Make sure you are sitting down before you read the letters!

To balance them though, there is a column by MD that begins "Private Eye got it wrong..." that looks a lot more sensible...

Paul Wilson said...

Thanks Mike, I'd seen that while I had some greasy spoon breakfast action this morning. May try to post a little on it later on.

I started a Bad Science thread on it, here.

blackwatertown said...

I thought they deserved some belated credit for owning up to getting it wrong (admittedly for so long).

Wedding Photographers Perth said...

HI Hawk. Private Eye is doing a great job defending Wakefield. He has all the reasons to do so.