On February 2, 2010, The Lancet retracted Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study that “found” a link between the MMR vaccination and autism. Yesterday, a little over a year later, an investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes Dr. Wakefield is culpable for misrepresenting or altering the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study. “It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,” Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, told CNN. “But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”
I’ve watched as the link above was tweeted over and over. I tweeted: “DIDN’T WE KNOW THIS ALREADY?” I’ve “eavesdropped” on fervent conversations vilifying and paying homage to Dr. Wakefield. Then, I read a very simple tweet from @hollyrpeete: “I know it’s not provocative polarizing or ratings friendly but let’s please stop using #autism to attack each other.”
The autism community talks about pushing past awareness to the echelon of acceptance. We tweet snippets of advice that become golden nuggets to others. We commiserate about our successes and woes with an entire community listening, learning, and loving. We usually stand united. But, we aren’t standing united AGAINST autism. Or, at least I thought that.
Dr. Wakefield’s study is akin to sex, politics, and religion — a topic that not only decisively divides but inevitably leads to mudslinging and hurt feelings. You know the old saying and social rule about these three topics. The question is: Should the rule apply to Dr. Wakefield, too?