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Royal Free: Sir David Hull inquires if investigations had ethical approval

This page is research from an investigation by Brian Deer for The Sunday Times of London and the UK's Channel 4 Television into a campaign linking the MMR children's vaccine with autism. | Go to part I: The Lancet scandal | Go to part II: The Wakefield factor

Confidential documents obtained by Brian Deer included papers relating to a battery of investigations on autistic children, carried out under sedation or general anaesthetic in the Royal Free hospital paediatric gastroenterology department in 1996 and 1997. But these tests - which included hazardous ileocolonoscopies and lumbar punctures - didn't have approval from the hospital's ethics committee. Researchers Andrew Wakefield and John Walker-Smith had claimed that they were "clinically indicated", and would have been carried out even if there was no research. Wakefield later claimed through lawyers that he didn't need approval for these activities

But in one document obtained by Brian Deer, dated July 6 1998, Professor Sir David Hull, then chairman of the British government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and an expert on medical ethics, wrote to the dean of the medical school after reading Wakefield's research published in the Lancet. It set off a flurry of activity, only due to be finally resolved when the results of Brian Deer's inquiries, submitted in 2004 to the UK's General Medical Council, are evaluated




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