THE General Medical Council (GMC) is to hold a public inquiry into the conduct of Andrew Wakefield and two other doctors who triggered a scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine by claiming to have found a possible link with autism, writes Brian Deer.
After a year-long investigation by The Sunday Times, the doctors’ disciplinary body has ruled that allegations facing Wakefield and the others, if proved, would raise issues about their registration and fitness to continue to practise medicine.
Facing charges with Wakefield are Professor John Walker-Smith, former head of paediatric gastroenterology at the Royal Free hospital, and Professor Simon Murch, who left the hospital this month. The inquiry will focus on events at the Royal Free in Hampstead, north London, between mid-1996 and the end of 2001, when Wakefield left its medical school’s employment. During this period research on hundreds of autistic children was carried out, trying to find any link between their problems and MMR.
In February this newspaper’s revelation that the research began with an undisclosed £55,000 deal between Wakefield and a firm of solicitors attempting to sue MMR manufacturers led to public uproar and the retraction of research, published in The Lancet in 1998, purporting possibly to implicate the vaccine.
None of the accused doctors could be contacted this weekend, but all are believed to have made submissions strenuously denying any professional misconduct.