By Yvette Martyn
Dr Andrew Wakefield – the doctor at the centre of the controversy over the MMR vaccination – has been found by the GMC to have behaved unethically and ‘failed in his duties as a responsible consultant’.
The GMC verdict comes 12 years after Wakefield’s study suggesting a link between MMR and autism was published in the Lancet and says he had been ‘dishonest’ and ‘irresponsible’ in the way he carried out his controversial research.
The GMC ruled that his methods were not in the clinical interest of the participants as they were not going to receive therapeutic benefit from tests.
In one instance described, Dr Wakefield took blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party without the appropriate ethical committee approval and in an ‘inappropriate social setting’.
Dr Wakefield’s highly-publicised research on MMR was the catalyst for a public health crisis, with sharp decreases in the number of children having the vaccine, although it was later retracted by the Lancet journal.
The GMC panel described his ‘callous disregard for the distress and pain’ of the children he studied, and said he had abused his trust as a medical practitioner and brought the medical profession into disrepute.
The GMC will now have to decide if Dr Wakefield is guilty of serious professional misconduct, which could lead to him being struck off the medical register.