Andrew Wakefield: famous in some circles and infamous in others. In February, the Lancet retracted his 1998 article that linked autism to the MMR vaccine and set off the modern anti-vaccine movement. Last week, the U.K. medical register revoked his license to practice medicine. But there’s more to the ex-surgeon’s story than just autism and the MMR vaccine.
According to an article on Slate.com, Wakefield has an almost 20-year history of disputed research practices, beginning with a 1993 paper in which he asserted that the measles virus causes Crohn’s disease:
He conducted biotechnology studies, liver studies, and even looked at the effects of smoking and the contraceptive pill on Crohn’s disease; an unusual array of work for one researcher. Wakefield was desperately trying to make his name in research, and it didn’t seem to matter what field it was in.
When three separate scientific reviews panned his Crohn’s research, he went on to develop the MMR vaccine-autism theory that made his name.
Despite the retraction, his revoked medical license, and a bevy of scientific evidence against him, Wakefield maintains that his vaccine-autism theory is sound. He recently published a book in which he defends himself and his theory against naysayers. And according to the Slate article, he has relocated to the U.S., where he still has a fan base.