Journal calls autism study "an elaborate fraud"

The prestigious British Medical Journal has put one last nail in the coffin that's been fashioned to bury the professional reputation of Andrew Wakefield, the controversial researcher fingered as the primary culprit in creating fears that childhood vaccines trigger autism. A full review of Wakefield's study found numerous discrepancies, with the details misrepresented or altered. The study, concluded the Journal, was nothing more than "an elaborate fraud."

The Lancet withdrew the study a year ago after it found inaccuracies in Wakefield's report. But it stopped short of calling it fraudulent. British officials also stripped Wakefield of his medical license, citing professional misconduct in the way he handled the study. Wakefield himself, though, has remained defiant.

"The study is not a lie," he told CNN last night. "The findings that we made have been replicated in five countries around the world."

Wakefield's study has helped stir deep distrust of vaccines in general, which the BMJ notes in its editorial. "Hundreds of thousands" of British children have gone without needed vaccines because of the fears that Wakefield helped incite. And that tally is even higher in the U.S., where the phony autism link has proved a durable myth.

- read the story from the Wall Street Journal
- here's the CNN story on Wakefield's response