Autism and MMR: game, set, match.

The data in the original paper were faked.

Original paper retracted by the British Medical Journal. The data in the original study was faked, by a doctor on the take from plaintiffs’ lawyers. He’s lost his license. Too bad he’s not headed for prison. Compared to an ordinary fraud, this one was much more destructive.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

18 thoughts on “Autism and MMR: game, set, match.”

  1. You know as well as anyone how deeply buried in unreality these conspiracy theorists are. It won't make a dent in the true believers, but hopefully the raw greed element (it even includes lawyers! It's like Christmas!) will be compelling enough to help prevent uninformed parents at the margins from getting sucked in and putting everyone's children at risk.

  2. So CNN responds to this by giving bloody Wakefield more free air time to spread his poison. What wonderful journalistic ethics!

  3. The Wakefield "study", even if it had not been faked was never very persuasive. It is still necessary to investigate numerous potential environmental triggers as causes of autism. Perhaps the mitochondrial research will turn up something that furthers our understanding.

  4. WBUR (in Boston, Mass.) is running this as an hour of its call-in show this morning. And they're headlining the promo spot with the word "fraudulent." Admittedly, this is one of the few places where medical research is seen as a major pillar of the economy, but it still seems like the first time I've seen media coverage of this without playing the "scientific controversy" card.

  5. What fascinates me is just how thoroughly — and detectably — it was faked. With a whole country to cherrypick from, you would have thought that Wakefield could have done better.

  6. Dwight Meredith! If you check back on this thread, know that at least this one-time PLA follower still misses your blog. I learned a lot from you. Hope all is well with Bobby and the rest of your family.

    And now, a more general comment: Personally, I grow less and less interested in learning what the undoubtably many causes of autism are — we know the causes of any number of disabilities and illnessess and that knowledge doesn't necessarily lead to treatments or cures. I sometimes joke that most of the best current treatments for autism were actually developed by mere women with mere master's degrees (in speech, OT, spec ed, etc.).

    In contrast, I grow more and more despairing that there seems to be next to no understanding in the autism community about how much politics is shaping the future for us. The cutbacks in the social service safety net are a real threat to people who need life-time support; the effort to dismantle as much as the public school system as possible hurts all those children for whom school is the only source of therapy/intervention.

    Even if a "cause" is found — and there are undoubtibliy many autisms, with many different causes and possible outcomes, just like there are many cancers with a huge range of causes and outcomes — there will still be all those people on the spectrum who need intensive services and supports, and not enough political will to adequately supply them.

  7. Ohio Mom, don't lose sight of causes. Even if does not lead to cures, or even shows that cures are not possible with 21st century medicine, it can keep us from spending money and time on fake cures, or other fruitless searches.

    Pruning the solution space is a useful endeavor.

    e.g. we no longer think that curing gayness is possible.

  8. Well yes, I'd rather have a scientists work on finding cause of autism than designing say, germ warfare. I'm all for people having good jobs doing interesting and productive things.

    But I don't think it was scientists who nixed curing gayness, I think it was gay activists saying we're not sick, over and over and louder and louder, until they were heard. Most important advances for people with disabilities came the same way: it wasn't scientists who discovered children with disabilities were entitled to the equal treatment under the law of a free and appropriate public education…

  9. O.M., I was only referring to the biology that pretty much implies gayness is not really changeable. Autism may also be in the category of things that are somewhat hardwired. If so, then we know to focus on the coping and adapting treatments.

    If it's triggered by some environmental cause, that would be huge for the next generation, but might provide no help to existing autistic people.

  10. Ohio Mom:

    Thank you very much for remembering. Bobby is doing great as is the rest of the family. While I really enjoyed writing PLA, it took a substantial amount of time. I needed every bit of that time, and more, to focus not on issues such the cause of autism, but rather on methods and techniques to improve the life of one little (now not so little) boy with autism. In the end, I had to not only quit writing but to also end my law practice so that I could work full time helping Bobby. Our goal is for Bobby to learn the behaviors, skills, and abilities needed to permit him to find a safe, happy, and productive place in this world.

    We are not quite there yet, but are close enough to know that rumors of the existence of such a place are true.

  11. Dwight, thanks for replying and what nice news. When people ask me when I'm returning to the workforce, I know they don't get it — I am not surprised you are now a full-time parent. Good luck!

  12. Why is putting somebody in jail somehow fascism?

    1) person commits scientific fraud knowingly.

    2) people don't get vaccinated.

    3) people die.

    4) person charged with manslaughter.

    5) person convicted and goes to jail.

  13. 6)Laywers paid person to commit scientific fraud knowingly, in order to create opportunity for lawsuits.

    7)Lawyers get disbarred.

    8)Lawyers get charged with manslaughter.

    9)Lawyers get convicted and go to jail.

    This wasn't a spontaneous fraud, the dude was paid to commit it. If he deserves punishment, so do the people who paid him to do the fraud.

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