Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wakefield's Latest Tent Mission on the Doctrine of Autism

Church sign reads, Autism Is TreatableDr. Andrew Wakefield has briefly visited the UK to headline at a new tent mission of Autism Is Treatable! Despite the paucity of evidence to support the articles of faith Wakefield has disseminated to his acolytes and followers, and indeed, the overwhelming evidence of multiple epidemiological studies, he preaches an unashamed gospel of biomedical experimentation on children with autism.

Parents shared "Stories of Hope and Success". Wakefield was supported by other speakers who offered their own transformative treatment modalities.
So these mavericks continue to circulate, paddling in the same scientific shallows, attending the same conferences and boasting connections with the same research institutes. They travel the world quoting each other in circular support, reinforcing a fringe belief in unproven interventions for autism and propagating the mistaken view that ordinary doctors are cowed by mysterious vested interests (pharmaceutical companies?) into not doing their best for children with autism.

Their harmful agenda is, regrettably, assisted by newspapers with acres of space to fill, who delight in feeding the middle-class paranoia over perfect parenting...

There is nothing wrong with a scientist pursuing a hunch, and everything right about parents wanting to do the best for their child. There is nothing even particularly sinister about Dr Wakefield gambling his reputation on an instinct. But there is something depressing beyond belief about a scientist who refuses to recant in the face of overwhelming opposing evidence.
At some point, it would be gracious if Wakefield acknowledged the harm that he has done to public health in the UK. The indefatigable Kevin Leitch has made his usual wise comments but some of the others are a little dispiriting in their unwavering support for Wakefield and his discredited claims. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to read coverage of Wakefield that is not hagiographic.

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Blogger mcewen said...

What a shame that these false hopes have invaded the UK too. Pass me the snake oil!
Best wishes

7:13 pm  
Blogger Flea said...

I have tried to understand Andrew Wakefield, and I confess I cannot. This chelation/diet proposition is testable (by folks other than the Geiers). Let it be tested and let's end this dog-and-pony show.

It's embarrassing!



9:34 pm  
Blogger Shinga said...

I keep reading that the US spends 100 million a year on testing 'complementary and alternative medicine'. I recently had a look at some of the 'trials' that are current and it doesn't seem that hard to get funding for the most implausible of therapeutic modalities. If they wanted to trial this and prove it, rather than have parents pay for an unvalidated treatment, then they could. If people can obtain money to trial Reiki then I don't see that it would be that great a stretch to trial dietary interventions and the autism spectrum.

Believe me, I wish that I lived in the US and could put forward an application to work with some groups of children and disordered breathing. At the very least, I can put up a review of some decent literature and some plausible physiological mechanisms. The same does not seem to be true of a ludicrous number of the current NCAM trials.

Regards - Shinga

1:23 pm  
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