Autism Study Discredited – Major Implications for Vaccine Litigation

Since I wrote the course Autism Litigation some major findings and decisions have been made on the subject. I wanted to include this update so that Attorney Credit’s clients are not left in the dark about the significant new developments surrounding autism litigation in this country. In short, the new findings completely refute the entire link between the mercury-based preservative thimerasol used in vaccines and autism.

To begin, the entire study that began this whole mess has been completely discredited. On February 2, 2010, the Lancet retracted the controversial 1998 paper that linked the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) to autism.[1] In a news release the editors of the magazine had this to say, “We fully retract this paper from the published record.” According to WebMD, in its entire 186-year history The Lancet has only retracted “10 or 15” studies.

The retraction comes on the heels of the GMC’s finding that the head doctor who conducted the study – Andrew Wakefield, MD – and two other doctors acted “dishonestly” and “irresponsibly” in conducting their research.[2] Further, Dr. Andrew Wakefield was found to have acted unethically in performing the study.[3] This unethical conduct included paying children at his son’s birthday party to have blood drawn for research purposes, an act that “showed a callous disregard” for the “distress and pain” of the children the panel stated.[4]

After evidence of the birthday-party-blood-draw surfaced, The GMC eventually found that there were not even any real patients involved in the research. In his study, Dr. Wakefield claimed that the 12 children involved were consecutive patients that appeared for treatment for developmental disorders and digestive symptoms. In reality, an English investigative reporter discovered that the children had, “been recruited through MMR campaign groups, and that, at the time of their admission, most of their parents were clients and contacts of the lawyer, Barr.” Who is this lawyer “Barr” you may ask? Please read the following:[5]

The investigation discovered that, while Wakefield held himself out to be a dispassionate scientist, two years before the Lancet paper was published – and before any of the 12 children were even referred to the hospital – he had been hired by a lawyer, Richard Barr: a jobbing solicitor in the small eastern English town of King’s Lynn, who hoped to raise a speculative class action lawsuit against drug companies which manufactured MMR.

In addition to this damaging evidence, Dr. Wakefield’s had also originally claimed that his study was approved by the appropriate ethics committee in England. Upon further investigation, however, the GMC found it had not been.[6] These two major facts coming to light led to the retraction. Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said he reviewed the General Medical Council report regarding Wakefield’s conduct.[7] “It’s the most appalling catalog and litany of some the most terrible behavior in any research and is therefore very clear that it has to be retracted,” he said.[8]

Dr. Andrews, on the other hand, sees nothing wrong with the way the study was conducted. According to a statement from Dr. Andrew:

“The allegations against me and against my colleagues are both unfounded and unjust and I invite anyone to examine the contents of these proceedings and come to their own conclusion. In fact, the Lancet paper does not claim to confirm a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Research into that possible connection is still going on.”[9]

Despite Dr. Andrew’s rebuttal, the affect of this retraction is that the study will no longer be considered an official part of the scientific literature.[10]

The Wakefield study has been a key piece of evidence cited by many parents who do not vaccinate their children because of autism fears, and it has served as the basis for much of the autism litigation that has taken place in this country.

“The story became credible because it was published in The Lancet … and we really rely on these medical journals,” stated Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation.

Not surprisingly, the ramifications of this retraction have already rippled their way across the pond. On Friday, March 12, three Special Masters from the federal “vaccines court” ruled that the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal does not cause autism in three separate test cases.[11] Special Master George L. Hastings wrote: “This case . . . is not a close case. The overall weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ causation theories.”[12]

This finding supports a broad scientific consensus on the matter, but devastated parents are convinced that their child’s illness was caused by the vaccines, thimerasol specifically. The new ruling was welcomed by Dr. Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who said the autism theory had “already had its day in science court and failed to hold up.” A little over a year ago the same federal “vaccine court” also ruled that a combination of the MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella) and the preservative thimerosal does not cause the disorder.[13]

Congress designed the victim compensation program only for families whose injuries or deaths can be shown to be linked to a vaccine and that has not been done in this case.

This previous ruling in addition to the latest ruling may finally close the bulk of litigation on the matter.

[1] According to, The Lancet is the world’s leading general medical journal and specialty journals in Oncology, Neurology and Infectious Diseases.

[2] G.M.C. stands for General Medical Council. The G.M.C. registers and regulates doctors in the United Kingdom.

[3] Medical Journal Retracts Study Linking Autism to Vaccine…retraction.autism/index.html

[4]The panel found that Wakefield subjected some children in the study to various invasive medical procedures such as colonoscopies and MRI scans.

Study Linking Autism to Vaccine Retracted…/study-linking-autism-to-vaccine-retracted


[6] Study Linking Autism to Vaccine Retracted…/study-linking-autism-to-vaccine-retracted

[7] Medical Journal Retracts Study Linking Autism to Vaccine…retraction.autism/index.html

[8] Medical Journal Retracts Study Linking Autism to Vaccine…retraction.autism/index.html

[9] In 2004, 10 of Wakefield’s 13 co-authors disavowed the findings of the 1998 study. Although the study never claimed to have definitively proven a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, sensational media reports ignited a public panic. MMR vaccinations fell dramatically.

[10] BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, has competed with The Lancet since 1840. BMJ editor Fiona Godlee says she welcomes the Lancet retraction. “This will help to restore faith in this globally important vaccine and in the integrity of the scientific literature,” Godlee says in a news release.

Study Linking Autism to Vaccine Retracted…/study-linking-autism-to-vaccine-retracted

[11] The so-called vaccine court, a special branch of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims established to handle claims of injury from vaccines. The decisions of the vaccine court can be appealed in federal appeals court.

[12] Vaccines Court’ Rejects Mercury-Autism Link in 3 Test Cases…/la-sci-autism13-2010mar13

[13] The earlier ruling has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and this one most likely will be also, but most experts think the court will uphold the decision.