Monday, May 31, 2010

A matter of magnetisim? Not really.

Thanks to Squidalicious for the link, but after reading her reaction to my interview with Dr. Andrew Wakefield (and that of a commenter on Scienceblogs.com, who called my post "gushy") I feel like a bit of an explaination is in order.

Dr. Wakefield has been taken to task by plenty of bloggers and media outlets for his sketchy research practices, his opposition to the MMR vaccine, and his contribution to the anti-vaccine movement -- and rightly so. In interviewing him last week -- on the same day that he was interviewed live on the Today show by Matt Lauer, who played several minutes of background video before cramming a few predictable questions about his research into the last minute or so of the segment -- to me, the new information was the fact that Wakefield had lost his license to practice medicine and the fact that he was committed to continuing his research, albeit with animals instead of people. So that's what I wrote about.

Yes, I wrote that "our conversation about new areas of autism research was fascinating, and he had some interesting points to make about vaccines and autism in general." It was, and he did. But our conversation wasn't just about his research, and the points he made (most of which have been made before by many others -- I've written about it here) were surprising, given the general assumption -- mine included -- that he is completely anti-vaccine.

Is the man charistmatic? Of course he is. Is he defending himself? Obviously, yes. Did he deserve to lose his medical license? Given the many issues with his original research, I think so (though he told me he feels that it's an attempt to discredit him, I have to say that he did plenty to discredit himself). Is there more to the story than the questions everyone else has already asked? Always.

1 comment:

Squid said...

Thanks for responding to my post, and clarifying that it is what Wakefield said rather than his personality that commanded your attention. I was responding to your initial statement that you (paraphrasing) approached the interview with the intention of hammering him but ended up listening. I do apologize - sincerely - if you feel I represented you as anything other than professional.

I have been following the Wakefield/vaccines saga for years. The points he brought up about autism & vaccines are not just BS, but well-documented BS, from a science perspective. And Wakefield has unrepentantly caused so much harm to public health that it is very frustrating to read non-damning things about him written by a smart person.

Dr. David Gorski from Science-Based Medicine wrote a long but information-rich post breaking down the Wakefield camp mindset, explaining, among other topics, why there has been "more than 5,500 claims filed by families seeking compensation for children believed to have been hurt by the MMR vaccine" (Vaccine court is complainant-friendly and pays petitioners' legal fees no matter the verdict, as long as the complaint was filed in good faith):

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=5392