Not only did Wakefield act unethically, dishonestly and irresponsibly, Britain's General Medical Council said, but he also diverted a lot of time and money that could have been spent researching treatments for autism instead into the anti-vaccine movement that was eagerly adopted by parents searching for answers.
USNews reports, "The effect of this one medical paper on the health of children has been extraordinary. Vaccination rates for children in the United States and the United Kingdom have been dropping, and the rates of deadly childhood diseases like measles are rising for the first time in decades."
Saddest of all, USNews' Nancy Shute writes, parents who desperately want to help their children have been reduced to chasing untested "cures du jour." I think this is the crime - autism is a serious, life-changing disease for everyone involved (parents, children, etc) and if I had a kid with autism I'd want every researcher out there working on a cure to help my child, so naturally I'm going to grasp at anything that promises help.
In the New York Times' Science Tuesday back in February, when Wakefield was cited for misconduct and the Lancet retracted his paper, a mother of a child with autism wrote the following in a guest column titled False Prophets of Autism:
It's distressing and hurtful to hear [antivaccine activist Jenny] McCarthy say her son is cured because she 'was willing to do what it took.' McCarthy, who describes herself as one of a tribe of 'warrior moms,' seems to imply that if our kids are unrecovered, it's because we didn't do the diet right, weren't willing to let doctors inject our children with unproven drugs, or somehow just didn't love our children enough. I've heard McCarthy say on national TV, 'Evan is my science.' I'm sorry, one little boy is not 'science.' Warm and fuzzy anecdotes don't do it for me. Give me hard science any day, with its double blind studies and rigorous peer review.I suppose the adage 'better late than never' could apply to Wakefield losing his license to practice in the UK, but is it really? How about 'better if it never happened at all?' Regardless, hopefully real progress is being made in the search for autism therapy.