Transmitting Harm

Andrew Wakefield was born in 1956 in England. Both parents were medical doctors and that became his career path as well. He began his career by exploring tissue rejection after transplantation surgery.

His career took a turn when he published a paper linking the measles vaccine to Crohn’s disease. The paper was discredited by other professionals. This was the first of many studies and theories that Wakefield had that became sensationalized but had no basis of scientific support.

His next foray into misinformation about vaccines was to prepare a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism. There was no scientific evidence of his claims, but he used the media to scare parents against the vaccination of their children. Some claimed that he was practicing science by press conference.

He was subsequently disbarred from medical practice in the UK. He moved to the US where he found greater receptivity to his misinformation. He was initially allowed to conduct “clinical research”.

His work was further discredited when it was found that he was compensated by lawyers suing the makers of the MMR vaccine to pay for his continued attacks on the vaccine. Later investigations revealed other cases of misconduct in his work. He has received the strongest sanctions possible against a medical professional in the UK.

In spite of the overwhelming condemnation of his work, there are those who continue to believe in the false science that he promotes. Just imagine why that is the case. Is it the fact that they have a mindset that places conspiracies above truth? Or is it because they are blindly following the lead of others who seize on the opportunities to use misinformation for political or personal gain? Just imagine how those who traffic in misinformation can convert Artificial Intelligence to Abetted Ignorance.

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“[t]here is now no respectable body of opinion which supports [Wakefield’s] hypothesis, that MMR vaccine and autism/enterocolitis are causally linked.” – An opinion of the British courts

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