Struck off MMR doctor handed award for ‘lifetime achievement in quackery’


Andrew Wakefield, discredited over autism-MMR vaccine link claims, is named Good Thinking Society’s Golden Duck winner

Andrew Wakefield, the doctor struck off the medical register for his discredited research that claimed to find a link between autism and the MMRvaccine, can add another honour to his list this Christmas: the inaugural Golden Duck award for lifetime achievement in quackery, set up by the science writer Simon Singh.

Runners-up for the award were Prince Charles and David Tredinnick, the Tory MP for Bosworth and member of the Commons health select committee. The Good Thinking Society, a campaign group led by Singh, set up the annual Golden Duck award to recognise those “who have supported or practiced pseudoscience in the most ludicrous, dangerous, irrational or irresponsible manner”.

In 1998, Wakefield was the lead author of a paper in the Lancet medical journal that suggested a link between the measles virus and inflammatory bowel disease. The paper also suggested the virus played a role in the development of autism. Wakefield later said that his research led him to believe that, instead of the MMR triple vaccine, children should be given a series of single vaccines. His statements led to alarm around the world from parents and a drop in the rates of MMR vaccination and, in the UK, a rise in cases of measles.

In 2010, the Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s paper and he was struck off the medical register after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct. Subsequent studies have found no credible link between MMR with either autism or Crohn’s disease.

Written By: Alok Jha
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  1.   Andrew Wakefield, discredited over autism-MMR vaccine link claims, is named Good Thinking Society’s Golden Duck-(Egg?) winner.

    A  well deserved top Quackologist award”!

    Its good to see David Tredinnick’s, (the Tory MP for Bosworth) services to quackology, also achieving public recognition as another one who is stark raving quackers ! !

  2. He has many, many people to thank for this award. He could not have done it alone. There are a lot of idiot doctors out there saying a lot of crazy stuff, but not all rise to the top.

    Of course, injecting babies with mercury was fucking stupid too. I’m glad they stopped.

  3.  Also good to see the Golden Duke of Ducks, The Prince of Pseudoscience Himself, among previous winners.

  4. “…is it going to affect their behaviour?” Only if it outweighs constituency votes.

    Jeremy Chunt is certainly one to keep an eye on; BBC Radio four listeners will cotton on to my modified moniker for Hunt.  

  5. Of course, injecting babies with mercury was fucking stupid too. I’m glad they stopped.

    You may change your opinion about the use of mercury-based preservatives in vaccines, especially for poor countries, see:
    Vaccine Education Center

    As an analogy, I eat sodium every day.
    Of course it is safer when bound to chlorine . . .

  6.  Beyond worst case scenario, let’s say 1% of children die of mercury poisoning. It’s still overwhelmingly worth it.

    Your analogy fails because the toxic quality of mercury is preserved in thimerosol, as that is how it works. If it were inert, then your analogy would work.

    The problem with refuting the BS gets worse when people start saying science proves it’s safe to inject babies with mercury. That’s impossible. That’s not how science works. Science can never say that. The same problem existed with Mad Cow denial and DDT. People don’t understand how science works. Scientists give data with a certain prudence, and then some spokesperson conveys it wrongly to the public to fulfill an agenda.

    Then there was the grand appeal to authority, the FDA’s refutation of the autism link. It might as well have been the Vatican saying Jesus blessed the vaccines to be safe. No rational person respects the declarations of the FDA, as it is a notoriously corrupt, arcane, and incompetent bureaucracy that openly rewrites its own protocols at the request of third parties, who also provide much of their research data. As far as science goes, it’s a joke.

    Of course, anyone who appreciates this will not go in for the immunization-autism link in the first place, but should we endorse invalid arguments to counter the same? The only reason we used mercury was it was cheap. Issues such as refrigeration are true infrastructural challenges, but mercury was just optimizing the bottom-line. I suppose we could say pharmaceutical companies could not develop as many cures if they couldn’t use cheap alternatives, but that’s a different argument than safety. Maybe we owe the new generation of super-durable dehydrated vaccines are due to the billions saved using mercury, but that’s not to say we used mercury because it was safe.

  7. Now he’s suing the BMJ- from his bolt hole in …Texas. That’s where science has a really good reputation among the Fundies?? 

  8. From Dec 2012 in the US Journal of Pediatrics, available at:

    Thimerosal is an ethyl mercury–containing compound that has been used safely for more than 60 years as a preservative in multidose vials of vaccines to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination of those vials . . .


    There is no credible scientific evidence that the use of thimerosal in vaccines presents any risk to human health.

    The paper includes many references that support their view.

    Maybe you can find time to write to the authors and update them with your evidence?

  9.  I didn’t make any such claim. You are not processing information. You are having a different, canned conversation. Did you just scan my post, not read it and respond with generic copy-pasta to what you thought I might have said? Why bother?

    I am talking about invalid arguments used to refute the autism claims, and how this helped the autism claim spread. You support my point with your irrelevant and patronizing post.

    Please, Learn2Science. Science can not declare such things safe. There was a similar issue with Mad Cow disease and DDT, public officials misrepresenting science. There was no evidence to show harm, but that is very different than saying a thing is safe. “Not guilty” is different than saying “innocent”. We should refute invalid claims with valid arguments.

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