In my last post, I was speaking of a “negative wonder,” the story of how a false medical notion—that vaccination causes autism—became a terrible threat.
In 1998, the British medical journal The Lancet published an article by A.J. Wakefield claiming he had found a connection between childhood vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) and autism. This claim was false. Wakefield had published the article in order to make close to a million dollars for consulting in a lawsuit.
Belief in the false claim spread wildly. Over the next ten years, study after study, in various countries, proved that Wakefield’s claim was wrong. But autistic adults, and parents of autistic children came to believe that all these studies were part of a plot financed by pharmaceutical companies or by government: Anything to hang on to the supposed vaccination/autism link.
Last year, journalist Brian Deer researched every one of the 12 cases Wakefield used in his original study. He found glaring discrepancies. In some cases, autism began well before MMR vaccination. In some cases, autism began too long after MMR to support the claimed connection. In some cases there was no autisim. In some cases, other symptoms that Wakefield claimed were part of the “autism/inflammatory bowel disease” syndrome were not present.
In fact, Deer was able to display in a table, how none of the data support Wakefield’s claim.
Personally, I would like to add that the study was also flawed from the standpoint of statistics: The children for the study were not chosen randomly, and the number of children examined for the study, 12, was far too small to provide significant data.
And yet…we still don’t know what causes autism, nor do we have any cures.
The human brain is an exquisite wonder. It can heal from a massive stroke and be better than before (as with Jill Bolte Taylor). It can totally remap its own parts (as in The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D.) It can understand cosmic and biological universes. Surely it can figure out what’s what with the autistic brain.
More about this in my next post.