Andrew Wakefield's Autism-Vaccine Hoax

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Andrew Wakefield's Autism-Vaccine Hoax

Surrounded by supporters, Dr. Andrew Wakefield (C) walks with his wife Carmel after speaking to reporters at the British General Medical Council in Jan. 2010. His medical license was revoked by that body later in the year.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a well-regarded scientist, published an article in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, claiming that there was a link between autism and the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The trouble is, Wakefield falsified much of the data in that paper.

Investigative reporters and the medical community have since discovered that Wakefield's paper was a complete fraud. He faked his patients' medical histories and published the results of his fraudulent study all in the name of money. What Wakefield didn't count on was that payoff coming to light.

The British Medical Journal discovered that Wakefield had received $674,000 from lawyers who were hoping to sue vaccine companies [source: CNN]. In order to get the results that the lawyers wanted, Wakefield faked his data in a couple of different ways: He chose some patients in his 12-person study who already had signs of autism and lied about others developing autism after getting the MMR vaccine [source: CNN].

In 2004, some of his fellow researchers found out about the law firm backing the research and withdrew their names as study co-authors [source: CNN]. The Lancet retracted the paper in 2010 and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license.

Wakefield and some of his fellow scientists continue to defend the study, saying that there was a scheme to cover up the link between vaccines and autism, but no peer-reviewed study has been able to replicate Wakefield's results [source: CNN].

That faked paper from the '90s is having real public health effects to this day. Some parents -- fearing for their children's safety -- are still opting not to get the MMR vaccine. This drop in vaccination rates has caused a spike in cases of measles, a dangerous childhood illness [source: CNN].

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