By Maria Cheng Associated Press
LONDON A doctor who persuaded millions of parents worldwide that a common vaccine could cause autism was barred Monday from practicing medicine in his native Britain after the country’s top medical group found he conducted his research unethically.
Dr. Andrew Wakefield was the first researcher to publish a peer-reviewed study suggesting a connection between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. That prompted legions of parents to abandon the vaccine in moves that epidemiologists feared could lead to outbreaks of the potentially deadly diseases.
Wakefield’s study in the medical journal Lancet was widely discredited, however, after Britain’s medical regulator found it did not meet ethical standards; other studies found no link; and a British journalist revealed Wakefield had been paid by lawyers of parents who suspected their children were harmed by the vaccine.
Britain’s General Medical Council was acting Monday on a January ruling that said Wakefield and two other doctors acted unethically and showed a “callous disregard” for the children in their study. The council found him guilty of serious professional misconduct and stripped him of his right to practice medicine in the U.K.
It said Wakefield took blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party, paid them $7.20 each and later joked about it.
Wakefield, 53, moved to the U.S. in 2004. He said he plans to appeal the ruling, which takes effect within 28 days. Appearing on NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday, he described the British decision as “a little bump on the road” and vowed to continue his research.