Earlier I discussed my research into the alleged connections between childhood vaccinations and autism. But recently the esteemed medical journal, the Lancet, officially retracted a 1998 article that made the first and only scientific suggestion of such a connection.
The Lancet‘s retraction came less than a week after the U.K.’s General Medical Council, the regulator of medical practice, ruled that in conducting the study Wakefield had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” by failing to disclose financial conflicts of interest and that he had shown “callous disregard” for his patients by subjecting them to unnecessary invasive procedures.
Henry I. Miller at Forbes is harsh in his criticism of the Lancet for publishing the article in the first place and for taking over ten years to retract it – in spite of numerous obvious faults with the original study (12 test subjects does not a reliable conclusion make). I can’t help but agree. The Wall Street Journal points out that the panic over vaccinations has unmistakably resulted in higher infection rates and even some deaths.
The irony here is that the general public have relied on a main-stream medical journal to draw conclusions that are contrary to main-stream medical science. The result has been increased misery and death.
But perhaps the experience will lead to a more appropriate level of cynicism among the public and the media. New claims that run against common sense and accumulated science should be greeted with overt scepticism. After all, the scientific method demands that conclusions be reproducible.
And yet, I shouldn’t be hopeful here. Every day hundreds of television stations report on new scientific studies, usually without any critical eye or review procedure. Frankly, what passes for science and medical journalism is atrocious, in some cases even unethical.
And thus the disaster at the Lancet. A medical or scientific journal really has nothing except its reputation. These journals are not immune to the vagaries of politics.