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National Autism Association Applauds Exoneration of John Walker-Smith in Lancet/MMR Case
UK physician cleared of false charges made by UK’s General Medical Council

Boston, MA – The National Autism Association (NAA) joins parents around the world in congratulating Professor John Walker-Smith in the decision handed down today in England’s High Court, reversing a 2010 ruling by the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) which revoked the medical licenses of both Walker-Smith and Andrew Wakefield.  Today’s highly anticipated result of Walker-Smith’s appeal included a complete overturn of the GMC’s decision to revoke his medical license.

Prof. Walker-Smith and Dr. Wakefield were among 13 co-authors of a case series reported in the British journal, The Lancet, in 1998, which identified a novel inflammatory bowel disease in children diagnosed with autism.  The association between autism and bowel disease has been repeatedly confirmed by subsequent studies, [i] [ii] [iii] [iv] including a 2010 consensus report published in Pediatrics.[v] 

While the Lancet paper did not state that the MMR vaccine caused either inflammatory bowel disease or autism in the 12 children in the case series, the authors did note that seven of the children had received the MMR vaccine and that further investigation of a possible link to autism was warranted.  “From the mere suggestion that a vaccine could have a potential link with adverse outcomes, a war was waged against these distinguished physicians and researchers,” said NAA Executive Director and parent Lori McIlwain. “No one questions that adverse vaccine events do occur in susceptible individuals, yet those who investigate these events on behalf of sick children are subjected to the harshest scrutiny and punishment.”

In the case of Dr. Wakefield, being stripped of his license to practice medicine led to his move to the U.S. Unlike Prof. Walker-Smith who received funding for the appeal through his insurance carrier, Dr. Wakefield has been unable to appeal the GMC decision against him.  However, Dr. Wakefield has filed a defamation suit against Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal whose allegations of fraud were the basis of the GMC inquiry.

In a statement issued earlier today, UK advocacy organization Justice Awareness and Basic Support (JABS) said that the High Court’s decision found that:

  • The children reported in the 1998 Lancet paper were very ill and did warrant serious clinical investigation and the investigations conducted were entirely appropriate for the children’s needs.
  • The allegations of fraud based on this misconstruction, propagated by journalist Brian Deer, politician Evan Harris, the Murdoch press and the British Medical Journal (and rubberstamped by the GMC) are therefore also unfounded.

Parents and autism organizations are hopeful that the exoneration of Prof. Walker-Smith will pave the way for more open investigation of the potential role of vaccines in the development of autism and other serious health concerns.  “Today’s decision is a win not only for Dr. Walker-Smith, but for all families affected by autism,” said Ms. McIlwain. “Physicians and researchers must be free to explore all avenues towards causation and treatment without fear of reprisals if we are to truly make a difference for our children.

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[i] Clinical Presentation and Histologic Findings at Ileocolonoscopy in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Chronic Gastrointestinal Symptoms, Arthur Krigsman, MD, et al, New York University School of Medicine, Autism Insights, 27 Jan 2010
[ii] Endoscopic and Histological Characteristics of the Digestive Mucosa in Autistic Children with gastro-Intestinal Symptoms.Gonzalez L, et al. ArchVenez Pueric Pediatr, 2005;69:19-25.
[iii] Panenteric IBD-like disease in a patient with regressive autism shown for the first time by wireless capsulenteroscopy: Another piece in the jig-saw of the gut-brain syndrome? Balzola F, et al. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2005. 100(4):979-981.
[iv] Childhood autism and eosinophilic colitis. Chen B, Girgis S, El-Matary W.. Digestion. 2010;81:127-9. Epub 2010 Jan 9].
[v] Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Individuals With ASDs: A Consensus Report, Timothy Buie, MD, et al, Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School Pediatrics, Vol. 125 Supplement January 2010