There is no question that Wakefield has promoted dangerous beliefs. As if the (retracted) Lancet paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism and bowel disorders wasn’t enough on its own, he followed it up with a press conference, kicking off a groundless yet notorious media scare story.
This has never quite gone away, even though we now know that Wakefield falsified his research and was struck off the GMC Medical Register over two years ago.
But is Wakefield really a quack or was it simply a case of scientific fraud?
I think the answer to this lies in Wakefield’s reaction to his downfall. Despite all the evidence against him, he continues to defend his research conclusions and says there was no fraud whatsoever. He even filed a defamation suit earlier this year against those who had dared to suggest otherwise (and not for the first time).
Wakefield now has a celebrity following in the US and has written the books Waging War on the Autistic Child and Callous Disregard (complete with a foreword by Jenny McCarthy), promising the ‘truth’ behind the autism and vaccines ‘tragedy’.
In classic quack style, he has even implied there is a conspiracy by public health officials and pharmaceutical companies to discredit him, including suggesting that bloggers are paid to post online rumours.
The Golden Duck could have been made for him.