Following Disgraced Doctor Andrew Wakefield

Robert Ladendorf

In her documentary about the disgraced doctor most identified as promoting the scientifically unproven claim that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism, veteran filmmaker Miranda Bailey gives a human touch to Andrew Wakefield and tries to be neutral while framing the film with his attempt to bring a defamation lawsuit in Texas against English journalist Brian Deer. It was Deer who, in 2004, investigated Wakefield, finding conflicts of interest and ethical problems that helped lead in 2010 to Wakefield’s dismissal as a doctor and a retraction of the original 1998 Lancet article coauthored by Wakefield with twelve others, most of whom retracted their support for the claim of the vaccine-autism link.

While her film crew followed Wakefield and his wife, Carmel, and two children for about five years in Texas, where the Wakefields had moved after Andrew lost his medical license in England and the Lancet article was retracted, Bailey nevertheless includes the arguments against his assertion, such as displaying onscreen text indicating that about 100 scientific studies show no vaccine-autism link.

Wakefield comes off as a soft-spoken but beleaguered family man trying to resurrect his reputation and raising money for his legal fund. Carmel is shown as perhaps his most outspoken defender, and there are a number of scenes of his ardent fans standing and cheering for him, including at a chiropractic forum. Other scenes show supporters encouraging Wakefield to keep fighting for his contention that vaccines should be given singly, not all at once, because they overwhelm the immune system.

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