Rethink Health - February 2010
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The GMC passed judgement this week on Drs Wakefield, Murch and Walker-Smith after some 140 days of hearings into a long list of complaints against them by a journalist, Brian Deer. There was no complaint from any patient, parent or research subject - only support and admiration.
The judgement relates to details of the ethics of their research practice, and I am not competent to comment one way or another about these. However there is nothing wrong with my nose, and I smell a rat.
I spent some time yesterday going back over the entire history of this controversy. It has been running for 20 years, and vitriol has been flowing for 12 of those. Senior officials at the Department of Health, most notably Professor David Salisbury, seem to have been intent on discrediting these three doctors by any means available. It says something for the integrity of their work that it has taken them so long to make any headway.
The original publication in the Lancet in 1998 announced and described a new bowel condition, which in subsequent papers has been associated with persistence of measles virus in the cells of blood vessels in the bowel lining. These virus particles are overwhelmingly of the measles vaccine type, rather than the wild measles virus it is designed to imitate. It is usual for measles virus to infect the bowel lining as a late feature of the disease, before clearing up. Anyone who catches measles when at a disadvantage may suffer more protracted bowel effects, but the number of cases seems to have grown steeply since MMR was introduced.
So at the very least we have a chronic condition of the bowel which may arise from persistence of vaccine virus. If measles vaccine is given soon after another vaccine or illness, let alone simultaneously with two other vaccines, it seems that the risk of this bowel complication is raised.
Nobody, so far as I am aware, disputes the existence of this bowel disease, or Wakefield's description of it. Its association with measles virus in the affected bowel tissue has been confirmed by several methods, in several research facilities across the world.
So what of autism? That too has increased steeply over two decades, in particular a distinctive type in which the child loses abilities he or she had, as opposed to never developing them in the first place. A very high proportion of Wakefield's early cases of bowel disease happened also to have autism, though that was incidental to the main subject of the 1998 paper. The possibility that MMR may predispose children to autism is what officials refuse to pursue.
I can think of doctors who may be tempted to take short cuts in their work, but the Andrew Wakefield I know is not one. But he and his colleagues threaten the vaccine market and the reputations of senior public health officials who have chosen to nail their banners to this mast. I know that, were any grandchild of mine to suffer from a serious bowel complaint, it would be Dr Walker-Smith or Dr Wakefield I would entrust with their care - not the power-mongers that have been hounding them.
The GMC is not a court of law, and we shall hear more of this travesty when it reaches the High Court.
Health in the Snow
We had a very special walk in the Derbyshire Dales during the snow. It was hard work, but enchanting. Next year's Christmas card photograph is in the can.
At about the same time someone pulled off a rare triumph, taking a party of scouts and guides camping in the open in the snow. One of the boys said he had felt "intensely alive" throughout the camp. None of them will ever take modern comforts quite so for granted again.
Meanwhile the commentariat were braying about the rights and wrongs of clearing the pavement in front of your home, and weather-persons were advising us to "take extra care" and "look out" for slippery patches. What dotty advice! - of course we were, whilst we also enjoyed the brief interlude.
So those scout leaders go in my growing folder of examples of healthy enterprise. Another is the Kinder Children's Choir, which I mentioned a year or so ago. You will find such excellent ventures in many unlikely places.
Why not identify examples you know of, and tell me about them? I'd be glad to add them to the collection. Maybe one day I will write them all up - it may encourage the rest of us to resist the increasing silliness of the safety police. I await your contributions.
Prescription Food Boxes?
We are negotiating to enable doctors and holistic therapists in south Lincolnshire to prescribe better food for such of their patients as need it but are put off by the premium organics attract. We hope soon to announce that a local organic box scheme will partner with Saville Turner Holistic Trust - "Help for Health" - for this purpose.
We have a good range of practitioners registered now but rather few applications for funds. If you know of anyone in South Lincolnshire who would appreciate help to get some holistic therapy, or perhaps a food box each week, please ask us for application brochures. If you can place some in your local library or community centre, so much the better - just ask.