Andrew Wakefield - doctor who linked MMR to autism - is damned by General Medical Council

THE General Medical Council today ruled that controversial doctor Andrew Wakefield had showed a "callous disregard" for the suffering of children.

• Doctor Andrew Wakefield "abused his position of trust" in his treatment of children, the GMC ruled today

The GMC's disciplinary panel ruled that Dr Wakefield, who caused controversy when he put his name to a study stating the MMR vaccine could lead to bowel disease and autism, had been guilty of practices which could amount to serious professional misconduct and brought the medical profession "into disrepute".

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The panel heard that Dr Wakefield paid 5 for blood samples from children at his son's birthday party.

The GMC ruled that the doctor, who is now based in the United States, had "abused his position of trust". A later hearing will decide if he is to be struck off the medical register.

The panel found that Dr Wakefield had acted dishonestly and his study into a link between MMR and autism, which was published in The Lancet, was misleading and irresponsible.

Dr Wakefield was not present when the panel revealed their findings.

He told reporters outside the GMC's headquarters: "I am extremely disappointed by the outcome of today's proceedings.

"The allegations against me and against my colleagues are both unfounded and unjust – I repeated unfounded and unjust – and I invite anyone to examine the contents of these proceedings and come to their own conclusion."

Dr Wakefield added: "It remains for me to thank the parents whose commitment and loyalty has been extraordinary.

"I want to reassure them that science will continue in earnest."

The panel's findings had provoked an angry reaction from supporters of the controversial doctor.

One woman called the panel a "kangaroo court".

"These doctors have failed our children," she shouted. "You are outrageous."

The GMC said the doctor took blood samples from youngsters at his son's birthday party in the late 1990s and then laughed about it during a US presentation in March 1999.

Panel chairman Dr Surendra Kumar said: "Despite your explanation that you did not consider it unethical to obtain blood in this way, the panel found that it was unethical and that you did not have ethical approval for such an undertaking.

"It also found that you caused blood to be taken in an inappropriate social setting and you showed a callous disregard for the distress and pain you knew or ought to have known the children involved might suffer.

"You abused your position of trust as a medical practitioner."

Dr Kumar said Dr Wakefield's conduct at the US seminar "was such as to bring the medical profession into disrepute".

The panel said his conduct was unethical and that Dr Wakefield did not have ethical approval.

Dr Wakefield was an honorary consultant in experimental gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital in London at the time of his research.

He and two colleagues involved in the research, professors John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, who are also being investigated by the GMC, deny all the charges against them.

The panel also ruled today that Dr Wakefield submitted an application for funding from the Legal Aid Board but failed to disclose that some of the costs would have been met by the NHS anyway.