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The following op-ed originally appeared on Forbes.com.
The most savvy plaintiffs’ lawyers understand that in order to create new fields of litigation, up-front investments are often required. So for those looking for the next big payday, what does $665,000 get you? For starters, a British medical journal study that claims to establish a link between vaccinations and autism.
A 1998 article in the medical journal The Lancet caused a firestorm of controversy when it was published, and helped create the anti-vaccine movement that continues today. There’s only one problem — the article was later retracted by the publisher for being “utterly false,” and the author, Andrew Wakefield, was found to have been paid big bucks by plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Brian Deer, investigative journalist for London’s The Sunday Times wrote that Wakefield, “Was paid more than £400,000 ($665,000) by lawyers trying to prove that the vaccine was unsafe.”
The article wasn’t simply retracted. Wakefield lost his medical license in Great Britain and the country’s General Medical Council chair, Dr. Surendra Kumar, said that Wakefield had “brought the medical profession into disrepute” through “multiple separate instances of professional misconduct.”
The retraction, revelations and sanctions against Wakefield may have halted the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ attempt at more lawsuits, but the combination of bad science, celebrity endorsements, and general fear have convinced too many parents that vaccinations are more dangerous for their children than the diseases they protect against. The damage was done.
Read the full op-ed here.