Monday, May 02, 2011

The Reverend Doctor Andrew Wakefield: Autism Guru, Savior and Conspiracy Freak?

Shaun Curry/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mister Wakefield with Wife and Faithful Followers

The Denunciation of Dr. Wakefield by Susan Dominus.  An article in the April 24th New York Times (The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru - the online title).  So it's Mister Wakefield now.  Better yet Reverend Wakefield given his devoted flock disseminating his debunked vaccine-gut-autism doctrine.  The New York Times reported him preaching his gut-gospel in a house of worship: 
As people streamed into Graceview Baptist Church in Tomball, Tex., early one Saturday morning in January, two armed guards stood prominently just inside the doorway of the sanctuary.  Baptist no less...no wishy-washy, agnostic, maybe-we buy-it Unitarian rationality. We'll ignore the hired muscle packing heat for the moment.   
He's not just a preacher but a hero and savior:
“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” says J. B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, a group that disputes vaccine safety. “He’s a symbol of how all of us feel.”   And we are feeling terrified right now, hence the men with guns. We hate to think what all the reasonable parents out there who respect good science and never fell for his magical thinking would do if they got a hold of him.
The religious undertones continued.  Dominus "sounded impatient but righteous."  The righteous shall live by faith.

Who needs evidence when you have faith.  No surprise, Wakefield's still a firm believer in his own theories.  Fair enough but now I say with delight mixed with a smidgen of pity, he might have stepped off the edge of rationality altogether: 
He said he believes that “they” — public-health officials, pharmaceutical companies — pay bloggers to plant vicious comments about him on the Web. No payment necessary, honestly. “Because it’s always the same,” he says. “Discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield, discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield.” He also “wouldn’t be surprised” if public-health officials were inflating the number of measles mortalities, just as he thinks they inflate the risks of the flu to increase uptake of that vaccine. 
Not a doctor now, never a real researcher, never a follower of research principles or medical ethics.

Would anyone have paid him any attention if he didn't look like the slightly rumpled, older half-brother of Brad Pitt and Brendan Fraser?

The comparison is not without merit.

Apparently he is great on stage with plenty of "charisma" and "rhetorical flair."

...he spoke with great rhetorical flair. He took off his glasses (i.e.cue the worry,concern,deep thinking) and put them back on like a gifted actor maximizing a prop. “What happens to me doesn’t matter,” he said at one point. “What happens to these children does matter.”
Ah, the children.  Blessed be the little lambs.  Sacrificial lambs. In other words, party guests AND available and cheap research control subjects.  Guy joked at a conference presentation about drawing blood samples from kids at his child's birthday party.  You can watch it on You Tube.  Here's the details according to Dominus: 

“Two children fainted,” he said. “Another threw up over his mother.” For their service, they were rewarded with £5. “People said to me, ‘Andrew, you know you can’t do this to people; children won’t come back,’ ” he recounted. “I said, ‘You’re wrong — listen, we live in a free-market economy; next year, they’ll want £10.’ ”

One helluva birthday party.  Don't pass up an invite to the Wakefield!.  These remarkable details, the fainting, the boasting in public, too crazy to make up.  Then we learn he's also an armchair economist and visionary - planning a community for autistic adults even.  All due to his devotion to the children, the ones (poked and prodded in the name of science) who will someday grow up and still require his kind services.  His selflessness.

Bless his heart. 

Do you think he's writing his memoirs now? It's clear who should play him in the movie but I'm afraid it's destined to Lifetime or maybe Oprah's network.









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