Dr Andrew WAKEFIELD, Professor John WALKER-SMITH, Professor Simon MURCH

From : 8 October 2007   To : 12 October 2007

Category : Fitness to Practise Hearings

Info :

Dr Andrew WAKEFIELD, Professor John WALKER-SMITH, Professor Simon MURCH
Fitness to Practise Panel
Planned dates: 16 July – 19 October 2007

The Fitness to Practise Panel will meet at Regent’s Place, 350 Euston Road, London NW1 3JN, to consider these new cases of conduct.

This case will be considered by a Fitness to Practise Panel applying the General Medical Council’s Preliminary Proceedings Committee and Professional Conduct Committee (Procedure) Rules 1988.


Dr Andrew WAKEFIELD
GMC Reference number: 2733564
Professor WALKER-SMITH GMC Reference number: 1700583
Professor Simon MURCH
GMC Reference number: 2540201

The GMC's statutory purpose is to protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public by ensuring proper standards in the practice of medicine.

We investigate complaints about individual doctors in order to establish whether their fitness to practise is impaired and whether to remove or restrict a doctor’s registration.

The GMC does not regard its remit as extending to arbitrating between competing scientific theories generated in the course of medical research.

The following is a summary only of the allegations which will be made before the Panel at the forthcoming hearing.

The Panel will inquire into allegations of serious professional misconduct by Dr Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch, in relation to the conduct of a research study involving young children from 1996-98.
Dr Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch, were at the relevant times employed by the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine with Honorary Clinical contracts at the Royal Free Hospital.

It is alleged that the three practitioners were named as Responsible Consultants on an application made to the Ethical Practices Committee of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust (“the ethics committee”) in 1996 to undertake a research study involving children who suffered from gastrointestinal symptoms and a rare behavioural condition called disintegrative disorder. The title of the study was “A new paediatric syndrome: enteritis and disintegrative disorder following measles/rubella vaccination”. The Panel will inquire into allegations that the three practitioners undertook research during the period 1996-98 without proper ethical approval, failed to conduct the research in accordance with the application submitted to the ethics committee, and failed to treat the children admitted into the study in accordance with the terms of the approval given by the ethics committee. For example, it will be alleged that some of the children did not qualify for the study on the basis of their behavioural symptoms.
It is further alleged that the three practitioners permitted a programme of investigations to be carried out on a number of children as part of the research study, some of which were not clinically indicated when the Ethics Committee had been assured that they were all clinically indicated. These investigations included colonoscopies and lumbar punctures. It is alleged that the performance of these investigations was contrary to the clinical interests of the children.
The research undertaken by the three practitioners was subsequently written up in a paper published in the Lancet in February 1998 entitled “Ileal-Lymphoid-Nodular Hyperplasia, Non-Specific Colitis and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children” (“the Lancet paper”).
It is alleged that the three practitioners inaccurately stated in the Lancet paper that the investigations reported in it were approved by the ethics committee.
The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield and Professor Walker-Smith acted dishonestly and irresponsibly in failing to disclose in the Lancet paper the method by which they recruited patients for inclusion in the research which resulted in a misleading description of the patient population in the Lancet paper. It is further alleged that Dr Wakefield gave a dishonest description of the patient population to the Medical Research Council.
The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield and Professor Walker-Smith administered a purportedly therapeutic substance to a child for experimental reasons prior to obtaining information about the safety of the substance. It is alleged that such actions were irresponsible and contrary to the clinical interests of the child.

The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield was involved in advising solicitors acting for persons alleged to have suffered harm by the administration of the MMR vaccine. It is alleged that Dr Wakefield’s conduct in relation to research funds obtained from the Legal Aid Board (“LAB”) was dishonest and misleading. It will be alleged that Dr Wakefield ought to have disclosed his funding from the LAB to the Ethics Committee but did not.
The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield ordered investigations on some children as part of the research carried out at the Royal Free Hospital from 1996-98 without the requisite paediatric qualifications to do so and in contravention of his Honorary Consultant appointment.
The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield failed to disclose his involvement in the MMR litigation, his receipt of funding from the LAB and his involvement in a Patent relating to a new vaccine to the Editor of the Lancet which was contrary to his duties as a senior author of the Lancet paper.
The Panel will inquire into allegations that Dr Wakefield acted unethically and abused his position of trust as a medical practitioner by taking blood from children at a birthday party to use for research purposes without ethics committee approval, in an inappropriate social setting, and whilst offering financial inducement.
We cannot guarantee that all those wishing to attend the hearing will be able to do so, as seating is limited. If you plan to attend the hearing please email the GMC press office press@gmc-uk.org. In the event that we have to allocate seats those people who have notified the press office will be seated before others.
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For further information please contact the Media Relations Office on 020 7189 5454, out of hours 020 7189 5444, fax 020 7189 5401, email press@gmc-uk.org, website www.gmc-uk.org.

The General Medical Council licenses doctors to practise medicine in the UK. Our purpose is summed up in the phrase: Regulating doctors, Ensuring Good Medical Practice.

The law gives us four main functions:
• keeping up-to-date registers of qualified doctors
• fostering good medical practice
• promoting high standards of medical education
• dealing firmly and fairly with doctors whose fitness to practise is in doubt

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