A reporter uncovers the secrets behind the scientific scam of the century.
The news breaks first as a tale of fear and pity. Doctors at a London hospital claim a link between autism and a vaccine given to millions of children: MMR. Young parents are terrified. Immunisation rates slump. And as a worldwide ‘anti-vax’ movement kicks off, old diseases return to sicken and kill.
But a veteran reporter isn’t so sure, and sets out on an epic investigation. Battling establishment cover-ups, smear campaigns, and gagging lawsuits, he exposes rigged research and secret schemes, the heartbreaking plight of families struggling with disability, and the scientific deception of our time.
Here’s the story of Andrew Wakefield: a man in search of greatness, who stakes his soul on big ideas that, if right, might transform lives. But when the facts don’t fit, he can’t face failure. He’ll do whatever it takes to succeed.
This riveting history of Andrew Wakefield's career as an advocate for the discredited link between the measles vaccine and autism serves as a stirring demonstration of the process and power of investigative journalism. Deer, a Sunday Times of London reporter, presents Wakefield as a charismatic but mediocre doctor and research head, "untroubled by conscience," as he conducted extensive, invasive testing of 12 children to create "bespoke evidence" for a lawyer ally's planned civil action against the vaccine's developers, and then misrepresented the data in his now-infamous 1998 paper in the British medical journal Lancet. Deer recounts uncovering Wakefield's deceptions thanks to testimony from disillusioned parents of study participants and guidance from more meticulous scientists. In large part due to Deer's articles, Wakefield lost a university position, saw his article retracted, and was accused by the British Medical Journal of fraud. However, Deer's final tone is less than triumphal, as Wakefield, despite his professional disgrace, found new celebrity with the nascent American antivaccine movement, presenting himself as an intellectual martyr on behalf of unpopular ideas. Readers who love a good debunking will find Deer's narrative logical, exciting, and enraging.