Researchers must cast a broad net as they raise questions about the potential causes of autism. A cure will come only after the cause or causes have been identified. But falsifying data is an offense to science and has the potential to hurt individuals with autism and their families worldwide.
A tremendous amount of time and money was spent looking at the MMR vaccine as a potential cause; this shifted focus and funding away from other potential causes. At the same time, some families believed they had caused their child’s autism by giving him the MMR vaccine and held that guilt for many years. Other families, despite the clear evidence that Wakefield’s study should never have been published, continue to cling to the belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Some of these families place their child’s health at significant risk by withholding vaccinations. Unfortunately, the decision to falsify his data will reverberate in the autism community for many years to come.
Susan M. Wilczynski, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Senior Vice President, Autism Services
Executive Director, National Autism Center