Douchebag Decrees around here are often on the tongue-in-cheek side, but every once in a while someone's actions are so heinous that even we can't make puns about them. This is one of those times. According to an independent study published by the British Medical Journal, researcher Andrew Wakefield's 1998 paper linking autism to the MMR vaccine was "an elaborate fraud." That's right; his study on autism, the one that thousands of hopeful parents have taken seriously over the past 12 years in an attempt to help their babies, was apparently a total fake.
Experts who have examined the study, including the independent journalist Brian Deer who wrote the BMJ article, have determined that the results Wakefield obtained (that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism) were not simply incorrect, they were deliberately falsified by Wakefield. Not only is faking scientific research just an incredibly douche-y thing for anyone to do, Wakefield's findings prompted thousands of concerned parents to eschew vaccines for their children—causing disease outbreaks, and even death in some cases.
Why would Wakefield falsify this important data? Well, money of course. According to Deer's report:
Wakefield had been payrolled to create evidence against the shot, and, while planning extraordinary business schemes, meant to profit from the scare, he had changed and misreported data on the anonymous children to rig the results published in the journal.
Now, Wakefield supporters (and Wakefield himself) claim that this is a conspiracy orchestrated by pharmaceutical companies who want to make money from vaccines (you know, the way that Wakefield has made money from his research). As in many instances of one douche versus another, Wakefield may be right about the pharmaceutical companies' motivations. However, that doesn't mean that his study wasn't fake. In fact, it almost definitely was. Multiple credible sources have found it to be fraudulent, Wakefield has refused to reproduce his results, and he was mighty cagey about the accusations in this interview with Anderson Cooper last night (note: prepare yourself for some awesome real talk from Cooper before viewing):
Regardless of how you feel about vaccines, or about autism, or about pharmaceutical companies, I'm sure we can all agree that it takes a real douchebag to deliberately falsify scientific data, especially when said data directly affects the lives of kids and their parents. Wakefield's selfish actions have caused pain and confusion for many families, and in some cases children have died because of the misinformation he's knowingly peddled over the past 12 years. A Douchebag Decree doesn't even begin to cut it for this guy, but he's certainly deserving of the title.
How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed (BMJ)
Nailed: Dr Andrew Wakefield and the MMR - autism fraud (Brian Deer)
Journal says doctor faked data linking autism to vaccines (Wall Street Journal)
Study Linking Vaccine to Autism Was Fraud, Journal Reports (New York Times)