As the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders grows each year, new discoveries and controversies arise. Andrew Wakefield explores many of these in his thorough investigation of the recent trial case of the Arizona 5,” which destroyed an Arizona family. Two parents, with five children on the spectrum, were accused of Münchausen syndrome by proxy—a rare form of child abuse—and were ganged up on by physicians, child protective services, and the courts, who alleged that the parents fabricated ...
As the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders grows each year, new discoveries and controversies arise. Andrew Wakefield explores many of these in his thorough investigation of the recent trial case of the Arizona 5,” which destroyed an Arizona family. Two parents, with five children on the spectrum, were accused of Münchausen syndrome by proxy—a rare form of child abuse—and were ganged up on by physicians, child protective services, and the courts, who alleged that the parents fabricated medical symptoms in all five children. However, Wakefield now presents ample evidence that was disregarded and which would have proven the parents’ innocence.
Families affected by autism suffer great hardship and prejudice, particularly as they navigate the uncertain waters of diagnosis, treatment, and education. The shocking story of the Arizona 5 family delves into the tremendous challenges some parents have to face, especially if their views on how to treat the syndrome don’t align with the medical world’s standards. Wakefield also includes numerous studies and research trials that support the controversial yet significant roles that vaccines and diet play in autism, factors many medical professionals wrongfully dismiss.
Wakefield (Callous Disregard: Autisms and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy, 2010), a British gastroenterologist who was stricken from the British medical register in 2010, defends himself against the charges brought against him. In 1998, the author published a research study that claimed to have established a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR) and gastrointestinal disease and autism spectrum disorder. Accused of falsifying the data, he was subsequently barred from practicing medicine in the U.K. He begins this book with a spirited attack against the Sunday Times reporter, Brian Deer, who first exposed him in a series of articles. Wakefield brought an unsuccessful libel suit against the journalist, but he continues his attack on Deer, Times publisher Rupert Murdoch and the pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines. The ostensible occasion for this sequel to his 2011 book on the same subject is a dispute between Arizona parents and child-welfare authorities. The author writes in defense of the parents, who were accused of child abuse when they repeatedly sought medical services at Phoenix Children's Hospital for their five children. The parents claimed that their children were suffering from developmental disabilities and gastrointestinal problems that resulted from vaccinations they had received. Wakefield writes that the doctors who treated the children, "supported by hospital psychologists, bureaucrats, and litigators…believed that the children were healthy but abused," and that the parents were seeking attention--the so-called "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy." The parents were accused of fabricating information and refusing to have their children properly vaccinated, and the children were temporarily removed by Arizona child-welfare authorities to foster care. The jury is still out on the causes and best treatment of autism spectrum disorder, but readers will find it difficult to disentangle the author's efforts at self-rehabilitation from his contentions that this family was treated unjustly.
Andrew J. Wakefield, MB, BS, FRCS, FRCPath, is an academic gastroenterologist. He received his medical degree from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School part of the University of London in 1981 and pursued a career in gastrointestinal surgery with a particular interest in inflammatory bowel disease. He has published over 130 original scientific articles, book chapters, and scientific commentaries and is also the author of Callous Disregard. In pursuit of possible links between childhood vaccines, intestinal inflammation, and neurologic injury in children, he lost his job at London’s Royal Free Hospital, his country of birth, his career, and his medical license. Wakefield and his wife, Carmel, live in Austin, Texas, with their four children.