Harris: Lancet MMR retraction “should have been done years ago”

Press statement:

Responding to the announcement from the Editors of the Lancet that they are retracting the Wakefield Paper entirely, Dr Evan Harris, Lib Dem science spokesman who helped expose the ethical and methodological problems with the paper back in 2004, said,

“I welcome this, but it could and should have been done six years ago when Dr Wakefield was shown to have failed to declare conflicts of interest, was shown not to have proper ethical approval fro their study, and when it was shown that the scientific rationale of the study was entirely flawed.”

Dr Harris called for full retraction at the time and raised the matter in Parliament.

“I explained the non-scientific basis for the paper in person at the Lancet Offices before the scandal broke six years ago and was very disappointed that the Lancet did not retract the paper at the time instead settling for a partial retraction of part of the paper. Journals don’t need to wait for court or GMC findings of fact to retract obviously flawed or unethical papers. Lessons must now be learned. “

“The hospital ethics committee failed to protect the best interests of the children, and Royal Free failed them again when their peremptory investigation unbelievably found no ethical faults – in fact, they defended the ethics of the study and the Lancet paper.”

“There must now be an investigation of the Royal Free Hospital’s ethical oversight.”



1) Dr Harris called for a full retraction in February 2004 and repeated his criticism of the Royal Free “Investigation” in the House of Commons –
2) In that debate Dr Harris described the Humphrey Hodgson from the Royal free statement –http://press.thelancet.com/wakefieldfootnote.pdf – was a whitewash.
3) Dr Harris was for many years a member of the BMA medical Ethics Committee and of the Central Oxford Research Ethics Committee.


2 Responses to “Harris: Lancet MMR retraction “should have been done years ago””

  1. Liz Ditz Says:

    I sometimes write a post that collates blog responses, both positive and negative, to a given issue.

    I’m keeping one now on responses to the Lancet retraction of the Wakefield’s paper.

    I’ve added your post to the list.

    The post is at


  2. bing Says:

    Dr Bill Long’s article “On Second looking into the Case Of Dr Andrew J. Wakefield” in the Autism File (Issue 31 2009) records how Rosemary Kessick in a phone call to Dr Wakefield of 19th May 1995 told the story of how her son had descended into autism after having the MMR vaccine. The Findings of Fact following an investigation by the Fitness to Practice Panel at the GMC into the conduct of Wakefield and two of his colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital outline how nearly all the Lancet 12 children did not fit the inclusion criteria for the study because they had had the MMR vaccine, Ms Kessick’s son included.
    Wakefield knew as far back as the 1995 phone call that Ms Kessick’s son had had the MMR vaccine and did not fit the criteria for in inclusion in the Lancet 12. How many of the others, found to have been wrongly included in the Lancet 12 because they had had the MMR vaccine, made that known beforehand? This is a clear demonstration of research fraud? Is this why Wakefield ensured that parents were not called as witnesses?

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