Andrew Wakefield’s Lancet Paper – Lancet Ombudsman “there is a scientific argument which is continuing and has yet to be sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction. “

Letter from the Lancet Ombudsman, Professor Charles Warlow to those asking for Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper to be reinstated in the Lancet.  The letter could have stopped at the second paragraph.  It didn’t.


Edinburgh EH9 XXX

17th May 2013

To all those who emailed me re the Wakefield 1998 Lancet paper and Mr Justice Mitting’s ruling on March 7th 2013.

I am writing the same letter to all of you because you wrote more or less the same email complaining that The Lancet has not reversed its decision to retract the above paper.

In fact this is an editorial decision which as Ombudsman is not my business; I have to deal with complaints about process, delays, rudeness and such like. Under the circumstances, therefore, I am not in a position to make a ruling on your complaint.

However, I think you should be reassured that not only is the paper extremely well known amongst interested scientists, and indeed most people involved in medical care and research as well as the wider public, but also that in a sense it still exists—in libraries around the world, in paper copies of The Lancet. Retracted articles do not disappear from the published (on paper) literature. The Wakefield article is therefore still accessible to most if not all those who are grappling with the problem of autism, bowel disorders and the MMR vaccine.

Notwithstanding the GMC’s reinstatement of Professor Walker-Smith I note that Mr Justice Manning remarked “There is now no respectable body of opinion which supports [Dr Wakefield’s] hypothesis, that MMR vaccine and autism/enterocolitis are causally linked.” Clearly there is a scientific argument which is continuing and has yet to be sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Charles Warlow

Lancet Ombudsman