SYDNEY -- One of Australia's leading medical researchers Dr. William Griffith McBride was struck off the New South Wales state medical register Friday after being found guilty of scientific fraud.
The 67 year-old obstetrician and gynecologist, who was honored worldwide for his research linking the drug Thalidomide to birth defects in babies, was found to have falsified research data aimed at linking another drug Debendox to similar birth defects.
The Medical Tribunal found that McBride had caused 'grave public mischief.'
It found his conduct 'mirrored a classic tragic character, the person of eminence who is brought down by a character flaw.'
It had not been a case of an error in judgement, but moral blindness, it said.
McBride was listed in Who's Who in Australia as 'discoverer of the effects of Thalidomide.'. He was honored by Queen Elizabeth II in 1969 with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1977 for his services to medicine.
Following his breakthrough Thalidomide discovery in 1961, McBride set up the highly respected Foundation 41 in Sydney in 1971 to research the first 41 days in the life of a foetus and the causes of mental and physical handicaps in babies.
His undoing began after he published a paper in 1982 linking the drug Debendox with birth defects. The U.S drug manufacturer Merrel Dow withdrew Debendox from sale because of the threatened costs of litigation and adverse publicity following McBride's findings.
Two fellow researchers at Foundation 41 who were named as collaborators questioned the research data supporting his claim and subsequent inquiries confirmed he had falsified research data in rabbits to confirm his theory.
McBride claimed during protracted inquiries over the past few years that he acted in the public interest as he was convinced there was a link between the drug and birth defects.
The tribunal finally found him guilty last February of scientific fraud and Friday announced his penalty.
McBride was not present when the verdict was given Friday and is believed to be travelling in the United States. Lawyers said it was not yet known if he would appeal.