Andrew Wakefield (born 1956) is a British former surgeon and researcher best known for his lead of an apparently fraudulent study regarding the MMR vaccine and its claimed connection with autism and inflammatory bowel disease. Wakefield was the lead author of a 1998 study, published in The Lancet, which reported bowel symptoms in twelve children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, to which the authors suggested a possible link with the MMR vaccine. Though stating, "We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described," the paper adopted alleged parental allegations as fact for the purpose of calculating a temporal link between receipt of the vaccine and the first onset of what were described as "behavioural symptoms". In light of the scandal, many have used the term "disgraced" to describe Wakefield.
At a press conference held by the Royal Free medical school, London, in conjunction with the publication, Wakefield recommended separating the three components of the injections by at least a year. The paper, press conference, a video news release, and resulting media coverage were linked to a steep decline in vaccination rates in the United Kingdom. This resulted in a sharp rise in confirmed cases of measles, with two child fatalities, as well as others seriously ill on ventilators.
Subsequent investigation failed to confirm or reproduce Wakefield's findings. On 3 March 2004, the interpretation section of the 1998 paper was retracted by ten of the paper's thirteen authors, following an investigation by Brian Deer for the Sunday Times which revealed unreported conflicts of interest, particularly through Wakefield's employment by a lawyer. The editor of The Lancet stated that the 1998 paper would not have been published had he known about what he called these "fatal" conflicts of interest. In February 2009, Wakefield was accused of scientific misconduct in that he manipulated the patients’ data results in the Lancet paper.