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Royal Free's MMR doctors set to defend research at GMC hearing

PUBLISHED: 11:02 19 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:52 07 September 2010

DOCTORS from the Royal Free Hospital accused of serious professional misconduct are due to defend themselves before the General Medical Council next week. Andrew Wakefield, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch worked at the Hampstead hospital s medical schoo

DOCTORS from the Royal Free Hospital accused of serious professional misconduct are due to defend themselves before the General Medical Council next week.

Andrew Wakefield, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch worked at the Hampstead hospital's medical school and are alleged to have made blunders in research involving children between 1996 and 1998.

The research led to the doctors controversially linking the measles mumps and rubella jab (MMR) with bowel disease and autism, causing a nationwide inoculation scare.

Last summer the GMC finished presenting its evidence against the doctors. Now the council is reconvening to hear their defence.

"It's been a very long saga. I cannot pass judgement on the doctors but this trial needs to come to an end in one way or another because ultimately it's about the wellbeing of children," said patients' forum spokesman Arthur Brill.

Dr Wakefield, who resigned from the Royal Free over the scandal and now works in Texas, and Professor Walker-Smith are accused of acting "dishonestly and irrespon-sibly" in failing to disclose how they recruited the 12 children for the study.

All three men are accused of performing colonoscopy and lumbar punctures - otherwise known as a spinal taps - on children without proper approval.

A key allegation against Dr Wakefield is that he was receiving payments for advising solicitors who were taking legal action on behalf of parents who thought MMR had harmed their children.

At the hearing last July, the GMC heard how he paid £5 to children at his son's fifth birthday party for blood samples to use in his research. Some of the children fainted and vomited as a result.

The GMC said it is not investigating allegations of a link between MMR and autism, but solely focusing on the complaints against individual doctors.

The hearing is scheduled to run from March 27 to May 15, and again from July 14 to August 29.

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