Kirkus Reviews QR Code


The Arizona 5 and the Legacy of Baron von Munchausen

by Andrew J. Wakefield

Pub Date: June 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61608-614-5
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Wakefield (Callous Disregard: Autisms and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy, 2010), a British gastroenterologist who was stricken from the British medical register in 2010, defends himself against the charges brought against him.

In 1998, the author published a research study that claimed to have established a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR) and gastrointestinal disease and autism spectrum disorder. Accused of falsifying the data, he was subsequently barred from practicing medicine in the U.K. He begins this book with a spirited attack against the Sunday Times reporter, Brian Deer, who first exposed him in a series of articles. Wakefield brought an unsuccessful libel suit against the journalist, but he continues his attack on Deer, Times publisher Rupert Murdoch and the pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines. The ostensible occasion for this sequel to his 2011 book on the same subject is a dispute between Arizona parents and child-welfare authorities. The author writes in defense of the parents, who were accused of child abuse when they repeatedly sought medical services at Phoenix Children's Hospital for their five children. The parents claimed that their children were suffering from developmental disabilities and gastrointestinal problems that resulted from vaccinations they had received. Wakefield writes that the doctors who treated the children, “supported by hospital psychologists, bureaucrats, and litigators…believed that the children were healthy but abused,” and that the parents were seeking attention—the so-called “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.” The parents were accused of fabricating information and refusing to have their children properly vaccinated, and the children were temporarily removed by Arizona child-welfare authorities to foster care.

The jury is still out on the causes and best treatment of autism spectrum disorder, but readers will find it difficult to disentangle the author's efforts at self-rehabilitation from his contentions that this family was treated unjustly.