The Herald                                                               October 20, 2000

Parents 'risk losing children' over MMR complaints


  PARENTS who claim their children have developed autism as a result of being  given the controversial MMR vaccine risk having them taken away by social workers, MSPs will be told next week.

A leading autism expert said yesterday that an estimated 200 such families in the UK, including Scotland, had lost their children after being accused of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy.                      

Dr Paul Shattock, director of the Autism Research Unit at Sunderland   University, said the court orders had been carried out under cover of draconian gagging orders framed ostensibly to safeguard the identity of the children.

He will lay his allegations before MSPs on Wednesday, at the launch of the  Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

"There have been cases where people say their children are autistic and blame the vaccine. Then social services come and say the child is not autistic, you have made him that way because of Munchausen's, and they take the children away," he said.

The term Munchausen's syndrome by proxy was coined to describe parents who subject their children to unnecessary medical care on the pretext of a bogus illness, in extreme cases injuring the children or making them ill in order to fit their fantasies. It is often seen as an attention-seeking device.

Dr Shattock said it was now being used as a cover-up over the suspected link between the combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, introduced in 1988, and a distinctive combination of autism and intestinal disorder described nearly three years ago by Dr Andrew Wakefield at the Royal Free Hospital in London, and which he attributed to excess strain on the immune system caused by giving all three vaccines in one jab.

It has precipitated demands by parents to have each vaccine administered singly with an interlude between each, a move resisted by the Government.

"It is down to pride. The medical establishment can't admit to being wrong," said Dr Shattock.

"Something is going on, whether it is vaccines, pesticides, plasticisers in food, or whatever. The research the Government has provided in defence of MMR is flawed."

The Scottish Society for Autism, which will provide the professional secretariat for the all-party group, accepts that the evidence against MMR so far is anecdotal, but they want more research and, in the meantime, the option of single vaccines to be available for parents.

  Spokesman Bruce Tait said: "It is available elsewhere in Europe. Presumably there is a cost implication for the Government."

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