Britain's top medical group ruled Monday that a doctor who claimed autism was linked to a childhood vaccine can no longer practice in the U.K.
The General Medical Council also found Dr. Andrew Wakefield guilty of "serious professional misconduct" as it struck him from the country's medical register. The council was investigating how Wakefield and colleagues carried out their research, not the science behind it.
When the research was published a dozen years ago, British parents abandoned the measles vaccine in droves, leading to a resurgence of the disease. Vaccination rates have never recovered and there are outbreaks of measles in the U.K. every year.
In 1998, Wakefield and colleagues published a study alleging a link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Most of the study's authors renounced its conclusions and it was retracted by the journal in February.
Many other studies have been conducted since then and none have found a connection between autism and the vaccines. Wakefield moved to the U.S. several years ago and the ruling does not affect his right to practice medicine there or in other countries.
In 2005, Wakefield founded a nonprofit autism center in Austin, Texas, but quit earlier this year.
In January, Britain's medical council ruled that Wakefield and two other doctors acted unethically and showed a "callous disregard" for the children in their study. The medical body said Wakefield took blood samples from children at his son's birthday party, paying them 5 pounds (today worth $7.20) each and later joked about the incident.
In a statement then, Wakefield said the medical council's investigation was an effort to "discredit and silence" him to "shield the government from exposure on the (measles) vaccine scandal."
In Monday's ruling, the medical council said Wakefield abused his position as a doctor and "brought the medical profession into disrepute."