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Sequential science

The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield

The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield

Daryl Cunningham’s short webcomic, The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, has been getting some chatter on Twitter and the blogs this week.

The comic is less a story than an essay on bad science. Cunningham summarizes the story of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who claims to have found a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism. While Wakefield’s research has become an article of faith in some circles, leading parents to the risky choice of not vaccinating their children, Cunningham shows, in just a few panels, that the research was faulty, unethical, and tainted by financial incentives. It’s a shattering story, and Cunningham backs it up with references in a followup post.

But does it need to be a comic? I started wondering as I read it, because it struck me as being more an illustrated essay than a sequential story. Cunningham relies heavily on the research of Brian Deer, a reporter for the Sunday Times, and he presents the reader with a series of facts and opinions, some presented by a narrator, some illustrated by simple art such as an altered photo of Dr. Wakefield, a map of the world, etc.

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