' this has caused her a great deal of concern and anxiety. Following this incident we, together with Ham衫ersmith Hospitals NHS Trust which runs the pathology service, carried out an investigation. This highlighted a breakdown in comm赴nications between staff for non-routine (research) samples.

'To ensure a breakdown in commu要ications does not happen again a new clearer system has been put into place to ensure that a senior pathol觔gy doctor approves requests for non routine (research) samples and that a member of staff will be assigned responsibility for looking after the specimen. We understand that Mrs Edwards still has some concerns and a meeting has been arranged with the lead consultant involved in the care of her son so that she can discuss this matter in more detail.'

Despite being repeatedly asked for clarification of this statement, the hospital has declined to say anything further.

Interestingly, Dr Wakefield says the laboratory through which he was working never asked for the sample to be marked with his name, and that he would have forbidden it to be so marked if he had known. He is care苯ul not to criticise the hospital--which treated Josh Edwards com計etently and effectively. There is no suggestion from any quarter that the destruction resulted from any kind of officially sanctioned decision.

But he is shocked that an impor負ant piece of evidence could have been treated in this way. He says: 'It is a golden rule of laboratory prac-

Could it be possible that a supporter of the MMR vaccine has deliberately destroyed important evidence that could have thrown light on the alleged links between MMR and autism? Are partisans of this vaccine prepared to take such action? The idea seems absurd and is certainly appalling.

Yet those who doubt such things could take place in this country will have their beliefs shaken by the news that an important tissue sam計le has in fact been mysteriouslydestroyed in a leading London hos計ital. The hospital itself is plainly not responsible but cannot offer any explanation for the event beyond a 'communication breakdown'.

The loss of material that is irre計laceable and unique has caused deep frustration among researchers who are angry that a scientific sam計le should have been lost in this way.

And it has greatly distressed the family of the child from whom the sample was taken; a 12-year-old boy called Josh Edwards, who had suf苯ered years of appalling bowel com計laints and mental deterioration.

Josh's family had hoped his ordeal might be mitigated by the knowledge that they had helped to find out what had caused their misery, and perhaps make it possible for doctors to find a way of preventing and curing it in other children. Now they feel that ten years of suffering has been wasted.

The tissue sample was awaiting collection in a hospital freezer and was marked to show that it was des負ined to be examined by Andrew Wakefield, the controversial doctor who has been subjected to furious criticism from the medical estab衍ishment for raising doubts about the MMR vaccine.

But a person or persons unknown removed the sample from its con負ainer and left it on a workbench nearby, then replaced its empty con負ainer in the freezer. By the time the sample was found on the bench it had deteriorated so badly that it was useless for research.

tice that you don't interfere with, remove or otherwise compromise samples belonging to other people. These samples are sacred. It is very alarming that this happened.'

So what did the person involved think he or she was doing? What legitimate purpose could possibly have justified leaving a highly per虹shable section of a child's intestines on a laboratory bench?

It is also unclear who marked the sample's container with Dr Wake-field's name. This is important because, since he aired his doubts about the MMR, Dr Wakefield has incurred the hostility of much of the medical establishment. It has been suggested he sought to make money out of a rival immunisation; that he failed to declare an interest in his published work and that he is a 'junk scientist' - all allegations which he fiercely denies and some of which may be the subject of libel actions. He now works mainly in the United States, partly because of the official feeling against him here.

Why is this sample so important? I spent some hours talking to Mrs Edwards about the many years of suffering Josh - and his family -have endured, and it is a terrible saga of pain, loss, gruelling surgery and demanding, stomach-churning nursing care. Anybody hearing this would hope that any future such cases should be prevented and some better treatment be found than that which Josh has endured.

But there is one thing more. Josh has been given the MMR jab - twice. After the first injection, at the nor-



 

The accompanying brings the VE-Day ct in emotive n

Long ordeal__ losh Edwards

with his mother, Heather, and, left, as a toddler


 

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anperati "-upanon,

3 months, he suffered diarrhoea and a high . A few weeks later he velop the severe con-oetter described as a lockage, which troubled him -evei' since. And ne uegan to regress, becoming withdrawn and obsessive. He lost the few words he had been able to say. Heather Edwards told her GP that Josh ^hadn't been right

is tne Government also        in such

dence' that the two thing pened at the same time.

rs Edwards real ised her son wat seriously unwel and began the lon process that led tc him being diag

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Josh, w    had been severe!

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rearranged ine ui'namems in nei living room, she later found he had replaced each and every one of them in exactly the position they had been in before, from memory.

Mrs Edwards first heard about Dr
Andrew Wakefield when he was at
the Royal Free Hospital in London,
but by the time she got an appoint
ment with him, his heresy was a
major issue and he had left the
hospit "  Ihe says that, di
long pilgrimage t"        ' tne jnh;
found attitu                        rards he

Wakefield

She was ultimately referred t lelsea and Westminster, whe is decided to perform an ileos a drastic surgical solution to J

d where doctors agreed

: of his gut so that

researchers couia try to identify the

cause of his long illness. This was

reasonable and right of them.

For the MMR to be followed bj diarrhoea and regression once may have been coincidence. Twice is fai more worrying. Surely, anyone inter ested in investigating the truth about the MMR and autism, or indeed in relieving the suffering of others witt similar diseases, would have had ar interest in analysing the contents ol Josh's severely inflamed intestine?

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uppre    ng th  truth, c th

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