- Joanna Lyall, freelance journalist (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Is the editor of a medical journal responsible for the way its contents are reported, and the quality of the ensuing debate, as well as the accuracy of the material itself? It is a question that Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, and one of the figures in the eye of this week's media storm over the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, has answered unequivocally in the past.
In an essay entitled “Vaccine Myths”—included in his book Doctors, Diseases and Decisions in Modern Medicine, which was published last year (reviewed BMJ 2003;327: 399)—Dr Horton recounted the events that followed the Lancet's publication of Dr Andrew Wakefield's 1998 study that sparked the suggestion of a link between MMR and autism. He says: “Although I knew this paper would be controversial, I did not expect the level of vituperative attack and personal rebuke that followed. I was terribly and, looking back now, embarrassingly naive. I should have met with the Royal Free team before they held their press conference. I should have at …