Aside from the embarrassment, researchers know deceptions like the autism research fraud can have much larger consequences, both for the parents of autistic children and for the future of their studies. Says one prominent scientist: "It taints a lot of very good work that goes on."
Having an autistic child can present seemingly nonstop challenges for families. Among those are thousands of dollars spent in the hopes, fleeting as they may be, of finding a cure for the exasperating illness. And finding a qualified doctor can be a full-time job.
It's an important question because 5,000 potential lawsuits alleging that vaccines caused autism lurk in the background, and vaccine makers threaten to stop producing the drugs if the suits are allowed.