This chapter discusses the MMR vaccination controversy in the UK following the publication of a paper in Lancet which linked the MMR triple jab to childhood autism. We discuss the response of the British media to the paper’s claims, and its subsequent retraction, and the way that the actions of the then Prime Minister contributed to the debates. We analysed media reports from that time and draw on policy papers on science communication in order to show how a combination of events before and after the publication of Wakefield’s paper influenced public debates on science, trust and personal responsibility for health protection, and thus also had an impact on public health policy making. We follow a historical thread on actions of public figures on health policy issues and situate the debate in the context of British science policy in general to better understand vaccine controversies and debates in the British context.
Norms and assumptions concerning the structure of the family constrain the direction of scientific progress in the area of human reproduction. It is one’s family status that determines whether one’s reproductive aspirations are classified as medical needs and thus eligible for treatment. In turn, needs deemed eligible for medical treatment form the basis of future research priorities. Conversely, innovations in human reproduction, facilitated by scientific progress, challenge these norms and assumptions and require adjustments in ethics and law.