Radio Freethinker

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The Wakefield Case Continues

Posted by Ethan Clow on January 30, 2012

A couple weeks ago on the show I mentioned the latest developments regarding the disgraced Andrew Wakefield.

Wakefield is the doctor who first started suggestion that vaccinations, particularly the MMR vaccine was causing health risks, eventually suggesting that autism was a result of the vaccine. Wakefield’s original study which was published in the Lancet was retracted (although many skeptics would have liked to see it retracted a lot sooner) he was also officially disciplined for using fraudulent methods in his research, having serious conflict of interests involving deals with legal firms suing drug companies, as well as very serious charges that he abused his authority and exposed children to unethical testing.

The current bit of news is that Wakefield is now suing the editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, for defamation. The lawsuit also names British investigative journalist Brian Deer, who has covered the controversy over the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which led to a drop in MMR vaccination rates to dangerous levels.

The case has been filed in a Texas court, which is where Wakefield currently operates his business.

This isn’t the first time Wakefield has sued Deer. He sued the journalist, along with Channel 4 and 20/20 productions, over a documentary on MMR in 2004, but later dropped the action and agreed to pay legal costs.

With regards to the case, the BMJ has issued the following statement:

“The BMJ is on notice that Andrew Wakefield has issued defamation proceedings, not in London as might be ordinarily expected as concerns a predominately English publication, but in Texas, USA, where he now lives.

“Following the findings of the British General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice Panel and Mr Wakefield’s history of pursuing unfounded litigation, any action brought against the BMJ and Mr Deer in London would have been immediately vulnerable to being struck out as an abuse of process.”

“Despite the findings of the GMC’s Fitness to Practice Panel and his co-authors having publicly retracted the causation interpretation put forward by the Lancet Paper, it would appear from the Claim filed at court that Mr Wakefield still stands by the accuracy of the Lancet paper and his conclusion therein, thereby compounding his previously found misconduct.

“While we await formal service, unsurprisingly the BMJ and Mr Deer stand by the material published in the BMJ and their other statements and confirm that they have instructed lawyers to defend the claim vigorously.”

Why is Wakefield pursing such a move? He’s lost previous attempts to silence Deer and others who have rightly criticized his methods. We debated his motives, Wakefield might just be desperate enough to cast himself as the victim in all this, so it could be the last gasp to see his name in lights before he is confirmed as one of the worst pseudo-scientists of all time…oops, too late. The online medical journal Medscape has voted Wakefield the worst doctor of 2011.

I wonder actually if Wakefield wasn’t in some ways an inspiration for Jude Law’s character in the movie Contagion

Law plays a seedy alternative medicine proponent/journalist who lacks any real ethics and promotes conspiracy theories about vaccines.  I would actually recommend the movie as its pretty good in terms of getting the science right, of course it is a movie though so its primary purpose is to be entertaining but it manages to be a little educational too.


3 Responses to “The Wakefield Case Continues”

  1. Chris Bowra said

    Even the dreamers have to get real ,sometime..including Deer …wake up the BMJ

  2. Imagine Dr Fiona Godlee of the BMJ relying on information from a journalist Brian Deer to prove herself. He is no medical expert and has a vendetta against Dr Wakefield.

    • Ethan Clow said

      Seriously? A vendetta? So Wakefield is this innocent doctor being pursued by the establishment on trumped up charges? Please take your sympathy for this man elsewhere. The evidence is long established that Wakefield acted unethically and violated his professions code of conduct in treatment of children.

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