Dr. Wakefield “took issue” with a recent Dateline episode discussing him and his work. Thoughtful House (his clinic) has offered Dateline some talking points to, I gather, give “the full story” that Dateline supposedly missed.
Since there is next to zero chance that Dateline will act on them, I thought I would take a look at the talking points:
A. There has been extensive replication of the finding of bowel disease in children with autism (ASD) from five different countries. These findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at scientific meetings. It is therefore incorrect and misleading of Matt Lauer to have stated that every aspect of my original hypothesis has been disproved. On the contrary, the main findings of the original Lancet paper, that is, bowel disease in autistic children, has been repeatedly confirmed. This obvious inaccuracy requires clarification by NBC.
One of my many failings is that I am a sloppy writer and, yet, I key in on imprecise language in the work of others. Case in point:
“On the contrary, the main findings of the original Lancet paper, that is, bowel disease in autistic children, has been repeatedly confirmed. ”
“…the main point of the Lancet paper, bowel disease in autistic children…”
Very imprecise. What about bowel disease in autistic children is the finding of the Lancet article that Dr. Wakefield wants us to know? The statement is so vague that all we are left with is the fact that some autistic children have bowel disease.
This is misdirection on Dr. Wakefield’s part. It isn’t even good misdirection. The Dateline story wasn’t “the career of Andrew Wakefield, what he got right and wrong”. It was about the assertions that MMR cause autism.
Dr. Wakefield makes it appear that this statement was Matt Lauer’s. It is a fine point, but Matt Lauer didn’t state that “…every aspect of my original hypothesis has been disproved”. The statement was from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which Matt Lauer quoted with attribution.
It’s worth recalling what the Lancet paper stated. The concluding paragraph of the 1998 Lancet article was:
We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.
Had Dr. Wakefield himself distanced himself from the MMR-causation theory in the last 10 years, even a little, I’d think it reasonable for him to emphasize the the idea that he brought to light GI disturbances in autistic kids. But he hasn’t. It isn’t what the Dateline story was about.
The big question, if he thought this was important, why didn’t Dr. Wakefield himself emphasize that in the interview?
Dr. Wakefield’s second point:
B. The shortcomings and the flaws of the studies quoted by Dr. Offit, claiming to disprove an association between vaccines and autism, were not discussed in the program. In my interview with Mr. Lauer I took as an example a paper from Dr. DeStefano from the CDC claiming to exonerate MMR that actually showed that a younger age of vaccination with MMR is associated with a greater risk of autism. This study confirms the association and has been falsely portrayed as vindicating the vaccine. This should have been included in order to provide balance to the program.
Can someone tell me what DeStefano paper and what analysis he is talking about?
C. Reference was made to an autistic child in the vaccine court whose claim for MMR damage was overturned by the judge. No reference was made to the successful vaccine court case on behalf of the child Bailey Banks, coming just one week after the unsuccessful claim described by Mr. Lauer, in which the judge ruled that MMR vaccine can cause autism. Therefore, in the view of vaccine court, it is not a question of whether or not MMR can cause autism, but rather how many children are affected.
The case referred to in the Dateline episode was that of Michelle Cedillo. Her’s was the first “test case” to be heard by the Autism Omnibus Proceeding.
Her case was first heard by a “special master”, who denied compensation. The case then was appealed, and the judge didn’t “overturn” anything. The judge upheld the original decision.
The Bailey Banks case is one that gets debated a lot on the net. Rather than go into that again, let’s ask: how does this relate to Dr. Wakefield’s research? Perhaps I missed it as I did some very quick searches, but I didn’t find anything in the Bailey Banks decision that had anything to do with digestion/inflamation/enterocolitis/constipation/diarrhea… I think you get the idea–the case has nothing to do with Dr. Wakefield’s ideas about autism and the gut.
I.e. Wakefield’s point C is another diversionary tactic.
D. There was a complete absence of comment on the lack of any adequate safety studies of childhood vaccines and the vaccine schedule in particular. There was no mention of the admission by vaccine regulators that there is no data on the long-term safety of vaccines, the chronic disease burden caused by vaccines, and the likely potentially harmful interactions between various vaccines in the routine schedule.
Have you heard the phrase “diversionary tactic” too often yet? What does any of this have to do with whether Dr. Wakefield’s research? This is a favored diversion in online discussions of vaccines/autism. When people run out of real ammunition (and they do quickly), switch to trying to debate general safety of vaccines–and it almost worked. Instead of addressing some of your comments, I’ll move on to your fifth point:
E. Undue credibility was given to Brian Deer, a discredited freelancejournalist, whose false reporting has caused so much misunderstanding and damage to children through the misrepresentation of the doctors and parents who were seeking answers to the vaccine-autism question. Deer has repeatedly misled the public and the medical profession and has been unable to respond to clear evidence of his false reporting in the Sunday Times through the UK’s Press Complaints Commission.
Nice slam, there, Dr. Wakefield. Given the sloppy nature of your previous comments, I am impressed that you pulled this together so well.
You make it seem like it is accepted that Brian Deer is “discredited”. I guess if you don’t get out of Thoughtful House or autism-parent conventions, you might think that.
The “unable to respond…” bit is pretty classic. The Press Complaints Commission isn’t hearing the complaint until after your own GMC hearing, correct? So, I guess he has been unable to respond at the PCC. But, did that really stop him from responding? I seem to recall a pretty sharp worded response that Orac hosted on Respectful Insolence.
Didn’t you, Dr. Wakefield, bring that complaint to the PCC? If so, nice job leaving out the fact. It would come across quite differently had you stated: “…and has yet been unable to respond to clear my claims of his false reporting in the Sunday Times through the UK’s Press Complaints Commission.”
F. It was not disclosed that I have repeatedly invited Dr. Offit to take part in public debate on the safety of MMR vaccine and the false and misleading claims that he has made in the media and his book. He has refused to accept this invitation and has continued to hide from an open and honest debate.
Why would NBC waste time on this? Was it pertinent to the discussion? Answer: no.
I think they did you a favor by not mentioning it. No one looks good with the “So and So won’t debate me” argument. They just don’t. The “please debate me” argument is a staple of the crank. I doubt you wish to appear to be in that category, do you?
Academics “debate” in the literature, not on some stage. If you want to debate Dr. Offit, come up with some good research. Publish it.
Alternatively, if you want to see how a Wakefield/Offit debate comes out, read “autism’s false prophets”. If that is “hiding”, he hasn’t done a very good job of it.
G. NBC alluded briefly to the fact that Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, was informed of my participation as a medical expert in the MMR litigation almost one year before publication of the Lancet paper in 1998. NBC failed to clarify that when Horton was challenged to respond to the fact that when he so enthusiastically denounced me and the paper in 2004 the Lancet staff was already fully aware of the facts and at that time did not consider them to be relevant. Horton refused to be interviewed by NBC and the interview segment shown was from 2004. This refusal is in sharp contrast to his willingness to denounce me in the media in 2004. NBC also failed to mention that in the light of these facts Horton has been reported to UK’s General Medical Council on an allegation of perjury.
Even if true, this is just more diversions. If you thought it important enough to fax all this information to the Lancet, why didn’t you include a conflict of interest statement in the article itself? The referees would have appreciated that, I believe. Was there any mention of potential conflicts of interest in your cover letter to The Lancet when you submitted the paper? Or in the cover letter for your acceptance? All of those were places where you should have made such statements.
H. It was unfortunate that NBC, having stated their determination to resist external pressure to distort the balance of the program, yielded to such pressure from the American Academy of Pediatrics, allowing them the final word in the program while denying representation from the National Autism Association who put forward to NBC a rational and well reasoned call for further science to resolve this very real issue.
I’m sorry, but are you seriously putting he “National Autism Association” on equal footing with the American Academy of Pediatrics? How many members does the NAA have? (a lot less than the AAP) What is the name of their journal (they don’t have one) What is the impact factor of their journal? (Pediatrics is a very well respected journal).
Given the NAA’s recent childish antics with their attempted slime job against Dr. Offit (which you, Dr. Wakefield, participated in), I think that Dateline has been proven correct for not airing their comments.
I. Dr. Offit cited a large population study of autism and MMR from Denmark in support of his claim to ‘certainty that there is no link.’ This study was so flawed that it was rejected from consideration by the gold standard scientific review by the highly influential Cochrane Collaboration. Dr. Offitt, who is not an epidemiologist, was clearly at a loss to understand the study’s fatal flaws.
“Dr. Offitt, who is not an epidemiologist…” What’s up with that comment? I’m sorry, is Dr. Wakefield an epidemiologist? Answer: no. Do you have to be an epidemiologist to understand the study or it’s strengths or flaws? No.
What fatal flaws is Dr. Wakefield referring to? The big Danish study was by Madsen, et al.. The Cochrane Review lists this study as one of the “cohort studies included in the review”. Not “rejected from consideration”.
That aside, I have the Cochrane Review “Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children (Review)” open. The version I have open is noted: “This is a reprint of a Cochrane review, prepared and maintained by The Cochrane Collaboration and published in The Cochrane Library 2009, Issue 3”, so I think it is the most recent.
I guess if the Cochrane review is “highly influential” and the “gold standard” it would make sense to see what they think of the autism/MMR hypothesis, eh? The review states:
No credible evidence of an involvement of MMR with either autism or Crohn’s disease was found.
Was this because they didn’t know about Dr. Wakefield’s work? Hardly. Four of Dr. Wakefield’s papers were listed. All were listed in the “excluded studies” section.
So where does this leave us? We have, what, nine talking points which are mostly diversions or misrepresentations. Anyone wonder why I don’t think Matt Lauer will be responding to these soon?