Brian Deer, not a complainant

16 Feb

Just in case you didn’t see it–Brian Deer published more information about Dr. Andrew Wakefield recently. This has caused a lot of furor (we are over 160 comments on that thread already). No surprises there: saying anything which might suggest Dr. Wakefield is anything less than a hero, especially when Brian Deer is doing it, will do that.

Almost all (if not all) of the responses to Brian Deer’s piece has been one big diversionary tactic: attack the messenger. Everyone seems to be studiously avoiding facing the real tough questions. Let’s avoid the ethics questions for the moment. If the details Mr. Deer presented in his article are true, Dr. Wakefield’s autism research has lost any last shred of support. That is a tough pill to swallow for the Wakefield supporters.

David Kirby joined in on the Deer bashing. Seems he read an article by Melanie Philips and rehashed it for his fans on the Huffington Post. He found Ms. Philips’ story to be “very interesting reading”. You see, Ms. Philips postulated:

What the Sunday Times did not report was that the GMC investigation into Wakefield was triggered by a complaint from… Brian Deer, who furnished the allegations against him four years ago.

This was then spun into a story of supposed conflict of interest and a great avoidance of the direct and specific claims of possible misinformation in Dr. Wakefield’s papers.

But, back to Mr. Kirby. He states:

The point is an excellent one. Imagine if a US journalist sued a doctor for libel or misconduct, and then went to the NY Times and asked to be hired as a freelancer to cover the trial that they themselves had instigated in the first place. It wouldn’t happen.

I found that statement very ironic, coming as it did from someone who aided significantly in manufacturing the thimerosal controversy, and who now seems to owe some of his employment to servicing that same controversy.

That said, what about this notion, this postulate as I have called it, that Brian Deer initiated the investigation that he is now reporting on? Well, it turns out that Mr. Deer is not a complainant in the GMC hearings on Dr. Wakefield. Below is a letter to Mr. Deer explaining exactly that.

Strictly Private & Confidential
Mr Brian Deer

25 May 2005

Dear Brian

General Medical Council – Dr Wakefield, Dr Murch, Dr Walker-Smith

I write further to your telephone conversation with Peter Swain last Thursday seeking clarification in relation to your role in the above General Medical Council (“GMC”) proceedings.

I have now had the opportunity to review the GMC’s files. My understanding is that further to your articles appearing in the Sunday Times in February 2004 in relation to your investigation into Dr Andrew Wakefield and the MMR vaccine, you were approached by GMC case officer Tim Cox-Brown, who asked you to supply the GMC with further information regarding this matter.

Your situation as a journalist who has carried out an investigation into the conduct of the practitioners in question is unusual for the GMC. I note from the GMC and FFW’s correspondence files that there does appear to have been some confusion in relation to your role in these proceedings.

In GMC ‘complainant’ cases an individual will have approached the GMC with a complaint against a particular practitioner. If the GMC decides to hold an inquiry, legal representation is offered to the complainant for preparation and presentation of the case before the Professional Conduct Committee.

As stated in Peter Swain’s letter to you dated 16 December 2004, your role in this matter is that of ‘informant’ rather than ‘complainant’. This is due to the fact that the conduct of the practitioners in question has not affected you directly and clearly involves issues of a wider public interest.

As you are aware, your involvement the GMC’s conduct of this case prior to our commencing our investigation and subsequent to our meetings with you on 24 February 2005 and 7 March 2005 has been minimal. We are preparing this case for presentation at the Professional Conduct Committee on the instructions of the GMC. Moreover, we are not able to discuss draft charges with you for reasons
of confidentiality.

We apologise for any confusion in relation to your status in these proceedings and any difficulties this may have caused you. We have made it clear to all parties that your role is that of informant rather than complainant. Please find enclosed a copy of the letter sent to Dr Wakefield’s legal representatives clarifying your status in these proceedings.

We are grateful for information supplied by you and your assistance to date.

Yours sincerely

Matthew Lohn
Partner

So, Brian Deer didn’t initiate the investigation. He wasn’t a complainant. It isn’t like, as in Mr. Kirby’s analogy, Mr. Deer didn’t “sue a doctor for libel or misconduct”.

Let me take a page out of Mr. Kirby’s own playbook:

David, if you read this (and we both know you will), take the message to heart and write a correction to your blog piece on the Huffington Post. Better yet, put up a new one with an explanation and apology.

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43 Responses to “Brian Deer, not a complainant”

  1. Joseph February 16, 2009 at 19:49 #

    That was a ridiculous and irrelevant little distraction, wasn’t it?

    It was easy to verify Brian Deer was not the complainant without taking Brian Deer’s word for it.

    After Brian Deer said he had a letter stating he’s not a complainant, they were all, OK, show us the letter. Brian Deer showed them the letter.

    But they keep going. Now they want all his private correspondence with the GMC. Next they’ll probably ask for his communications with friends and family in the last 5 years.

    What does that have to do with anything? Beats me. It’s just silliness we get to witness.

  2. Kev February 16, 2009 at 19:54 #

    So back in 2005, Wakers knew this. And he told no one? Every time Age of Autism, JABS, Cryshame, Oneclick, David Kirby repeated the entirely false accusation we’re expected to believe Wakers had never told _any_ of them?

  3. Harold L Doherty February 16, 2009 at 20:07 #

    Thank you for clearing that up.

    Brian Deer was only an “informant”.

  4. Joseph February 16, 2009 at 20:11 #

    To see what a non-issue this “complainant/non-complainant” thing is, click here.

    According to John Stone and David Kirby, journalists should never file complaints, lest their credibility on the issue be lost. Complete and utter made-up nonsense.

  5. Chris Ogilvie February 16, 2009 at 20:16 #

    I’m afraid the “complete and utter nonsense” relates to Brian Deer.

    Here’s the Spectator link which discusses Brian Deer’s journalistic mistakes, in case anyone’s interested.

  6. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) February 16, 2009 at 20:18 #

    “Thank you for clearing that up.

    Brian Deer was only an “informant”.”

    Yes, Harold, although why you need to embellish the word with quotation marks is beyond me and probably most of us here. Are you suggesting that there is no real difference between a complainant and an informant in regard to Brian and his role in the GMC/Wakefield proceedings?

    Here’s the difference, Harold, since you seem to be unable to grasp it:

    Brian as complainant– Brian would have had to have been directly affected by a medical practisioner’s professional conduct and made the complaint initially;

    Brian as informant– Brian would not have to have been driectly affected by a medical practitioner’s professional practice and so would not have had to initiate the matter as a complaint; instead, he could be requested to provide information from his own investigation. As indeed he has done, since he was in fact requested to do so.

    So sorry to have pissed in your chips, Harold!

    (Not!)

  7. Kev February 16, 2009 at 20:19 #

    That’s right Harold, one who supplies information.

    Do you understand the difference between someone who makes a complaint and someone who supplies information to an existing complaint?

  8. Chris Ogilvie February 16, 2009 at 20:27 #

    KL – Hmm..not very fair of you not to leave the quote in place at least.

    Here’s the Spectator link which discusses Brian Deer’s journalistic mistakes, in case anyone’s interested.

  9. Chris Ogilvie February 16, 2009 at 20:28 #

    Kev – honestly, your sarcastic attitude is really quite shameful.

    There was no existing complaint.

  10. Kev February 16, 2009 at 21:12 #

    Chris – honestly, I don’t give a shit.

    There was no existing complaint? Can you not read?

    What do you think this means?

    …further to your articles appearing in the Sunday Times in February 2004 in relation to your investigation into Dr Andrew Wakefield and the MMR vaccine, you were approached by GMC case officer Tim Cox-Brown, who asked you to supply the GMC with further information regarding this matter.

    How about this?

    As you are aware, your involvement the GMC’s conduct of this case prior to our commencing our investigation and subsequent to our meetings with you on 24 February 2005 and 7 March 2005 has been minimal

    I mean really Chris, what will it take? Does God need to engrave it on stone tablets?

  11. Autismnostrum February 16, 2009 at 22:55 #

    It would be lovely if Kirby did retract his report, but that would be shooting himself in the paycheck. It will never happen.

    He and Wakefield are like a little irony layer cake for pointing fingers at Deer and crying “Conflict of interest” though, aren’t they?

  12. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) February 17, 2009 at 00:55 #

    “He and Wakefield are like a little irony layer cake for pointing fingers at Deer and crying “Conflict of interest” though, aren’t they?”

    Pair of hypocrites is what they are…

  13. Another Voice February 17, 2009 at 01:15 #

    Notice how all of the vaccine = autism supporters want to talk about Brian Deer. None are referring to the MMR case in federal court where Wakefield’s studies were merely classified as uninformative.

    The GMC has the problem of what to do about one of their own and manufactured studies. Perhaps in their circle a child’s birthday party is a place to collect blood samples, I think it is very wrong.

    I don’t care who complained or exposed him, whoever did it was deserves our thanks.

  14. mayfly February 17, 2009 at 04:11 #

    It is not good for a journalist reporting on hearing to be involved in that hearing in any way. It does not matter how hypocritical Mr. Kirby’s complaint may be or that he was completely wrong about Mr. Deere’s role. It doesn’t even matter that Dr. Wakefield’s theory has been so torn asunder that there are no straws left for even the most desperate to grasp. A reporter covering the case should not be involved in that case period.

  15. Dwight February 17, 2009 at 04:34 #

    I mean really Chris, what will it take? Does God need to engrave it on stone tablets?

    You know very well that wouldn’t be enough. The deep-seated desire to believe for some, and the monetary and ego benefits for others, is too great to ever let this convoluted myth die. 😦 I give enough credit that anyone that has been actively researching on the subject and is still lost at this point has far too much vested in the falsehood to let go of it. Ever.

    I hope that isn’t the audience you are writing for. The people that could benefit from this article are those that haven’t done the searching, that are working largely on decade old whispers and rumours that prey on base fears.

  16. Dedj February 17, 2009 at 04:36 #

    Which he isn’t.

    The case undergoing the hearing is not based on what Deer published recently, and vice-versa.

    To expect Deer* (or indeed any complainant, or witness or informant) to stop investigating is not only contrary to logic (as witnesses and informants may often need to gather further evidence to support their presentation), but it’s unsupported by any reference to law or process.

    *this is if he was the complainant, which has established he was not. Even without being the complainant, Mr Deer has been relied upon as a credible source and there is no reason for him to give up just because some would be more comfortable.

    It sucks, but it’s no different from many over cases were those involved have gone on to gather additional evidence, Shipman springs to mind, but is not the only case known by a large amount.

  17. Joseph February 17, 2009 at 05:00 #

    A reporter covering the case should not be involved in that case period.

    What’s the precedent? Again, Woodward and Bernstein refute that point.

  18. century February 17, 2009 at 08:54 #

    Chris Ogilvie said

    Here’s the Spectator link which discusses Brian Deer’s journalistic mistakes, in case anyone’s interested.

    Wonder if Brian Deer will respond with his usual remarks of “Cranks and liars etc”
    He is the COMPLAINANT – come on Kev’s cronies admit it

  19. century February 17, 2009 at 08:57 #

    here is the link from Chris Ogilvie

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3362116/a-deer-in-the-headlights.thtml

  20. Kev February 17, 2009 at 09:54 #

    Century – are you another who cannot understand plain English? I thought better of you. Look. Read. Grok.

    We have made it clear to all parties that your role is that of informant rather than complainant.

    Melanie Phillips is a creationist stupidnik by the way. Do you not notice how even her own readership are sick of hearing her stupidness?

  21. Sullivan February 18, 2009 at 06:14 #

    Century claimed

    He is the COMPLAINANT – come on Kev’s cronies admit it

    Even though the words below are not mine, but the letter that was sent to Mr. Deer, it hurts that you didn’t even read my blog post:

    As stated in Peter Swain’s letter to you dated 16 December 2004, your role in this matter is that of ‘informant’ rather than ‘complainant’.

  22. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) February 18, 2009 at 10:16 #

    just realised… century can’t read. not properly, anyway.

    i’m dyslexic and even i can read the bit that says ‘informant rather than complainant’!

    poor century.

  23. Chris MacDonald February 19, 2009 at 18:05 #

    I’m new to this debate, and trying to find some clarity in the midst of a lot of sarcasm & ad hominem attacks.

    I’m just trying to get some facts straight for myself:

    The editor over at the ChildSafety blog tells me, in response to a question I posted there, that there is a “Court judgement also confirming this citing three of Deer’s letters of complaint”.
    His blog entry, my question, and his response are here:
    http://childhealthsafety.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/sunday-times-editor-must-quit-over-false-wakefield-mmr-data-fixing-story/

    Can someone either verify that, or explain why it’s either false or irrelevant?

    Thanks,
    Chris.
    http://www.researchethicsblog.ca

    • Kev February 19, 2009 at 18:48 #

      Hi Chris,

      Its a highly emotive subject which has set a small band of pro-wakefield autism/antivaxxers against the rest of the autism community – and general public – you’re going to find it hard going I’m afraid.

      The judgement or reference from Justice Eady that the blog owner at that blog refers to as being proof that Brian Deer was the complainant is simply as far as I can see an erroneous choice of words of Eady’s part. THis is what Brian says and the letter from the GMC itself backs up.

      The context this comes in is that following the decimation of the MMR belief system, these guys are desperate to hang on to anything. In this case, its simlpy a poor choice of words from a judge.

  24. Kev February 19, 2009 at 18:50 #

    BTW – the Justice Eady ruling itself was the denial of Wakefields legal team the opportunity to say they were suing someone when they had in fact asked for a stay. More here.

  25. Brian Deer February 19, 2009 at 19:13 #

    Chris,

    Perhaps I can assist you with clarity by once again explaining that the GMC initiated its investigation in response to a furore in February 2004. This involved a report by me across the front and two inside pages of The Sunday Times, a call for an inquiry by the secretary of state for health (actually prior to my report, and following a statement by the editor of the Lancet, trying to pre-empt me), and a call by Dr Wakefield himself welcoming an inquiry and saying he would “insist” on one.

    As I have posted elsewhere on Kev’s site, the GMC’s procedures include monitoring media coverage for possible cases to be referred to fitness to practise committees.

    The GMC – following its own procedures – then approached me and asked if I had anything to substantiate what had appeared in The Sunday Times. I willingly supplied them with many of my files on the subject. This was my public duty, and something done by journalists on all kinds of other occasions I know of. About three dozen sources, including scientists, doctors, health managers and parents, similarly provided information, quite separate from me.

    Here is a letter to me from the GMC’s lawyers explaining the situation:

    http://briandeer.com/wakefield/deer-ffw-letter.pdf

    As you can imagine, Dr Wakefield’s shrinking band of supporters are anxious to distract attention from my investigation’s findings, and would do anything they could to cause me harm. Thus, they try to suggest, falsely, that it was me who triggered the GMC’s inquiries, and that I knew there was going to be an investigation before it was initiated (in fact, the chair of the Royal Free hospital’s ethics committee proposed the matter be referred to the GMC when I asked him whether Wakefield’s research was or was not approved by the ethics committee).

    There is absolutely nothing wrong, surprising or novel about a journalist supplying his findings to a statutory regulator. No such regulator would simply rely on those, and nor did the GMC. It constructed its own case, framed its own charges, and told me nothing about them. I would have willingly given evidence to the hearing, but neither side has called me.

    All that said, the GMC hearing has proved a supremely effective investigative tool, and has placed vast quantities of information about Wakefield’s activities into the public domain. This will fulfil an immense service to children’s health and their parents’ peace of mind, both in the UK and internationally.

    Whatever it will cost and whatever the judgments on the charges (which are not the same as the matters about which I wrote ten days or so back), the truth about the basis of the MMR crisis will (and I say already has, in part) come out.

    I trust you are suitably clearer!

  26. Brian Deer February 19, 2009 at 19:20 #

    Chris,

    Perhaps I could put it another way.

    Andrew Wakefield: “It has been proposed that my role in this matter should be investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC). I not only welcome this, I insist on it and I will be making contact with the GMC personally, in the forthcoming week.”

    http://briandeer.com/mmr/wakefield-sly.htm

    Brian Deer: “Dr Wakefield, you wanted a GMC investigation. You got one buddy.”

  27. Chris MacDonald February 19, 2009 at 20:05 #

    Brian & Kev: Yes, thanks that helps.
    Chris

  28. century February 19, 2009 at 20:39 #

    Dvaid N Anrdews M De (Distraction) said

    “i’m dyslexic and even i can read the bit that says ‘informant rather than complainant’!”

    You like tomato
    I like tomahto
    You say informant
    I say complainant
    Informant complainant
    Informant complainant
    Either way Brian likes to rant

    http://www.theoneclickgroup.co.uk

    ps yes I know – they are cranks and liars 😉

  29. Brian Deer February 19, 2009 at 20:55 #

    Ah, yes, this is the one where some crank came shrieking into the press room, and I asked the GMC staff to call security, which they did.

    These are sad, sad people. I think if I was to go into a shop to buy a newspaper, I’d be working with the tobacco industry.

    The tragedy is that thousands of parents have been duped into wholly mistaken guilt, self-remorse and projected hatred by people of this pitiful calibre.

    When you read the omnibus reports, it’s the same. Really low-grade crooks, quacks, cranks and lawyers.

    Remember Carol Stott? She was the claimant’s “expert” on autism, pocketing £100,000, according to the LSC, to offer evidence contrary to Professor Sir Michael Rutter.

    http://briandeer.com/mmr/carol-stott.htm

    And Martin Walker:

    http://briandeer.com/mmr/mli-information.htm

    Shocking, really.

  30. Socrates February 19, 2009 at 21:24 #

    Not half a shocking to think she used to work with our local families… It gets seriously yukkie when it’s on your doorstep.

  31. One Queer Fish February 19, 2009 at 21:48 #

    All very sad when all thats required is to publish the Judge Eady letters to silence the critics…

  32. Kev February 19, 2009 at 22:08 #

    OQF: of course that wouldn’t silence you. They could be produced and you would want something else. That could be produced and you’d want something else.

    The MMR/autism belief is not something that you reasoned yourself into. Therefore you cannot be reasoned _with_ or _out of those beliefs_ .

    I have no idea what it would really take. I don’t think there is enough evidence in Heaven and Earth.

  33. One Queer Fish February 19, 2009 at 22:12 #

    Kev

    not exactly true i would settle with the Judge Eady complaints (if they are that),is it not the way forward to publish the Eady Letters and silence the critics,very simple answer to all.. if i were in Mr Deers position thats the way forward ..

  34. Joseph February 19, 2009 at 22:50 #

    Yes, it’s a never ending story with fish and Stone.

    After all, the letter Brian Deer did produce was at your request, was it not Fish?

    I think the best course of action is to sit, relax and be patient. The GMC will come out with a verdict in the following months. The GMC’s verdict will be entirely based on evidence verified by the GMC. It can’t be any other way. Whether Brian Deer is a complainant, informant, or a helper to Santa Claus, won’t matter at all.

    I do hope they either rule on Wakefield’s alleged scientific fraud, or they produce the evidence of said fraud and recommend a new investigation.

  35. century February 19, 2009 at 23:11 #

    Brian Deer said

    “Ah, yes, this is the one where some crank..”

    Thanks Brian.

    Your usual reply 😉

  36. Matrk February 19, 2009 at 23:58 #

    Mr Fish
    Brian Can’t and Won’t publish these.
    you dribbling fool
    (what do think brian?? any good)
    just print the stuff from Judge Eady.

  37. Daniel J. Andrew February 21, 2009 at 17:11 #

    One Queer Fish

    Kev’a assertion that there’s not enough evidence to satisfy all is based on the history of the actions of “true believers”. Give them the evidence they demand, and they say it doesn’t answer the question, and they want more. Give them that and they change their argument.

    From flat-earthers to creationists to anti-vacciners to climate-change denialists to moon-landing hoaxers to 9/11ers to JFKers to pretty much any other conspiracy theory you can think of, the proponents consistently, and I mean CONSISTENTLY, “All it would take to convince me is….”, and when it is finally presented, they want something else. Consistently. Ad nauseum. Over and over again. It is called “Moving the Goalposts”.

    Producing the letters would not silence the critics at all. They’d follow the formulaic actions of other true believers. The fact that you say you personally would be satisfied with the letters from Judge Eady makes you an extreme rarity, and it is refreshing to meet someone like you.

    [I notice there is someone with a similar name to mine in the comments–David N. Andrews–we are not the same person]

  38. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) February 21, 2009 at 17:41 #

    “[I notice there is someone with a similar name to mine in the comments—David N. Andrews—we are not the same person]”

    Indeed we’re not… and we’d be a bit buggered if we were…. 🙂

  39. Evil Possum February 6, 2010 at 07:16 #

    “the proponents consistently, and I mean CONSISTENTLY, “All it would take to convince me is….”, and when it is finally presented, they want something else. Consistently. Ad nauseum. Over and over again.”

    Reminds me of a complaint from an inventor, something like: “First they’ll say it can’t be done. Then when you do it, they’ll complain it can’t peel pineapples.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Conflict-of-Interest.net » P.S. Journalist COI part 2 - February 18, 2009

    […] this story (Brian Deer, not a complainant) which further muddies (or clears?) the waters, about Brian Deer and the GMC inquiry into Andrew […]

  2. AltMed Support for Wakefield Continues « jdc325’s Weblog - March 15, 2009

    […] LeftBrain/RightBrain for more on this allegation here. It has been made clear to all parties that Deer’s role is that of informant rather than […]

  3. Drasties - Dutch on the World - World on the Dutch - February 6, 2010

    […] in the world for having an alleged conflict of interest in the Wakefield investigation himself. He did not, as it turns out; the allegation proved false, but not before anti-vaccine bullies at HuffPo and the Age of Autism […]

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