Wakefield’s false claims backfire

6 Jul

Last week Andrew Wakefield announced to the world that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) had ordered the Sunday Times to take down some articles about him from its website. Wakefield suggested that this was a tacit admission by the Times that its story was inaccurate and this message was dutifully repeated by Age of Autism and the rest of Wakefield’s online supporters.

As I reported previously, the PCC is waiting on the final outcome of the GMC disciplinary hearing against Wakefield before conducting its own inquiry over the articles and felt it would be fairer all round if the material was temporarily removed from the Times website. The Times agreed and removed the articles as a courtesy to the PCC. The Times was not impressed by Wakefield’s ungracious response and as a result the material is now back on their website.

This is not the first time that Wakefield’s actions have backfired on him. Four years ago he tried to sue Channel 4 and Brian Deer for libel over a documentary, MMR: What they didn’t tell you, that contained damaging revelations about Wakefield’s role in the MMR scare. As with his current complaint to the PCC and his recent press release, Wakefield’s action in bringing the case seems to have been motivated by a desire to please his loyal supporters rather than a serious attempt to settle the issue. Unusually for a litigant, Wakefield showed a marked reluctance to clear his name in court, seeking to delay the hearings for two years. When the court decided that Deer and his legal team were entitled to see the unredacted medical records of the children who were the subjects of Wakefield’s original Lancet paper Wakefield withdrew the action and agreed to pay costs to Brian Deer.

It is ironic that without the libel action by Wakefield it is unlikely that Deer would have been granted access to the medical records. And without the records he would not have sat through months of the GMC and so written the story that Wakefield is now complaining about.

According to Brian Deer (private communication, quoted with permission)

There’s also the irony that it was Wakefield who in February 2004 called for a GMC investigation into my allegations that he had a conflict of interest over his research for lawyers, and no proper ethical cover, prompting me to hand over all my materials to the GMC’s lawyers, producing the longest doctor’s discplinary hearing ever.

I understand that the Press Complaints Commission has written to Dr Wakefield about the claims on his website, and he’s now in a tricky position. Either he admits that was he says is untrue, and takes down his claims, or he leaves them up in circumstances which would then be both dishonest and actionable.

I expect Wakefield to withdraw his complaint to the PCC once the GMC deliver their verdict. He will claim that it is impossible for him to get a fair hearing in the UK. It may suit him to continue to play the martyr from his self-imposed exile in America while enjoying the adulation that befits a “brave maverick doctor.” But he is and will remain the author of his own misfortune.

19 Responses to “Wakefield’s false claims backfire”

  1. Sullivan July 6, 2009 at 21:36 #

    Ironic title–we have been suffering the backfire from Dr. Wakefield’s false claims for 10 years.

    The recent press releases by Dr. Wakefield make it clear to this observer that he is interested not in fact but controlling image. Why make the claims he did? The claim that the Brian Deer articles were removed for the reasons Dr. Wakefields claimed were so easy to debunk.

    “But he is and will remain the author of his own misfortune.”

    Unfortunately, Dr. Wakefield is likely making a lot more money through his misfortune than if he had remained in the UK.

  2. dr treg July 6, 2009 at 23:24 #

    Shouldnt the journalists who built up the anti-MMR campaign around Dr Wakefield and Tony Blair who was so reticent to admit as to whether Leo Blair had MMR or separate injections also be in your line of fire according to your Ben Goldacre`s MMR Hoax reference?

  3. Mike Stanton July 7, 2009 at 00:48 #

    Dr Treg

    Anti MMR journalists continue to be in my line of fire. But this and my previous post are about Wakefield, the PCC and the Sunday Times. I prefer precision to a scatter gun approach. The next time a journalist says something stupid about autism and MMR I will respond.

  4. dr treg July 7, 2009 at 01:56 #

    It is about what has been said and not what will be said. Why arent the irresponsible journalists who made thousands of pounds for MMR headline news and Tony Blair not being held to account as Dr Wakefield is? You miss the point that Dr Wakefield is not alone in this media hype – they created him and they will try to destroy him.

  5. Chris July 7, 2009 at 02:43 #

    I’m curious, Dr. Treg, did those journalists or the former Prime Minister have anything to do with Wakefield’s 1998 press conference or his most recent press release?

    Something had to start the MMR scare. It seemed that it was considered pretty safe since its 1971 introduction in the USA and other parts of the world. Why the panic almost thirty years after it was developed? Was it the journalists, or was it Wakefield?

  6. Sullivan July 7, 2009 at 03:30 #

    Dr. Treg,

    it is because the journalists and Tony Blair aren’t in the news right now. Pretty simple. If history is any guide, I will be making a similar response to a comment you make in a future blog post, though. The “why didn’t you talk about this in your blog post” question does seem to come up from you repeatedly.

    Can you find me a journalist who made thousands of pounds with MMR headlines? Please, supply links, I’m sincerely interested.

  7. Another Voice July 7, 2009 at 05:14 #

    Take this one issue, examine the lies and false statements, it clearly shows why it is so terribly difficult for people new to autism to figure out what is really going on.

    Now that more facts have been published the writers that support Wakefield will work twice as hard to confuse the issue. You are already seeing a weak attempt at diversion from someone calling himself treg. Look at the journalists, look over there, look at anyone other than the perpetrator. Every time a lie is exposed another bigger lie is started; it will be repeated faster and more frequently in hopes that it will be accepted. Next we will hear that the PCC is controlled by Big Pharma.

  8. dr treg July 7, 2009 at 16:58 #

    If you read Ben Goldacre`s MMR hoax article you will see that the media and other individuals successfully exploited the MMR scare for profit.
    Everytime a health scare headlines the front page of a newspaper the sales increase as do the profits. That is why there are so many health scare headlines.
    This situation has arisen because of journalists and Dr Wakefield. The case of Leo Blair was also important.
    Another Voice sees the situation as black and white i.e. it was all the scapegoat`s fault. Another Voice then suggests that people who question the journalists involved in poor reporting are conspiracy theorists.

  9. Chris July 7, 2009 at 19:05 #

    How come you did not answer my question? Was it too difficult? Really, did you not know that the MMR being used in the UK since 1992 is the same one that has been used in the USA since 1971?

    Here is another one: there was testimony in the American Autism Omnibus trial that was by telephone from the UK. What was being discussed: the media coverage in the UK or the test results that were ignored and included in a paper that was eventually published in the Lancet (and then retracted)?

    If you don’t know, just check back in the archives of this blog. If you mention journalists, politicians or any other person who is not the subject of this blog posting, I am just going to have to assume you are a chiropractor.

  10. Roger July 8, 2009 at 21:56 #

    Harvard researcher validates Wakefield.

  11. dr treg July 8, 2009 at 22:20 #

    “How come you did not answer my question? Was it too difficult? Really, did you not know that the MMR being used in the UK since 1992 is the same one that has been used in the USA since 1971?”

    You do not mention the Urabe strain complications in the UK prior to 1992 and the possibility that the UK government were aware of the complications prior to the introduction of the Urabe strain.
    You do not mention the Hannah Polling case.
    The irresponsible journalists and the case of Leo Blair should also be addressed as the Ben Goldacre MMR hoax reference suggests.
    However, everyone focuses on Dr Wakefield being struck off – it is much easier.

  12. Joseph July 8, 2009 at 22:49 #

    You do not mention the Hannah Polling case.

    Because it’s completely off-topic?

    The topic of the post is the intellectual honesty of one Andrew Wakefield. But it appears that some would prefer to change the subject.

  13. Mike Stanton July 8, 2009 at 23:08 #

    Dr Treg
    the Urabe strain of mumps vaccine was in MMR. It isn’t now. Not even Wakefield has tried to implicate mumps with autism.

    If you are going to mention Hannah Poling, get her name right. The most likely reason for a vaccine to have triggered her mitochondrial disorder was an adverse reaction to the chicken pox component of her MMRV vaccination. Chicken pox is not measles.

    I have dealt with the media elsewhere. But just to repeat,many sectors of the press have been guilty of uncritically publishing Wakefield’s false claims in the past. And I have called them on it. But without Wakefield they would have had no false claims to publish. The story starts and ends with him. This blog post is about Wakefield lying in a press release.

    You have made your point about the media. No one here disputes their role. But you seem to be arguing that their behaviour somehow mitigates Wakefield’s role in the whole affair. Wakefield is not under investigation because the press sensationalized and reported his claims as fact. He is under investigation because of the evidence that he breached research ethics and falsified data.

  14. dr treg July 8, 2009 at 23:34 #

    You seemed to have missed the point re the Urabe strain and MMR reply to another post related to possible government deceit.
    re the spelling of Hannah Poling – pedantry. How do you know the varicella component was responsible?
    This thread seems to be about intellectual dishonesty – are the journalists who gained financially from the scare stories and Tony Blair who delayed informing the public about what type of MMR programme Leo had, also intellectually dishonest? See Ben Goldacre`s MMR hoax reference.

  15. Mike Stanton July 8, 2009 at 23:42 #

    Dr Troll
    this thread is about Wakefield’s dishonesty. Bye.

  16. Chris July 8, 2009 at 23:45 #

    So, “Dr.” treg, you are a chiropractor, nice of you to admit that. Obviously you are not an expert on infectious disease, vaccines or even the flaky behavior of medically trained scam artists like Wakefield.

    Oh, did you miss that I actually knew the year of the USA version of the MMR being used in the UK? Also, the Urabe mumps strain caused far less meningitis than actual cases of mumps and measles. It is just that the Jeryl Lynn strain is slightly safer, and possibly more effective. I still want to know why a vaccine would start being demonized after thirty years of use!

    Also, along the line that the only real difference between the two MMR vaccines is the mumps strain, one cause of autism is congenital rubella syndrome. Since rubella can be implicated in autism as such, why did Wakefield focus on measles and not rubella?

    Roger, try linking to the actual paper, not to a blog of a credulous parent, which is a video. Here is Tim Buie’s latest paper: Distinct genetic risk based on association of MET in families with co-occurring autism and gastrointestinal conditions. Hmmmm, it does not seem to have anything to do with measles. Now I see why you decided not to bother with the PubMed link. So why did you say it replicated Wakefield when it clearly did not?

    He was also in the group with Mady Hornig that failed to replicate Wakefield’s case studies of twelve children, and with many more children (25), and controls (19), something the lawyer, Richard Barr, failed to provide Wakefield. Perhaps you have heard of it? It is on the Public Library of Science webpage: Lack of association between measles virus vaccine and autism with enteropathy: a case-control study.


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