Andrew Wakefield: the last gasps of a desperate man?

7 Jan

In his interview on Anderson Cooper 360 last night, Andrew Wakefield made some amazing claims against Brian Deer, claiming Brian Deer is part of some vast conspiracy. He wants to distance himself from the word, but that’s what he’s claiming with phrases like “He’s a hit man, he’s been brought in to take me down”, “It’s a ruthless pragmatic attempt…” “Who’s paying this man, I don’t know” and a claim that Mr. Deer is paid by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries.

Anderson Cooper has Brian Deer on tonight:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=health/2011/01/07/ac.autism.brian.deer.cnn

Brian Deer throws down the gauntlet and challenges Andrew Wakefield to sue him. Wakefield has already brought forth one case against Mr. Deer–and he forced to pay Brian Deer’s legal fees. Mr. Wakefield brought forth a lengthy complaint to the UK’s press complaints commission, only to abandon it without attempting to prosecute the complaint.

He also goes through a number of Mr. Wakefield’s attacks and shows that they are false.

Here’s the transcript from the Brian Deer interview:

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Brian, overall, Wakefield is denying all of — all of the — the evidence that you have put forward in — in this — in this “British Medical Journal” report. What do you make of his — his — his defense?

BRIAN DEER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, “THE SUNDAY TIMES OF LONDON”: Well, two things.

One, what else can he do, where else can he go but to deny it, and to make up even more tall stories about me, suggesting that somehow I’m in cahoots with the drug industry or governments or whoever else. He’s been at that one for years.

Secondly, these revelations are not just my revelations. They have been checked, exhaustively, by editors of “The British Medical Journal,” who have peer-reviewed it, who have gone back into the data individually and checked back and forth to have been sure that what I have said is accurate. So, it’s not just me.

So, I think it’s just the — the last gasps of a desperate man, really.

COOPER: I want to go over some specific things, because I think it’s important to be very specific with these allegations and with his response.

I asked Andrew Wakefield last night to respond to your report and the — the “British Medical Journal” report, which calls his study — quote — “an elaborate fraud.”

Here’s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WAKEFIELD: I have read his multiple allegations on many occasions.

He is a hit man. He’s been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions to vaccines that are occurring in children.

COOPER: Wait a minute, sir. Let me just stop you right there.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You say he’s a hit man and he’s been brought in by “they.” Who is “they”? Who is he a hit man for?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: This is an independent journalist who’s won many awards.

(CROSSTALK)

WAKEFIELD: Yes, he’s…

(LAUGHTER)

WAKEFIELD: And he’s — you know, who brought this man in? Who is paying this man? I don’t know. But I do know for sure that he’s not a journalist like you are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Wakefield went on to claim later in the interview that you’re being paid by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries.

Are you?

(LAUGHTER)

DEER: No, I’m not. I have been paid by “The Sunday Times of London.”

COOPER: Have you ever been paid by — by — by them?

(CROSSTALK)

DEER: Never, never once. I can’t even remember the last time I ever spoke to them.

I think I did have a — I did have an interview with some people who did some work for them several years ago. That’s about the closest I have ever got to the pharmaceutical industry.

In fact, one of the awards I received, the citation was that I was probably the only journalist in Britain who investigates the drug industry. So, I don’t think that one goes very far.

COOPER: What initially sparked your interest in investigating Wakefield?

DEER: Well, it was just an absolute routine assignment.

There was a television program that had been paid for by American interest to be broadcast in the U.K., and I was just assigned to do a — do a piece on it. And it started out like that.

And we asked Dr. Wakefield for an interview. And, almost immediately, within a matter of hours, complaints were being made against me to my editors by Dr. Wakefield’s personal publicist.

COOPER: When was that that you started doing these investigations?

DEER: Oh, this was in October, November 2003…

COOPER: OK, because…

DEER: … a long time ago now.

COOPER: … as you know, James Murdoch, the owner of — of your employer, “The London Times,” joined the board of GlaxoSmithKline, which is a manufacturer of MMR. He joined that board in 2009.

DEER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Some people have brought that up as a — as a conflict of interest.

DEER: No, it’s absurd, absolutely absurd.

In fact, it’s interesting that, in the last 24 hours, the only American network to have shown no interest whatsoever in the “BMJ”‘s revelations has been the FOX network…

COOPER: I asked Wake…

DEER: The only — they’re the only people.

COOPER: I asked Wakefield to respond to your reporting that — that — that states that medical records of all of the 12 cases that he initially cited in his “Lancet” paper back in 1998, that — that none of them were accurate, fully accurate.

I want to you listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAKEFIELD: That is false. He has not interviewed the parents. That is absolutely not true.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you’re saying the parents — no parents say that what — that what you have said about their children’s medical histories is false?

WAKEFIELD: No, they don’t. What I have said and what has been reported in that paper by me and my colleagues is exactly what we saw.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Did you speak to any of the parents from the 12 cases?

DEER: I personally interviewed one, two, three families of the 12. Somebody else — two others were interviewed on my behalf by other journalists. So, that’s five of the 12.

Oh, no, actually, I interview — and I have had conversations with another, so quite a substantial number…

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you’re basically saying he falsified or — or got wrong all of the medical history, one way or another?

DEER: I — I — I showed the “Lancet” paper that Wakefield published to a father of a child in California who is child number 11 of this series of 12, and he looked at the paper, and he just looked at what it said about his own child, and he said, “That’s not true.” And that was one of the parents of one of these children in the paper.

But I think Dr. Wakefield has a — has a solution here. These revelations have been published in the U.K. jurisdiction, which is the most onerous libel jurisdiction in the world. Dr. Wakefield should sue, because, if what Dr. Wakefield is saying is true, then he would have an easy case for libel against “The British Medical Journal,” against “The Sunday Times of London,” against me personally.

If what he is saying is true, then he must be the victim of the most sustained campaign of malicious libel that has ever been inflicted on any individual in history.

COOPER: And that’s what he’s saying he is.

(CROSSTALK)

DEER: Well, you know, he has a remedy, doesn’t he?

But the reason he doesn’t take this remedy — in fact, he tried to take this remedy once before, when the doctors’ Medical Protection Society was funding him to sue me, sue the television company, sue “The Sunday Times.” And what happened at the end? He discontinued his action, and he sent me a check. I actually received a check from his lawyers to pay my legal costs.

Dr. Wakefield has a remedy. The trouble is, he can’t take that remedy, because he’s a fraudster. And, after all these years, he’s finally been nailed. We have been able to, over the years, produce the evidence that he was being paid by lawyers. We were able to show that he received three-quarters-of-a-million U.S. dollars.

Next week, we’re going to itemize in “The BMJ” his business interests and the extraordinary sums of money he intended to make from his own vaccine, from diagnostic kits, and from all kinds of other weird products he was going to sell off the back of his scare.

Dr. Wakefield did this for the money. And, finally, he’s been nailed as a cheat and a fraudster, and not just in a sort of academic vanity sense, but in an area of where children’s lives have been put at risk, and, even more importantly, in a funny way, where parents of children with autism have been left to blame themselves, thinking it was their own fault for vaccinating their child that their child has gone on to develop autism.

These are forgotten victims of Dr. Wakefield, and these are people ultimately that Dr. Wakefield preys upon.

COOPER: You know, it’s interesting, because I have gotten a lot of e-mails from parents who don’t — who still believe in Wakefield or believe the research, and are angry at — at, you know, our reporting on this, angry, certainly, at your reporting on this. I’m sure you have heard from them many times over the years.

DEER: Oh, yes.

COOPER: And it is heartbreaking, because there is no answer for what is causing autism. And, clearly, there have been problems with vaccines in the past.

What do you — what do you tell parents? What do you say to them?

DEER: Well, I say to — I say to parents when I talk to them — and, you know, you discuss these things with them, and I will tell you, the killer question to ask these parents, if you get an even conversation with them, is to say, do you blame yourself?

And they do. And I have had parents absolutely break down in tears, blaming themselves, thinking it was their fault for vaccinating their child.

Now, what Dr. Wakefield is able to do is to take that energy of guilt and self-blame, which is quite understandable, but is quite wrong, take that, exploit it, turn it into money, turn it into a business. And that’s what he’s done. And he’s having a wonderful time in Jamaica. I saw you interviewed him in Jamaica. Very nice.

COOPER: Wakefield claims that — that his findings have been independently replicated. Is that true?

DEER: That’s completely false.

COOPER: I mean, he said they have been replicated in five countries around the world. That was news to me.

DEER: Completely false. That’s absolutely, completely false. What he does is what he’s been doing in front of these parents over many years. He takes tangential pieces of research that don’t really relate to what he’s saying and represent them as somehow endorsing what he said.

One of the papers in fact which he cites absolutely, explicitly denies that anything like what he suggests has been found.

COOPER: He — he also…

DEER: He just makes it up.

COOPER: He also claims that — that he wasn’t making a connection between vaccines and — and — and autism, that — that it was parents who — who started making that, that the purpose of the study wasn’t to look at possible associations between MMR vaccinations and autism, but that association came from parents.

DEER: No, he just makes it up.

Those parents were selected by him and the lawyer and the campaign groups — actually, a campaign group organized by a mother who doesn’t have a child with autism, does have a grievously disabled child who I saw in a CNN bulletin just 10 minutes ago.

These people together selected a group of parents who blamed MMR and brought them to the hospital for them to make that allegation. That’s one of the key ways in which this research was rigged. He knew who these parents were. He would telephone them at their homes, invite them to the hospital, bring them in and get them to make the allegations to other doctors.

COOPER: What has angered you most or surprised you most in the years now since 2003 that you have been looking into and investigating this?

DEER: What has angered or surprised me most?

I think what has angered me most is the — is the distraction away from the real needs of children with developmental disorders and the real needs of families who are looking after them, because, very often, the families of children, particularly the ones that Wakefield preys on, are people who are just desperate for answers.

Some of them are financially quite challenged as well. Many of them are — are — are terrified about what’s going to happen to their children in the future. And it’s really shocked me that somebody would really prey upon the vulnerable.

It’s almost as though, if you’re vulnerable, you get picked on. It’s almost as — it’s almost an animal thing that — that people prey on these — these really unfortunate families who have got a — who have got issues.

And I — I just think it’s a shame that the energy that has gone into this anti-vaccine campaign hasn’t gone into a campaign for better services for people with disabilities, more research to get to the bottom of these kind of problems. I think it’s a great tragedy, great diversion of resources.

COOPER: Brian Deer, I appreciate your reporting and I appreciate you talking about it. Thank you.

DEER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: He said a great diversion of resources for a mysterious and terrifying threat and one that is growing.

I want to show you the numbers that explain the fear. According to the Centers for Disease Control, on average, an estimated one in 110 kids in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder. That’s just under 1 percent, according to the most recent data from 2006.

The number of cases has been growing since 2002. There’s no doubt about it. Now, the rate varies among states, and it’s important to point out that autism spectrum disorder includes a — a range of developmental disabilities,with the most severe being autism.

There have also been changes in how diagnoses are made. And that may explain some of the increase, but not all of it, according to experts. Something else you should know, boys are four to five times more likely than girls to develop an autism spectrum disorder.

And while there’s no known cause yet, clues are emerging. It’s estimated that about 10 percent of kids with autism spectrum disorders have a genetic and neurologic or metabolic disorder, such as fragile X or Down syndrome.

Autism spectrum disorder is obviously an incredibly heartbreaking diagnosis for parents. It’s also extremely costly for both the families and the health care system. According to a recent study, the estimated lifetime cost to care for someone with an autism spectrum disorder is $3.2 million.

Let us know what you think. Join the live chat right now at AC360.com.

We will continue to follow the controversy.

One problem I have seen with this media frenzy over the Wakefield fraud story is that they (the media) are falling into the old traps of false balance, faux controversy, and “he-said, she said” reporting. The question isn’t whether Mr. Wakefield is guilty of misconduct. The GMC has already ruled on that. Mr. Wakefield is not “the accused” but “the guilty”.

CNN has allowed people like Andrew Wakefield and JB Handley a platform to make mostly statements which, at the initial airing, are unchallenged, and unsupported accusations. These people have much experience with handling the media and have been able to avoid the topic of of Mr. Wakefield’s fraud and his proven ethical violations. I appreciate that Anderson Cooper has gone back to do some fact checking, but the damage is already done at that point.

Here is a segment where Anderson Cooper does some fact checking on Mr. Wakefield’s claims and accusations:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=health/2011/01/06/ac.kth.autism.debate.cnn

Anderson Cooper made an attempt to verify the claims Andrew Wakefield made. Andrew Wakefield claimed that regression followed shortly after MMR vaccination. This has never been replicated. The studies that Mr. Wakefield attempts to use as support do not support that claim. The one attempt to actually replicate the claim, the Hornig study, found there was no association between gastrointestinal symptoms, regression and the MMR.

Anderson Cooper says that the studies Mr. Wakefield cites are “beside the point”. He says that the studies found an association between GI complaints and autism…which isn’t really the case.

Mr. Wakefield and his supporters try to claim, repeatedly, that Mr. Wakefield did not suggest that MMR and autism are linked. Interestingly, his own publisher in a statement to Anderson Cooper says the opposite.

“Yesterday, ‘The British Medical Journal’ published an article deeming the research printed over a decade ago by Dr. Andrew Wakefield suggesting a connection between autism and vaccines fraudulent. Wakefield stands strong in asserting that the allegations of ‘BMJ’ journalist Brian Deer are entirely false.”

Here’s the transcript of that section:

We begin, though, as always, “Keeping Them Honest.”

Tonight, the emotional and bitter debate over childhood vaccines and autism is louder than ever, if that’s even possible. Tonight, supporters of Andrew Wakefield, a discredited doctor who’s now accused of outright fraud by “The British Medical Journal,” “BMJ,” are standing by their man. To them, he remains a hero and a victim.

Wakefield is the lead author of the 1998 study that triggered a worldwide scare over childhood vaccines. It suggested vaccines given to kids may cause autism. His study, which looked at just 12 children, has been discredited. And last year, “The Lancet,” the journal that originally published it back in 1998, they retracted the study over concerns about its methods and ethics, as well as financial conflicts of the interests — on interests on the part of Wakefield.

Months later, Wakefield actually lost his license. It was taken away, his medical license, in the U.K. And now an award-winning investigative journalist, Brian Deer, has uncovered evidence he says proves Wakefield deliberately faked his study. Deer lays out his case in a series of articles that began running last in the “BMJ” last night. In a moment, you are going to hear directly from Mr. Deer. He will respond to attacks that Andrew Wakefield made last night in an exclusive right here on 360.

Things got pretty heated. He denied point-blank every accusation laid out by Mr. Deer. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW WAKEFIELD, AUTHORED RETRACTED AUTISM STUDY: He is a hit man. He’s been brought in to take me down.

COOPER: Wait a minute, sir. Let me just stop you right there.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You say he’s a hit man and he’s been brought in by “they.” Who is “they”? Who is he a hit man for?

WAKEFIELD: Who brought this man in? Who is paying this man? I don’t know.

COOPER: You’re basically saying this is a — some sort of conspiracy against you. Is that — is that your argument?

WAKEFIELD: Conspiracy is your word.

What this is, is a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any investigation…

COOPER: Well…

WAKEFIELD: Because the truth is in that book.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: However, I have read Brian Deer’s report, which is incredibly extensive. Sir, I’m not here to let you pitch your book. I’m here to have you answer questions.

(CROSSTALK)

WAKEFIELD: If you read the record that I have set out in the book, you will see the truth. You will see a detailed…

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But, sir, if you’re lying, then your book is also a lie. If your study is a lie, your book is a lie.

WAKEFIELD: The book is not a lie.

I suggest you do your investigation properly before making such allegations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, we believe in facts here at 360, so, today, we followed up on some of the claims that Mr. Wakefield made last night. If we got something wrong, we would want to set the record straight, obviously.

One point Wakefield was adamant about was that other researchers have reproduced his study’s findings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You have been offered the chance to replicate your study, and you have never taken — taken anybody up on that. You have had plenty of opportunity to replicate your study.

(CROSSTALK)

WAKEFIELD: You just accused me of giving you a falsehood. I’m telling you that this work has been replicated in five countries around the world.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Then why has it been completely discredited by — by — by public health officials around the world?

WAKEFIELD: I suggest you do your investigation properly before making such allegations.

OK, if you look up the name Gonzalez, if you look up the name Balzola and Krigsman, you will see that the work has been replicated independently by other doctors around the world. They fail to mention that in these allegations. And Deer has failed to mention that at any time. Is that honest?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, today, we tracked down three of those studies and spoke to experts about all five that Wakefield kept citing.

And what we found is, they’re basically beside the point. They looked at gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, and nothing else. Like Wakefield, they found an association between gastrointestinal problems and autism, but they say nothing at all about a connection between autism and vaccines. So his suggestion of any such link remains his alone.

Now, a lot of parents have stopped vaccinating their kids because of Mr. Wakefield’s study. There have been deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases like measles and whooping cough as a result.

I asked Wakefield about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sir, what’s also growing in number is the number of children who have died because they haven’t been vaccinated. Do you feel any sense of responsibility for that?

WAKEFIELD: I have never said not vaccinate. I have offered, I have suggested that children have the option of single vaccines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, what he means by that is giving kids separate vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, rather than a three-in-one combination vaccine.

Parents in the U.S. can choose which type their kids get. We checked out the rest of his claim. And it’s true. We found no instance of him saying do not vaccinate, period.

In 2003, Wakefield told “The Sunday Herald” newspaper: “I think parents are well-informed. They are not inherently anti-vaccine, nor are we. We have advocated throughout that children continued to be protected, but, in the light of this evidence, there’s a question mark. And while that question mark exist, parents must have the choice over how they protect their children.”

That’s what he said. But, at the same time, Wakefield is the undisputed champion of the anti-vaccination movement. And the people in this movement commonly cite his research as the reason for not vaccinating their kids.

Wakefield has never stood up to put a stop to this movement. In fact, the forward of his book, the book he kept trying to promote last night, is written by Jenny McCarthy, a vocal autism activist who believes her son’s autism was caused by vaccines.

She writes: “Unfortunately, it appears that a product intended for good, vaccines, also has a dark side, which is the ability to do harm in certain children. This ability to do harm has unfortunately increased quite a bit in the last few decades because children today receive so many more shots than when — than when most parents were kids.”

McCarthy also writes that Andrew Wakefield — quote — “listened to parents who reported two things: Their children with autism were suffering from severe bowel pain, and the children regressed into autism after vaccination. He listened. He studied. And they published what he learned.”

So, even if Wakefield hasn’t said do not vaccinate in so many words, he has certainly fueled the fear and distrust of vaccines. Wakefield’s publisher released a statement today on his behalf, and its headline reads — quote — “Vaccines Continue to Ruin Some Children’s Lives While Mainstream Medical Community and Big Drug Companies Refuse to Respond to the Series Medical Concerns of Worried Parents.”

The release goes on to say: “Yesterday, ‘The British Medical Journal’ published an article deeming the research printed over a decade ago by Dr. Andrew Wakefield suggesting a connection between autism and vaccines fraudulent. Wakefield stands strong in asserting that the allegations of ‘BMJ’ journalist Brian Deer are entirely false.”

So, the release itself describes Wakefield’s research as — quote — “suggesting a connection between autism and vaccines.”

And that’s exactly why his study, which the “BMJ” now says is flat-out fraudulent, has become such a powerful piece of the autism- vaccine controversy.

Want to show you something else. This is from the study itself, the one that’s been debunked. It’s a table listing autism diagnoses in one column and then the vaccines the kids in the study received. The table also shows when the kids got the vaccines.

To an average parent, with no scientific background, that would look pretty scary, if it were true. You can see how many parents desperate for an answer might latch on to that data.

But, after seven years of investigating, Brian Deer says he’s proved the data was faked. Here’s what told me about when we talked earlier.

In the end, this is probably the last major spike of news attention for Andrew Wakefield. Sure, in his new role as spokesperson for a consortium of vaccines-cause-autism organizations, he will get in the news again. And there will be at least one more BMJ article. But, what else is there? His research efforts even before he was let go by Thoughtful House were unimpressive to say the least (remember the Monkey study that used 2 controls and claimed that unvaccinated infant monkey brians shouldn’t grow, but the vaccinated ones should?). Perhaps he will be a study author on the Generation Rescue “vaccinated/unvaccinated” study. Even that won’t gain him the notoriety of his Lancet paper. With the paper debunked, his ethical violations in pursuing that paper and others proven by the GMC hearing and, now, the entire effort described as fraudulent, what’s left? Not much.

42 Responses to “Andrew Wakefield: the last gasps of a desperate man?”

  1. Jackie January 7, 2011 at 10:14 #

    Another problem with this, is it leads to people saying Autism is a heartbreaking diagnoses. Why don’t we get parents of children of incurable diseases on a show, talking about how heartbreaking having a child with Autism is compared to a child DYING. I’m sure that would shut the martyr parents up!

  2. walburt January 7, 2011 at 13:59 #

    What’s this about Wakefield’s so-called amazing claims:

    “he’s been brought in to take me down”

    What’s amazing about that? Deer WAS “brought in”. In his own words he was commissioned by the BMJ.

    DEER: I was commissioned by the “British Medical Journal” to write the piece, yes. That’s what the journalists do

    How many other journalists have been ‘commissioned’ to write papers in medical journals? Yet this is being spun as if it were a new medical report.

    Whether Deer was paid or not – he has an enormous personal interest in the anti-Wakefield case. That this can be spun as ‘a new medical report’ is surprising. It’s not new (much the same allegations as in the GMC hearing), it’s not medical (no medics) and not even a report (as the other side, Wakefield’s responses, is not given space).
    http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full

    • Sullivan January 7, 2011 at 16:46 #

      Walburt,

      Science journals do pay for articles sometimes. This is especially true for review articles.
      The BMJ editors fact checked the article and wrote their own piece as well.
      Can you point to factual errors in the BMJ articles?

  3. Joseph January 7, 2011 at 15:02 #

    What’s amazing about that? Deer WAS “brought in”. In his own words he was commissioned by the BMJ.

    Complete nonsense. When they say “bought in” they don’t mean he was payed like any consultant should for doing a job. What they mean is that he was payed to fabricate false allegations. Big difference.

    as the other side, Wakefield’s responses, is not given space

    And what is his side, exactly, other than “buy my book!” ?

  4. Chris January 7, 2011 at 17:32 #

    walburt:

    How many other journalists have been ‘commissioned’ to write papers in medical journals?

    Lots, actually. I recently read a series of articles on schizophrenia in a special issue of (I think) Nature, where more than one was commissioned from a journalist. They do this to increase readership. You should go to a local college library and read one some time.

  5. walburt January 7, 2011 at 19:29 #

    @Joseph

    Wakefield said Deer was “brought in” just as I quoted. Not “bought”. Deer himself said on CNN he was “commissioned” by the BMJ.

    You ask

    “And what is his (Wakefield’s) side, exactly, other than “buy my book!” ?”

    If you think about it Joseph, the fact that you have to ask this proves my point. It has I believe been given by Wakefield to the GMC hearing. Calling this a new ‘report’ suggests there is no other side – as indeed you did.

    It seems the BMJ believe it would be really nice if the media could report Wakefield’s initial study as a fraud – but don’t want to take responsibility themselves.

    That’s where Deer comes in, as commissioned. The BMJ ‘stamp’ is simply put on at the end, then we can all pretend it’s like a medical report.

    @Sullevan

    “Science journals do pay for articles sometimes. This is especially true for review articles.”

    But it is not usual for fraud accusations! The BMJ commissioned Deer to accuse Wakefield of fraud then put a ‘medical’ stamp on it so that people would treat it as a medical paper.

    “The BMJ editors fact checked the article and wrote their own piece as well.”

    Had they fact checked it all they could have written their own rebuttals to Wakefield’s responses. It would then have been a medical paper of some kind and we would not then be having this exchange.

    “Can you point to factual errors in the BMJ articles?”

    Fraud is a crime. Last time I looked, the onus of proof is on the accuser. Wakefield’s detailed responses will no doubt surface in time, but not until after the headlines have been grabbed. That’s how propaganda works.

    @ Chris

    OK but the type of article you mean – commissioned as you say to increase readership – doesn’t usually contain accusation of fraud. It does not normally get re-branded as if it were a medical report, and splashed in the media as if it were a medical study, to ‘settle’ a medical dispute.

    Articles having a medical brand but contracted to a third party to do the donkey work are normally called ghost writing.

    • Sullivan January 7, 2011 at 19:37 #

      “Fraud is a crime. Last time I looked, the onus of proof is on the accuser. Wakefield’s detailed responses will no doubt surface in time, but not until after the headlines have been grabbed. That’s how propaganda works.”

      Wakefield has already responded–he chose to avoid the specifics and instead attack Mr. Deer. Keep in mind, this all surfaced in the GMC hearings. Wakefield responded “Read my book”. I’ve read it. I’ve read much of the GMC transcripts. Wakefield’s responses are worthless.

      Wakefield responded to similar accusations made by Mr. Deer last year. He put in a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. Mr. Wakefield let that complaint die, unprosecuted.

    • Sullivan January 7, 2011 at 19:42 #

      walburt,

      would you like to discuss the accusations made against Mr. Wakefield? Would you like to point out which, if any, are incorrect and support that claim?

      Otherwise this is a nice, academic discussion but is only a diversion.

  6. Joseph January 7, 2011 at 20:11 #

    If you think about it Joseph, the fact that you have to ask this proves my point. It has I believe been given by Wakefield to the GMC hearing. Calling this a new ‘report’ suggests there is no other side – as indeed you did.

    @walburt: That’s incorrect. There’s nothing given by Wakefield to the GMC that refutes the new fraud allegations, otherwise we would already know what sort of material you’re referring to.

    There was a dispute between Wakefield and Deer previously, and Wakefield filed a press complaint, but Wakefield decided not to pursue it. Without question, that’s because the facts are on Deer’s side.

  7. Chris January 7, 2011 at 21:04 #

    walburt:

    OK but the type of article you mean – commissioned as you say to increase readership – doesn’t usually contain accusation of fraud. It does not normally get re-branded as if it were a medical report, and splashed in the media as if it were a medical study, to ‘settle’ a medical dispute.

    Brian Deer is an investigative reporter. That is his job. Since he had already done an investigation and found out that Wakefield did not disclose his relationship with Richard Barr. So it is natural that the BMJ would use him to continue the investigation.

    By the way, journals like Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, etc include editorials. Many have often included accusations of fraud. Go to your local college library, pick up a copy and read a few. Do some research on other examples of science fraud, here is a short list.

  8. walburt January 8, 2011 at 00:00 #

    @Sullivan (1)

    “Wakefield has already responded—he chose to avoid the specifics and instead attack Mr. Deer. Keep in mind, this all surfaced in the GMC hearings. Wakefield responded “Read my book”. I’ve read it. I’ve read much of the GMC transcripts. Wakefield’s responses are worthless.”

    The GMC hearing was not a fraud trial.

    The BMJ didn’t see fit to demonstrate the ‘worthlessness’ of Wakefield’s responses in the paper that they endorse but didn’t write themselves. That’s presumably because they can’t actually do that, as they are relying on the account of Deer (who didn’t demonstrate it either).

    Ironically, does it not sound like they may have a problem with the evidence on which ‘their’ paper is based?

    Sullivan, can you imagine a court where the verdict is pronounced after one side has given evidence? Where the court commissioned the evidence in the first place?

    Such a court might need the help of people who approve of the verdict, to reassure the concerned public that the accused was guilty anyway and his evidence would have been worthless.

    Hopefully you can see the part you are playing in this process.

    @Sullivan (2)

    “would you like to discuss the accusations made against Mr. Wakefield? Would you like to point out which, if any, are incorrect and support that claim?

    Otherwise this is a nice, academic discussion but is only a diversion.”

    I think Mr Wakefield would like to discuss them with the BMJ, preferably with a lot of people watching. They have not commented on his replies, nor allowed space for him to reply to the new accusations.

    I find it a bit ironic that in a debate essentially about standards of evidence, you think that in these circumstances, the onus to prove his innocence falls on those who criticize these proceedings.

    Describing due process as a diversion or wasting time gives me a feeling of déjà vu. It reminds me of comments made before lynchings or witch hunts on TV – usually by the guy holding the rope

    @Joseph

    “@walburt: That’s incorrect. There’s nothing given by Wakefield to the GMC that refutes the new fraud allegations, otherwise we would already know what sort of material you’re referring to.

    There was a dispute between Wakefield and Deer previously, and Wakefield filed a press complaint, but Wakefield decided not to pursue it. Without question, that’s because the facts are on Deer’s side.”

    Perhaps it would be useful to consider old and new material separately.

    One of Wakefield’s complaints seemed to be that he has already refuted the old material which neveretheless resurfaced unaltered. And assuming that there’s new material to support the fraud accusations, there is no place in the BMJ ‘report’ for Wakefield’s response.

    The most obvious indication that something is wrong was that a criminal accusation has been made where the accused has no way to answer the charges. You can’t credibly make serious accusations in that way.

    @Chris

    “Brian Deer is an investigative reporter. That is his job. Since he had already done an investigation and found out that Wakefield did not disclose his relationship with Richard Barr. So it is natural that the BMJ would use him to continue the investigation.

    By the way, journals like Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, etc include editorials. Many have often included accusations of fraud. Go to your local college library, pick up a copy and read a few. Do some research on other examples of science fraud, here is a short list.”

    Thanks for the info. I bow to your wider knowledge regarding history of fraud. Something is still wrong here, though.

    The BMJ have not made the case for fraud. They have made the accusation in the editorial – but only by referring to journalist Deer’s accusations. Can you show me a precedent for that?

    Using the cover of the BMJ, the scientific establishment blast the accusations at full volume, blurring the distinction between accusation and proof.

    Ergo, a lot of people already believe that Wakefield’s fraud has been proved by a study in the BMJ. Such sleight of hand cannot be right.

    • Sullivan January 8, 2011 at 00:14 #

      “Sullivan, can you imagine a court where the verdict is pronounced after one side has given evidence? Where the court commissioned the evidence in the first place?”

      The court of public opinion which, at least in small part, claims that vaccines caused an autism epidemic. Richard Barr commissioned the evidence from Andrew Wakefield, who came to the conclusion before collecting data, published a fraudulent paper and created a worldwide scare that resulted in children getting sick and dying.

      Do you want more examples?

      One of Wakefield’s complaints seemed to be that he has already refuted the old material which neveretheless resurfaced unaltered. And assuming that there’s new material to support the fraud accusations, there is no place in the BMJ ‘report’ for Wakefield’s response.

      If he made that complaint, he was wrong. He didn’t refute the old material. He submitted a complaint to the PCC and abandoned it. Sounds like a frivolous complaint to me. Vindictive even.

      What part of the fraud charges do you have issue with? The fact that Mr. Wakefield changed the history of the patients? Does that not rise to the level of fraud?

      If you want to say, “There is no criminal charge of fraud proven against Mr. Wakefield” go ahead. That’s accurate. Is there clear evidence of fraud? You bet.

      You seem to steadfastly refuse to actually accept what Brian Deer wrote or to take the time follow his citations. If you won’t do that, what is the purpose of this discussion?

      I think Mr Wakefield would like to discuss them with the BMJ, preferably with a lot of people watching. They have not commented on his replies, nor allowed space for him to reply to the new accusations.

      I find it a bit ironic that in a debate essentially about standards of evidence, you think that in these circumstances, the onus to prove his innocence falls on those who criticize these proceedings.

      I have no doubt Mr. Wakefield would love to do things with lots of people watching. He’s stopped being a researcher and now lives off of publicizing himself and the orgs who sponsor him. It’s a science journal. He can submit a rebuttal and see if it lives up to peer review. I can say that unless he has a new story, it will not stand up. Mr. Wakefield’s fabricated defense has failed over and over.

      I do not feel that it is for him to prove his innocence. I have read Mr. Deer’s report and I have read the GMC hearing transcripts which support them. The evidence is in and the evidence is clear. Mr. Wakefield is guilty of misconduct.

  9. Chris January 8, 2011 at 00:42 #

    walburt:

    Something is still wrong here, though.

    Okay, let us look at some of those things:

    1) The Lancet paper failed to show a connection between the MMR and autism, Wakefield admits that. So what evidence was he using for the video conference to suggest that only separate vaccines be used?

    2) Since the MMR vaccine is noted as a culprit, but which one? The UK changed the MMR in 1992, so the collection of children had had two different vaccines (plus one was an American). So which MMR vaccine in the Lancet paper on? Can you answer that?

    3) Wakefield claims that his results were replicated in several countries, yet when you look at those papers it is just as Mr. Cooper says: “They looked at gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, and nothing else. Like Wakefield, they found an association between gastrointestinal problems and autism, but they say nothing at all about a connection between autism and vaccines. So his suggestion of any such link remains his alone.” So were those the wrong studies? Do you have a list of studies that actually independently replicate what Wakefield did? Remember, independent means that Wakefield and associates are not allowed, so that leaves out both himself and Dr. Krigsman.

    4) Brian Deer is not the only person questioning Wakefield. Being part of this conversation for over ten years (my son is an adult), I first wondered what all the fuss was with a study of only twelve children on a listserv I participated on for my son’s disability. I was often shouted down, and actually one participant tried to get my booted off because I mentioned that the MMR has never contained thimerosal. So are the rest of us who have questioned the study and its impact also part of a conspiracy to bring Wakefield down?

    What else is wrong in your view?

  10. walburt January 8, 2011 at 01:17 #

    @Sullivan

    I’m sure you’ve got the point I am making, but you seem to believe it can be drowned out by your claims that “He’s Guilty!”

    “The court of public opinion which, at least in small part, claims that vaccines caused an autism epidemic. Richard Barr commissioned the evidence from Andrew Wakefield, who came to the conclusion before collecting data, published a fraudulent paper and created a worldwide scare that resulted in children getting sick and dying.

    Do you want more examples?”

    Examples of what – hyperbole? Shroud waving? Actually it seems to be the BMJ who have tailored their conclusion to the prior hypothesis.

    Ah he’s guilty of fraud because … because … because he published a fraudulent paper! That used to be called circular logic. You missed out the bit where the BMJ establish the guilt before shouting it from the rooftops.

    “If he made that complaint, he was wrong. He didn’t refute the old material. He submitted a complaint to the PCC and abandoned it. Sounds like a frivolous complaint to me. Vindictive even.”

    I think Wakefield thinks he did refute it – so why should it be left to the blogosphere to reassure the public that he didn’t? That’s the BMJ’s job if the publication of their paper means anything. The fact that they didn’t discuss the evidence reduces the objective value their paper to the value of a based opinion piece – and damages their brand, in my humble opinion.

    The PCC is a non-point as there could be other reasons he didn’t go through with his complaint. The press has pretty low standards and the PPC is a self-regulating body. Perhaps he thought he had no chance of success and didn’t want to give what to prejudiced minds (!) would look like concrete ammunition for the witch hunt. After all, they don’t even need concrete ammunition to assert that he’s guilty anyway!

    “What part of the fraud charges do you have issue with? The fact that Mr. Wakefield changed the history of the patients? Does that not rise to the level of fraud?”

    Actually a kangaroo court would be the best place for such circular logic Sullivan – as I presume you well know. Whether there was fraud is what the court would be discussing. Your “The fact that …” is an allegation which Wakefield strenuously denied last time I looked. The K court is great for prejudicial language too.

    “If you want to say, “There is no criminal charge of fraud proven against Mr. Wakefield” go ahead. That’s accurate. Is there clear evidence of fraud? You bet.”

    I thank you for that personal opinion. If you let the BMJ how ‘clear’ the evidence is, perhaps they will grace their paper with that evidence – and I will shut up.

    “You seem to steadfastly refuse to actually accept what Brian Deer wrote or to take the time follow his citations. If you won’t do that, what is the purpose of this discussion?”

    On the contrary, you seem to steadfastly want to have the court here – as if it would somehow answer my criticism of the proceedings, or lack of them. This was definitely NOT the purpose of the discussion.

    “I do not feel that it is for him to prove his innocence. I have read Mr. Deer’s report and I have read the GMC hearing transcripts which support them. The evidence is in and the evidence is clear. Mr. Wakefield is guilty of misconduct.”

    I already know what you think Sullivan – I want to know what the BMJ think, and more importantly, why. It’s bad enough them relying on Deer.

    • Sullivan January 8, 2011 at 01:26 #

      I stand by the statement–he is guilt of fraud. Scientific fraud. Misleading the public.

      Ah he’s guilty of fraud because … because … because he published a fraudulent paper!

      No. What is so difficult about this. He changed the data that went into the paper. He made willful actions to deceive the public. Would you prefer “hoax”, as in he didn’t intend to harm others or personally gain from this?

      I think Wakefield thinks he did refute it

      Mr. Wakefield thinks (or says he thinks) many things which are incorrect. What do you base the above statement upon, anyway?

      I already know what you think Sullivan – I want to know what the BMJ think, and more importantly, why. It’s bad enough them relying on Deer.

      If so, why are you here? Perhaps you didn’t notice, this is not the BMJ. They relied on the facts–publicly available facts. They checked Mr. Deer’s article against the facts, including those from the GMC hearing. If you want to continue to tow the party line that this is Brian Deer only, go ahead. It is not supported by the facts.

      I like the hyperbole comments. Did you catch Mr. Wakefield’s interview, where he resorted to hyperbole rather than answer the claims of fraud?

      Wakefield is guilty. That’s what the GMC decision means. Wakefield is guilty of misconduct in many areas. That’s not hyperbole. That’s proven fact.

  11. walburt January 8, 2011 at 01:51 #

    @Sullivan

    What’s so difficult about this you ask – indeed you might. You think that your take on the evidence should be enough. It IS enough to justify your opinion. If you’ve read pretty much everything then I respect you for it, and your opinion – and you’re entitled to express it.

    However, I learned of this development when a friend told me that friends had told her there was a paper in the BMJ that established Wakefield had committed fraud.

    This SHOWS that an injustice has been carried out as the BMJ paper did not establish anything.

    The public have been misled. The vast majority of people (who haven’t time or inclination to locate and study formal documents and screeds of claims and counter claims) now think his guilt has been established by the BMJ – it hasn’t. That’s why you need a process.

    “I stand by the statement—he is guilt of fraud. Scientific fraud. Misleading the public.”

    What about the BMJ misleading the public as noted above, then, Sullivan?

    The fact that you agree with his guilt is neither here nor there. The fact that agreeing with the ‘verdict’ leads you to suppose and CLAIM that justice has been done (when it clearly hasn’t) clearly demonstrates your own bias. There’s therefore no reason for anyone to rely on your judgement on what you’ve read.

    Me, I’m just pointing out that as the BMJ (a figure of considerable medical authority, you would agree?) have made the claim they should furnish the evidence – and it should not be regarded as generally proved.

    • Sullivan January 8, 2011 at 01:55 #

      walburt,

      what? I didn’t say and I don’t agree with the notion you put forth that the BMJ is misleading the public. This is an assertion you are making, without supporting evidence.

      The BMJ have supplied evidence. Did you read the paper? Did you check the references? Point out one (ONE) claim made by the BMJ that is not supported by the evidence they provided.

      The BMJ has not established anything new. The evidence for Mr. Wakefield’s misconduct was already out there. They just put it into one place.

  12. Chris January 8, 2011 at 02:05 #

    walburt, there were questions about Wakefield’s case study series long before Brian Deer was assigned to the story. Do you also think that Ben Goldacre is part of a conspiracy too?

    Now, to establish a few things do try to answer some questions:

    1) What evidence was Wakefield using when he suggested in a video conference to not use the MMR but separate the vaccines?

    2) Which MMR vaccine is his research based on, the one approved in the UK before or after 1992?

    3) What papers independently replicate Wakefield’s research in regard to the MMR vaccine?

    • Sullivan January 8, 2011 at 02:10 #

      I’ll add to Chris’ list:

      1) Was child 11 correctly represented in the Lancet article?
      2) Did Andrew Wakefield stand to benefit, financially, professionally or otherwise, from the perception that regressions in autistic children were temporally linked to administration of the MMR vaccine?

  13. Joseph January 8, 2011 at 02:34 #

    However, I learned of this development
    when a friend told me that friends had told her there was a paper
    in the BMJ that established Wakefield had committed
    fraud.

    This SHOWS that an
    injustice has been carried out as the BMJ paper did not establish
    anything.

    BMJ established exactly that, walburt.
    The standard you’re thinking of, i.e. a criminal prosecution
    standard (“innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”) is not
    applicable in this case. That’s because this case might never see
    trial. Scientific fraud is not like financial fraud. It’s unclear
    what law Wakefield has broken if indeed he’s guilty of research
    fraud. I suppose Wakefield could be sued, but that’s a different
    matter altogether. In these cases, the appropriate judgment is left
    to peers and peer bodies like the GMC (which already ruled him
    guilty.) It’s clever to keep demanding standards of proof that are
    increasingly difficult to meet, though, I’ll give you that. Here’s
    the current status of the matter: Deer & BMJ have
    documented prima facie evidence of fraud. It’s not their
    responsibility to keep proving this beyond a reasonable doubt
    before a court of law. It’s Wakefield’s responsibility to either
    explain the evidence, or accept the obvious: that he’s guilty of
    fraud.

  14. Clay January 8, 2011 at 09:02 #

    Not only is Wakefield flat-out fraudulent, he is undoubtedly flatulent, because the man is full of shit! It may be the next big spike of coverage we hear about him will be when he jumps off a bridge, after he hears that they’re about to arrest him.

    “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya, Andy!”

  15. Dr Aust January 8, 2011 at 12:49 #

    @Wallburt

    “It seems the BMJ believe it would be really nice if the media could report Wakefield’s initial study as a fraud – but don’t want to take responsibility themselves.”

    They are taking the responsibility. Under English law, as the publisher, they are unambiguously 100% responsible (and legally liable under the famously plaintiff-friendly English libel system) for every word they print, regardless of who has actually written it.

    One of the reasons Deer mentions the British libel laws in the interview is precisely that Wakefield earlier had a “live” libel suit against him, as well as against a TV production company and Channel 4 news. This actually dealt with earlier and less complete accusations. Mr Wakefield was being backed in the libel suit, as Deer mentions, by his medical insurers. The suit was being heard by Mr Justice Eady, the original judge in the chiropractors vs Simon Singh libel case, a man who has no reputation for sympathy with libel defendants.

    Mr Wakefield dropped the libel suit. The reason, Eady told the court, seemed to be that Wakefield wanted to be able to say “Of course, I’m suing over this” while not actually wishing the case the come to court.

    “I am quite satisfied, therefore, that the Claimant [Wakefield] wished to extract whatever advantage he could from the existence of the proceedings while not wishing to progress them or to give the Defendants [Deer et al] an opportunity of meeting the claims” [i.e. of explaining why they had said what they had said]

    Why would that be, if Wakefield wanted to clear his name and “unblemish” his reputation?

    The obvious answers would be that first, Deer et al would have got to set out all their evidence in court; second, other experts would have testified in court about what they thought of the evidence and of Wakefield’s work; and third, that Wakefield would likely have had to try and tetify in court to refute the allegations. The latter is something he has avoided other than at the GMC, where the scope of the questions he had to answer were more limited, since they related specifically to medical procedures and ethics.

    Finally, one of the things that those of us in science and medicine who have followed the case from the beginning have been hoping for was that Brian Deer would one day tell the full story of Wakefield’s fraud, so everyone could see how it had been done. I am delighted that day seems to have come.

  16. walburt January 8, 2011 at 17:52 #

    @Sullivan

    “what? I didn’t say and I don’t agree with the notion you put forth that the BMJ is misleading the public. This is an assertion you are making, without supporting evidence.”

    It was an opinion though I did clearly lay out my ‘evidence’. It’s interesting that you claim that I didn’t – making this discussion in some ways an interesting microcosm of the Wakefield case.

    To reiterate – the public will think there has been a BMJ report establishing Wakefield as having committed fraud, when the BMJ appear to have simply reproduced Deer’s accusations without Wakefield’s responses.

    They have therefore, I suggest, been misled on the status, procedure, content, authorship, and significance of the BMJ paper.

    With regard to the remainder of your post it is clear that either

    1) we disagree on the role of the one-sided accusation in an objective process, or
    2) you see no need for an objective process because of your agreement with the outcome.

    Can’t really see how we can take it further given these differences.

    @Chris

    “walburt, there were questions about Wakefield’s case study series long before Brian Deer was assigned to the story. Do you also think that Ben Goldacre is part of a conspiracy too?”

    Strawman Chris – where did I allege conspiracy? Bias and vested interest is all that is usually needed.

    For the remainder of your post – I reiterate my responses to Sullivan. I’m getting a bit blue in the face saying this, but my complaint is about the process. The best person to answer for Wakefield is Wakefield – but unfortunately he wasn’t part of that process. Given that that is my complaint, why on earth would I want to try to make the defense for him?

    @Sullivan

    You ask:

    1) Was child 11 correctly represented in the Lancet article?
    2) Did Andrew Wakefield stand to benefit, financially, professionally or otherwise, from the perception that regressions in autistic children were temporally linked to administration of the MMR vaccine?

    1) What is the point of this question – you want us to have the court here, in little increments? You can’t be serious.

    2) You’re having a laugh. It can be hard to avoid conflicts of interest – but if this was a criteria for fraud, would not big pharma have to shut down?

    I like your evolving definition of fraud though. Do you think the medical establishment might possibly stand to “stand to benefit, financially, professionally or otherwise” from the ceremonial discrediting of Wakefield? Careful now.

    @Joseph

    “The standard you’re thinking of, i.e. a criminal prosecution
    standard (“innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”) is not
    applicable in this case.”

    Let’s review the ‘standard’ you’re thinking of.

    Innocent until proven guilty abandoned.
    Evidence not needing to be explicitly listed.
    No right of reply.
    No professional witnesses called.
    No cross examination of the er, witnesses that might have been.
    Misrepresentation of findings.

    “It’s clever to keep demanding standards of proof that are increasingly difficult to meet, though, I’ll give you that”

    You claim my standards are the problem, well … It’s you that is being clever, Joseph.

    This I beleive is an important admission:

    “Scientific fraud is not like financial fraud.”

    Thanks for admitting that the definition of the ‘fraud’ being alleged is of a somewhat elastic nature previously unknown to science.

    So … what kind of fraud is it like then?

    If it’s like no other kind of fraud it needs a new definition. Why is it not in the dictionary then?

    Have the BMJ explained this subtle distinction to the public? I don’t think so. If they did this, most people would think that it wasn’t ‘fraud’ at all.

    “It’s Wakefield’s responsibility to either explain the evidence, or accept the obvious: that he’s guilty of fraud.”

    Now you’re having the laugh. He hasn’t been allowed into the event where his guilt was decided. When I complained of one-sided allegation, what do you think I meant? He will doubtless respond somewhere but he’ll be playing catchup. The headlines have been successfully grabbed. Job done for the establishment.

    • Sullivan January 8, 2011 at 20:01 #

      1) What is the point of this question – you want us to have the court here, in little increments? You can’t be serious.

      2) You’re having a laugh. It can be hard to avoid conflicts of interest – but if this was a criteria for fraud, would not big pharma have to shut down?

      The point here is to demonstrate that (a) Andrew Wakefield misreported the data in his Lancet paper and (b) he benefited from that.

      That meets the criteria for fraud. Which answers your question on that matter. The rest of your comments appear to be a retaliatory attack on Brian Deer. It is your right to lash out, but it is also obvious to even the most casual reader.

  17. Chris January 8, 2011 at 19:05 #

    walburt:

    Strawman Chris – where did I allege conspiracy? Bias and vested interest is all that is usually needed.

    True, that was Wakefield. He claimed that Brian Deer was a hit man hired by “them.” See the transcript of the clip:

    He is a hit man. He’s been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions to vaccines that are occurring in children.

    So I just presented documentation that there were questions about that study from at least 2003, if not sooner.

    But since you are claiming that I alleged it was you claiming the conspiracy, can now use that as a convenient excuse for ignoring the questions. Now review the clip again, read the transcript and read the bit I quoted. Then come back and answer the questions.

    Here is another question: why do you care? Why are you spending so much time splitting hairs?

  18. walburt January 8, 2011 at 19:07 #

    @Dr Aust

    Thanks for this interesting contribution. Your point that the BMJ is responsible in law may be true in theory but this is a long and uncertain road. If there is as you suggest, a “famously plaintiff-friendly English libel system”, your example suggests that it is a party that has come to an end.

    Oddly enough, I also thought of the chiropractors case in this context. Singh got away with claiming he hadn’t meant that in ‘promoting bogus treatments’, the chiropractors were being deliberately dishonest – though this seemed clearly the meaning that people were intended to take from the article (surely bogus usually means false, genuine, fraudulent etc).

    Mr Justice Eady may have no sympathy with libellers, but the court in the chiropractors case surely did. This from the judgement:

    “…the material words, however one represents or paraphrases their meaning, are in our judgment expressions of opinion. The opinion may be mistaken, but to allow the party which has been denounced on the basis of it to compel its author to prove in court what he has asserted by way of argument is to invite the court to become an Orwellian ministry of truth.”

    This could be relevant to Wakefields’ situation. For example, according to Joseph above,

    “Scientific fraud is not the same as financial fraud.”

    Together with the Singh case one can already see the escape route should for the BMJ should Wakefield sue. “The ‘fraud’ was merely asserted by ‘way of argument’, your honour. Erm – in the case Singh versus the BCA…”

    Even should Wakefield manage to successfully sue they could pay up without their valuable name for reputable medical science being in tatters. It would be possible to distance themselves from what essentially seem Deer’s allegations, That’s why to have credibility, in my view they have to make the case themselves.

    You, along with the noble lord, speculate as to why Wakefield didn’t continue the libel case against Deer. I see no value in that speculation – the clear and tangible criticisms that can be made of the BMJ’s actions are the issue for me.

    “Finally, one of the things that those of us in science and medicine who have followed the case from the beginning have been hoping for was that Brian Deer would one day tell the full story of Wakefield’s fraud, so everyone could see how it had been done. I am delighted that day seems to have come.”

    It is such a pity that in order for everyone to ‘see’ what you would like them to see, it is necessary to restrict their vision to Deer’s accusations alone.

    I despair of those ‘in science and medicine’ who think that an ongoing crucifiction of Wakefield is the best answer to the medical concerns that he initially, rightly or wrongly, raised.

  19. Chris January 8, 2011 at 19:18 #

    Actually, walburt, what makes you think that a criminal case in the UK is not brewing? Then he would have to take a stand to defend himself. It is something that many of us want to see.

  20. walburt January 8, 2011 at 19:31 #

    @Chris

    It’s interesting that you continue to try to make me the focus. As I said to Sullivan, there are interesting parallels between the way this thread has been conducted, and the issue that we are discussing.

    “He is a hit man. He’s been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions to vaccines that are occurring in children.”

    Deer admits he was commissioned (quote) by the BMJ. You take issue with the distinction between “brought in” and commissioned, and claim I am splitting hairs.

    That Deer is acting as a hit man is a reasonable explanation from Wakefield’s point of view. According to Wakefield “he was supported in his investigation by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries, which is funded directly and exclusively by the pharmaceutical industry.

    Deer has relentlessly pursued the case for years, has brought a case at the GMC, now he’s publishing fraud accusations in the BMC. Wakefield says he refutes his allegations – but his response is not welcome.

    You only think “hit man” is unreasonable because you already believe in Wakefield’s guilt. You should just admit your bias. I wasn’t defending Wakefield actually – only pointing out the flaws in this process.

    You keep wanting me to make the defence, as if that would prove anything. Don’t you think Wakefield should be able to do that – at the same time and place as the accusations are published?

    It seems clear that either

    1) we disagree on the role of the one-sided accusation in an objective process, or
    2) you see no need for an objective process because of your agreement with the outcome.

    As I said to Sullivan, I can’t really see how we can take it further given these differences.

  21. Chris January 8, 2011 at 21:07 #

    Deer has relentlessly pursued the case for years, has brought a case at the GMC,

    He did not bring the case to the GMC. That is wrong. He is also not the only one who has questioned Wakefield in the last ten years. If you had been paying attention, you will know that Deer is not the only one. Ben Goldacre devoted a full chapter to Wakefield in his book. Are going to lash out to him now?

    What is it to you? Why do you care?

  22. daedalus2u January 8, 2011 at 21:10 #

    I don’t know what kind of word games walburt is trying to play or why, but the tables in the Deer report clearly show scientific fraud. It is an open and shut case. What was published and what was in the actual medical records was completely different and materially relevant to the whole thrust of the paper. If it was “error”, Wakefield had 12 years to correct that “error”. That he chose to not do so is a clear indication it was not error but was deliberate fraud.

    If the table in the Deer report is not correct, then Deer is guilty either of error, or of fraud. If the table in the Deer report is correct, then Wakefield is guilty of fraud.

    As the submitting and corresponding author, Wakefield has the responsibility and the obligation to ensure that the data in the paper is correct. He chose to put false and made up data in the paper and chose to not correct it multiple times.

    “Scientific fraud” isn’t like legal fraud. You can’t “get off” by reason of insanity.

    I sure hope that criminal charges are brought against Wakefield. Willful and fraudulent reckless endangerment leading to the deaths of multiple individuals should be criminally prosecuted. I think that 20 years in prison would not be too much.

  23. Chris January 8, 2011 at 21:16 #

    By the way, the questions I asked were to get you to think about Wakefield’s “research.” I have the feeling you did not know that there were two completely different MMR vaccines used on the group of children, nor that the one used in the UK since 1992 is the same one that has been used in the USA since 1971 (it has to do with the mumps strain).

    You seem to accept what Wakefield did without even thinking about the simple problems with the data set, or even that what he said in a video conference did not match the paper. How can you go through life without questioning such simple things?

  24. Joseph January 8, 2011 at 22:46 #

    “Scientific fraud is not like financial fraud.”

    Thanks for admitting that the definition of the ‘fraud’ being alleged is of a somewhat elastic nature previously unknown to science.

    @walburt: You misunderstood. And you seem to be playing word games, as daedalus2u noted.

    What I meant is that financial fraud generally results in jail time. Scientific fraud — not so clear, even if we think Wakefield should do jail time.

    If Wakefield’s fraud is never argued in a court of law, does it mean Wakefield is innocent? That’s nonsense.

    Suppose I have reason to suggest that a blogger X is lying. Do I need to prove that in a court of law? Absolutely not. I just need to present evidence, which can then be disputed.

    Presumption of innocence doesn’t work the way you think, even in criminal cases. It doesn’t mean all of us must assume the suspect is innocent. You can presume anything you want. I presume Wakefield is guilty, and with good reason. If you think I’m wrong, convince me otherwise.

  25. walburt January 9, 2011 at 01:20 #

    @Sullivan

    One, you simply side with the interpretation placed on the differences between records by a journalist who with his intense personal interest in the case, can hardly be considered objective.

    Two, even if the researchers notes were less accurate this does not signify fraud, benefit or not.

    You claim you have “demonstrated” misreporting. You only demonstrate your own bias.

    And what’s this:

    “The rest of your comments appear to be a retaliatory attack on Brian Deer. It is your right to lash out, but it is also obvious to even the most casual reader.”

    You claim to have read Wakefield’s book and the GMC transcripts and you insist it was objectively clear Wakefield was fraudulent. Yet, even in a short exchange you are unable to resist fabrication for the gallery. Why should we believe you?

    As I said, we have different beliefs about the relvance of fairness, objectivity, etc. So I’ll leave it there with you, if you don’t mind.

    @Chris

    “He did not bring the case to the GMC. That is wrong.”

    I don’t have chapter and verse so I could be technically wrong but I don’t think I’m wrong in reality. I read that it was basically him. The BMJ are thanking him in their editorial “the efforts of one man” etc.

    “He is also not the only one who has questioned Wakefield in the last ten years. If you had been paying attention, you will know that Deer is not the only one. Ben Goldacre devoted a full chapter to Wakefield in his book. Are going to lash out to him now?

    Loads of people have contributed to both sides. I didn’t “lash out” – you are now borrowing Sullivan’s false accusations verbatim. Tsk, the BMJ called that fraud you know…. 🙂
    Why do you keep inviting me to criticize someone called Ben Goldacre, rather than answer my points?

    “What is it to you? Why do you care?”

    Justice. Have you seen the Wicker Man? Didn’t like the ending.

    @daedalus2u

    “the tables in the Deer report clearly show scientific fraud”
    “It is an open and shut case.”

    What a simple and prejudiced world you must live in. Do you really believe there would not be legitimate differences between data and interpretations made taken in a research project and other medical records?

    Why didn’t the BMJ get the records reviewed by a medic – an independent one? Deer was brought in the secure knowledge he would ‘find’ fraud. I expected better of the BMJ.

    “I sure hope that criminal charges are brought against Wakefield. Willful and fraudulent reckless endangerment leading to the deaths of multiple individuals should be criminally prosecuted. I think that 20 years in prison would not be too much.”

    Hyperbole, yes?

    @Chris

    Nice rhetoric and distraction, but the issue is the transparent unfairness of this BMJ process, not what I know about vaccines.

    Chris as I said already – you seem happy with this biased process and I don’t, I don’t think there is much more to say.

    @Joseph

    “You misunderstood. And you seem to be playing word games, as daedalus2u noted.”

    This rant wasn’t aimed at the discerning, Joseph. But thanks, it illustrates that standards in the anti-Wakefield side are non-existent. I did say there were parallels here.

    You can’t use a lower or less clear standard just to get over the threshold, then use the higher one for clobbering purposes. That’s arguably itself fraudulent, though often done without intent. It makes you look unscientific to have such flexible standards, though. Certainly not objective.

    “The standard you’re thinking of, i.e. a criminal prosecution standard (“innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”) is not applicable in this case”.

    As you seem to like daedalus2u’s post, I’d like to repeat a point I made in reply: The standards that you are thinking of (exact match of medical records taken by different types of medic, at different times and for different purposes) don’t exist either.

    Why didn’t the BMJ use a) medics b) independent people to review these so-called discrepancies?

  26. Chris January 9, 2011 at 01:42 #

    I read that it was basically him.

    And I know exactly where you read it and who said it. They are wrong, and one may actually be on the wrong end of a lawsuit (and he should have known better since he claims to be a lawyer).

    Now this should be interesting: Extradite Andrew Wakefield To Face Fraud Charges In The UK.

    Now explain again why you are defending Wakefield, because I have never seen Wicker Man. Justice for who? How about these boys? Where is justice for them?

  27. Dr Aust January 9, 2011 at 02:13 #

    @wallburt

    “Why didn’t the BMJ get the records reviewed by a medic – an independent one?”

    BMJ editors are medics. They have checked Deer’s work. That is the thrust of Godlee’s comments.

    And your remark about “discrepancies” being understandable due to different timings and history takers doesn’t stand up. No competent medical researcher would trust a history taken from a child’s parent years later over what was in the original medical records, documented and dated by other medical professionals. In the case of these children, who had undoubtedly been extensively investigated before they reached the RFH, the full medical records would have likely run to tens if not hundreds of pages. Some of the records, observations and inferences might have to be reinterpreted in the light of later findings, but the scale of what Deer reports makes that a laughable interpretation of what happened here. And replacing the original observations with a later subjective recollection would be at best extraordinary incompetence, and at worst flat-out fraud. To re-iterate what daedalus2u said, the table in Deer’s report is a jaw-dropper, and to put any interpretation on it other than deliberate falsification… well, it is, in essence, quite impossible for anyone other than one of Wakefield’s groupies.

  28. Dedj January 9, 2011 at 02:25 #

    “The standards that you are thinking of (exact match of medical records taken by different types of medic, at different times and for different purposes) don’t exist either.”

    No-one is applying these standards.

    No-one here expects differing records over a period of time to say the same thing. The reason why different records exist is because we expect them to focus on different things and be from different stages of progression/development of the disease/recovery pathway.

    No-one here is as stupid as your ‘observation’ would require them to be.

    Aside from the very small point you overlooked that we aren’t , in fact, talking about records from “different times and for different purposes” (in which you would expect at least some concordance anyway) but the same records, we aren’t looking for ‘exact’ matches but ‘enough of a match to be supportive’.

    As the GMC hearing found out, the records clearly did not support what was claimed. The disparity between the records and what Wakefield claimed was so great, it attracted repeated and severe comment – this in an arena where disagreement and difference of opinion are expected.

  29. Lorne Marr January 10, 2011 at 22:30 #

    There should be some scientific investigation carried out in order to establish whether or not there is a problem and how to correct it because the drug companies will never examine it objectively.

  30. Chris January 10, 2011 at 23:00 #

    Okay, Mr. Marr, explain what should be done scientifically and what it would accomplish. Explain how it would differ from the studies that have been done already, for example Dr. Hornig’s recent attempt to replicate Wakefield.

  31. walburt January 12, 2011 at 17:20 #

    @ Chris

    Chris you say

    “And I know exactly where you read it and who said it. They are wrong, and one may actually be on the wrong end of a lawsuit (and he should have known better since he claims to be a lawyer).”

    Really? Can Brian Deer sue himself?

    Letter from GMC to Deer:
    “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.”
    http://briandeer.com/wakefield/deer-ffw-letter.pdf

    In other words, “though your role is similar to that of a complainant we would prefer to call you informant as you don’t have a personal gripe” (and it looks better).

    “Now explain again why you are defending Wakefield”

    Fascinating that you should ask this twice, as if the answer is likely to be interesting and spicy. Oh right you got me there, I’m Andrew Wakefield’s grandfather. Fair cop.

    The question is particularly revealing because, actually, I have not defended Wakefield. I have however pointed out errors and injustices in the witch hunt against him. In particular I have pointed out that in the headline-grabbing way the BMJ has conducted the attack he is unable to defend himself. That should be a concern for all.

    Actually just looking back, I already said this in my last post. I also said

    “It’s interesting that you continue to try to make me the focus”

    a focus which you continued anyway.

    I’ll leave it there. I think our exchange has established that you are happy with the manner of the one-sided and misleading attack on Wakefield. You have after all twice queried why he should even be ‘defended’ and put the focus on me. If you think that’s a good answer, there’s no point in me repeatedly arguing that the attack is unfair when the unfairness itself is something you evidently approve of.

    Cheers
    Walburt

    PS The Wicker Man is a well crafted witch-hunt movie where at the end a man tied to a wooden pile and ceremonially burned. Its not an exact analogy because prior to the burning, it’s the ‘witches’ that do the hunting.

    @Dr Aust

    You say “BMJ editors are medics. They have checked Deer’s work. That is the thrust of Godlee’s comments.”

    To re-interpret the words of another medic, Dr Siegbert Tarrasch, it’s not enough to ‘be’ medical, you must behave ‘medically’ 🙂

    They evidently ‘checked’ that they agreed with the conclusion in work that they commissioned. No evidence of any other ‘checking’ has been presented. Worse still, the BMJ don’t say whether they agree with all Deer’s comparisons, or just some and if so, which ones they agree with. Would you agree that had they done that it would be far more convincing?

    At the risk of labouring the point, imagine a sport normally scored on points in different departments, where rather than give their own breakdown of their scores, the judges just suddenly just say who’s won. Imagine also the judges use a commentator with no credentials in the sport to produce a breakdown. And on top of that, now imagine they employ someone from the camp of one of the teams to do the scoring. Would there not would be an outcry from neutrals? And what might you infer about the objectivity those whose first reaction was to ‘celebrate’ the result?

    Dr A, do you believe the BMJ agree with every one of Deer’s comparisons?

    In your big paragraph you appear to be talking up whatever substance there is.

    “No competent medical researcher would trust a history taken from a child’s parent years later over what was in the original medical records, documented and dated by other medical professionals.”

    Isn’t this stretching it a little? The team would have had responsibility to consider parental observations. They also did their own medical tests which Deer apparently ignored. We don’t know the extent if any to which the team “trusted” parental testimony “over” the medical records.

    “In the case of these children, who had undoubtedly been extensively investigated before they reached the RFH, the full medical records would have likely run to tens if not hundreds of pages.”

    That would make Deer’s medical task of selecting the most relevant material from the records extraordinarily difficult. Do you not find it surprising that that the BMJ would commission the unskilled Deer for such a technical task?

    “Some of the records, observations and inferences might have to be reinterpreted in the light of later findings, but the scale of what Deer reports makes that a laughable interpretation of what happened here.”

    What is laughable surely is that anyone can claim closure on this on the basis of what you say Deer ‘reports’, without these *claims* of his being subjected to any detailed scrutiny.

    “To re-iterate what daedalus2u said, the table in Deer’s report is a jaw-dropper, and to put any interpretation on it other than deliberate falsification…”

    Literature abounds with jaw-dropping tales and tables by partisan amateurs. What is needed is an objective, case by case medical analysis of what differences there are and their significance. Perhaps then we can all either drop our jaws, or shut them, according to the evidence. Currently it seems that certain jaws have dropped prematurely.

    It’s also worth pointing out that even establishing remarkable disagreement (not uncommon I expect in the circumstances) is a far cry from establishing fraud.

    “well, it is, in essence, quite impossible for anyone other than one of Wakefield’s groupies.”

    You disappoint me. See my response to Chris on the subject of shooting the messenger.

    Clearly Deer’s claims, and the allegedly medical endorsement of the BMJ who commissioned them, need a lot of talking up for them to be accepted as having significant medical meaning. There’s been a lot of that here for some reason.

  32. walburt January 13, 2011 at 03:32 #

    @Dedj

    Thanks for these thoughts. Perhaps I used ‘inexact’ words. You rightly say

    “No-one here expects differing records over a period of time to say the same thing. The reason why different records exist is because we expect them to focus on different things and be from different stages of progression/development of the disease/recovery pathway.”

    Exactly. No standard has been set for comparison, and there is no yardstick with which to compare it.

    “Aside from the very small point you overlooked that we aren’t, in fact, talking about records from “different times and for different purposes” (in which you would expect at least some concordance anyway) but the same records, we aren’t looking for ‘exact’ matches but ‘enough of a match to be supportive’.”

    There is concordance though. In his table, Deer only actively disagreed with Wakefield on 17 out of the 36 comparisons. If you gave equal weight to Deer and the Royal Free team, and allowed for overlap you might reasonably say that of the 17 disagreements 6 favoured Deer, 6 Wakefield and say five on the boundary.

    This would mean that more than 2/3 of Wakefield’s assessments were in agreement or justifiable to Deer and that there were clear discrepancies (not justifiable to Deer) in about 17% of the histories.

    Now what about

    1) your point that the RF team would have as you say focused on different things.
    2) the fact that with their different focus, they would have done different tests.
    3) the fact that RF team did their own further tests – endoscopies, haematology etc – that were, apparently, excluded by Deer.
    4) the fact that Deer apparently gave little weight to the parental observations than Wakefield et al.
    5) Deer is not a medic and would be expected to have had considerable difficulty in comparing and criticizing the medical assessment of leading researchers, especailly given the differences on the respective contexts that you have higlighted.

    If some or all of these points have value (and why shouldn’t they have?) one can easily envisage that nothing would be left of the ‘discrepancies’ that would support the leap to deliberate medical fraud.

    This SHOULD be the null hypothesis of any objective person who has not seen an objective, medical, and careful analysis of the discrepancies. Deers’s analysis is none of these.

    “As the GMC hearing found out, the records clearly did not support what was claimed. The disparity between the records and what Wakefield claimed was so great, it attracted repeated and severe comment – this in an arena where disagreement and difference of opinion are expected.”

    It attracted a wall of secrecy. No transcript of the defence is available while Deer is free – indeed, sadly, welcome – to splash the prosecution case (i.e. his case) all over the medical media. The disparity that is being shouted from the rooftops – and thereby picked up by those with a prior bias – has nevertheless not been justified with any clarity.

    Cheers

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Andrew Wakefield is a fraud! « Skepacabra - January 8, 2011

    […] [UPDATE 1/7/11: Today, Brian Deer himself (the man Wakefield calls the "hitman" hired to take him out) made several CNN appearances that can viewed here and on Anderson Cooper here.] […]

  2. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Andrew Wakefield: the last gasps of a desperate man? « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com - January 8, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by shell spectrum and shell spectrum, Reasonable Hank. Reasonable Hank said: Brian Deer rebuts #Wakefieldmedicalfraud: the last gasps of a desperate man? « Left Brain/Right Brain http://bit.ly/e7bK8C #StopAVN […]

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