A few details from Brian Deer’s declaration

13 Mar

Brian Deer’s declaration in the anti-SLAPP motion presents an interesting narrative of the history of the investigation into Andrew Wakefield’s MMR project. Of course much of it is not new for those who have followed the story, There’s the initial investigation for the Sunday Times. There’s the interaction with Richard Horton at The Lancet. There’s the slow unveiling of the “trickle truth” from Andrew Wakefield as he is faced with fact after inconvenient fact uncovered about his actions. There is Mr. Deer stating firmly and clearly that he is not in the pay of pharma interests. But there are also some points I don’t recall being made public.

Brian Deer got pulled in to the MMR story by the attention being drawn to a 2003 TV movie in the UK: “Hear the Silence“. This was a docu-drama about Andrew Wakefield. Sort of a small point in itself, but Mr. Deer also shared this detail:

For example, I interviewed John Walker-Smith, former professor of paediatric gastroenterology at the Royal Free, and the senior clinical author of the Lancet paper. Among other things, he told me that the TV docu-drama had been paid for by an American family involved in the research.

I don’t recall ever hearing or reading that “Hear the Silence” was financially backed by a family involved in the research.

As an aside, in reading up on “hear the silence” I found this news article which included this letter from a co-author of the 1998 Lancet paper:

Wakefield was not treated as a pariah by the hospital and the medical school. Indeed, it is interesting that the research team received lots of offers from distinguished researchers, who were willing to assist in the further development of the project along solid scientific lines. Although many members of the team welcomed those approaches, Dr Wakefield did not. Indeed he became increasingly insistent on meeting only those who were clearly ‘of the faith’. By so doing he made himself a pariah, since no self-respecting scientist would want to dispense with scientific rigour and objectivity.

That was in 2003. Just as Brian Deer was starting on the MMR project.

Back to Mr. Deer’s declaration. Another point I found interesting involves Mr. Wakefield’s credentials. Inflated credentials have been found all too often amongst those who promote the idea that vaccines cause autism. Consider Mr. Wakefield, now, as an example. In the past, Andrew Wakefield used his credentials: Dr Andrew Wakefield, MB, BS, FRCS, FRCPath.

MB, BS is for his degree: Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery.

FCRS stands for “Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons

FRCPath stands for “Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists“.

When Mr. Wakefield filed his defamation case against the BMJ, Brian Deer and Fiona Godlee, he had already dropped the FRCPath. According to Mr. Deer’s declaration, Mr. Wakefield had been “expelled from the Royal College of Pathologists” in 2010.

This begs the question why the Royal College of Surgeons did not expel Mr Wakefield. Mr. Deer clarifies that: “the college has informed me that he was not in fact affiliated with the Royal College of Surgeons at any time in the last 15 years. Therefore, he
could not be expelled.”

Yes, Mr. Wakefield has apparently been using FRCS after his name without having the right to do so for 15 years. This includes in the documents he filed in the Texas courts for the defamation case.

What can one say: the top of page one of his petition includes an affiliation Mr. Wakefield apparently has no right to use. Perhaps a small point which will come as part of the many unwelcome surprises for his attorney.

Another odd fact was that Mr. Wakefield used a publicist as far back as 2003, when Mr. Deer first approached him. By Mr. Deer’s account, Mr. Wakefield is the only doctor he’s encountered with a publicist. Mr. Deer asked numerous times for interviews, but Mr. Wakefield has always declined. In one case, Mr. Wakefield allowed the Sunday Times to interview him, but only if Mr. Deer, the man doing the story, was not present.

Perhaps Mr. Deer has stated this somewhere, but he was attending the GMC hearings as a representative of Channel 4 (where he had done a documentary on Mr. Wakefield years earlier).

It is interesting to see just how many times Andrew Wakefield has sued or threatened suit against journalists.

Here is a quote from Mr. Wakefield’s business plan. This was drafted before the Lancet article was published and only obtained via a freedom of information act request. (Note that before the FOIA was enacted in the UK Mr. Wakefield’s hospital stonewalled attempts to obtain such documents). This isn’t really new information (it came out in the GMC hearing), but does have impact on the defamation claim:

It is estimated that the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation driven testing of patients with AE [autistic enterocolitis] from both the UK and the USA. It is estimated that by year 3, income from this testing could be about £3,300,000 rising to about £28,000,000 as diagnostic testing in support of therapeutic regimes come on stream.

It is very hard to argue that claims that Mr. Wakefield had clear financial conflicts of interest in light of such documents. Or that he had interests above and beyond his part as a paid expert in keeping the MMR litigation going. Or that these conflicts were hidden from the public, as they only came to light through FOIA long after the Lancet paper was published.

Here is an example of the defamation Mr. Wakefield alleges stems from comments by Fiona Godlee:

For example, in an additional allegation of fraud against Dr. Wakefield, Dr. Godlee referred, in her lecture, to a comparison of the interval between MMR vaccine exposure and “symptoms” in children reported by Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues in two different versions of the Lancet Article, a draft prepared in August 1997 and the final published paper, the Lancet Paper. Dr. Godlee went on to use this allegation as her basis to conclude that Dr. Wakefield fraudulently manipulated the reduction of the time interval in order to create “a legally compelling case which would be a maximum of 14 days and in this case an average of 6.3 days.” She not only falsely suggested that Dr. Wakefield fraudulently misreported this medical data, but she imputed to him a malignant intent that he knowingly altered this data in an effort to influence vaccine injury litigation. Both allegations are false and defamatory.

A key finding of the Lancet article was that 8 of 12 families blamed the MMR as the “apparent precipitating event” in causing their child’s autism. The time between MMR and onset of symptoms was 14 days. However, Mr. Deer has pointed out that more than the 8 reported families blamed the MMR. When those children were removed from the pool, the average time from MMR to onset of autism symptoms narrowed considerably (a point Mr. Deer has made repeatedly). What I hadn’t absorbed before was that Mr. Wakefield had admitted at one point that some of the parents’ recollections were omitted from his claim. From Mr. Wakefield’s press complaints commission submission:

Parents of 8 of the 12 children made the link between MMR vaccination and onset of symptoms contemporaneously. Other parents made the link retrospectively, that is, some years later. We reported on those 8 who made the link at the time of their child’s deterioration and excluded those who made the link later in order to remove any bias associated with recall that may have been prompted by, for example, media coverage.

If true, this would have been an important point to have made in the paper–or anytime in the 10 years after it’s publication. Not in a PCC complaint. That said, Mr. Deer points out where even Mr. Wakefield’s late admission is apparently false:

But this story cannot be reconciled with the children’s records as a whole. There were numerous notes of parents making the association later, whose testimonies he not only included in the paper, but adopted them as fact in his temporal calculations. For example, in the case of child 1, the GP writing to the Royal Free more than two years after the boy was vaccinated, described the parents’ association with MMR as their “most recent concern” as to the possible cause of his autism.

While on the subject of the PCC. What happened to Mr. Wakefield’s complaint? Turns out the PCC put it on hold until after the GMC hearings concluded. Mr. Wakefield never re-activated the complaint. He does refer to it (here’s an example from early 2011). Mr. Deer makes the case that the PCC complaint is an example of Mr. Wakefield using the complaints process (lawsuits, PCC, etc.) as debate tools. A point which if made would go to the argument that the defamation suit was filed frivolously.

As a related point– Mr. Wakefield *did* initiate an appeal of the GMC decision. He dropped it.

There is the (somewhat obvious, but I didn’t connect the dots as to the importance for the defamation case) fact that many of the details put forth in Mr. Wakefield’s “Secrets” series with the BMJ were first put forth in the lay press as MMR Doctor Fixed Data on Autism and Focus: Hidden records show MMR truth. Why is this important? Because Mr. Wakefield had 1 year from the data of first publication of statements to claim defamation, and these newspaper articles are from 2009, three years before the defamation claim. One wonders if this fact was made clear to Mr. Wakefield’s attorney in advance of filing the claim.

The following is more an observation of my own that something from the Brian Deer declaration. But, since Mr. Deer makes passing note of the recent “Health Freedom Expo” in Long Beach, California, I was reminded of this. Mr. Wakefield, together with a number of other members of the “vaccine epidemic” community. One thing I noticed when their talks were announced was the fact that speakers paid to give their talks. Under “register to speak” on the Health Freedom Expo website is listed “speaker fees”: $250 per 45-minute time slot. What I didn’t see before was this statement: You MUST be an Expo exhibitor to be a speaker. How much does it cost to be an exhibitor? Well, for the upcoming expo in Chicago, a standard booth costs $995. Did Mr. Wakefield (and his colleagues who spoke) pay $1245, plus travel expenses to attend? Plus the cost for a ballroom to host a fundraiser?

All these are tiny oddities in a long saga filled with much greater stories.

Advertisements

22 Responses to “A few details from Brian Deer’s declaration”

  1. Matthew cline March 13, 2012 at 06:54 #

    Brian Deer got pulled in to the MMR story by the attention being drawn to a 2003 TV movie in the UK: “Hear the Silence“. This was a docu-drama about Andrew Wakefield.

    Whether or not Wakefield is a public figure is (in the context of the defamation lawsuit) a moot question, since he’s accused Deer and the BMJ of actual malice. However, if it wasn’t a moot question, I think Wakefield being the subject of a TV movie before Deer ever got involved pretty surely makes him a public figure.

  2. MikeMa March 13, 2012 at 12:30 #

    I see a title for a new book.

    Wakefield: Fraud and Deception, How a once promising MD chose fame and money over children’s health.

  3. Denice Walter March 13, 2012 at 14:23 #

    About that narrowing time-frame between the MMR and the ‘onset’ of symptoms ( down to 6 days, was it?) Oh, oh, oh ! By what mechanism then, pray tell, would autism be initiated? Massive cell death? Or massive cell growth? Mercury poisoning? Sepsis? Oh, let me think!

    About the Long Beach event- David Lewis also participated: his partner ‘Whistle-blower’, attorney Steven Cohn ( Kohn?), has a show on Gary Null’s so-called Progressive Radio Network called “Truth to Power”, “Crime and Dishonesty” or suchlike. Health Freedom advocate, Mike Adams ( Natural News) swooped in via video. AJW is a *cause celebre* amongst these info-mercial creators: it’s one happy family.

  4. Science Mom March 13, 2012 at 16:09 #

    About that narrowing time-frame between the MMR and the ‘onset’ of symptoms ( down to 6 days, was it?) Oh, oh, oh ! By what mechanism then, pray tell, would autism be initiated? Massive cell death? Or massive cell growth? Mercury poisoning? Sepsis? Oh, let me think!

    Exactly Denise. If Wakers knew anything about immunology (or anything else to do with vaccines for that matter) then he would have fabricated a more realistic time-frame that resembled viral replication, which is more than a week out.

    • Sullivan March 13, 2012 at 18:28 #

      “Exactly Denise. If Wakers knew anything about immunology (or anything else to do with vaccines for that matter) then he would have fabricated a more realistic time-frame that resembled viral replication, which is more than a week out.”

      Go beyond that. What is the time frame for the virus to start causing the damage he proposed? I.e. the leaky gut? Establish the infection, then the result (or proposed result). But this is why he gave the strange heading “behavioral symptoms” to things like fever (since when has a fever or a rash been a “behavioral symptom” of anything, much less autism). I’m always astounded that his co-authors and the referees let that slide.

      I wonder how long before Mr. Wakefield pulls the “FRCS” after his name (for example, here: http://www.drwakefieldjusticefund.org/content/wakefield ). It would have been a good moment on the stand to surprise him with that one. A minor moment of theater in a much larger discussion, but a good one to see nonetheless.

  5. Science Mom March 13, 2012 at 19:48 #

    Sullivan, “page not found” when you click on your link. http://www.drwakefieldjusticefund.org/content/wakefield but I just copied and pasted this that works.

    Did you see this? http://www.statesman.com/news/local/medical-journal-reporter-challenge-austin-autism-researchers-libel-2233745.html

    Funny his own attorney claims to have no knowledge of his “justice fund”.

    • Sullivan March 13, 2012 at 20:00 #

      Saw the Statesman article. I recognize one of the commenters too 😉

      Mr. Wakefield’s attorney made a few strange comments. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t know about the “justice fund”. Mr. Wakefield may have felt that this was something not worth spending hundreds of dollars an hour to discuss.

      That said, I found this comment by his attorney to be more the words of a publicist than an attorney: ““All he wants is his day in court, and they are going to extremes to prevent him from having that,” Parrish said of Deer and Godlee.”

      If the case gets past the jurisdiction argument and the SLAPP motion is heard, Mr. Wakefield *will* be having his day in court. He will potentially have much fewer days in court than for the regular trial, but that’s the point of anti-SLAPP legislation. Mr. Wakefield will get to present every one of his arguments for scrutiny. The Court will decide if the arguments merit the case going forward. If the case does not have merit, the Court will decide if the case was filed frivolously and, if so, impose penalties on Mr. Wakefield.

  6. Catherina March 13, 2012 at 20:12 #

    SM, take the ) from the end of Wakefield’s fundraising link and you can sign right up. Do we want to invest $25 to be getting their email updates 😉

  7. Visitor March 13, 2012 at 20:36 #

    So, this guy has been using bogus letters after his name – FRCS – for 15 years? And there is any body left who doesn’t think he’s a crook?

    I wonder whether he will still be using these letters when he has to submit a declaration on penalty of perjury?

  8. Autismum March 13, 2012 at 21:32 #

    This podcast interview with Brian Deer on Econtalk gives a pretty good overview of his investigation for anyone who hasn’t read it.
    Denice, he got the onset of symptoms down to 6.3days average with the longest being 14 days.
    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2011/01/deer_on_autism.html

  9. Science Mom March 13, 2012 at 21:46 #

    Thanks Catherina, I was trying to figure out why it wasn’t working. Oh the simple things do me in.

    Sullivan, my thought exactly. The anti-SLAPP suit isn’t denying Wakers his day in court; he just has to put up or shut up post haste. Incompetent lawyer or playing to the base? I can’t believe they are whining about defendants using legal methods at their disposal; I guess only Wakers is allowed.

  10. Denice Walter March 14, 2012 at 03:47 #

    @ Visitor: I’d be careful about using the word, ‘crook’… you may be the next one served…

    @ Autismum:
    I’m still trying to wrap my mind about how much would have to occur in the space of 6 days to culminate in either massive brain damage or neural re-organisation or lord knows what- PFC growth?- transforming normalcy into observable symptoms.

  11. Brian Deer March 16, 2012 at 17:35 #

    Dear LB/RB visitor,

    So as to give members of the autism and scientific commmunities a better sense of how Slapp suits can be used to harrass and intimidate journalists and media organisations, I have posted a photograph of the response from us necessary to deal with Andrew Wakefield’s latest vexatious litigation.

    He will get his day in court, but you can imagine the burden it puts on us in terms of time, energy and, of course, the extraordinary cost.

    http://briandeer.com/solved/slapp-introduction.htm

    • Sullivan March 16, 2012 at 18:39 #

      Brian Deer, lilady,

      I found some of your comments in the SPAM trap. Always feel free to contact me if something disappears. I once had so few spam messages that I could filter through them for the real comments. No longer.

      • Sullivan March 16, 2012 at 21:52 #

        Brian Deer,

        While I am sure that some will argue that this is an effort to bury Mr. Wakefield’s attorney in work, it should be noted that this is a summary of what Mr. Wakefield’s attorney asked for. From the “Demand Letter” sent by the attorney to the BMJ last year:

        Until this matter is resolved, we request that Mr. Deer, Dr. Godlee and the British Medical Journal preserve all notes, tape recordings, correspondence and other documents in their possession regarding their investigation leading up to and after the publication of these articles, including (but not limited to) the following:

        • Any notes or correspondence between or among Mr. Deer, Dr. Godlee, her co-authors Dr. Jane Smith and Dr. Harvey Marcovitch, or the British Medical Journal and the children’s
        families related in any way to Dr. Wakefield or the Lancet Article;

        • Any notes or correspondence between or among Mr. Deer, Dr. Godlee, her co-authors Dr. Jane Smith and Dr. Harvey Marcovitch, or the British Medical Journal and the children’s medical doctors, or any third-party medical consultant or reviewer, related in any way to Dr. Wakefield or the Lancet Article, the Deer Articles, or the BMJ editorial;

        • Any medical records or other documents Mr. Deer, Dr. Godlee, her co-authors Dr. Jane Smith and Dr. Harvey Marcovitch, or the British Medical Journal reviewed as part of the GMC proceeding against Dr. Wakefield and the Lancet authors;

        It goes on, including the “pharma shill” bullet at the end:

        Any notes or correspondence between or among Mr. Deer, Dr. Godlee, her co-authors Dr. Jane Smith and Dr. Harvey Marcovitch, the British Medical Journal and staff, employees, shareholders, owners, board members or executives of Glaxo SmithKline, or Merck Inc. and any of their companies or subsidiary’s.

        In a full trial, Mr. Wakefield’s attorneys are asking for even more than what they were provided with.

  12. Science Mom March 17, 2012 at 00:59 #

    Any notes or correspondence between or among Mr. Deer, Dr. Godlee, her co-authors Dr. Jane Smith and Dr. Harvey Marcovitch, the British Medical Journal and staff, employees, shareholders, owners, board members or executives of Glaxo SmithKline, or Merck Inc. and any of their companies or subsidiary’s.

    This wasn’t written by Cliff Shoemaker was it? Rhetorical question.

    • Sullivan March 17, 2012 at 06:40 #

      Science Mom,

      It is a very strange paragraph. For example, I guess the BMJ team are now going to have to ask everyone they have ever emailed if they hold shares in GSK? How are they supposed to know if someone they communicate with hold shares? I don’t sign my emails with a list of stocks I own, and neither does anyone I communicate with. (one could say I do include a comprehensive list of all pharma companies in which I own shares–since there aren’t any)

  13. Bystander apathy March 17, 2012 at 09:02 #

    ‘It is a very strange paragraph.’

    No, it’s not strange. It is what you would put in a petition if it was not intended for a court, but to smear your opponents and to raise money from gullible people.

    It is merely one of many signs that any lawyer would spot telling you that this lawsuit is not bona fide.

    Mr Deer spots others, including Wakefield’s failure even to properly read the article he criticises.

    I would say that Wakefield is in deep trouble if this goes to appeal, which looks like where the defendants want it to go. The costs he will have to pay will turn his hair gray.

    • Sullivan March 17, 2012 at 18:27 #

      I see that while the BMJ team appear to have written stories around the material openly discussed in the GMC hearings, Mr. Wakefield’s attorney refers to records obtained by the GMC but not read into the record.

      This brings up two observations:

      1) Mr. Wakefield appears to be still in possession of the records and

      2) Brian Deer and the BMJ team will likely be in possession too for their defense.

  14. Denice Walter March 17, 2012 at 15:48 #

    @ Sullivan:

    I discovered recently that some mutuals I own hold…. GSK and News Corp! Maybe I need to start adding disclaimers.(-btw- this is amongst hundreds of US & UK companies.)

    More seriously, I re-read AJW’s legal document and it reminded me ever-so-much of how alt med prevaricators, in an attempt to create doubt about any standard medical opinion, will spread their nets wide, desperately searching for something…anything!… that will cast aspersion on their opponents. So it doesn’t really matter if it’s related or not as long as it *sounds* bad. Needless to say, it usually focuses upon the periphery while neglecting the heart of the issue- which would be difficult because there is, most likely, a confluence of evidence. Same here.

  15. Liz Ditz March 17, 2012 at 23:46 #

    You know what is odd?

    How little reaction there has been from the Wakefield true-believers on the anti-SLAPP suit.

  16. Science Mom March 18, 2012 at 01:29 #

    You know what is odd?

    How little reaction there has been from the Wakefield true-believers on the anti-SLAPP suit.

    Don’t worry Liz; I’m sure they are just awaiting instructions from their fearless leaders for how to react and what their response should be. On the “what is odd” tangent, Jake Crosby hasn’t been stalking anyone lately. No convenient targets from the metro or restraining orders?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: