Brian Deer: VanDerHorst-Larson: misinformed mother scatters food for the birds

19 Oct

Brian Deer recently lectured at the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse on his journalism involving Andrew Wakefield’s research efforts and the improprieties found in those efforts. Not surprisingly, this led to a response by Mr. Wakefield and his supporters. I’ve pretty much given up on fact checking their complaints. Or, in this case, even really reading them.

But, complaints were made and, in this case, Mr. Deer has responded. His written response as VanDerHorst-Larson: misinformed mother scatters food for the birds.

Mr. Deer introduces his article with these paragraphs:

After the collapse of what was only ever a fringe campaign in the United States, claiming that vaccines were responsible for an epidemic of autism, small groups of ill-informed, misguided and sometimes frankly malicious, people became desperate for attention. This led to a barrage of emails – often abusive or crammed with hate speech – to university staff following my October 2012 lectures in Wisconsin.

The complaint below by one Jennifer VanDerHorst-Larson, who said she was founder of something she called the “Canary Party”, was one of the few that didn’t ooze with personal bile. But even she hadn’t checked her facts.

Ms VanDerHorst-Larson’s complaints are numbered, and I respond beneath each.

An example of such a complaint, with a partial quote of Mr. Deer’s response is given here:

8. Mr. Deer also failed to disclose that there were no complaints against Wakefield by the children’s families, most of whom very strongly support him, and many of whom credit his team with a diagnosis that led to effective treatment of their children’s bowel disease.

The father of the only child in Wakefield’s series who was not entered in (failed) UK compensation litigation described Wakefield’s reporting in the Lancet as “a clear misrepresentation of my son’s history” and “an outright fabrication”.

If you wish to read a point by point response, again, the link is VanDerHorst-Larson: misinformed mother scatters food for the birds.

7 Responses to “Brian Deer: VanDerHorst-Larson: misinformed mother scatters food for the birds”

  1. lilady October 19, 2012 at 05:45 #

    I read Brian Deer’s excellent post early this morning. I’ve been posting about that Canary Party “letter”, here:

    Here’s my post to “Taylor” who linked Mr. Deer’s rebuttal to that screed/letter:

    “Thanks Taylor for the link to Mr. Deer’s website. It does confirm everything, I have posted here about the Minneapolis measles outbreak 2011 and Wakefield’s trips to Minneapolis both before and during the outbreak, to meet with Somali parents to pursuade them to not vaccinate their children against measles.

    I also found the funding for this endeavor in Wakefield’s super-secret “Strategic Autism Initiative”…which has in the past…and may still be receiving $100,000/year from Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue (which is affiliated with Age of Autism). Apparently Ms. Van der Horst (and her Canary Party members) were actively involved with Somali Parents for quite some time before Wakefield made those three trips (that we know of), to speak with those parents.

    Mr. Deer’s article also mentions Dr. Buie and his efforts to duplicate Wakefield’s “study” findings, and was unsuccessful, which I also discussed on this thread, as well.

    Regarding that ridiculous letter sent by the Canary Party, to University Wisconsin-LaCrosse protesting Mr. Deer’s seminars and protesting the (non) debate with Wakefield, signed by Vanderhorst from the Canary Party. I suspect that protest letter was written by the brain trust from the National Canary Party, whose “Chairman” is Mark Blaxill (also the Editor-at-Large at Age of Autism:

    I’m feeling very satisfied with myself, for nailing down the same points that Mr. Deer has on his website.”

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 19, 2012 at 07:40 #

      “Regarding that ridiculous letter sent by the Canary Party, to University Wisconsin-LaCrosse protesting Mr. Deer’s seminars and protesting the (non) debate with Wakefield, signed by Vanderhorst from the Canary Party.”

      Well, now the department that invited Mr. Deer can justify the expense. Here you have what is an old story. Many of Andrew Wakefield’s ethical transgressions are 15 years in the past. Brian Deer first reported the story 8 years ago. His first BMJ stories were a few years ago, and the ones at the heart of the lawsuit are 18 months in the past. Most people have forgotten much of the import of the story–certainly the reporter for that local newspaper seems to have been unaware of how the press was played an became a willing partner to misinformation dissemination.

      But, yes, there still are people willing to carry the flag of dangerous misinformation. Good think the U. Wisconsin decided to educate their students.

  2. Brian Deer October 19, 2012 at 11:35 #

    Thanks for your interest in this subject.

    There has been a lot of talk about Professor John Walker-Smith, who denied before the GMC panel that he had admitted children to the Royal Free hospital for research by Andrew Wakefield. This was despite all three defendants having previously made formal statements that the children had participated in a study 172/96, approved by the IRB. Due to process errors, his striking off the medical register was quashed.

    This is what Walker-Smith wrote in his autobiography, self-published in 2003:

    “Now Andy Wakefield was keen to organize a research study of this group of children. Many parents were pleading for this to be done, some even demanding it. Indeed some years later an angry group of parents ambushed me in a hostile way, because we were not going ahead with more research. The centrepiece of the research however would be first a study to see if there was significant bowel inflammation in these children which could be treated. A secondary but important question would be whether measles virus, especially the vaccine virus strain, was present in any inflamed tissue which might be found. The research could only be contemplated if my endoscopic colleagues Simon Murch and Mike Thomson were prepared to undertake ileo-colonoscopy and believe that it was important to do so. They agreed. Andy Wakefield sought evidence of measles virus ultimately with John O’Leary of Dublin using sophisticated molecular techniques. Also it was essential that a child psychiatrist be involved to vet the accuracy of the diagnosis of autism. Mark Berelowitz enthusiastically agreed. My own role in all this was permissive as Andy Wakefield was the research leader, the conductor of the orchestra, a classical role in research for a gastroenterologist. A team was assembled, an ethical committee application was obtained and a pilot study went ahead.”

    I believe Walker-Smith has brought out a new edition of his autobiography. Anybody want to bet that this passage will be found in it?

    • lilady October 19, 2012 at 19:03 #

      Brian…If the blogs and posts that I am reading on AoA, that tout Walker-Smith’s new edition, is any indication….

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 22, 2012 at 19:26 #


      A snippet I got on Google books confirms the above in the 2003 edition. I don’t think the more recent addition is available yet.

      Another snippet:

      “the press conference was duly held in February 1998. Andy Wakefield, without any evidence, but with his own fears concerning the MMR and wish to avoid collapse in immunization as a whole, recommended the single components be given at yearly intervals.”

      He also seems to discuss that his “gut observations which are quite distinct from the MMR issue”

      I have often thought of picking up a used copy of the 2003 edition. Pehraps I will.

      Per the comment above–
      “Anybody want to bet that this passage will be found in it?”

      If not, it would make the title (enduring memories) a bit ironic.

  3. lilady October 19, 2012 at 18:46 #

    Just to clarify…The latest LaCrosse Tribune article is written by Michael Winfrey, the Chairman of the committee that invited Brian Deer to the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse campus. Mr. Winfrey wrote this “Letter to the Editor” in response to articles written by the “Education Reporter, who slanted (IMHO), those articles to infer that there is an ongoing debate about the role of vaccines, (MMR in particular), causing ASDs.

    Michael Winfrey: Former doctor was not invited to UW-L

    “I chaired the Distinguished Lectures in the Life Sciences committee that brought Brian Deer to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse earlier this month.

    The purpose of this series is to bring in a scientist who has made exceptional contributions to the life sciences. For the first time, we invited an award—winning journalist rather than a scientist.

    We did this because Deer’s investigations reversed an alarming trend of decreased vaccination of children in the United States and worldwide. Deer’s exposure of fraud also provides a clear example of the consequences of fraudulent science and the challenges faced by a public increasingly inundated with alarmist studies.

    It’s unfortunate that the Tribune chose to promote this as a “debate” in its Sept. 30 article, which led to the misconception that the university was hosting a debate between two opposing views.

    This series does not organize debates. We invite distinguished scientists (or in this case a journalist) whose findings have not only had a significant impact on science and society but also whose work is widely accepted by the scientific community.

    This year we invited a journalist who exposed a grievous scientific fraud by a former British doctor. The former doctor, who was found guilty of this fraud by two prestigious medical journals and the British General Medical Council, invited himself and complained that he was not invited to debate Deer.

    There are many topics worthy of debates. Whether a vaccine is the cause of autism is not among them.”

    Six days before that first article, written by the Education Reporter from the LaCrosse Tribune, appeared…AoA journalist Ed Arranga first blogged in yet another attack on Deer, that Mr. Deer would be speaking at the University…

    I can’t help wondering if the Education Reporter was *influenced* by the AoA journalists and their anti-vaccine sycophants, who deluged him with their *side* of the vaccine-autism (non) debate.

    BTW, I first found out about the Education Reporter’s articles by “slumming” at AoA and reading the Media Editor’s media alerts, designed to reach their readership.

  4. lilady October 21, 2012 at 00:34 #

    O/T but…Comedy Central has a program “Night of Too Many Stars” which is supporting autism research:

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