Wakefield dodges debate – again

9 Jun

The following comment was submitted to the Age of Autism blog but not approved:

Dr Wakefield is being disingenuous. In an earlier video posted on Age of Autism, he offered to debate the MMR-autism link ‘with any serious contender’. In an article published in the online magazine Spiked on 16 April, readily accessible through a link on AoA, I indicated that, as both the parent of an autistic son and as a doctor who has been engaged in this controversy for 15 years, I was prepared to engage in such a debate:


On 17 April Matt Carey published an article on the Left Brain, Right Brain blog, entitled ‘Mike Fitzpatrick calls Andrew Wakefield’s Bluff. Wakefield moves the goalposts’, drawing attention to Dr Wakefield’s apparent switch from being ready to debate ‘any serious contender’ to proposing that he was only prepared to debate with British immunisation chief, Dr David Salisbury: https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2013/04/

As Dr Wakefield is well aware, this is a very safe offer because Dr Salisbury has publicly indicated that he will not engage in any debate with Dr Wakefield.

Still receiving no response from Dr Wakefield, I publicly repeated this challenge in a posting on the Left Brain, Right Brain blog on 30 April, under the title ‘Andrew Wakefield: Now What About That Debate?’: https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2013/04/

Given the findings of the General Medical Council inquiry that removed Dr Wakefield’s name from the medical register on the grounds of ‘dishonesty’ and ‘irresponsibility’ in the conduct of his research, doctors and scientists are reluctant to engage in any public discussion with him. Many have advised me against accepting his challenge on these grounds. Yet I recognise that he continues to exert some influence among parents of autistic children. Hence I am prepared to engage in a debate that can only expose his failure, after 15 years, to produce any evidence in support of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Michael Fitzpatrick 6 June 2013

13 Responses to “Wakefield dodges debate – again”

  1. lilady June 9, 2013 at 17:53 #

    Dr. Fitzgerald: I posted my opinion about engaging in any “public debate” with Wakefield on a prior thread here at LB/RB.

    At that time I raised the problems of engaging Wakefield in a “public debate”. It would only serve to give this disgraced and discredited former doctor a platform to “re-argue” his “case” in a public forum.

    We don’t provide publicity and public platforms for AIDS deniers, Holocaust deniers or racists, thus providing them with some degree of credibility. Wakefield is in that same group and we don’t need to provide him with some cheap tawdry publicity. Nor do we need credulous mainstream media reporters to be impressed with Wakefield’s arguments that there still is a “debate” about MMR vaccine and autism…no less the fodder provided to the anti-vaccine, anti-science blogs.

    Last year Age of Autism publicized Brian Deer’s invitation, to speak at the U.Wisconsin-
    Lacrosse, about his investigative journalism regarding Wakefield’s “research” and Wakefield’s impetus to conduct a study and publish his bogus research. Immediately, the editors from AoA and their operatives found themselves a local reporter, who started to crank out articles for the LaCrosse Tribune. He framed his series of articles as if there still are unanswered questions about a link to the MMR vaccine and the onset of autism. He also “mentioned” that Wakefield wanted to debate Brian Deer.

    Imagine what would have happened if Michael Winfrey from the University had caved and changed the format of Mr. Deer’s seminars into a “debate”?

    Here is what Michael Winfrey had to state about the shameless promotion of Wakefield and “the debate”…


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

    October 12, 2012 12:15 am • By Michael Winfrey | Arcadia
    (615) Comments

    “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.”


    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 10, 2013 at 05:55 #

      I would not “debate” Andrew Wakefield for the reasons you cite and more. He is irrelevant now, except in the aftermath of the harm he caused. Over 1,000 people were made ill and this is a direct aftermath of Mr. Wakefield’s bad science, unethical behavior and self-promotion.

      He’s irrelevant now, but he wasn’t 16 years ago. It’s easy for me to stand up and point out how unethical and wrong Mr. Wakefield was. But that’s post Brian Deer. Before Brian Deer exposed the depth of the unethical actions, people who stood up and countered the misinformation were few and they took a lot of heat. Mike Fitzpatrick is one of those people. Take a look at the 40+ responses to “hear the silence” on the BMJ site.

      Mike Fitzpatrick also has a bit of history with LBRB.

      So, if Dr. Fitzpatrick wants to accept Mr. Wakefield’s challenge, I’m letting him.

      Besides, so far Dr. Fitzpatrick has demonstrated that Mr. Wakefield’s challenge was a bluff. A publicity stunt that gathered no real publicity.

  2. lilady June 9, 2013 at 17:58 #

    Sorry for the error in my post, when I addressed you with a wrong name, Dr. Fitzpatrick.

    • Chris June 10, 2013 at 06:17 #

      Oops. I think he might be used to that. Just like I am for people thinking my name is “Christine.” (it is not)

  3. jakecrosby June 10, 2013 at 06:47 #

    The video of Dr. Wakefield challenging MMR Cover-up Doctor David Salisbury to public debate was released on the same day as Dr. Fitzpatrick’s Spiked article. So perhaps he should consider the possibility that Dr. Wakefield’s video challenging Dr. Salisbury would have been released regardless of whether or not Dr. Fitzpatrick’s article challenging Dr. Wakefield to debate was published. For a doctor who insists every regression into autism following vaccination is just coincidence, Dr. Fitzpatrick sure is close-minded of the likelihood that his article and Dr. Wakefield’s video both coming out on the same day was just coincidence. Now Dr. Fitzpatrick believes the censorship of his comment by AoA is somehow Dr. Wakefield’s fault – as if he has any say in what comments get posted over there. I wasn’t even allowed to moderate my own comments back when I wrote for AoA.

    • Chris June 10, 2013 at 07:41 #

      What were those dates and how can we verify them? Please provide documentation.

      Also, I have been asking this question for a while. Since you were (or are) an epidemiology student, you should be able to answer this question that no one wants to answer:

      An MMR vaccine was introduced in the USA in 1971. It was the preferred vaccine for the 1978 measles elimination program. So an MMR vaccine with the Jeryl Lynn mumps component was used for at least a decade before three MMR vaccines were introduced in the UK.

      Please give us the PubMed indexed study that any MMR caused an increase in autism in the USA that is dated before 1990. This would provide us evidence other than the flash of money by Richard Barr to Wakefield, and would help Wakefield’s rather tarnished reputation.

      Oh, and when will you get your Master’s degree? Did you need to finish a few credits? One of my kids works twenty hours of week, so he is taking a bit longer to get his degree.

    • AutismNewsBeat June 10, 2013 at 17:57 #

      Jake, nobody suggests that Mr. Wakefield censors comments at AoA. Dan Olmsted is perfectly capable by himself of enforcing ideological purity.

  4. lilady June 10, 2013 at 15:42 #

    I’ve read many of Dr. Fitzpatrick’s articles about autism and vaccines, in particular the now thoroughly debunked theory that linked the triple antigen MMR vaccine with the onset of autism.

    I also read the rapid responses to Dr. Fitzpatrick’s 2004 article in the BMJ…but that was nine years ago, before Brian Deer published the majority of his articles about the collusion between Wakefield and the attorney Richard Barr, Wakefield’s undisclosed COIs and his falsification of medical charts. It was also before many more studies were conducted and published that found conclusively that the MMR vaccine is not associated with the onset of autism:


    Just looking at Wakefield’s recent history and affiliation with crank anti-vaccine, anti-science groups and his feeble attempts to make himself relevant in the science field by insisting there is “a debate”, is proof enough to me, that he will stop at nothing to put himself in the spotlight. The perfect example is Age of Autism and the Canary Party’s efforts at U. Wisconsin-Lacrosse to change the format of Brian Deer’s seminar into “a debate”.

    • Anne June 12, 2013 at 07:23 #

      Re Dr. Andrew Wakefield stopping at nothing to put himself in the spotlight, it makes me furious to see the video of Dr. Wakefield sitting next to Alex Spourdalakis, cynically using the child to draw attention to himself. Dr. Wakefield had earlier said that he was moved that a mother would love her child enough to take the child’s life. Now Alex is dead from being stabbed repeatedly while he lay in bed at home. His mother stands accused of the murder. Did Dr. Wakefield’s callous disregard of autistic people’s lives influence Alex’s mother? Sorry to go off topic from the debate issue, but Dr. Andrew Wakefield makes me furious.

      • Lawrence June 12, 2013 at 10:30 #

        @Anne- that is a very good point & one that I’ve struggled to articulate. Since the folks at AoA constantly dehumanize autistic individuals (especially children), claim that they are irrevocably broken / damaged, and will never live a happy life / only be a burden on society, did those particular viewpoints influence this mother and the caregiver in any way?

      • Sebastian Jackson June 13, 2013 at 21:43 #

        Alex Spourdalakis and his family live in Chicago, where the Autism One conference was held last month. I read Dan Olmsted praising a part of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s keynote in which he apparently used the Bible to suggest that “vaccine-damaged” kids with autism are better off not existing. (Really.) Given the proximity and the time frame (Alex’s caregivers had one week to plan what was meant to be a murder-suicide, and the conference adjourned two weeks ago) I wonder if Alex’s mother and godmother were at all influenced by Kennedy or some other Autism One speaker. Lord knows I have been looking at the “Age of Autism” comment threads, and while they acknowledge how horrible the murder was, the sympathy over there seems to be more for the parents who killed Alex than with Alex himself.

  5. Kat April 19, 2014 at 22:26 #

    At this time I am going to do my breakfast, later than having my
    breakfast coming over again to read additional news.


  1. Children as Lab-Rats … Second Part, Heart-Breaking | ChildreninShadow.wordpress.com - June 11, 2013

    […] Wakefield dodges debate – again (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk) […]

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