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D.A.I.R. Foundation 2013 tax form, about $100k in revenue, $20k in program expenses

5 Mar

A few years back Andrew Wakefield decided to sue the BMJ and Brian Deer.  This followed a series of articles and public statements that Mr. Wakefield’s work was an “elaborate fraud” and Mr. Wakefield himself was a fraud.   Lawsuits involve attorneys and attorneys cost money, so a few efforts arose to help Mr. Wakefield pay for these costs.  I believe the first was the “Dr. Wakefield Justice Fund”.  This didn’t come across as a major effort, the twitter account made three tweets, the website appears to be down (here’s an archived version), and it doesn’t appear to have made charity status.  Another effort that came out was the Academic Integrity fund.  Again, the website seems to be down, but again there’s the archive.  In many ways it’s too bad that site didn’t continue as it because a place for Mr. Wakefield to place essays.  And his writing, while tedious, produced interesting insights into his thoughts. For example:

Obama must meet the autism tragedy head on and deal with the proximate cause of the epidemic – unsafe and untested vaccination practices.

This from a man whose supporters claim never says that vaccines cause autism.

And we can also read the approach that would later prove fatal for Alex Spourdalakis: autism must be considered a medical, especially gastrointestinal, condition and that psychiatric medications to be avoided and that are behind mass murderers.

Tragically, predictably, there will be more events like at Sandy Hook Elementary. The vast number of individuals with developmental disorders presages such events. This is not because of their diagnosis, per se, but rather I would suggest, because they may be at increased risk for adverse reactions (due to pre-existing conditions) and are being inappropriately medicated with drugs for which violence is a recognized adverse reaction. These drugs are being prescribed by a “mainstream”

Not all the fundraising efforts failed.  We also saw the rise of a group calling itself the “Defending Academic Integrity and Research” or D.A.I.R. Foundation.  D.A.I.R. states under “what we do”:

Justice is accessible only to those who can afford it. D.A.I.R. Foundation provides legal aid, coordinated public relations support, and educational materials that support the work of our sponsored applicants.

Reading their site, one applies for support and D.A.I.R. provides financial support, PR and other help.

D.A.I.R. Foundation has an open request for proposals from researchers, physicians, scientists, and academic policy drivers who have come under attack and are interested in applying for legal aid. Please Contact Us and note in the subject line “Applicant Inquiry”. Applicants follow an approval review process. Applicants who are accepted will be expected to agree to terms and conditions of the legal aid process to include partnership in strategy that assures success and can be leveraged in future cases, proceeds to D.A.I.R. Foundation following legal compensation, and development of educational and public relations materials. We also assist in reputation management

I emailed them asking for a copy of their “terms and conditions” but they did not reply.  I find it interesting that people are expected to work with D.A.I.R in developing educational an public relations materials, and apparently provide a share of the proceeds of any legal settlements they achieve.

They hold fundraisers, and it appears that Andrew Wakefield is a featured speaker at these events.  The event linked on their website was not inexpensive, but also appears to have left a large number of seats unsold. (click to enlarge)

DAIR fundraiser

Of course this leaves us wondering, how much money did D.A.I.R. bring in and how did they use it?  Well, here’s the D.A.I.R. Foundation 2013 form 990.

From this we learn that they brought in $104,488.  Of that $20,859 was spent on a grant (I assume to Andrew Wakefield).  But that is less than 1/3 of their expenses. (click to enlarge)


They spent $14,889 on salary for Dawn Loughborough (the executive director). They spent $15,256 on catering and $7,383 on travel, plus other expenses. (click to enlarge)


Or, to put it simply: they took in about $100k.  Of this about $20k went to actual program expenses, over $45k went to salary and other expenses and about $37k was left in the bank.

If you dontated, about $0.20 of each dollar went to program expenses (presumably Mr. Wakefield’s expenses) about $0.45 went to overhead and about $0.35 may be used for program expenses at a later time.

Should this grant have gone to Mr. Wakefield, I don’t see that covering a large fraction of his expenses for his failed lawsuit.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but the effort involved multiple lawyers and many, many pages of documents.

By Matt Carey

The Quacks behind the Warrior Moms

13 Oct

I accept Dr Carpenter’s opinion that there is no evidence that any of these treatments were individually beneficial for M and that collectively they were intrusive and contrary to his best interests.  M’s life was increasingly dominated by the programme of treatment to the exclusion of other activities.  I find that E has implemented a programme of diet, supplements and treatments and therapies indiscriminately, with no analysis as to whether they are for M’s benefit, and on a scale that has been oppressive and contrary to his interests.  She has exercised total control of this aspect of M’s life.’

Mr Honourable Justice Baker, In the Court of Protection, Judgment, In the matter of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and in the matter of M, 11 August 2014

Brian Deer has once again done a service to the autism community, by putting in the public domain the judgment of Mr Justice Baker in the case arising from a dispute between a local authority and the mother (E) and father (A) of a young man (M) with autism.

Deer’s report, published in the Sunday Times on 12 October, focuses on the judge’s scathing judgment on E, a prominent supporter of the claim by the discredited Royal Free researcher Andrew Wakefield of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Mr Justice Baker concluded that E had fabricated evidence of an adverse reaction to MMR in her son, invented a range of associated diagnoses, subjected her son to unnecessary tests and treatments, neglected a dental abscess and indulged in fantasy conspiracy theories.

This Court of Protection case offered a rare opportunity to ventilate in public some of the controversies that have raged in the world of autism over the past decade. In the USA, the Omnibus Autism proceedings in 2008-9 provided a public forum in which claims regarding vaccine-autism links and associated alternative treatments were exposed as scientifically baseless and clinically irresponsible.

Though Mr Justice Baker did not address the MMR link or alternative treatments in general, his 92 page report provides a devastating indictment of the role of a range of therapists in relation to M, some of whom appeared as witnesses. In addition to exclusion diets and supplements, M received homeopathy, cranial osteopathy, reflexology, naturopathy, light and sound therapy, auditory integration training and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It is clear that E’s descent into irrationality and paranoia was supported and encouraged by a number of dubious authorities and therapists, with damaging consequences for her son and her family.

Three therapists gave evidence in support of E’s treatment of her son. Shelley Birkett-Eyles, an occupational therapist working in a private clinic, was accepted by Mr Justice Baker as a ‘responsible practitioner’, though he noted that her reliability was challenged by Dr Peter Carpenter, a consultant psychiatrist with a special interest in learning disability, the expert witness called by the local authority.

Dr Peter Julu describes himself as ‘autonomic neurophysiologist’ (based at the private Breakspear Clinic), though Mr Justice Baker questioned whether this was a legitimate speciality and noted that his diagnosis of ‘neurodevelopmental dysautonomia’ was disputed by Dr Carpenter, who also challenged the reliability of his assessments and treatments, particularly his recommendation of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Ms Juliet Hayward, a nutritional therapist, was censured for giving ‘advice well beyond her expertise’, in endorsing a diagnosis of Lyme Disease and in prescribing a dietary protocol without taking an adequate medical history. Mr Justice Baker concluded that he ‘was left with a profound anxiety about Ms Haywood’s influence on E and her role in the treatment that M has received.’

Mr Justice Baker was particularly concerned that none of these three had received training in issues of ‘mental capacity’ as codified in the 2005 Mental Capacity Act. He observed that ‘it was clear from their evidence that none of them had given proper consideration to the question whether M had capacity to consent to their assessments or the treatment they were prescribing’.

In addition to these therapists, E called as expert witnesses two veterans of the Wakefield anti-MMR campaign: Dr Ken Aitken, a clinical psychologist formerly associated with the (now defunct) Autism Treatment Trust providing alternative treatments in Edinburgh; and Mr Paul Shattock, a retired pharmacy lecturer from Sunderland, a long-standing promoter of exclusion diets and unorthodox biomedical therapies.

By contrast with other expert witnesses (including Dr Peter Carpenter, Dr Alison Beck, Professor Robin Williamson, Dr Gwyn Adshead, Mr Keith McKinstrie), whom Mr Justice  Baker found to be ‘wholly reliable and professional’, he expressed considerable reservations about Aitken and Shattock:

‘I was concerned at times as to their qualifications to opine on some of the matters about which they gave evidence.’

In his conclusion, Mr Justice Baker categorically rejected the approach advocated by Aitken and Shattock in relation to M:

‘I stress, again, that I am not making any definitive findings on the efficacy of alternative treatments generally.  That is not the subject of these proceedings, which are about M.  I do, however, find that: (1) there is no reliable evidence that the alternative treatments given to M have had any positive impact on people with autism generally or M in particular and (2) the approach to prescribing alternative treatments to and assessing the impact of such treatments on people with autism in general and M in particular has lacked the rigor and responsibility usually associated with conventional medicine.’

Mr Justice Baker repudiated ‘the fallacy’ of E’s belief that there are two parallel approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of autism, each of which is equally valid:

‘The evidence in this hearing has demonstrated clearly that there is one approach – the clinical approach advocated by Dr Carpenter – that is methodical, rigorous and valid, and other approaches advocated by a number of other practitioners, for which there is no evidence of any positive impact and which (in this case at least) have been followed with insufficient rigor.  Whilst each treatment may be harmless, they may, if imposed collectively and indiscriminately, be unduly restrictive and contrary to the patient’s interests.  These disadvantages are compounded when, as in several instances in this case, insufficient consideration is given by the practitioners to the question of whether a mentally-incapacitated patient has consented to or wishes to have the treatment.’

Given his characterisation of E’s performance in court as controlling, manipulative, duplicitous and obstructive it was perhaps not surprising that Mr Justice Baker expressed some sympathy for the long-suffering family GP, Dr W. This ‘older-style family GP’ had been ‘tolerant and sympathetic’ and had maintained a good relationship with the family ‘until he went into the witness box’, when it became clear to E and her husband that, though Dr W had been attentive to the family needs and had responded to her requests to arrange investigations that he did not consider clinically indicated, he did not endorse her wilder theories and diagnoses. Though the parents later expressed ‘disillusionment’ with Dr W, Mr Justice Baker found his evidence ‘responsible, truthful and humane’.

Michael Fitzpatrick

13 October 2014

Michael Fitzpatrick has an autistic son close in age to M; he is a doctor, former GP and the author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know (2004) and Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion (2009)

Brian Deer: Wakefield ‘MMR mother’ fabricated injury story

12 Oct

Brian Deer, the reporter who broke the story on Andrew Wakefield’s conflicts of interests, has a new story on his website:

Wakefield ‘MMR mother’ fabricated injury story
In a newly-released judgment from England’s Court of Protection, a prominent anti-vaccine campaigner is branded a manipulative liar. Brian Deer reports

The story is quite sad. And while it presents an extreme case, there are themes here which have been seen elsewhere.

A British “mother warrior”, who claimed that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is responsible for autism, fabricated accounts of injury to her son and persistently lied about his health, a London court has ruled.

The mother, “E”, who cannot be named so as to protect her son’s identity, concocted a story about how he reacted to an MMR shot in January 1991. She said that he became distressed with fever and then lost speech, eye contact and play immediately following his three-in-one at the age of 18 months.

She claimed that he screamed after immunization, and that this was followed by six hours of convulsions and vomiting, and then six months in a “persistent vegetative state”.

But in a landmark 45,000-word judgment, which entered the public domain last week from the Court of Protection, the mother was dismissed as a manipulative liar. It was found that she had made up the story so as to bring attention to herself and had plied her developmentally delayed son with a mass of sometimes bizarre “biomedical” interventions so as to gain “total control” over his life.

Mr. Deer’s story goes on (Wakefield ‘MMR mother’ fabricated injury story) with more details. Many more details are in the court’s judgment which is linked to at the end of Mr. Deer’s article. I won’t copy it all here, I encourage you to read it there.

Here’s a paragraph from the judgment that goes to the evolution of the story surrounding the day in which the child received the MMR vaccine. The fact that the allegation of a vaccine reaction was not made until is important as this was 10 years after the event. Also worth noting is that this individual showed developmental issues well before the MMR vaccine.

After the allegation of an adverse reaction to MMR was eventually recorded in 2001, it became more dramatic in subsequent accounts. Thus, in 2001 the description was: “Distressed after injection. Had fever. Eyes glazed, dilated and fixed.” E’s account became more florid over time, with references to screaming, jolting, spasming and a persistent vegetative state. In her final statement she said that: “M died within six hours of the MMR.” In the witness box she gave a full account of the events on the day on which the MMR was administered and M’s reaction to it. E acknowledges in her final statement that she uses certain words and phrases in her own particular way. For example, for her the phrase “vegetative state” means “slipping in and out of consciousness, not responding and appearing lifeless.” And her use of the word “died” to describe what happened to M means “stopped breathing and lost consciousness”

I’d be very interested when “died” became part of the story. Reading the above I was very much reminded of Jenny McCarthy’s statement that her son died from vaccine injury. Ms. McCarthy was referring to her son’s very serious seizures. The timeline has never been made clear, but those seizures appear to have began a year or more after her son’s vaccinations. But her vague choice of words led many to claim that her son “died” shortly after vaccination.

As to “E”‘s experience taking her son to the Royal Free Hospital:

Throughout the hearing, E insisted that M had been given the diagnosis of autistic enterocolitis or leaky gut syndrome and alleged that some of the Royal Free medical records must be missing. I reject that assertion. I find that not even the Royal Free team, who at that time were leading the way and postulating the link between autism and a form of colitis, found any evidence in 2001 of significant gut disorder in M. In his case no diagnosis of autistic enterocolitis or leaky gut syndrome was ever made.

There’s a great deal more, in both Mr. Deer’s story and the 92 page judgment.

By Matt Carey

Brian Deer’s original 2004 Channel 4 report on Andrew Wakefield: MMR: What they didn’t tell you

5 Oct

When Andrew Wakefield presented his hypothesis linking autism to the MMR vaccine in 2014 1998, he fueled a vaccine scare that is still alive today. It wasn’t until 6 years later that specifics about Mr. Wakefield’s actions were to surface. First in a newspaper story by Brian Deer (Revealed: MMR research scandal). Later that year in a BBC Channel 4 investigation: “MMR What they didn’t tell you.” I’ve never seen that Channel 4 program. Until today. Mr. Deer has placed it on YouTube. In three parts.

Part 1 introduces the topic. The MMR scare, the Wakefield 1998 Lancet paper and the press conference and the Royal Free’s video given out to the press. A discussion with an epidemiologist about the fact that there was nothing in Mr. Wakefield’s own work to support the triple MMR vaccine. Which leads us to the Wakefield patent for a substance that could be used as a vaccine–a vaccine which could only reasonably be expected to make a profit if the existing measles vaccine were considered unsafe–and as an autism “cure”.

Mr. Deer speaks with Ian Bruce, a researcher who worked with Andrew Wakefield on the patent. “The interpretation of that is quite clear to me..and that is that they have a vaccine for measles. Which presumably is an alternative to the existing vaccine.”

The thing is, the public was not told that Mr. Wakefield and the Royal Free had these commercial interests prior to Mr. Deer’s show.

Part 2 discusses the patent–the cure and vaccine aspects. The idea was that measles virus would be injected into a mouse. Those would be extracted, frozen, thawed, mixed with human cells, and injected into pregnant goats. The colostrum (part of the goat’s milk) would then form the basis of this vaccine/cure substance.

Sound like a strange idea to you? Well, Mr. Deer interviews medical experts who also think so. “the whole technique doesn’t make sense”. “It’s not credible”. “It’s strange”.

Mr. Deer tries to interview Dr. Roy Pounder, Mr. Wakefield’s former supervisor at the Royal Free. Mr. Pounder at first agrees then refuses to be interviewed.

Mr. Deer then goes to American and interviews Hugh Fudenberg, collaborator with Mr. Wakefield and co-inventor on the patent. Mr. Fudenberg at the time was charging up to $750 an hour to see and treat autistic children. He too considers Mr. Wakefield’s treatment to be unfounded. However, Mr. Fudenberg had a cure of his own, made from his own bone marrow.

Mr. Deer discusses some of the criticism of Mr. Wakefield’s work, including a statement from someone who worked in the Royal Free Hospital, including a comment that the work amounted to abuse.

Part 3 includes a discussion with Nick Chadwick, a student in Mr. Wakefield’s laboratory during the MMR/Autism research. Mr. Chadwick tested the tissues for measles virus, and found there was none in the autistic children being seen by Mr. Wakefield’s team. Also interviewed was Ian Bruce, a colleague of Mr. Wakefield’s, and also a supervisor for Nick Chadwick. Both Chadwick and Bruce are highly confident that if there were measles virus in the tissues, they would have detected it.

Mr. Deer discusses the 2000 measles outbreak in Ireland. He interviews the parents of one of the children who died in that outbreak. For those who keep saying that measles is mild, that in first world countries no one dies or is injured, here’s what a child dying of measles looks like in the first world. She took 11 months to die.


Mr. Deer then goes to America to find and try to speak with Mr. Wakefield. Mr. Wakefield was listed as “research director” for Jeff Bradstreet’s clinic in Florida, but wasn’t there. The Bradstreet clinic had a host of supplements that one could purchase to “treat” autism. Mr. Deer eventually finds Mr. Wakefield at an Autism Society of America convention. Whereupon Mr. Wakefield runs away.

By the way–Thank you ASA for no longer inviting Andrew Wakefield to speak.

This investigative report together with the Sunday Times articles earlier in 2004 made a huge impact at the time. I know as I lived through it. The retraction of interpretation published by most of Mr. Wakefield’s co-authors on the 1998 Lancet paper (since fully retracted by the journal), was a big statement that this work was not solid. Of course, Brian Deer would eventually go on to win a U.K. Press Award for his MMR journalism and Mr. Wakefield would eventually be found to have been unethical in his research and struck off the register (lose his medical license).

The embedded version below should go through all three parts in sequence.

Andrew Wakefield loses frivolous defamation lawsuit. To pay court costs.

19 Sep

In 2011 the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a series of articles about Andrew Wakefield and his efforts to promote the idea of the MMR vaccine causing autism. Brian Deer has a list of links on his website: Secrets of the MMR scare. Here are just a few of those links:

Piltdown medicine – the missing link between MMR and autism

Editorial: Wakefield’s article linking MMR with autism was fraudulent

How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed

How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money

The Lancet’s two days to bury bad news

Nearly a year after those were published, Andrew Wakefield took issue with his work being declared fraudulent and sued for defamation. Not in the UK, where the laws are very favorable to him. No, instead he chose his home state of Texas. Mr. Wakefield’s original suit was denied on the grounds that he did not have the standing to bring suit against the BMJ in Texas. Mr. Wakefield appealed. And lost.

In the recent appeal the judgment the court stated:

This is an appeal from the judgment signed by the trial court on August 3, 2012. Having reviewed the record and the parties’ arguments, the Court holds that there was no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment. Therefore, the Court affirms the trial court’s judgment. The appellant shall pay all costs relating to this appeal, both in this Court and the court below.

The full judgment can also be found online.

[Edit to add–see the discussion below. It is quite possible that I did not read this correctly]

If I read this correctly, Mr. Wakefield will be paying the costs the BMJ team incurred as well as his own. And, not only in the appeal, but also “in the court below”, which I read to be in the original suit. To put it simply–Mr. Wakefield may be in the position of paying the costs going back to when he first filed his defamation case.

The BMJ team and Mr. Wakefield’s team were four attorneys each. I would expect that Mr. Wakefield’s costs run into many tens of thousands of dollars. I would expect that the BMJ’s costs are likely even higher.

Which brings us to the obvious question: with a gamble of this size, what would this appeal have accomplished had Mr. Wakefield won? Well, for starters the BMJ team’s Anti SLAPP suit would have moved forward. Texas had just enacted Anti-SLAPP legislation at the time Mr. Wakefield filed suit (as an aside, if I recall correctly this is one of the blunders of Mr. Wakefield’s suit–waiting until after the new law was in place to file). SLAPP stands for Strategic lawsuit against public participation. The BMJ suit essentially puts for the idea that Mr. Wakefield’s defamation suit was a cynical attempt to stop the BMJ (and others) from voicing public criticism about Mr. Wakefield’s actions. Mr. Wakefield faced heavy penalties had the Anti-SLAPP suit gone forward and had the BMJ won.

This is the fourth time that Mr. Wakefield has attempted to “gag the media” as Mr. Deer puts it. And now the fourth time Mr. Wakefield has lost. One can never tell for certain, but it seems likely that Mr. Wakefield would have lost the Anti-SLAPP suit.

Let’s say Mr. Wakefield avoided an Anti-SLAPP judgment. He would have been able to bring his defamation case to court on the merits. Not on the merits of his scientific work, but on the question of whether the BMJ team could rightfully call his work fraudulent. A case the BMJ team certainly prepared for before going to press. And prepared to defend in the UK, where the laws are much more favorable to Mr. Wakefield. Which is to say, I suspect the BMJ felt strongly that they had checked all their facts closely and were well defended in any and all statements they made.

From my point of view, this defamation lawsuit was a vanity exercise by Mr. Wakefield. It got his name in the news. It may have slowed criticism of him for years. He got to look like a hero to his own community.

And he threw tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars down the tubes in the effort. Mr. Wakefield heads the “Strategic Autism Initiative” which has the purported goal of funding autism research. Last I checked the majority of the money collected for the SAI went to salaries. Mr. Wakefield’s being the lion’s share. Be that as it may, Mr. Wakefield had an option a few years ago: fund autism research or fund this lawsuit.

Well, we see his choice. And the result. Sure there may be a further appeal. Take it to the Texas Supreme Court and delay some more. And run up more bills to pay.

By Matt Carey

Andrew Wakefield and Lance Armstrong: two unethical people exposed by the Sunday Times

30 Jun

The Sunday Times has a series of films (Unquiet Films, has a series of short films about the impact of The Times has had over the years.

Newspapers are all about stories – but sometimes the best stories are the ones we don’t tell.

Let’s not forget that news is often something that someone, somewhere, doesn’t want you to know. The real-life tales of how world-changing exclusives – whether from foreign reporters under fire, or determined hacks banging against stone-walling bureaucracy – are brought out into the open can be just as extraordinary as the articles that end up in the newspaper. Sometimes the story behind our amazing photo-journalism, campaign to change the law on adoption, to make cities safe for cycling, to reveal the corruption at the heart of FIFA, or the lies of a champion like Lance Armstrong are as exciting as a thriller, as tense as an episode of House of Cards.

We decided it was time to showcase just what the best journalists do… the real lives, real struggles, real bravery behind the newspaper stories that change the course of history. It’s all very well to boast that The Times and the Sunday Times strive to speak truth to power, without fear or favour and to report the truth, whatever the cost. But too often exactly what that takes – the death threats to reporters, the legal battles, the toughness and integrity it takes to get the article on the page – gets lost in the telling.

So here, in a series of extraordinary and independently made short films are some of the amazing, true-life stories behind the stories – we hope you find them as moving and inspiring as we do.

As an example of the “best journalists do”, they have a segment entitled “question everything“. It focuses on Brian Deer (whose work exposed the unethical actions of Andrew Wakefield, later found proved by the GMC) and David Walsh (who pursued and uncovered the Lance Armstrong doping scandal).

From BAFTA-winning filmmaker Will Clark: We now live in a world where more often than not, only the surface facts of a story are reported. Real investigative journalism seems to be a dying art and I feel this is something we should all be deeply concerned about. I wanted to create a film that focused on two Sunday Times journalists whose pursuit for the truth turned into an obsession. From Lance Armstrong’s doping revelations to Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent MMR claims, both were lengthy investigations that were published at risk by the newspaper. Both investigations also managed to reveal large scandals that would most likely have remained hidden were it not for the perseverance and tenacity of the journalists covering the stories. I’m sure every reporter has secretly wished for his or her very own All The President’s Men moment. This is the tale of two journalists who got their wish.

Here’s the video:

By Matt Carey

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.

Andrew Wakefield tries to make himself relevant again

2 Oct

Andrew Wakefield is the former research surgeon who championed the idea that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Multiple researchers have told me that even at the time of Mr. Wakefield’s first research announcements, Mr. Wakefield’s idea was a stretch in terms of biological feasibility. For a few years at least, Andrew Wakefield was relevant in the autism research community. People worked to replicate his findings and otherwise answer the questions he posed. That was years ago. The result is we now know his ideas of persistent measles infection and a leaky gut causing autism were not valid and that, at best, Mr. Wakefield was a mediocre scientist who took this poorly conceived hypothesis and ran with it. Running as in a “running with scissors”, ignoring safety. As has been demonstrated since, he was also ignoring ethical concerns as well. But this is all old news.

In 2004, yes 8 years ago, Brian Deer exposed many of the ethical lapses in Mr. Wakefield’s autism career. Since then we’ve heard a lot of words from Mr. Wakefield about how it is all about the children, but seen a lot of his actions more akin to it being all about himself. He sued Mr. Deer over those 2004 reports (how is that helping autistics?). Mr. Wakefield abandoned his suit (how is that helping autistics?). Mr. Wakefield asked that the GMC look into the possible charges stemming from the reported actions (OK, that helps autistics a little by exposing Mr. Wakefield’s ethical and scientific deficiencies better, but that wasn’t exactly his intention). Mr. Wakefield attended the GMC hearings even though he sayed he didn’t need his medical license (registration) any more. This provided a great deal of drama (again, how does this help anyone but Mr. Wakefield?) but not much advancement. Mr. Wakefield was struck off the register (which could be argued helps autistics in a small way). Mr. Wakefield appealed and then dropped his appeal of the GMC decision. When Mr. Deer wrote more articles, this time for the BMJ, Mr Wakefield filed a complaint with the PCC (press complaints commission) in the UK, but he appears to be not pursuing that. Just letting it exist as a complaint (again, benefit?). Then, this year, he chose to sue Brian Deer, the editor of the BMJ and the BMJ itself this year for defamation over another set of articles and public statements (again, to what benefit to autistics?).

Mr. Wakefield’s latest day in court was short, but likely expensive. A judge in Texas ruled that Mr. Wakefield doesn’t have the standing to bring that case to trial.

Recently Mr. Wakefield appealed. Which, frankly, was enough of a non event in my view that with Respectful Insolence covering the discussion I felt no need to.

In the past eight years we can point to no advances in autism research championed by Mr. Wakefield, but we can (and just have) point to numerous occasions of Mr. Wakefield use procedural methods to keep himself in the news.

Mr. Wakefield claims essentially that calling him a fraud is defamatory. Which brings up the part of recent events that I did find interesting. Again at Respectful Insolence, in Time to rally the troops against the antivaccine movement, Orac calls on people to, well, rally. I’ll stand apart from Orac on this one. Frankly, making this appear to be a controversy, adding drama, is not helping matters.

One might rightly ask, why write about this at all? Why spend time on a topic which has obviously become irrelevant? In setting up his press conference Mr. Wakefield (through his team) made a bit of a poor move.

Mr. Wakefield’s approach to the discovery of his ethical and scientific failings has been to deny even the most clear facts. For example, when presented with direct evidence that he had major financial interests in creating a viable court case out of the MMR/autism hypothesis (being a paid expert witness, creating test kits with the idea that litigation-driven profits will be millions per year, etc.), Mr. Wakefield tells us it is all about the children, and he made all his financial ties public in advance (which he didn’t). When it was discussed on TV that he had a patent application in place covering an alternative measles patent–one whose commercial viability hinged directly on the confidence level of the current vaccine–he told us that it was all misdirection on the part of Mr. Deer. Later it became public that Mr. Wakefield had business plans in place to develop the invention as a potential vaccine.

Essentially, after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Mr. Wakefield tells us he was never in the kitchen and, besides, he was only getting the cookie for the children.

From a public relations standpoint (and let’s not forget that Mr. Wakefield had a PR representative since before Brian Deer entered the scene) Mr. Wakefield has played his hand somewhat well. He plays the role of a man who remains polite even in the face of this alleged adversity we are to believe has been put upon him. Mr. Deer, on the other hand, is (I believe in his own words), mercurial and has made statements which are easy to use against him.

Mr. Wakefield is portrayed as the guy you’d love to sit down to a glass of beer (or more likely wine) with while Mr. Deer is someone you’d best not provoke (I believe the term “reptilian” has recently been used by his detractors). I’m not so motivated by the opportunity to sit down to a glass of wine with unethical people, but let’s move on.

In an article on the Age of Autism blog, Ed Arranga writes about Mr. Deer being brought out to the U.S. to give talks to some academics and how Mr. Wakefield will hold a press conference. As one would expect from the Age of Autism, the approach is strongly negative. Here’s how it starts out:

Brian Deer – a liar, fraud, and former reporter for The Sunday Times of London – is coming to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse October 4 and 5 to lecture you about Dr. Andrew…

Mr. Arranga is doing the attack here, allowing Mr. Wakefield to retain his polite persona. But with a multi-million dollar lawsuit ongoing, is this really enough distance for Mr. Wakefield? How will the above statements play out should Mr. Wakefield win the chance to sue?

Mr. Arranga runs AutismOne, whose convention presents Mr. Wakefield as a prime draw. In other words, Mr. Arranga has a financial interest in Mr. Wakefield’s reputation. A small conflict of interest which, while obvious to most of his readers, should have been made clear in Mr. Arranga’s article. Mr. Arranga also serves on the “Strategic Autism Initiative”, a charity formed after Mr. Wakefield’s ouster from Thoughtful House. [Correction: Mrs. Arranga serves on the SAI board, but Mr. Arranga is not listed in the available tax document]. Most importantly to this discussion, Mr. Arranga is also on the “executive staff” of the “Dr. Wakefield Justice Fund“.

So someone intimately involved with Mr. Wakefield’s career and defense is calling Mr. Deer a “fraud” and a “liar” and, in general, attacking Mr. Deer. Consider that Mr. Wakefield’s case is based at least in part on the idea that using terms such as “fraud” is defamatory. Mr. Wakefield’s original court filing states that defamation occurred: “Based on Defendants’ purported “reanalysis,” Defendants made and continue to make assertions that Plaintiff Dr. Wakefield committed fraud and is “a fraudster.”” Again, one should ask, did Mr. Wakefield blunder in allowing this personal attack on Mr. Deer? How will a judge or jury view a man who sets his team to attack others while claiming that the very same terms are defamatory? It’s not enough to cost him the case, but it was not a wise move.

The sad thing is that this is as close to relevance and Mr. Wakefield can currently attain in the autism communities. Holding a press conference in response to lectures by Brian Deer, who is discussing events that happened 15 years ago. Attacking Mr. Deer through surrogates. Putting time, money and effort into the latest in a string of procedural maneuvers which, even if he were right, hold no benefit for the communities.

As far as cost/benefit calculations go, Mr. Wakefield is a simple case. Costs to the autism communities in time and resources wasted chasing the ideas he championed. Costs to the public at large in terms of health scares and increased infectious disease. All this weighed against a complete lack of benefit brought to the communities by Mr. Wakefield. I guess we should put this in terms of a benefit/cost ratio to avoid dividing by zero.

By Matt Carey

What letter, Mr. Olmsted? Why this one, of course.

14 Mar

When Brian Deer wrote one of his 2009 article for the Sunday Times: Focus: Hidden records show MMR truth, he introduced the article with a discussion of the father of Child 11, the only American child in the Lancet 12:

ON a Monday morning in February 1997, a taxi left the Royal Free hospital, in Hampstead , northwest London. It turned out of the car park and headed to the renowned Institute of Cancer Research, six miles southwest in Fulham.

In the back of the cab sat a California businessman, whose commercial interests lay in electroplating, but whose personal crusade was autism. On his lap was a plastic pot, in which snips of human tissue floated in protective formalin.

The snips were biopsies taken from the gut of the man’s five-year-old son, then a patient on the hospital’s Malcolm ward. The boy, Child Eleven, as he is known to protect his privacy, had been enrolled in a programme to investigate alleged risks of the three-in-one measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Mr. 11, as he is known, was the one parent who chose to confirm the results he was given by Mr. Wakefield’s team at the Royal Free. In particular, he wanted to confirm whether the tissue samples taken from his son really contained measles virus, as he was told. After taking samples to people outside Mr. Wakefield’s team at the Royal Free:

“It took a big fight to get the information,” said Mr Eleven. “They told me there was no measles virus. I had the tests repeated three times at different labs in the US, and they all came back negative.”

This comes as no surprise to readers today. Mr. Wakefield’s graduate student, Nicholas Chadwick, was telling him all along that the virology results were negative.

In a later report, How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed, Mr. Deer also introduced the article with Mr. 11. He noted that Child 11 was listed in the Lancet article as having a first behavioral symptom of “Recurrent “viral pneumonia” for 8 weeks following MMR” as occurring 1 week after the administration of the MMR vaccine, a point critical to Mr. Wakefield’s claims. However, according to documents available to Mr. Wakefield, the child showed signs before the MMR. Per Mr. Deer:

But child 11’s case must have proved a disappointment. Records show his behavioural symptoms started too soon. “His developmental milestones were normal until 13 months of age,” notes the discharge summary. “In the period 13-18 months he developed slow speech patterns and repetitive hand movements. Over this period his parents remarked on his slow gradual deterioration.”

Enter Dan Olmsted, proprietor of the Age of Autism blog. Mr. Olmsted sought out Child 11’s father to corroborate Mr. Deer’s story. Such is the importance of contradicting Mr. Deer that he was willing to contradict Mr. Wakefield’s claim in the Lancet as well. Mr. Olmsted claims that Mr. 11 wrote him that rather than 13 months, “The onset of his autistic-like behaviors began around 18 months.”

The one thing that Dan Olmsted, Brian Deer and Mr. 11 apparently agree upon: the report in The Lancet is incorrect. Somehow I expect there is some convoluted explanation Mr. Olmsted would offer to avoid this problem, but lets move on. Unfortunately to a rather odd back-and-forth where neither party (Deer and Olmsted) communicating directly. To start, Mr. Olmsted would have us believe that Mr. 11 is annoyed? angry? with Mr. Deer’s reporting and thinks they “misrepresented the facts”.

Mr. Olmsted wrote:
[edit to add: Mr. Olmsted is quoting Andrew Wakefield’s defamation complaint here. I.e. these are Andrew Wakefield’s words]

Indeed, the child’s father has since written Deer and the BMJ to explain that Deer was misrepresenting facts about child 11, yet Deer and BMJ have printed no retraction, correction, or mention of this fact.

Mr. Deer noted this claim by Mr. Olmsted in his declaration:

Neither I nor (to my knowledge) the BMJ have received any letter from this father accusing me of “misrepresenting facts.” Nor have we received any request from this father asking for any retraction, correction, or for us to take any action at all. On the contrary, the father confirms the terms of the medical record (which he gave me at a meeting in California in September 2007), but disagrees with the accuracy of that record. The matter is thus purely a (very common) situation where parental recall and medical records do not coincide, and naturally parents believe their recollection to be right.

In a recent article, Mr. Olmsted wrote:

But the father told me: “Mr. Deer’s article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration,” a clear contradiction that called for a prompt correction.

See what Mr. Olmsted did there? He cut short Mr. 11’s sentence and added his own ending. Which made me wonder, what was the full sentence and what was the full context.

If you are wondering that too, here is the full sentence from that email, in context:

Based on the incorrect discharge summary I shared with him, Mr. Deer reasonably inferred that my son’s autistic symptom, predated his receipt of the MMR vaccination, which they did not. Mr. Deer’s article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration, but until the incorrect dates in the discharge summary were pointed out to me this week, I failed to realize that thee discharge summary was inaccurate. While the inaccuracies in the Royal Free discharge summary may be chalked up to sloppy record keeping, if my son really is Patient 11 , then the Lancet article is simply an outright fabrication.

Is that an accusation of “misrepresenting facts” by Mr. Deer, as Mr. Olmsted asserts? Rather than call for a retraction or correction, as Mr. Olmsted claimed, Mr. 11 noted that “The Lancet article is a clear misrepresentation of my son’s history”, and that “the Lancet article is simply an outright fabrication.”

How do I know what is in the full email? Brian Deer entered it (redacted, of course) into the public record as an exhibit to his declaration. Given the way Mr. Olmsted was clearly cherry picking the email, I wanted to obtain the source for myself.

With apologies in advance for any transcription errors. But mostly with apologies to the young man who was Child 11 and to his father:

Daniel Olmstead
Brian Deer
Dear Mr. Olrnstead & Mr. Deer:
I have spoken with both of you regarding my son who may be one of the subjects in the Royal Free Hospital’s “research study” on autism summarized in the 1998 Lancet article.

The main reason I am contacting you now is to reiterate to Mr. Olmstead that we wish for our family to stay out of the public eye, and request that in any further discussions of this matter our privacy and the confidentiality of our son’s medical history be respected. We appreciate that in published work you, Mr. Deer, did that. My son has not consented to any disclosures regarding his medical history, and I hope that whatever information you disseminate will be shared in a manner that is not personally identifiable.

My second purpose in contacting both of you is to clear up some confusion, albeit generating additional questions which, as I explain below, I do not think are worth pursuing. Mr. Olmstead informed me that he believes that my son is Patient 1 I in the Lancet article, a conclusion he seems to have reached due to a violation of doctor patient confidentiality by Dr F. Given Dr. F’s distance, so far as I know, from these events, and his current state, it is hard to know what to make of this purported information. Mr. Deer’s article appears to assume that my son is Patient 11 as well, describing conversations with a father of “Patient 11 ” that appears to be me. However, we have no confirmation that Patient 11 is my son. When we got information during the Royal Free’s investigation, we were told he was Patient 13. Only 12 patients are reported in the Lancet article. I have no way of knowing how many subjects were excluded from the final report, or whether my son was one of them.

In any event, the description of Patient 11 in the Lancet article is not accurate if, in fact, it refers to my son. The Lancet article indicates that autistic symptoms started at 15 months, a week after the MMR, which is completely inaccurate; my son’s autistic behaviors started 2-1/2 to 3 months after the MMR, which was administered to him at 15 months. The Lancet article is a clear misrepresentation of my son’s history. Moreover, the Lancet article is not consistent with the Royal Free’s discharge summary regarding my son, and both the article and the discharge summary are inaccurate. One of the incorrect statements in my son’s discharge report was that autistic symptoms were seen from 13-18 months, while the vaccination was at 15 months. This is clearly inaccurate as his symptoms began several months after the MMR, as reflected in my initial correspondence to the Royal Free requesting my son be included in the research study. Based on the incorrect discharge summary I shared with him, Mr. Deer reasonably inferred that my son’s autistic symptom, predated his receipt of the MMR vaccination, which they did not. Mr. Deer’s
article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration, but until the incorrect dates in the discharge summary were pointed out to me this week, I failed to realize that thee discharge summary was inaccurate. While the inaccuracies in the Royal Free discharge summary may be chalked up to sloppy record keeping, if my son really is Patient 11 , then the Lancet article is simply an outright fabrication. My son’s autistic behaviors did NOT begin a week after administration of the vaccine, in fact they began several months afterwards, with several medical complications occurring in between.

The bottom line is that, if my son is indeed Patient 11, then the Lancet article made a false assertion that his symptoms set in immediately after the MMR; in service of some attorneys’ efforts to prove “causation” that, unbeknownst to me, apparently drove this research. If the sloppy mishandling of patient information and inaccuracies in my own son’s records is any indication of how that research was done, then I am very thankful that the Lancet article has been withdrawn and the “research study” discredited. That brings me to my third reason for contacting you, which is to express my hope that we can all move on from this debacle and search for real causes of the current explosion in autism cases. I have been involved in and have supported serious research into the causes of and effective treatments for this illness. We know now that the study reported in the Lancet article was a huge and very costly distraction. I hope that you will join me in looking, with an open mind, at real explanations of the current situation, as well as in advocating for adequate medical care and educational services for the many people affected, so that outcomes can be positive, as they are now proving for my son. While some autism may be a natural part of the human condition, what is happening now requires explanation. We will not get it if we spend time rehashing old debates.

As for the confidentiality issues, I appreciate and rely on your courtesy and discretion

Mr. 11 asked for courtesy and discretion on confidentiality issues. I would put to Mr. Olmsted that when he published the first name of Child 11, he may not have been heeding Mr. 11’s wishes.

The father has made a few more statements about these events:

First, about the Age of Autism series: “Olmsted’s logic is twisted and emotional”.

About the research at the Royal Free: “We all make daily human errors, but I guess some people ( Royal Free ) do it for a lifetime !”


“What a HUGE embarrassment, and scientific fiasco ! “.

Mr. 11 asked “That brings me to my third reason for contacting you, which is to express my hope that we can all move on from this debacle and search for real causes of the current explosion in autism cases”

Whether one agrees with the “epidemic” or not, the idea of moving on from the “debacle” (which I read in context to refer to the story about Mr. Wakefield and the Lancet study) and focusing on research is a very wise suggestion. As Mr. Olmsted has shown, not only has Mr. Wakefield been a huge distraction, but his supporters have been as well.

BMJ, Brian Deer file anti-SLAPP motion against Andrew Wakefield

11 Mar

About 2 months ago Andrew Wakefield filed a defamation lawsuit against the British Medical Journal, Brian Deer and Fiona Godlee for the series of three articles “The Secrets of the MMR Scare” and public comments made since. In particular, Mr. Wakefield took issue with statements about his research being fraudulent (and variations on that term like “fraudster”, “bullshit” etc.). Mr. Wakefield claimed that the facts presented by the BMJ articles were incorrect and based on information not available to him at the time he wrote his Lancet article.

Mr. Wakefield chose to file his defamation suit in Texas (his home state). This presented him immediately with two hurdles. First he has to show that the court has jurisdiction over primarily UK entities. Second he faced the possibility of an anti-SLAPP motion. SLAPP stands for “Strategic lawsuit against public participation“. Per Wikipedia:

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. The difficulty, of course, is that plaintiffs do not present themselves to the Court admitting that their intent is to censor, intimidate or silence their critics. Hence, the difficulty in drafting SLAPP legislation, and in applying it, is to craft an approach which affords an early termination to invalid abusive suits, without denying a legitimate day in court to valid good faith claims.

Many states in the U.S. have enacted anti-SLAPP legislation. Texas enacted a law fairly recently and this motion could be the first major test of that law. I say “could” because of the first hurdle: jurisdiction. As Popehat has already noted, the plaintiffs in the anti-SLAPP motion “specially appear”. I.e. they keep the right to fight on jurisdictional grounds.

The motion and Mr. Deer’s supporting declaration can be found on Mr. Deer’s website. Mr. Deer’s declaration goes through the full history of his involvement with Mr. Wakefield’s research.

As Popehat notes, the motion appears quite strong. As is the case with legal motions, it covers multiple arguments. For example, they not only argue that the statements on their own are permissible speech, but they argue that the statements themselves are accurate.

Here is a section of the table-of-contents for the motion:



A. Dr. Wakefield Must Prove that Defendants’ Statements Are Not Substantially True.
B. Dr. Wakefield Is Precluded from Re-litigating the GMC’s Findings, Which Establish the Substantial Truth of the Challenged Statements.
C. The Undisputed Evidence Also Establishes the Substantial Truth of the Challenged Statements.

1. Dr. Wakefield’s Misreporting and Falsification Permeated His Research.

2. Dr. Wakefield’s Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest.
3. Dr. Wakefield’s Review of the GP Records

A. Several of Defendants’ Statements, Including that Dr. Wakefield’s Research Must Have Been “Fraud,” Are Nonactionable Expressions of Opinion.
B. Defendants’ Expressions of Rhetorical Hyperbole and Colorful Language Are Not Actionable.

A. Dr. Wakefield Is a Public Figure.
1. The “MMR Scare” Is a Public Controversy.
2. Dr. Wakefield Had More than a Trivial or Tangential Role in the
3. Dr. Wakefield’s Claims Are Germane to His Participation in the
B. Defendants Did Not Act with Actual Malice.

1. Actual Malice Is an Exceedingly Difficult Standard to Satisfy.
2. The Evidence Here Precludes a Finding of Actual Malice.

Mr. Wakefield faces a number of burdens to overcome this motion. He must show that the statements made were more damaging that the truth. He must show that the statements are false–not just minor wording differences but that the “gist” of the truth is missing from the statements made. He must show that either he is not a public figure (very difficult for a doctor who has had a publicist for at least 10 years and has certainly put himself into the public sphere). He must show that Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee and the BMJ acted with actual malice.

He must present substantive evidence for each of these before he can go to trial. If he fails, he faces not only payment of reasonable legal fees and costs, but also the possibility of a penalty to deter future frivolous lawsuits. In that regard, the motion puts forth the history of Mr. Wakefield’s previous legal threats and lawsuits.

The most famous instance of Mr. Wakefield’s litigious history is his lawsuit against Brian Deer in 2004. Justice Eady made very clear statements on that:

[Dr. Wakefield] wished to use the existence of libel proceedings for public relations purposes, and to deter critics, while at the same time isolating himself from the ‘downside’ of such litigation, in having to answer a substantial defence of justification.

To put this in perspective–such a statement by the judge in Texas would almost certainly be followed by not only a dismissal of the case, but a financial judgement in favor of Mr. Deer, Ms. Godlee and the BMJ.

The motion makes it clear that Mr. Wakefield has faced negative commentary on his work and his character from many quarters in the past few years. From their introduction:

Two months ago, Dr. Andrew Wakefield was named by Time magazine as one of the “Great Science Frauds” of modern history. Last April, the New York Times described him as “one of the most reviled doctors of his generation.” In 2009, a Special Master presiding over vaccine litigation in the United States Court of Federal Claims recognized that Wakefield’s 1998 paper in The Lancet medical journal, which suggested a possible link between the lifesaving Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (“MMR”) vaccine and the development of autism in children, was considered a “scientific fraud.”

The Lancet has now fully retracted Wakefield’s paper, and its editor has state publicly that the paper was “utterly false” and that Wakefield “deceived the journal.” Wakefield’s home country’s medical board, the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council (“GMC”), convicted him in 2010 of multiple charges of “serious professional misconduct,” including “dishonesty” and “unethical conduct.” It further held that his misconduct had been so severe and extensive that the only punishment that would adequately protect the public from him was the permanent revocation of his medical license. As the New York Daily News put it, “Hippocrates would puke.”

As to specific instances of calling Mr. Wakefield’s work fraudulent, they quote multiple instances of the term being used. As noted above, one of the Special Masters in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (vaccine court) called the work “scientific fraud”. Probably the most damaging instance for Mr. Wakefield are quotes from his own attorney in the General Medical Council (GMC) hearings who stated that some of the charges, if found proved, would amount to charges of fraud. Those charges were found proved.

There is definitely a movement amongst Mr. Wakefield’s supporters to recast his defamation suit as a retrial of not only his Fitness to Practice hearing before the GMC, but as a legal test of the validity of his MMR/autism hypothesis. Even just within the past couple of days Jenny McCarthy re-emerged in her role as a vocal Wakefield supporter with this (and other) erroneous arguments.

Courts are well aware of attempts for people to use defamation cases as a proxy for fighting other arguments. For example, readers might recall a recent defamation case where Barbara Loe Fisher (of the self-named National Vaccine Information Center) sued Dr. Paul Offit, writer Amy Wallace and Conde Nast publications for two words in an article: “she lies”. In the decision dismissing the defamation suit the judge noted:

Not only does Plaintiff’s claim of the statement’s falsity invite an open ended inquiry into Plaintiff’s veracity, it also threatens to ensnare the Court in the thorny and extremely contentious debate over the perceived risks of certain vaccines….and, at the bottom, which side has the truth on its side. This is hardly the sort of issue which would be subject to verification based on a core of “objective evidence”


Courts have a justifiable reticence about venturing into a thicket of scientific debate, especially in the defamation context

However, one must note that Mr. Wakefield’s defamation suit does *not* involve the issues of his research conclusions/findings (or non-findings as they have been retracted from the public sphere). The question put forth by Mr. Wakefield was whether statements such as “fraud”, “fraudster”, “determined cheat” are actionable defamation and whether these are based on allegedly misrepresented details from the research–such as diagnoses of the children and when symptoms appeared. Mr. Deer shows in his declaration that the facts presented in the BMJ studies are accurate.

On the “weight of evidence” front, consider this: Mr. Wakefield submitted a 17 page defamation claim. The defendants have responded with a 53 page anti-SLAPP motion and 5 declarations. The declarations include one from Mr. Deer with 101 pages and 104 exhibits. Where Mr. Wakefield is using a neighbor as his attorney, one who is not a specialist in health, media or defamation cases, the BMJ team are using a top Texas law firm and a total of seven attorneys. The lead attorney is listed as having experience with healthcare and publishers:

Tom has a wide range of experience in state and federal appeals and trials. His experience includes commercial, intellectual property, and healthcare litigation, and class actions. He has represented publishers and broadcasters in all aspects of media litigation throughout his career.

the second attorney listed has direct experience on defamation:

Marc’s practice focuses on media and privacy law, class actions, and general commercial litigation. His media law experience includes representing publishers in litigation involving claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, misappropriation, copyright, and related causes of action. In addition, he has defended companies in consumer class actions across the country relating to advertising and digital privacy. He regularly provides advice regarding website terms of service, arbitration agreements, and privacy law.

According to the BMJ’s motion, ” To avoid dismissal, the plaintiff [Mr. Wakefield] must submit “clear and specific evidence” to support each essential element of his claims.”

I suspect that Mr. Wakefield will have a meeting with his attorney very soon to discuss strategy. They are outclassed on the facts of the case, on the manpower and expertise of the attorneys and the credibility of the witnesses. They will discuss “each essential element of his claims” and how they stack up against the evidence presented. One might suspect that Mr. Wakefield’s attorney was unaware of how shaky their position was at the start, getting his facts from Mr. Wakefield. They now know, through hundreds of pages of arguments and evidence, how the defense can answer the “essential claims”.

If they can dismiss before the jurisdiction question is addressed and avoid the anti-SLAPP motion, they might be well advised to do so. The “reasonable costs” the BMJ are incurring are sure to be sizable. And the litigious history of Mr. Wakefield will surely play into a determination of whether to impose penalties on top of those.

From where I sit, Mr. Wakefield just doesn’t have the facts on his side. Nor does he have the law on his side. The jurisdiction question may be a blessing in disguise for Mr. Wakefield: giving him the opportunity to bow out before the anti-SLAPP motion goes into effect.