Tag Archives: Brian Deer

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didn’t come across as a major effort, the twitter account made three tweets, the website appears to be down (here’s an archived version), and it doesn’t appear to have made charity status.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)

DAIR 1

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)

DAIR 2

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

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.

Result_of_Wakefields_Scare

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.

Wakefield’s false claims backfire

6 Jul

Last week Andrew Wakefield announced to the world that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) had ordered the Sunday Times to take down some articles about him from its website. Wakefield suggested that this was a tacit admission by the Times that its story was inaccurate and this message was dutifully repeated by Age of Autism and the rest of Wakefield’s online supporters.

As I reported previously, the PCC is waiting on the final outcome of the GMC disciplinary hearing against Wakefield before conducting its own inquiry over the articles and felt it would be fairer all round if the material was temporarily removed from the Times website. The Times agreed and removed the articles as a courtesy to the PCC. The Times was not impressed by Wakefield’s ungracious response and as a result the material is now back on their website.

This is not the first time that Wakefield’s actions have backfired on him. Four years ago he tried to sue Channel 4 and Brian Deer for libel over a documentary, MMR: What they didn’t tell you, that contained damaging revelations about Wakefield’s role in the MMR scare. As with his current complaint to the PCC and his recent press release, Wakefield’s action in bringing the case seems to have been motivated by a desire to please his loyal supporters rather than a serious attempt to settle the issue. Unusually for a litigant, Wakefield showed a marked reluctance to clear his name in court, seeking to delay the hearings for two years. When the court decided that Deer and his legal team were entitled to see the unredacted medical records of the children who were the subjects of Wakefield’s original Lancet paper Wakefield withdrew the action and agreed to pay costs to Brian Deer.

It is ironic that without the libel action by Wakefield it is unlikely that Deer would have been granted access to the medical records. And without the records he would not have sat through months of the GMC and so written the story that Wakefield is now complaining about.

According to Brian Deer (private communication, quoted with permission)

There’s also the irony that it was Wakefield who in February 2004 called for a GMC investigation into my allegations that he had a conflict of interest over his research for lawyers, and no proper ethical cover, prompting me to hand over all my materials to the GMC’s lawyers, producing the longest doctor’s discplinary hearing ever.

I understand that the Press Complaints Commission has written to Dr Wakefield about the claims on his website, and he’s now in a tricky position. Either he admits that was he says is untrue, and takes down his claims, or he leaves them up in circumstances which would then be both dishonest and actionable.

I expect Wakefield to withdraw his complaint to the PCC once the GMC deliver their verdict. He will claim that it is impossible for him to get a fair hearing in the UK. It may suit him to continue to play the martyr from his self-imposed exile in America while enjoying the adulation that befits a “brave maverick doctor.” But he is and will remain the author of his own misfortune.

Wakefield, distortion and the Sunday Times

3 Jul

The journalist Brian Deer has done as much as anyone to investigate the background to what Ben Goldacre describes as the MMR Hoax. In the course of his investigations he discovered undisclosed conflicts of interest by Andrew Wakefield that led to most of the authors of the original paper in the Lancet withdrawing their names and the editor publishing a retraction.

Then in February this year Deer published his latest investigation. The Lancet paper had already been dismissed as bad science. Now, if Deer’s findings were correct, it would seem that some of the data had been deliberately falsified. Wakefield responded by complaining about the article to the Press Complaints Commission. The Times stood by its story and also forwarded all details to the General Medical Council who are still investigating Wakefield over allegations of misconduct.

And that was it until this week, when Thoughtful House, the clinic that Wakefield has established in Texas, issued a press release announcing

Press Complaints Commission Orders Sunday Times to Remove MMR journalist’s Stories on Dr. Wakefield from Paper’s Web Site

It goes on to suggest that this “interim order”

appears to indicate there are questions about the accuracy of the Deer stories.

Of course it does no such thing. Thoughtful House even quote Stephen Abell of the PCC as saying that

Given the ongoing nature of the dispute the articles should be removed from the newspaper’s website until this matter has been concluded. This would not be an admission of any liability on the part of the newspaper.

The wording reveals what actually happened. The Sunday Times has not been ordered to take down the articles. The PCC decided to postpone its investigation until after the GMC reaches a decision on the allegations of misconduct. This makes sense. If Wakefield is found guilty the complaint will fail. Meanwhile the PCC has asked the Sunday Times to remove the article from its website until matters can be resolved and the Sunday Times has agreed. That tallies with the email I received from the PCC

The PCC has considered the matter initially and has elected to stay its investigation until the conclusion of the GMC inquiry. It has reached no formal decision on the substance of the complaint and there is no published ruling on our website.

The Commission has asked that the paper remove the articles temporarily until the conclusion of the PCC investigation. This is without any admission of liability on the paper’s part.

So no order was issued, no judgement was made and there is no suggestion of impropriety by Deer or the Sunday Times. All the suggestions come from one source, Wakefield himself. His friends on the web may try to pretend that this is further proof of the brave maverick doctor’s innocence in the face of a vicious campaign against him. I think they are clutching at straws.