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Dr Andrew Wakefield

This a collection of items published over the years which mention Dr Andrew Wakefield. As you can see, I have been aware of the fraud for a long time.


Conspiracies (22/6/2002)
I A black helicopter from the AMAlove conspiracy theories. It's just so easy to dredge up or even invent them as a way of diverting attention away from the real issues. In the last week or so, supporters of pseudomedicine have regaled me with the following pathetic attempts to discredit "evil organised medicine" (that's the sort of medicine that can really prevent and cure diseases):


Some questions for the anti-vaccinators (5/10/2002)
One of the reasons that I call the anti-vaccination liars "liars" is that they keep pretending that all they want is for parents to be informed in order to make appropriate decisions when what they really want is an end to all vaccination (and vaccination research) for all diseases, for all people, of all ages. I submitted the following questions to some anti-vaccination forums (you can see some responses here) and I am about to ask them again. I don't expect any direct answers, because honest answers to these questions would reveal them as the disgusting child-haters they really are.

  1. Of the vaccines in the current schedule, which ones do you believe can safely be given to children?
  2. Of the vaccines in the current schedule, which ones do you believe provide protection against disease?
  3. If a new vaccine could be produced tomorrow against a fatal or disabling disease, which disease would you like it to prevent?
  4. Do you believe that the benefits of any vaccine currently in use outweigh the risks associated with it?
  5. What would it take to convince you that the benefits of a vaccine outweigh the risks?
  6. I have been told that homeopathy can be used to "reverse vaccine damage". As homeopathy is essentially distilled water, how can this work?
  7. AIDS kills millions of people each year, but so far no vaccine has been developed. Do you believe that research into an AIDS vaccine should continue?
  8. I have read about a man called Alan Yurko who is in prison in Florida for murdering a child. The evidence against him looks convincing and he has a criminal record for violent crimes. People are saying that the baby died from vaccine damage, not from being shaken. Do you think Alan Yurko is innocent? Why do you think this?
  9. Dr Andrew Wakefield looked at a small number of autistic children whose parents believed that they had been made autistic by vaccination and found what he believes is a connection between MMR and autism. Very large studies examining the records of millions of children do not suggest any connection other than a coincidence of timing. Could Dr Wakefield be wrong?
  10. Of all the vaccines currently given to children, which do you think has saved the most lives?

Dr Andrew Wakefield (28/2/2004)
In 1998, the medical journal The Lancet published a paper written by, among other people, Dr Andrew Wakefield. This paper suggested a connection between the MMR vaccine and bowel disorders and between bowel disorders and autism. The same issue of the journal contained a paper which refuted any causal link between the vaccine and autism, but this did not stop Dr Wakefield becoming an instant hero of the anti-vaccination liar movement. When the other authors of the paper distanced themselves from Dr Wakefield's Would you buy a used intestine from this man?campaigning on behalf of the anti-vaccinators this just made him more of a hero. (He was now being rejected by the orthodoxy.) The science in the paper was always suspect, simply because it looked like Wakefield had cherry-picked the subjects of his research. There were only 12 subjects in total, and nine of them were autistic. It looked like Wakefield was working backwards from autism to MMR in order to prove something, but nothing could be proved because the paper said that the subjects were a sequential group of children who had presented at a hospital. In English, the word "sequential" suggests that they arrived in that order without any intervening patients.

The Lancet is now saying that it wished it had not published the paper, and is saying that it would never have published if it had known the truth about funding for the research, the subject selection and Dr Wakefield's conflict of interest. We now know that some of the subjects were not randomly selected but were supplied to Dr Wakefield by a firm of lawyers acting for the parents of the children. Dr Wakefield was paid £55,000 for his work and was going to receive more payments as an expert witness when the lawyers got into court against the vaccine manufacturers. Put bluntly, Wakefield was paid to find a certain result (which matched his beliefs anyway) and was going to get a lot more money if he found it.

(A longer version of this article was published in Australasian Science. You can click here to read it.)


Speaking of Dr Wakefield ... (28/2/2004)
The anti-vaccination liars have gone into meltdown about this latest blow to their propaganda campaign. One of them (who once told me to "take your vaccines and put them in a place where the sun doesn't shine" and who has also accused me of being a "scumbag" in the employ of vaccine manufacturers) has set up a web site where people can register messages of support for Dr Wakefield. I am planning to add my own contribution, although I very much doubt that it will get past the censorship process. My message will say

I am speaking on behalf of the parents of the more than 2,000 children who died from measles yesterday. We would like to congratulate Dr Wakefield for providing ammunition and support to those people who are working to ensure that this number never gets any smaller.


Dr Andrew Wakefield redux (6/3/2004)
Australasian ScienceLast week I mentioned how Dr Andrew Wakefield's "discovery" of the connection between MMR vaccine and autism had come under question again. I have written a longer version of that article for publication in the magazine Australasian Science. It is too long to put on this page, but you can go here to read it.


Anti-vaccination liars won't talk to me, sob, sob (6/3/2004)
Another A child killed by chicken pox. Click here to see more of the resukts of not vaccinating.thing I mentioned last week was a web site which was set up to publish letters of thanks and congratulations to Dr Wakefield. I wrote to them but my letter was not published. As this was obviously some sort of oversight and nobody has written to me rejecting what I had to say, I have written again just in case my email was accidentally deleted by a spam filter or something. Also, there is an online training course in "Vaccine Dangers" starting next Wednesday. I politely asked to be enrolled in this course and even offered to pay, but I have not heard back. I will write again because I don't want to buy the textbook if I can't do the course. I am very disappointed that I have heard nothing back in either of these cases as I am trying to reach out to the anti-vaccination liars as part of my new "kinder and gentler" policy for The Millenium Project.


Andrew Wakefield - another bucket tips (27/11/2004)
EarlierDr Andrew Wakefield. Scholar and Scoundrel. this year I wrote about how Dr Andrew Wakefield, hero of the anti-vaccination liars and suppressed great scientist, had been found with his hand in the cookie jar. A television program shown on British TV last week has revealed that his other hand and both feet were in the jar as well. The attacks on the reporter have started in earnest, of course, because it is beyond the imagination of anyone opposed to vaccines that anyone who offers any support to them could in any way be tainted by deception, pride or financial greed.

I would like to thank all the people who thought of me when they saw or heard about the television program and then either mentioned me in Internet forums or emailed me to tell me about it. A special thanks must go to Jim from the Association for Skeptical Enquiry who arranged for me to get a copy of the show. I will have something to say about this next week, but in the meantime I have to watch the show again so that I can bask once again in a fine feeling of Schadenfreude.


More persistent people (28/8/2004)
I would come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this site to find that the anti-vaccination liars are repeating lies which have been shown to be lies many times. The latest assault on children's wellbeing is A leopard thinking about its spots.about to appear in a rag named The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group which despite its impressive name is just a collection of anti-vaccination whackos. Several "experts" have found flaws in a recent study in Denmark which showed that there was no connection between MMR vaccinations and autism. One of the authors, Dr Fouad Yazbak, usually seems to divide his time between blaming autism on MMR vaccines and on the thimerosal preservative which was used in some vaccines in the past, although I have to admit that I cannot recall him ever conflating these two "causes" by saying that the MMR vaccine contains thimerosal as many other anti-vaccination liars will claim. (Dr Yazbak, along with Dr Jane Orient, head of AAPS, appeared as an expert witness for baby slaughterer Alan Yurko in Yurko's retrial hearing last week.) Another author is the discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield. The new set of problems with the Danish study are attempts to confuse the statistically illiterate by the use of bogus statistics and lack the imaginative property of previous discreditation attempts which suggested such startling ideas as Danish children being so different genetically to children in the rest of the world that the results of the survey could not be generalised. I confidently predict that future "research" by anti-vaccination liars will turn up many new and unexpected ways that vaccines can damage children. They are only limited by imagination and mendacity.


Dr Wakefield (19/11/2005)
YouA doctor? Or a charlatan? may remember Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose dubious "research" led to a revival of both measles and mumps in the UK. Wakefield was not happy about what people had been saying about him, so he sued everyone in sight for libel. Then he went quiet and started trying to drag the proceedings out. There are two reasons why he might want to do that. One is to increase the costs for the other side by continually having them come back to court, only to suffer another adjournment. The other is to limit their ability to comment on the case or on whatever Wakefield is doing now. Both of these provide advantage to Dr Wakefield as they frustrate his opponents and also provide what is known as a "chilling effect" on anyone else who might think about criticising him. On the other hand, if he is being damaged by what they have been saying then surely he would want a speedy result in order to minimise the damage. To the reasonable man on the Bondi bus (or Clapham omnibus, as the case is being heard in England) it might seem likely that the damage could not be as bad as claimed if the aggrieved party is doing things to stretch out the legal process. The Hon. Mr Justice Eady of the England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) has also taken this view, and has ordered Wakefield to get off the pot. For no particular reason but just because it is an interesting matter to ponder, I think it would be good for lawyers and judges to accept Justice Eady's decision as an addition to the body of common law and to recognise that any claim of great and/or imminent damage must be attenuated, or perhaps even nullified, by any action of the supposedly aggrieved party which delays or extends the resolution of the dispute. But I am not a lawyer ... You can see the decision here.


Justice at last, maybe (17/6/2006)
The Dr Andrew Wakefieldhot topic in my email this week has been that the General Medical Council in Britain is planning action against Dr Andrew Wakefield for his fraudulent research into the relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. You may remember that Wakefield lied about the source of the subjects for his research and forgot to mention that he was being paid a lot of money to find what some lawyers wanted to be found. Predictably, the anti-vaccination liars have been foaming at the mouth about this attack by organised medicine on a hero. (Also predictably, they were all in favour of the GMC when it was investigating the hated Roy Meadow, who had committed the sin of suggesting that children who appeared to have been bashed by their parents may actually have been bashed by their parents. Shaken Baby Syndrome is always caused by vaccines in the alternate universe inhabited by these disgusting creatures.)

I will be following this story as it progresses, but in the meantime you can read something I wrote about Andrew Wakefield here.


Wakefield - the hole just gets deeper (6/1/2007)
The big story this week, and the one which has been filling my inbox with messages letting me know about it, is that Dr Andrew Wakefield has been found to have been even further into the cookie jar than everyone thought. It has been known for some time that he received £55,000 as payment for creating some fraudulent research supposedly showing that MMR vaccine causes autism. (Britain has had its first fatality from measles for 14 years as a result, and I am sure that the parents of the dead child would like to thank Dr Wakefield for his work in preventing the child from developing autism.)

It now appears that the amount of money that Wakefield was paid to find what he and the lawyers wanted found was understated by at least one order of magnitude (and perhaps two). A Freedom of Information request by a London newspaper has revealed that Wakefield personally received almost £500,000, and that there was a lot more money which went to people and entities associated with him. To make matters worse, the money didn't come from the lawyers or the people who were employing the lawyers to employ Wakefield - it came from the UK taxpayers via legal aid. Wakefield is claiming that he donated the money to the hospital where he was researching, a claim that is being met by skeptics with "Yeah, right!" and by the hospital's accountants with "When? How did we miss this?" In a remarkable example of coincidence, Wakefield has dropped defamation suits against a television station and a journalist who exposed his actions. (The action was dropped after a court gave the television station access to certain documents.) And what are the anti-vaccination liars saying about all this? Would it surprise you to find that they think it is just another chapter in the witch-hunt against this great man?


The truth and Dr Wakefield - complete strangers (11/7/2009)
I was recently sent a gloating message headed Sunday Times Ordered 'Remove Wakefield MMR "Data Fixing" Story', leading me to an anti-vaccination web site which continued by saying UK Press Complaints Commission Orders Sunday Times "Remove MMR Journalist's Stories" on Dr. Wakefield from Paper's Web Site. (You can see more about Dr Wakefield here.) As I always take anything these creatures say with a bushel of salt, I checked the PCC web site and, surprise, surprise, there was no mention of any such order. I wrote to the Press Complaints Commission about this and received the following reply:

Dear Mr Bowditch

Thank you for your email.

The PCC has reached no formal ruling on the substance of the case. It has indicated that it will temporarily stay its investigation until the conclusion of the GMC hearing. In the meantime, it has requested that the paper remove the articles under complaint until a ruling can be reached by the PCC. This would be without any admission of liability on the part of the paper.

There is nothing on our website, because there is no substantive ruling at this stage.

So if "no formal ruling" had been made and therefore there was "no substantive ruling", how could the paper have been "ordered" to do anything? I asked politely at the web site where I could see the order, and the response was to say that I had been sued for defamation. When I pointed out that this was incorrect and asked again for the order, the response was to say that I had lost a court case and had been ordered to pay costs. When I pointed out that this was incorrect and asked again for the order, the response was to say that I had settled a court case with an agreement to post a notice on my web site. I was also told that the blog owner had access to all correspondence on the matter between the PCC and anybody so I was lying when I said that I had received an email saying there was no order. At that point I was about to give up both correcting the anonymous moderator of the blog and asking for evidence of any order. When someone is prepared to lie so comprehensively then resistance is futile. I decided to post one last set of corrections and a final request for evidence of an order when I found that a very familiar Gutless Anonymous Liar had put its oar in with the message (the xxxx stuff was done by the moderator):

Fascinating exhange. Bowditch is one of the internets biggest xxxxx. If his lips are moving he's xxxxx. If he's typing, he's xxxxx.

Bowditch was successfully sued for xxxxxxxxx. Bowditch was also xxxxxxxx for xxxxxxx xxxxxxx.

The only real question is: Is Bowditch a xxxxxx xxxx or a xxxxxxx that xxxx.

To which the equally anonymous (and therefore gutless) moderator commented:

[ED: Yes. We know. Any hard information welcome - can send by email.]

I eagerly await the publication of this "hard information".

It turns out that Dr Wakefield was the source of the media releases talking about the PCC's "order", and as a consequence the paper decided that it was under no obligation to continue withholding the articles from the world. This is what Brian Deer had to say to Wakefield's lawyer:

Subject: Dr Wakefield

Ms Joanne Bower,
RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP

Dear Ms Bower,

Your client, Dr Andrew Wakefield, has published, and caused to be published, on his website, thoughtfulhouse.org, and on other sites, false claims that the Press Complaints Commission has issued an "interim order" concerning my investigation into his conduct. Dr Wakefield claims that The Sunday Times has been ordered by the PCC to remove my stories about him from its website.

I understand that the PCC has written to your client to point out that these claims are untrue. In fact, all of my stories concerning him are available at the Times Online website.

thoughtfulhouse.org is unquestionably controlled by Dr Wakefield, and his publication there has caused similar untruths to be published on websites either directly controlled for his interests, such as cryshame.org, which, as you may know was set up by Mrs Isabella Thomas, the parent of two of the children anonymised in the now-infamous Lancet MMR paper, or indirectly controlled for his interests, such as ageofautism.com, operated to promote and profit from concern over children's vaccines.

It is, of course, nothing new for Dr Wakefield to mislead the public, and especially the parents of autistic children. He has faced the longest ever proceedings before a General Medical Council fitness to practise panel, following the GMC's reinvestigation of my journalism. In due course, I'd expect he will face a hearing of the PCC, covering much of the same ground on a significantly different evidential base.

However, you may feel it advisable to explain to your client that either he accepts the untruth of his latest claims and takes them down, or he maintains them in publication, in which case his conduct would not merely be wrong, but would be dishonest.

With best wishes,

Brian Deer

You can read the articles here, here and here. If Wakefield manages to get them removed from the Sunday Times site again, I will reproduce them here.


Wakefield's woes (6/2/2010)
After too many years and too many children dying unnecessarily from measles, the UK General Medical Council has finally released it's findings into the conduct of Dr Andrew Wakefield in relation to supposed research published in The Lancet in 1998. Publication of this paper, which seemed to indicate a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, was a direct cause of a drop in the rate of MMR vaccination in the UK (leading to deaths) and provided an effective propaganda weapon for people opposed to vaccines. The reason I say too many years is that as far back as 2002 I knew that the research was suspect, and by 2004 it was obvious that Wakefield not only had conflicts of interest (he was attempting to patent a replacement for the MMR vaccine and he was being paid by lawyers acting on behalf of the parents of some of the experimental subjects who wanted to sue vaccine manufacturers), but that the research was so seriously flawed that it positively reeked of either incompetence or dishonesty. You can see what I wrote in 2004 here, and if I knew these things from 20,000 kilometres away then they couldn't have been a secret. In fact it was comprehensively reported in the UK media by journalist Brian Deer and others.

The reaction of the anti-vaccination liar community to the 2004 information about Wakefield was completely predictable. He was elevated to hero status immediately, and ad hominem attacks were launched on Brian Deer and anyone else who dared to commit the blasphemy of saying that Wakefield was not being honest about his intentions. As I said in 2004, when I heard him speak at a conference promoted by the National Vaccine Information Center I was left in no doubt about his attitude to vaccination. You don't get invited by the NVIC if you have even the slightest suspicion that vaccines might be worthwhile.

The controversy over the Lancet paper could not be ignored by the relevant authorities, specially after ten of the original thirteen authors of the paper asked to have their names withdrawn. (Thirteen authors for 12 subjects seems rather unbalanced.) The UK General Medical Council eventually got around to investigating the matter and they released their first report on January 28. You can read the full findings here. Unfortunately there isn't a summary of the things they found that Dr Wakefield had done wrong, but they did have this to say:

Having made the above findings of fact, the Panel went on to consider whether those facts found proved or admitted, were insufficient to amount to a finding of serious professional misconduct. The Panel concluded that these findings, which include those of dishonesty and misleading conduct, would not be insufficient to support a finding of serious professional misconduct.

In the next session, commencing 7 April 2010, the Panel, under Rule 28, will hear evidence to be adduced and submissions from prosecution counsel then Dr Wakefield’s own counsel as to whether the facts as found proved do amount to serious professional misconduct, and if so, what sanction, if any, should be imposed on his registration.

I was taught at an early age to avoid double negatives so I would have finished the first paragraph by saying "would be sufficient to support a finding of serious professional misconduct", but at least the meaning is there. It is almost inevitable that Wakefield will have his medical registration cancelled, but don't think that the date "7 April 2010" means that it will happen soon. If the enquiry proceeds at the same glacial pace as the original panel investigation then Wakefield might have his licence yanked sometime in 2013. This is of no concern to him anyway, as he no longer practises medicine in the UK but has instead found a very lucrative career in the US selling quackery and bad medical advice.

The Lancet should have withdrawn the paper in 2004 when the problems became obvious, but unfortunately they stuck with tradition (only a small handful of scientific papers are ever retracted). Following the GMC announcement, however, they could proceed while still retaining a bit of dignity, so on February 2 they announced that the paper had been retracted. This means that it was effectively never published, so it cannot be cited in other published research. Too late, but not too little

And what has been the reaction of the anti-vaccination liars to all this? Well, it has been outrage and has resulted in an outpouring of lies and conspiracy theories the like of which hasn't been seen for years. It is a witch hunt, of course, and Wakefield has been promoted from hero to minor deity. There have been attacks on the publishers of The Lancet and the members of the GMC panel, Big Pharma has been identified as the funding source behind it all, as has Rupert Murdoch (?). Rumours of copious research confirming Wakefield have appeared, although locating the actual published papers in reputable journals has proved elusive. The best response I have seen, though, was someone who pointed out that The Lancet was named after a piece of medical equipment which had caused millions of deaths by transferring germs between patients. I should mention that the person who told me that is on record as denying that germs cause disease, but when people are foaming at the mouth then sometimes what comes out is not well thought out. There was the obligatory web site set up so that people could sign a petition supporting soon-to-be-ex-Dr Wakefield. I found the two signatures below, and they sum up perfectly my feelings about Wakefield and his work.

 


More about Dr Wakefield (20/2/2010)
Following Soon-to-be-ex-DrWakefieldup on the recent story about Dr Andrew Wakefield's woes, I wrote an update to my 2004 article about him for the Yahoo!7 News site. You can read it and the comments here. I love the way that the fifth person to comment told me about research showing that measles vaccine virus particles could be found in the gut of autistic kids. The commenter had apparently missed the article where I mentioned that the particular piece of research had just been retracted by the journal that published it. Wakefield must be right because research by Wakefield says so. Quackonaut logic at its best.

Despite the canonisation of Wakefield by the usual anti-vaccination liars groups, it seems that his employer decided that paying someone a quarter of a million dollars a year to attract bad publicity was no longer a good idea and Dr Wakefield was reluctantly let go by Thoughtful House. As he had set this outfit up in the first place and it was funded by the huge amounts of money that he secretly received from the lawyers in the UK I am a bit surprised that they were able to sack him. If I were the suspicious kind I might even suspect that his "resignation" might be a form of damage control and he will quietly slip back in to his Texas office when all the noise about the GMC and The Lancet has quietened down, and it will be business as usual.

If he can't get his old job back there is an opportunity in Tijuana. The death of überquack Hulda Clark has left an enormous hole in the Mexican quackery fraud business and her clinic in Tijuana is conveniently close to the border. Accommodation in the area shouldn't be a problem as Clark also left behind a rather nice house in a cul-de-sac in Chula Vista, and it's only a short drive south from there to get to work in a place free of the FDA and other pesky rule makers. As one of the services provided by Thoughtful House is chelation to cure autism, Dr Wakefield could start by offering that to the millions of parents of autistic children caught in the autism epidemic in California. I am sure that with his research skills he could soon prove that chelation was also useful in the treatment of cancer and thereby gain access to all those poor people with cancer who have been sent home to die by their doctors and have had nowhere to go since Clark died. Of cancer. (I should note that when I used the word "poor" above I wasn't referring to people with no money. Such people are of no interest to Tijuana clinic operators.)


Ex-Dr Wakefield - Tijuana is looking good (24/5/2010)
The UK General Medical Council has announced its final ruling on the status of fraudulent researcher and money-driven anti-vaccination liar Dr Andrew Wakefield. He won't be practising medicine in the UK any more now that his licence has been cancelled and he has been struck off the medical register. That probably means that he can't play doctor in Australia, the US or any other place where the qualifications and ethics of doctors are taken somewhat seriously.

All is not lost for Wakefield, however. As I have pointed out before, there is a huge hole in the Mexican quackery business since the death of Hulda Clark. Her pink palace is sitting there in Tijuana just waiting for someone with the morals of Andrew Wakefield to take up her mantle. She had a rather nice house just across the border from Tijuana and that is probably vacant as well, so after Wakefield finishes speaking at anti-vaccination liar demonstrations in New York this week he can hop a plane to San Diego and be back in business next week.

Here is the statement from the GMC.

This case is being considered by a Fitness to Practise Panel applying the General Medical Council’s Preliminary Proceedings Committee and Professional Conduct Committee (Procedure) Rules 1988

Date: 24 May 2010

Dr Andrew Jeremy WAKEFIELD

Determination on Serious Professional Misconduct (SPM) and sanction:

The Panel has already given its findings on the facts and its reasons for determining that the facts as found proved could amount to serious professional misconduct.

It then went on to consider and determine whether, under Rule 29(1) of the General Medical Council Preliminary Proceedings Committee and Professional Conduct Committee (Procedure) Rules Order of Council 1988, the facts as admitted or found proved do amount to serious professional misconduct and if so, what, if any sanction it should impose. It has accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice in full as to the approach to be taken in this case, and has looked at each doctors’ case separately but, when considering whether Dr Wakefield is guilty of serious professional misconduct, has looked at the heads of charge found proved against him as a whole. It has not confined its consideration to the heads of charge; it has also had regard to the evidence that has been adduced and the submissions made by Ms Smith on behalf of the General Medical Council. On behalf of Dr Wakefield, no evidence has been adduced and no arguments or pleas in mitigation have been addressed to the Panel at this stage of the proceedings. In fact Mr Coonan specifically submitted:

     "......we call no evidence and we make no substantive submissions on behalf of Dr Wakefield at this stage." "...I am instructed to make no further observations in this case".

 Nevertheless, the Panel considered the totality of the evidence in Dr Wakefield’s case including the reference dated 27 October 1995, from Professor Leon Fine, the then Head of the Department of Medicine at the Royal Free Hospital, when reaching its decision at this stage, having been asked to consider that as part of Mr Coonan’s submissions at Stage 1.   

Serious professional misconduct has no specific definition but in Roylance v General Medical Council [1999] Lloyd’s Rep. Med. 139 at 149 Lord Clyde, in giving the reasons of the Privy Council, said:

     "Misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required by a medical practitioner in the particular circumstances…"

Lord Clyde went on to say:

     "The misconduct is qualified in two respects. First, it is qualified by the word ‘professional’ which links the misconduct to the profession of medicine. Secondly, the misconduct is qualified by the word ‘serious’. It is not any professional misconduct which will qualify. The professional misconduct must be serious."

The Panel has acted as an independent and impartial tribunal and exercised its own judgement on these matters. It has borne in mind the relevant GMC guidance at the time, namely the 1995 Good Medical Practice and, in so far as the findings relate to events after 1998, the 1998 Good Medical Practice. It has considered what has been adduced and submitted on behalf of the doctors about the standards and procedures which were prevalent at that time.

In considering Dr Wakefield’s case, the Panel has also taken into account the passage of time before these matters were brought before it and the length of time this case has taken. It noted that the multiple sittings were for a variety of reasons including professional commitments of the Panel and requests from Counsel for reasons such as illnesses, accidents, unavailability of witnesses and preparation time.

The Panel has noted Dr Wakefield’s previous good character and taken into account everything it has heard including his qualifications, experience and standing within the profession, with patients and the parents of patients.

The Panel considered the conduct of Dr Wakefield whilst he was registered as a medical practitioner and employed by the Royal Free Hospital Medical School in 1996 and 1997, initially as a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Medicine and Histopathology. Later, from 1 May 1997 he was a Reader in Experimental Gastroenterology and an Honorary Consultant in Experimental Gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital.

The Panel has already found proved that Dr Wakefield’s Honorary Consultant appointment was subject to a stipulation that he would not have any involvement in the clinical management of patients. On five occasions (child 2, 4, 5, 12 and 7) he ordered investigations on children, when he had no paediatric qualifications, and in contravention of the limitations on his appointment.  The Panel considered this alone constituted a breach of trust of patients and employers alike.           

In February 1996 Dr Wakefield agreed to act as an expert in respect of MMR litigation. In relation to the Legal Aid Board (LAB), the Panel found that Dr Wakefield accepted monies totalling £50,000 procured through Mr Barr, the Claimants’ solicitor to pursue research. A costing proposal had been submitted by Mr Barr to the LAB containing detailed information provided by Dr Wakefield, and Dr Wakefield ought to have realised that Mr Barr would submit it to the LAB.

The costing proposal set out costs in respect of the investigation of five children. It covered each child’s four-night stay in hospital with colonoscopy, MRI and evoked potential studies. Dr Wakefield admitted that the funding subsequently provided by the Legal Aid Board had not been needed for these items because these costs were borne by the National Health Service as the patients were being admitted as NHS patients.

The Panel found that Dr Wakefield had a duty to disclose this information to the Legal Aid Board via Mr Barr. It was dishonest and misleading of him not to have done so. The Panel concluded that his intention to mislead the Legal Aid Board was sufficient on its own to amount to serious professional misconduct.

The Panel also found that in respect of £25,000 of LAB monies, Dr Wakefield caused or permitted it to be used for purposes other than those for which he said it was needed and for which it had been granted. In doing so he was in breach of his duties in relation to the managing of, and accounting for, funds.

In September 1996 Dr Wakefield made an application to the Ethical Practices Sub-Committee of the Royal Free Hospital (Ethics Committee) seeking approval for a research project involving 25 children. This was approved by the sub-Committee as Project 172-96. He named himself as one of the three Responsible Consultants, thereby taking on the shared responsibility for the information given in support of his application; for ensuring that only children meeting the inclusion criteria would be admitted to the study; that conditions attached to the Ethics Committee approval would be complied with; and that children would be treated in accordance with the terms of the approval given.

In respect of Research and Ethics Committee approval, the Panel had regard to the particular ethical guiding principles with regard to conducting research on children. It rejected Dr Wakefield’s overall contention that Project 172-96 was never undertaken; that all the investigations carried out on the children were clinically indicated and that the research elements of the project were covered by another Ethics Committee approval.

The Panel concluded that the programme of investigations that these children were subjected to was part of Project 172-96. It further determined that the conditions for approval and the inclusion criteria for that project were not complied with. The Ethics Committee’s reliance on the probity of Dr Wakefield as a Responsible Consultant was not met.

With regard to nine of the eleven children (2,1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 5,12 and 8) considered by the Panel, it determined that Dr Wakefield caused research to be undertaken on them without Ethics Committee approval and thus without the ethical constraints that safeguard research. Ethical constraints are there for the protection both of research subjects and for the reassurance of the public and are crucial to public trust in research medicine. It was in the context of this research project that the Panel found that Dr Wakefield caused three of these young and vulnerable children, (nos. 3, 9 and 12) to undergo the invasive procedure of lumbar puncture when such investigation was for research purposes and was not clinically indicated. This action was contrary to his representation to the Ethics Committee that all the procedures were clinically indicated. In nine of the eleven children (2,1, 3, 4, 9, 5,12, 8 and 7) the Panel has found that Dr Wakefield acted contrary to the clinical interests of each child. The Panel is profoundly concerned that Dr Wakefield repeatedly breached fundamental principles of research medicine. It concluded that his actions in this area alone were sufficient to amount to serious professional misconduct.

The results of the research project were written up as an early report in the Lancet in February 1998. Dr Wakefield as a senior author undertook the drafting of the Lancet paper and wrote its final version. The reporting in that paper of a temporal link between gastrointestinal disease, developmental regression and the MMR vaccination had major public health implications and Dr Wakefield admitted that he knew it would attract intense public and media interest. The potential implications were therefore clear to him, as demonstrated in his correspondence with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and reports which had already appeared in the medical press. In the circumstances, Dr Wakefield had a clear and compelling duty to ensure that the factual information contained in the paper was true and accurate and he failed in this duty.

The children described in the Lancet paper were admitted for research purposes under a programme of investigations for Project 172-96 and the purpose of the project was to investigate the postulated new syndrome following vaccination. In the paper, Dr Wakefield failed to state that this was the case and the Panel concluded that this was dishonest, in that his failure was intentional and that it was irresponsible. His conduct resulted in a misleading description of the patient population. This was a matter which was fundamental to the understanding of the study and the terms under which it was conducted.

In addition to the failure to state that the children were part of a project to investigate the new syndrome, the Lancet paper also stated that the children had been consecutively referred to the Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology with a history of a pervasive developmental disorder and intestinal symptoms. This description implied that the children had been referred to the gastroenterology department with gastrointestinal symptoms and that the investigators had played no active part in that referral process. In fact, the Panel has found that some of the children were not routine referrals to the gastroenterology department in that either they lacked a reported history of gastrointestinal symptoms and/or that Dr Wakefield had been actively involved in the process of referral. In those circumstances the Panel concluded that the description of the referral process was irresponsible, misleading and in breach of Dr Wakefield’s duty as a senior author.

The statement in the Lancet paper that investigations reported in it were approved by the Royal Free Hospital Ethics Committee when they were not, was irresponsible.

Subsequent to the paper’s publication, Dr Wakefield had two occasions on which he could have corrected the content of the Lancet paper yet both times he compounded his misconduct.

First, in a published letter in response to correspondents who had suggested that there had been biased selection of the Lancet children, Dr Wakefield stated that the children had been referred through the normal channels, a response which was dishonest and irresponsible. He provided an inaccurate statement which omitted relevant information when he knew that the description of the population in the study was being questioned by the scientific community.

Second, at a meeting of the Medical Research Council, the Chair, Professor Sir John Pattison referred to the seriousness and importance of the implications of Dr Wakefield’s research and its major public health implications. At that meeting and on the issue of bias in generating the series of cases, Dr Wakefield stated that the children had come by "the standard route", a response which was dishonest and irresponsible.

Regarding the issues of conflicts of interest, Dr Wakefield did not disclose matters which could legitimately give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest. He failed to disclose to the Ethics Committee and to the Editor of the Lancet his involvement in the MMR litigation and his receipt of funding from the Legal Aid Board. He also failed to disclose to the Editor of the Lancet his involvement as the inventor of a patent relating to a new vaccine for the elimination of the measles virus (Transfer Factor) which he also claimed in the patent application, would be a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Even before the publication of the Lancet Paper, eminent professionals had expressed concerns about the LAB funding to Dr Wakefield and potential conflicts of interest. Dr Wakefield rejected these views. With regard to non-disclosure to the Ethics Committee, Dr Wakefield did in evidence accept that the Legal Aid Board funding should have been disclosed, but said that his involvement in the litigation need not, especially because of his interpretation of the questions in the application form. He said no question was asked which related to that matter and therefore felt no need to disclose. In evidence to the panel he stated:

 "The form is set out expecting certain answers to specific questions and no such question exists. Therefore, since it was not asked, it was not answered."

However, given the importance of an Ethics Committee’s reliance on the probity of an applicant, the Panel determined that this was a failure by Dr Wakefield and his actions amounted to serious professional misconduct.

With regard to the non-disclosure to the Lancet the Panel accepted evidence from the Editor of the Lancet, as to the importance of this issue. The Lancet published clear guidance in relation to the conflict of interest test that the applicant should apply and the need to discuss any issues arising from it with the Editor. The Lancet test was: "Is there anything that would embarrass you if it were to emerge after publication and you had not declared it?" Dr Wakefield chose not to declare or discuss any conflict of interest with the Editor. He stated that he was able to reconcile his position, was not embarrassed by it, and was quite proud of the position he had taken on behalf of the Lancet children.

Dr Wakefield was insistent that his involvement with the new patent had not given rise to any prior need to disclose. Despite the clear terms of the patent, he did not accept that the invention was envisaged as an alternative vaccine to MMR. He acknowledged that he had envisaged the use of transfer factor for at least a proportion of the population and that he had a financial and career interest in its success, but he said that it did not cross his mind to disclose it, and even with hindsight he insisted that there was a reasonable argument, as he put it, for non-disclosure. The Panel considered that his actions and his persistent lack of insight as to the gravity of his conduct amounted to serious professional misconduct.

In relation to the administration of Transfer Factor to Child 10, the Panel noted the admitted background of Dr Wakefield’s involvement in a company set up with Child 10’s father as Managing Director, to produce and sell Transfer Factor. Around the same time, Dr Wakefield inappropriately caused Child 10 to be administered transfer factor. The Panel accepted that information as to its safety had been obtained and that the approval to administer Transfer Factor to one child was granted in the form of "Chairman’s approval", "on a named patient basis" in a letter from Dr Geoffrey Lloyd, Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee at the Royal Free Hospital. Nonetheless the Panel found that Dr Wakefield was at fault because the substance was given for experimental reasons, he did not cause the details to be recorded in the child’s records, or cause the general practitioner to be informed, and he did not have the requisite paediatric qualifications.

 Dr Wakefield’s actions were contrary to the clinical interests of Child 10 and an abuse of his position of trust as a medical practitioner. The Panel considered these to be serious departures from the standards of a registered medical practitioner and concluded that these amounted individually and collectively to serious professional misconduct.

Dr Wakefield caused blood to be taken from a group of children for research purposes at a birthday party, which the Panel found to be an inappropriate social setting. He behaved unethically in failing to seek Ethics Committee approval; he showed callous disregard for any distress or pain the children might suffer, and he paid the children £5 reward for giving their blood. He then described the episode in humorous terms at a public presentation and expressed an intention to repeat his conduct. When giving evidence to the Panel, Dr Wakefield expressed some regret regarding his remarks. The Panel was concerned at Dr Wakefield’s apparent lack of serious consideration to the relevant ethical issues and the abuse of his position of trust as a medical practitioner with regard to his conduct in causing the blood to be taken. The Panel concluded that his conduct brought the medical profession into disrepute.

Dr Wakefield defended the ethical basis for the taking of blood at a birthday party contrary to the experts who gave evidence to the Panel and who strongly condemned this action. The Panel determined that his conduct fell seriously short of the standards expected of a doctor and was a breach of the trust which the public is entitled to have in members of the medical profession. It concluded that this behaviour amounted to serious professional misconduct.

The Panel has borne in mind the principles guiding a doctor as set out in the relevant paragraphs of 1995 Good Medical Practice which relate to providing a good standard of practice and care, good clinical care, keeping up-to-date, abuse of professional position, probity in professional practice, financial and commercial dealings, and the general principles of conflict of interest, followed by particular provisions as to the way in which research must be conducted. The 1998 Good Medical Practice, relevant to Dr Wakefield’s conduct at the birthday party, lists the duties of a doctor in providing a good standard of practice and care, keeping up-to-date and the issue of research and the absolute duty to conduct all research with honesty and integrity.

In all the circumstances and taking into account the standard which might be expected of a doctor practising in the same field of medicine in similar circumstances in or around 1996-1998, the Panel concluded that Dr Wakefield’s misconduct not only collectively amounts to serious professional misconduct, over a timeframe from 1996 to 1999, but also, when considered individually, constitutes multiple separate instances of serious professional misconduct.

Accordingly the Panel finds Dr Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct.

In considering what, if any, sanction to apply, the Panel was mindful at all times of the need for proportionality and the public interest which includes not only the protection of patients and the public at large, but also setting and maintaining standards within the medical profession, as well as safeguarding its reputation and maintaining public confidence in the profession. It bore in mind that the purpose of sanctions is not punitive, although that might be their effect.

The Panel noted the submissions of GMC Counsel that the appropriate and proportionate sanction would be erasure in light of his serious and wide-ranging misconduct. However the Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that this was only a submission on behalf of the GMC and it was for the Panel to make up its own mind. Dr Wakefield’s counsel did not make any substantive submissions on his behalf.

The Panel went on to consider whether it should, pursuant to Rule 30(1), postpone the case. It received no submissions in this regard and so went on to determine whether it was sufficient to conclude the case without making a direction or with an admonition.

The Panel made findings of transgressions in many aspects of Dr Wakefield’s research. It made findings of dishonesty in regard to his writing of a scientific paper that had major implications for public health, and with regard to his subsequent representations to a scientific body and to colleagues. He was dishonest in respect of the LAB funds secured for research as well as being misleading. Furthermore he was in breach of his duty to manage finances as well as to account for funds that he did not need to the donor of those funds. In causing blood samples to be taken from children at a birthday party, he callously disregarded the pain and distress young children might suffer and behaved in a way which brought the profession into disrepute.

In view of the nature, number and seriousness of the findings the Panel concluded it would be wholly inappropriate to conclude the case without making a direction or with a reprimand.

It next considered under rule 31 whether it was sufficient to direct that the registration of Dr Wakefield be conditional on his compliance during a period not exceeding three years with such requirements as the (Panel) may think fit to impose for the protection of members of the public or in his interests. Conditions have to be practicable, workable, measurable and verifiable and directed at the particular shortcomings identified. The Panel concluded that Dr Wakefield’s shortcomings and the aggravating factors in this case including in broad terms the wide-ranging transgressions relating to every aspect of his research; his disregard for the clinical interests of vulnerable patients; his failure to heed the warnings he received in relation to the potential conflicts of interest associated with his Legal Aid Board funding; his failure to disclose the patent; his dishonesty and the compounding of that dishonesty in relation to the drafting of the Lancet paper; and his subsequent representations about it, all played out against a background of research involving such major public health implications, could not be addressed by any conditions on his registration. In addition, the Panel considered that his actions relating to the taking of blood at the party exemplifies a fundamental failure in the ethical standards expected of a medical practitioner. It concluded that conditional registration would not mark the seriousness of such fundamental failings in his duty as a doctor.

The Panel next went on to consider whether it would be sufficient to suspend Dr Wakefield’s registration for a period not exceeding twelve months. Dr Wakefield has demonstrated a persistent lack of insight and has insisted in many instances on his ethical propriety: in the context of the referral process and the treatment of the children in the research project in which he was engaged; in the context of the funding of the project; with regard to the terminology of the Lancet paper; with regard to his non-declaration of interests; with regard to not acting in the best clinical interests of the Lancet children and with regard to obtaining blood from children at a birthday party.

The Panel noted that the sanction of suspension may be appropriate for conduct that falls short of being fundamentally incompatible with continued registration; where there is no evidence of harmful deep-seated or attitudinal problems; and where there is insight and no significant risk of repeating behaviour. Although these points have been set out in the GMC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance which was published subsequent to these events, the Panel considered that the guidance outlines the type of sanction appropriate to the gravity of misconduct and that the same principles are applicable to Dr Wakefield’s actions at the material times. The Panel considers that Dr Wakefield’s conduct in relation to the facts found falls seriously short of the relevant standards and that suspension would not be sufficient or appropriate against a background of several aggravating factors and in the absence of any mitigating submissions made on his behalf. Dr Wakefield’s continued lack of insight as to his misconduct serve only to satisfy the Panel that suspension is not sufficient and that his actions are incompatible with his continued registration as a medical practitioner.

Accordingly the Panel has determined that Dr Wakefield’s name should be erased from the medical register. The Panel concluded that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession and is proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.

The effect of the foregoing direction is that, unless Dr Wakefield exercises his right of appeal, his name will be erased from the Medical Register 28 days from when formal notice has been deemed to be served upon him by letter to his registered address.

Dr Wakefield is presently not subject to any interim order on his registration. The Panel will hear submissions on whether an immediate order of suspension should be imposed upon him pending the outcome of any appeal, first from Ms Smith on behalf of the General Medical Council and then from Mr Coonan on behalf of the doctor but will do that at the conclusion of the reading of all three determinations.

Jason Day
Communications Executive
Media Team
GMC
Regent's Place
350 Euston Road
London
NW1 3JN


Walker-Smith joins Wakefield (29/5/2010)
After the UK General Medical Council finished excoriating the now deregistered Dr Andrew Wakefield for his part in the publication of fraudulent research designed to "prove" a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, with the secondary objective of enriching Wakefield, attention turned to two other authors of the now-retracted 1998 Lancet paper. (There were originally 13 authors, but ten of them withdrew their names when Wakefield's deceit became public knowledge. They didn't like being lied to by a colleague or being associated with extreme claims not backed up by the research.)

The GMC has now issued rulings on the conduct of the two doctors who stood by Wakefield and therefore could be considered parties to Wakefield's fabrication of test results and other forms of unethical behaviour. Here are the relevant paragraphs of the three GMC rulings.

Professor Simon Burch (see the full ruling here)

Taking all of the above into account, the Panel concluded that Professor Murch demonstrated errors of judgement but had acted in good faith and that any professional misconduct on his part, such as his failing in duties of research governance and performing colonoscopies that were not clinically indicated, could not reach the threshold of serious professional misconduct because of the circumstances in which he found himself.

Accordingly the Panel found that Professor Murch is not guilty of serious professional misconduct.

In these circumstances it was therefore not necessary to consider a sanction and Professor Murch is free to continue unrestricted medical practice.

Professor John Walker-Smith (see the full ruling here)

In deciding what weight should be given to this considerable mitigation, the Panel considered whether the serious transgressions, which arose in respect of Professor Walker-Smith’s failings, amounted to conduct being fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be a registered doctor. This is not an isolated case where a doctor departed from the proper standards. Rather, the breaches of duty relate to research and clinical areas of medical practice involving a number of children over a period of time. The nature of and background to the Panel’s findings and the public interest in particular with regard to the maintenance of public confidence in research and clinical medicine was highly relevant to the Panel’s consideration at this stage. The Panel concluded that Professor Walker-Smith’s extensive failures in relation to the clinical care of particularly vulnerable children, his non-compliance with ethical research requirements, and the irresponsible and misleading reporting of research findings potentially having such major implications for public health, did amount to conduct being fundamentally incompatible with his remaining a registered medical practitioner.

The Panel therefore concluded that suspension was not sufficient to mark the extent of Professor Walker-Smith’s serious and repeated departures from good medical practice. Therefore, with regret, the Panel determined that erasure was the only proportionate sanction appropriate in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession.

Accordingly the Panel has determined that Professor Walker-Smith’s name should be erased from the medical register.

Dr Andrew Wakefield (see the full ruling here)

The Panel noted that the sanction of suspension may be appropriate for conduct that falls short of being fundamentally incompatible with continued registration; where there is no evidence of harmful deep-seated or attitudinal problems; and where there is insight and no significant risk of repeating behaviour. Although these points have been set out in the GMC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance which was published subsequent to these events, the Panel considered that the guidance outlines the type of sanction appropriate to the gravity of misconduct and that the same principles are applicable to Dr Wakefield’s actions at the material times. The Panel considers that Dr Wakefield’s conduct in relation to the facts found falls seriously short of the relevant standards and that suspension would not be sufficient or appropriate against a background of several aggravating factors and in the absence of any mitigating submissions made on his behalf. Dr Wakefield’s continued lack of insight as to his misconduct serve only to satisfy the Panel that suspension is not sufficient and that his actions are incompatible with his continued registration as a medical practitioner.

Accordingly the Panel has determined that Dr Wakefield’s name should be erased from the medical register. The Panel concluded that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession and is proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.


Lock up your children (2/10/2010)
Look who's doing a tour, lying to parents and putting their children at risk.

Yes, ex-Dr Wakefield, the uproar is over, and is only being maintained by people like you.

Let's look at the claims made in the poster.

"33% of Healthcare Workers surveyed questioned the safety of the H1N1 vaccine! - National Health Interview Survey reported by CDC, 4/2/10. Why?"

I had look at the NHIS web site and I can't see anything about a survey of "Healthcare Workers" in April 2010 or any other year. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong place, so maybe ex-Dr Wakefield might like to give a reference so that people don't think he's lying.

"Ranked brainiest city in the country, only 60% of Boulder County's children were up to date on all recommended vaccinations in 2007! Why?"

There are no stories about vaccination archived on the Daily Camera site for either of the days cited, but there are many stories about the County's total commitment to vaccination and the free campaigns, just as there are on the County's own site. Maybe ex-Dr Wakefield might like to give some actual references so that people don't think he's lying.

"Time Magazine - ... It has been hard not to wonder if the FDA regulators have not been captured by the drug industry!"

At last, something that actually exists, but what we have is a classic of quote mining. The article wasn't about vaccines and the quoted words were embedded in "Over the past two decades, as drug after drug has been recalled after winning FDA approval, it has been hard not to wonder if FDA regulators have been captured by the drug industry. FDA critics and industry monitors charge that the drug-approval process is too easy for pharmaceutical companies to game. It is in some ways an unsurprising development. The FDA serves a public insatiably hungry for new medicines. Yet the agency does not have responsibility for performing safety testing. It relies on drug companies to perform all premarket testing on drugs for safety and efficacy". Valid criticism of industry regulators the world over, but I would be much more impressed if the makers of quack potions were prepared to subject their products to the same regulatory process as applies to real medicines and vaccines. So, not a lie this time from ex-Dr Wakefield but a bending of the truth that can only be considered to be deliberate dishonesty.

"Dr Andrew Wakefield's controversial research, which suggested a potential link between MMR and autism in some children, has now been replicated in five countries"

Well, the "research" certainly was controversial, but the main controversy was over how such obvious fraud got published in the first place, and it wasn't the "research" which suggested an MMR-autism link, it was ex-Dr Wakefield and his paymasters. As for the five replications, perhaps ex-Dr Wakefield might again like to provide references, because all I can find in PubMed are articles confirming that there is no link and other articles pointing out how Wakefield was discredited. Of course, now that his paper with fabricated results has been withdrawn by The Lancet it can't be cited by any reputable researcher, so perhaps this "confirming research" has been forced into non-peer-reviewed "journals" with the rest of quackery.

"Andrew Wakefield, a UK gastroenterologist and surgeon, was barred from practice by the British Medical Council after daring to suggest the safety of childhood vaccines needed more comprehensive research"

Well it was the UK General Medical Council, but what's a little matter of getting the name wrong? And he wasn't barred for questioning vaccines, he was barred for unethical conduct which included lying about where experimental subjects came from, hiding an enormous conflict of interest, taking biological samples without proper consent, and generally behaving in an unprofessional manner for someone who should take medicine and being a doctor seriously.

At least Wakefield got one thing right - the title of his book is a good reminder of his callous disregard of professional ethics and the safety of children. He probably needs the book and lecture tour to raise some money. I don't imagine it's cheap to set up a clinic in Tijuana.


Lying with the truth (20/11/2010)
I mentioned the halo effect above. This is where some thing, person or event is associated in the minds of observers with some other thing, person or event and the perception is influenced by the qualities and authority (whether real or perceived) of the reference. In layman's terms it's called "reflected glory". It's what motivates people to have pictures on their office walls of them shaking hands with famous or influential people. I would never do it myself, but I can see why other people do it.

The halo effect can be used to deceive, and one way that it is used constantly by pseudoscientists and quacks is to rent meeting rooms and then use the name of the venue or institution in promotion or after the event reporting to suggest that whatever was said was somehow endorsed by the owner of the venue. Universities are very open to this sort of abuse and I am sure we have all seen things like "It was announced at Harvard yesterday ..." followed by a report of something that was said at some event which was related to the university only because it was said there. I went to a recording of a television show about a psychic once and for some reason the show was recorded in one of the lecture theatres at Westmead Hospital (which are available for public rent and use). Mercifully, nobody made any announcements about how psychic powers had been demonstrated at Sydney University's medical school. Perhaps nobody thought of it.

A few years back some UFO nuts rented a meeting room in some office building in Washington that houses support staff for US Senators. Because the building has the word "Senate" in its name, they actually put out press releases about their idiocy which started out "It was announced in the Senate today ...". Of course the true believers lapped it up and repeated the lie, although, unlike the conference organisers, they might not have known it was a lie. Similarly, a bunch of 9/11 Troofers tried to hold a conference in public lecture theatres in Sydney's Powerhouse Museum with the obvious intention of linking their idiocy with a scientific establishment. Luckily I was able to inform the Museum staff of the potential for abuse and embarrassment that the place was facing and the Troofers were told to peddle their madness elsewhere.

Another example of this deceit dropped into my mailbox this week under the heading "Dr. Andrew Wakefield speaks at Parliament on Autism". You will remember Dr Wakefield as the author of a paper published in The Lancet in 1998 which suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, a paper which led directly to reduced vaccination rates and the deaths of children. The paper has since been retracted by the journal and Dr Wakefield's ability to practise medicine has been withdrawn. These actions followed revelations of Wakefield's unethical behaviour, extreme conflicts of interest and deliberate stretching of research conclusions beyond what was in the data.

As I couldn't imagine why any parliament of any respectable country would want to have anything to do with a discredited and deregistered ex-doctor, and as in most places the only people who get to address houses of legislation are foreign heads of state, I immediately assumed that I was being lied to. Actually, as the email had come from someone who would lie to his grandmother about the day of the week if that could cast doubts on vaccines I probably didn't have to check any further. I noticed, of course, that the announcement said "at Parliament", not "to Parliament", but I am certain that the nuance will be missed by true believers. The implication is there, and that is all that is needed when the badness of vaccines is being discussed.

And did ex-Dr Wakefield speak "at" a parliament? Well, yes he did, in a rented meeting room at the European Parliament HQ in Brussels. Did he speak "to" parliament? No, although some members might have gone along because they had nothing better to do. Did the European Parliament endorse his lies? Not that I could see. And did he tell lies about vaccines and autism? That is a rhetorical question, as of course he told lies about vaccines and autism because that is what he does for a living. I watched the first five minutes of the video of his speech and I didn't need to distress myself any further because he had already started lying and had put up a PowerPoint slide showing the topics he was going to lie about for the rest of the talk.

I predict that Wakefield speaking to a parliament will be part of anti-vaccination liar folklore within weeks, and it will be used to "prove" that his advocacy of placing children in harm's way is gaining acceptance from legislators and politicians. It will be a lie of course, but there is a very good reason why I call anti-vaccination liars "liars".

A version of this appeared as the Naked Skeptic column in the January 2011 edition of Australasian Science


Wakefield? Fraud? Whoda thunk it? (6/1/2011)
The editorial in the British Medical Journal for January 5, 2011, has a rather unequivocal headline: "Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent". I don't think I could have put it better myself, and in fact I did use the word "fraudulent" back in 2006 when talking about the way that Dr Andrew Wakefield performed some "research" specifically designed to demonstrate that the MMR vaccine could cause autism. And yes, I did mean "specifically" when I said it. Wakefield was paid to find a result that fitted his prejudices and he went right ahead and found it.

I don't believe that I can claim psychic powers if I correctly predict that within minutes anti-vaccination liar organisations like Age of Autism and the Australian Vaccination Network will come out with conspiracy theories and ridiculous defences of this despicable man. No amount of evidence can ever make people like these admit they were wrong, even if admitting it makes no difference to their ideological positions. Wakefield faked his research - that he did this has no bearing on the safety of vaccines, but once declared a hero the garland cannot be taken back. At least he can't practice as a doctor any more, although this won't stop him pretending to be a doctor at anti-vaccination publicity events.


Watch Andrew Wakefield tell lies


And here's JB Handley from Generation Rescue defending the lies

Here is a table showing how what Wakefield said in his published paper differed from reality:


See Brian Deer's analysis for detailed footnotes.


Wakefield only lied. What's wrong with that? (8/1/2011)
It took no psychic powers of prediction to correctly guess that Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network would spring to the defence of Mr Andrew Wakefield now that his research has not only been retracted by The Lancet but has been declared actually fraudulent. That's right - Wakefield lied about almost everything in his famous paper. It passed peer review because deliberate fabrication of results and outright lying usually aren't expected in scientific papers and can be hard to detect. The detection in this case was done by journalist Brian Deer, who has been subjected to several years of vilification and abuse for his trouble. Here is a comment about Brian Deer from Ms Dorey:

It seems, however, that Ms Dorey's relationship with the media is not as comfortable as it was a few years ago. Here she is being interviewed on Sydney's Radio 2UE about her reaction to the fact that Andrew Wakefield just made stuff up.

And here is Ms Dorey impugning the motives and reputation of Tracey Spicer.

Then there is the local paper, the Northern Star, which used to be almost a public mouthpiece for Ms Dorey and her AVN idiocy:

Northern StarDorey backs fraud medico

Mel Mcmillan | 8th January 2011

Australian Vaccination Network spokeswoman Meryl Dorey is standing by the barred British gastroenterologist, Dr Andrew Wakefield, despite the current edition of the British Medical Journal labelling his work as "an elaborate fraud".

Dr Wakefield’s 1998 study ignited a worldwide scare over a possible link between vaccines and autism, and led millions of parents to delay or decline vaccination for their children.

The study has long since been debunked and dismissed by the scientific community, which points to 14 independent studies that have failed to find any link between vaccines and autism.

Last year, The Lancet, publisher of the original study, issued a formal retraction. British medical authorities last year also found Dr Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct, stripping him of his ability to practice in England.

However, the Bangalow-based MrsDorey said there were dozens of peer reviewed studies that showed a possible link between autism and vaccination, and claimed the studies used to show the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) were "poorly designed".

Prof Robert Booy, director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, said Mrs Dorey’s claim was "laughable".

"There is not a single reputable study to support a link between MMR and vaccination," Prof Booy said. He said thousands of hours of research time, which could have been spent researching the causes and prevention of autism, had been wasted on a wild goose chase.

The safety of MMR was well established, Prof Booy said.

The BMJ reports that Dr Wakefield, who was paid more than $A676, 658 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers, was not just unethical, he falsified data in the study which suggested children developed autism after getting an MMR shot.

In fact, the children’s medical records show that some clearly had symptoms of developmental problems long before getting their shots, BMJ says. Several had no autism diagnosis at all.

So what would Ms Dorey's reaction to this be:

Do you detect a pattern here? If someone publishes something with which you disagree you immediately attack the person (and never forget to say that they are being paid to say what they say), and the only evidence you offer in support of your position consists of lies that can be easily disproved by anyone who cares to look. As an example, the number of replications of Wakefields "research" is exactly zero. None. Zilch. Nada. On the other hand, Ms Dorey might like to see how forty studies looking for a link between vaccine and autism have shown no connection. Forty studies where money was wasted responding to anti-vaccination liars. Forty studies where the time of real scientists was diverted from doing work that might have had a benefit for mankind.

Ms Dorey, it's time for you to STFU. If you don't know what that means then look it up on the Internet. I'm sure that someone there will explain it to you.


Then there's Wakefield (22/1/2011)
Hopefully I have written the last thing I ever have to write about the dreadful Dr Andrew Wakefield. My next Naked Skeptic column Australasian Sciencefor Australasian Science magazine sets out the history of Wakefield's deception over the years. It won't be on the newsstands for a couple of weeks but you can get a sneak preview here. The magazine will, as usual, contain much more than just my scribbling so I recommend that you either nag your newsagent to have it on sale (if you live in Australia) or, better still, subscribe through the magazine web site. It is the best popular science magazine in the country and is written by experts for a non-expert audience.

In more Dr Wakefield news, the British Medical Journal has now published all three parts of their report into his actions.

And do you think the attacks on journalist Brian Deer have subsided? Of course not - he exposed the sordid details of Wakefield's deception and must be vilified at every opportunity. Here is our old friend Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network expressing an opinion. (I've left the question about blood type and eugenics there to show that crazy ideas about vaccination are not confined to the movement's leaders.)

"Lying dog of a journalist", hey? The UK has some of the most draconian and bankrupting defamation laws in the world, so why hasn't Dr Wakefield sued Brian Deer for being a lying dog? Well, he tried before and the case was thrown out of court because Wakefield's lawyers couldn't convince the court that they were doing anything except trying to hide what Wakefield had done and burden Deer with crippling legal bills. I suspect, however, that Deer might have more success if he decided to ask an Australian court to rule on the defamatory nature of the words "lying dog of a journalist".


Dr Wakefield - the denouement (16/4/2011)
One day the disgraced and disgraceful Andrew Wakefield will fade from view and nobody will take his child-killing advice any more. While we wait for that glorious day, have a look at Darryl Cunningham's excellent comic strip about the Wakefield saga. Click on any of the pictures to go there.


Ex-Dr Wakefield receives another award (21/1/2012)
The following article appeared on the web site of Time Magazine this week. It was part of a series headed "Great Science Frauds"

Andrew Wakefield

Wakefield and friends - Photo by Shaun Curry/Getty Images
Photo by Shaun Curry/Getty Images

Do vaccines cause autism? Medical experts say no, but we can thank Wakefield for introducing the doubt that won’t die in many parents’ minds. In 1998, the gastroenterologist at Royal Free Hospital in London published a study describing a connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, after he found evidence of these viruses, presumably from the shot, in the guts of a dozen autistic children, eight of whom developed autism-like symptoms days after receiving their vaccination.

Other scientists could not replicate Wakefield’s findings, nor verify a link between the vaccine and autism. In 2010, the journal that published his paper retracted it, and its editors noted that "it was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false." Later that year, the General Medical Council in the U.K. revoked Wakefield’s medical license, citing ethical concerns over how he recruited the patients in the study as well as his failure to disclose that he was a paid consultant to attorneys representing parents who believed their children had been harmed by vaccines.

The final shoe dropped a year later, when another prestigious medical journal concluded that his research was also fraudulent, after evidence that some of the timelines of the children’s symptoms were misrepresented.

Wakefield maintains his innocence, and penned a book defending his work and his continued belief in a connection between vaccines and autism. Infectious disease experts and pediatricians, meanwhile, routinely confront conflicted parents who question the safety of vaccines, despite immunization’s long-standing record of successfully controlling childhood diseases with relatively few side effects.

You can read the article here.


Wakefield flushed (4/8/2012)
Long-term readers will remember ex-Dr Andrew Wakefield who published an now-retracted article in The Lancet in 1998 that purported to show a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. In summary, Wakefield was paid a large amount of money by lawyers to prove a connection, he was to be paid expert witness fees for testifying in cases against vaccine manufacturers and he had patented a measles vaccine and stood to make a huge amount of money if he could discredit the vaccine that was in use. Children died because of this man's greed and dishonesty but he is of course a hero of the anti-vaccination liar movement. He was struck off as a doctor in the UK and has for some time been working in the US pretending to have a cure for autism. He decided to sue the journalist, Brian Deer, who had originally exposed him, the British Medical Journal for publishing the story of his fraud and Fiona Godlee, the editor of the BMJ. He decided to do the suing in Texas, knowing full well that there is no way a court in Texas can rule on a defamation case against British defendants who are all in the UK. The purpose of the suit was to allow his supporters to continually rant on about how he was about to be vindicated and get huge amounts of compensation.

If you click on the image at the right you can see what the court in Texas finally decided. It took very few words for the judge to say that as there was no jurisdiction there was no case. DISMISSED! It is interesting to note that the court also denied an application by Wakefield to block the defendants from appearing in court. He wanted a court to rule that he had been defamed but not allow the people he was suing to defend themselves. Two Australian sayings apply here: "More arse than class" and "Hide to the bone". Still, as Wakefield has never shown any hint of a lack of arrogance and self-importance it is no surprise that he should have tried on such a transparent piece of nonsense.

And just in case you might think that Wakefield was misunderstood and an unfortunate victim of circumstances, consider this. In June 2011 he was a speaker at a conference in Dublin. The title of the conference was "The Masterplan: The Hidden Agenda for a Global Scientific Dictatorship". Here are some of the other speakers. (The web site originally promoting this event has been massively reorganised and split into many different parts. This means that none of the links now work, which is why I'm showing an image. Sorry, but the New World Order obviously got to the site and censored it.)

There's an old cliché about being judged by the company you keep. Look at the company Wakefield keeps and then tell me that he has anything worthwhile to say about the practice of medicine.



See more from Stuart Carlson here


Wakefield runs again. (1/12/2012)
Remember how ex-Dr Andrew Wakefield was going to get the Texas judiciary to show what a puny place the UK was compared to Texas? Here's Patrick Timothy Bolen, spokessphincter for quacks. sounding off on the subject:

Texas has several applicable laws to punish people like Brian Deer. We'll all watch them used.

Texas is, of course, far larger in size than Britain, and has much more wealth and economic power. Texas can easily spank Britain publicly - and, with this case, probably will.

In short, the BMJ and Brian Deer might be a big deal in tiny little Britain, but their influence is nil in Texas. Brian Deer, and the pipsqueak BMJ are in the big leagues now - and they won't do well.

Remember how the Texas judiciary told ex-Dr Wakefield that Texas courts have no jurisdiction over defamation in the UK?

Remember how ex-Dr Andrew Wakefield was going to wipe the floor with the Texas judge on appeal? Pat Bolen again:

You just have to get used to the idea that, well, Britain isn't what it used to be, and, well, I hate to break it to you (actually, I don't mind at all), but your whole silly little system is going on trial in TEXAS, in the United States of America.

The country of Britain had its chance to slap down Brian Deer, and, because, I guess, of its inherent inadequacies, the argument has been moved to a higher, more competent jurisdiction - TEXAS.

You can be sure that TEXAS will give your little country all of the respect it deserves. I feel confident that your shining star (choke) British Medical Journal will get its day in court. Please have your attendees dress appropriately. Keep in mind that in OUR Court system men don't wear dresses and girly wigs.

Judges in dresses.(See members of the Supreme Court of the USA wearing "dresses" in the photo at right.)

Well, ex-Dr Wakefield was due to appear in court on November 19 to do the floor-wiping and the destruction of Brian Deer and the BMJ, but on November 16 he asked for more time to get his case together, despite having lodged notice of the appeal many weeks before. His next scheduled floor-wiping date is January 4, 2013.

In 2005, still-then-a-Dr Andrew Wakefield sued for defamation in the UK. He kept delaying the hearings in order to increase cost and aggravation for the other side (and to maintain the pretence that he was winning a case) until finally a judge told him to get on with it or else. The or else happened and the case folded. He is obviously doing the same thing again, because as long as the farce goes on clowns like Pat Bolen can keep saying he is about to win.

Here is a comment by a judge in one of Wakefield's unsuccessful UK libel actions: "It thus appears that the claimant wishes to use the existence of the libel proceedings for public relations purposes, and to deter other critics, while at the same time isolating himself from the 'downside' of such litigation, in having to answer a substantial defence of justification".

I predict at least one more request for a time extension before the appeal court gets tired of the charade.


Another accolade for Andy (22/12/2012)
Disgraced and disgraceful ex-Dr Andrew Wakefield, the man whose fraudulent "research" led to the death of a few and the infection of many with measles has been granted another award.

Here is how it was reported on Simon Singh's Good Thinking Society blog:

Andrew Wakefield, who sparked the unjustified MMR controversy, wins the Golden Duck Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to quackery.

And here is how The Guardian reported it:

Andrew Wakefield, the doctor struck off the medical register for his discredited research that claimed to find a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, can add another honour to his list this Christmas: the inaugural Golden Duck award for lifetime achievement in quackery, set up by the science writer Simon Singh.

Runners-up for the award were Prince Charles and David Tredinnick, the Tory MP for Bosworth and member of the Commons health select committee. The Good Thinking Society, a campaign group led by Singh, set up the annual Golden Duck award to recognise those "who have supported or practised pseudoscience in the most ludicrous, dangerous, irrational or irresponsible manner".

In 1998, Wakefield was the lead author of a paper in the Lancet medical journal that suggested a link between the measles virus and inflammatory bowel disease. The paper also suggested the virus played a role in the development of autism. Wakefield later said that his research led him to believe that, instead of the MMR triple vaccine, children should be given a series of single vaccines. His statements led to alarm around the world, a drop in the rate of MMR vaccination and, in the UK, a rise in cases of measles cases.

In 2010, the Lancet formally retracted Wakefield's paper and he was struck off the medical register after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct. Subsequent studies have found no credible link between MMR and either autism or Crohn's disease.

Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at Bristol University, said that Wakefield's legacy was "many, many thousands of unimmunised children born over the last 15 years whose parents decided MMR was too risky at the time and subsequently have forgotten all about it. Measles rates are up and they will only decline when this accumulation of susceptibles has either had the vaccine or the disease."

Singh said Wakefield's impact on vaccination in the past decade had been important and worrying. "Reminding people of these issues is very important," he said

You can read the complete article here.


The trash is taken out (20/9/2014)
Finally, one of the most amusing farces of the legal world has come to an end. In 2012, ex-Dr Andrew Wakefield sued journalist Brian Deer, the British Medical Journal and Fiona Godlee, the editor of the BMJ. In an exhibition of arrogance and chutzpah which would have been remarkable coming from someone less sure of themself than Wakefield he asked the Court to deny the defendants the right to present evidence. The Court soundly rejected this nonsense and also threw out the original suit on August 3, 2012. You can see the ruling by clicking on the image at the right.

Wakefield appealed, of course, because what he wanted was not to win but to be able to continually claim that the defendants involved were being sued.

Then the fun started. Tim Bolen, spokespustule for all sorts of crooked doctors and dentists, announced to the world that Wakefield was certain to win because Texas was so important compared to the UK. The reason for the dismissal of the suit was no surprise to sane people, because an action for defamation in the UK was never going to be accepted as being within the jurisdiction of a Texas court. Here are a few choice quotes from Tim:

Texas is, of course, far larger in size than Britain, and has much more wealth and economic power. Texas can easily spank Britain publicly - and, with this case, probably will.

In short, the BMJ and Brian Deer might be a big deal in tiny little Britain, but their influence is nil in Texas. Brian Deer, and the pipsqueak BMJ are in the big leagues now - and they won't do well.

Britain, and its entire construction, is a has-been world that, now, the State of Texas is going to put on trial. How? We are going to watch one of their primary structures, the BMJ, set in place in 1840, shredded and spit out in the Travis County County Courthouse, like a bad taco. And, all the world is going to be watching.

You just have to get used to the idea that, well, Britain isn't what it used to be, and, well, I hate to break it to you (actually, I don't mind at all), but your whole silly little system is going on trial in TEXAS, in the United States of America.

The country of Britain had its chance to slap down Brian Deer, and, because, I guess, of its inherent inadequacies, the argument has been moved to a higher, more competent jurisdiction - TEXAS.

Wakefield's appeal against the decision was scheduled for November 19, 2012, but three days before that he asked for more time to prepare and an adjournment was granted until January 4, 2013. I predicted at the time that he would ask for at least one more extension but it seems I was being optimistic, because he managed to drag the appeal process out until September, 2014. The ruling by the Appeals Court was inevitable:

Dr. Andrew Wakefield appeals the trial court’s order granting special appearances filed by the British Medical Journal Publishing Group, Ltd., Brian Deer, and Dr. Fiona Godlee (collectively, the Defendants) and dismissing Wakefield’s defamation suit. Because we conclude that the Defendants did not waive their special appearances and that the trial court did not err in concluding that the Defendants had insufficient contacts with Texas, we affirm the trial court’s order.

You can see the full decision by clicking on the image.

Goodbye, Andy. Go back to lying about vaccines. And Tim, you were wrong again, but that is no surprise as you are always wrong.


The Energizer Wakefield never gives up (22/11/2014)
On September 19 ex-Dr Andrew Wakefield had an appeal rejected by the Texas Court of Appeals over his ridiculous attempt to sue people and businesses in the UK in a court in Texas. It was obvious from the very start that the Texas courts had no jurisdiction in the matter and this has now been ruled at two levels of the Texas court system. Never one to give up, because ongoing legal action against people is always a way to defame them by implication, Wakefield has appealed to the Supreme Court of Texas. He had 45 days from the original ruling to lodge an appeal which meant that it had had to be lodged by November 3, however following his usual practice he missed that deadline and two weeks later on November 17 requested an extension of time until December 3. I am not a lawyer but I can see no reason why the Supreme Court of Texas should allow this appeal, or if they did to uphold it and rule that any Texas court has jurisdiction over people in the UK.

This is been Wakefield's modus operandi for many years. In 2005 he was ordered by the England and Wales High Court to get on with litigation because it had become obvious he was merely using deliberately introduced delays to drag out the proceedings. I have experienced this myself, because it is often useful for people attacking someone else on spurious legal grounds to have a court case dragged on forever so they can continue to pretend that the person they are attacking has somehow been in breach of the law. It also increases the costs for the attacked party.

For a description of what is happening written by a real lawyer, you can read this article in Skeptical Raptor by Dorit Reiss, who is an actual Professor of Law at a real University.

As our old friend Patrick Timothy Bolen was so vociferous in his support of Wakefield, predicting his total victory in Texas, he has promised further comment on how Wakefield is yet again about to achieve supremacy. I eagerly await his prediction.



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