I am republishing my book review of the «Doctor Who Fooled the World» by Mr. Brian Deer. My previous blog had included some criticisms regarding Mr. Deer’s assertions of Dr. Bernard Rimland. I was misinformed. For those interested, Mr. Deer has provided a good amount of useful information in the comment section below. I appreciate Mr. Deer’s due diligence in writing a thoroughly researched book and in addressing my personal criticisms. I reiterate that it is a must read for anybody interested in the history of autism and the anti-vaccine movement.
Andrew Wakefield peddled his craft as a quack by appealing to parents of autistic children who were desperately looking for answers. He was a doctor without patients, an educator who did not teach, and a researcher who made up data as he went along. In this book, Brian Deer details how Wakefield embarked on a project whose source of funding was a lawyer investigating the health risks of the MMR vaccine. It was never about helping children nor answering research questions; it was based on the greedy desire to make money out of a lawsuit.
Although initially vehemently denied, it seems clear that Wakefield’s ill-conceived project lacked the ethical approval of his academic institution. An approval would have never been granted as the project exposed participants to potential harms while having little or no benefits. Unbeknown to his collaborators, all of this was orchestrated while Wakefield received generous consultancy fees from lawyers, and while submitting patents and establishing corporations for his own financial enrichment. The egregious conflict of interest was not disclosed at the time of his publication nor in the years that followed. Details would only be exposed thanks to Brian Deer’s investigative journalism.
With Wakefield’s skewed aims, it is unsurprising that the data in the finalized article differed greatly from available facts in the patients’ medical records. In trying to establish a relationship between autism and the MMR vaccine Wakefield examined a biased cohort of patients, distorted the timeline describing their developmental abnormalities, misrepresented the timing of the appearance of presumed side effects after vaccination, and gave a diagnosis of autism to patients that clearly lacked the same. Some of his patients fared worse; receiving the false diagnosis of colitis and being treated aggressively with medications bearing a black box warning for serious safety risks. According to the General Medical Council of England, Wakefield was “dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain of children”. Wakefield was the writer of the article and the sole person who controlled the flow of research information in his project. The fraud was all his.
Wakefield claimed validation of his theories from results of colonoscopy (going as far as the ileum), pathology, and laboratory testing (PCR). However, colonoscopy and pathological findings were reviewed as normal; a fact he knew in advance of his publication. Positive data from PCR was proven to be a contaminant and not reproduced by other laboratories. In the end, it was disclosed that the person reporting the positive PCR results was a business partner in one of Wakefield’s corporations. The fact that Wakefield proceeded to publication while being forewarned of the negative data made his efforts a conscious fraud. Indeed, the medical establishment and multiple periodicals have referred to Wakefield’s efforts as one of the “great science frauds” in the history of medicine, somebody who has been “shamed before the world”, and how “Hippocrates would puke” at him.
Wakefield created data to suit his gigantic ego in the pursuit of illusory accolades. Instead, he ended up causing a global pandemic of fear against vaccines that has accounted for the countless deaths of children. Has he ever shown any remorse for his misdeeds? No!
I have had the opportunity to listen to Wakefield during some of his presentations. He is a charismatic but bombastic peddler of conspiracy theories. Science is no longer a part of his presentations. Deer exemplifies Wakefield’s narcissistic personality in the opening section of the book when he is placed in a social gathering sponsored by Donald Trump. It is easily inferred from there on that both men, Wakefield and Trump, have the same pathological personality. Both are bullies who threatened to silence critics with lawsuits, made a career out of concocting conspiracy theories, never admit to faults or wrongdoings, and believe that they know more than anybody else.
Wakefield was offered the opportunity to redo his studies in a non-biased manner. The study was going to be sponsored by his medical school. This was a researcher’s dream wherein he would not have to compete for money in a grant submission process. An offer of an ethical blinded study overseen by unbiased clinicians to confirm his findings? Wakefield would have none of it!
During my career in autism I have had the opportunity to meet with many of the people detailed in Brian Deer’s book. I was a participant (witness for the government) at the Omnibus Proceedings for Vaccination Safety. My role was to show some of the results of my research indicating that autism had a neurodevelopmental component antedating any possible vaccine injury. My own point of view was biased by the mentoring I received from Drs. Diane Griffin and Richard Johnson while training at the John Hopkins Hospital. Diane, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was also a witness at the Omnibus Proceedings. As an expert in virology whose specialty was the measles virus, she tore through the lack of science in Wakefield’s research.
This is a must-read book for anybody interested in the history of autism and the antivaccine movement. It is an easy read; a page turner that grabbed my interest from the first to the last page of the book. The book itself could have enjoyed some editing; it is written in a choppy style wherein the author occasionally forgets to introduce the subject of a paragraph and overcooks his narrative. However, the amount of detail is daunting and clearly exposes Wakefield as a scaremongering quack pursuing his own self-aggrandizement. This book is now available hardcover from Amazon for $26.60. The significance of the book is presently accentuated as the World Health Organization has cited “vaccine hesitance” as one of the most significant problems threatening global health.
«I do take exception with Brian Deer as he summarily deals in a biased narrative against Jane Johnson, the Autism Research Institute, and Bernie Rimland.»
Quite rightly Dear Manuel, because you should take exception to everything that Deer writes, because his entire career consists of being a nasty fraud, engaged in a character-assassination operation. Wakefield was certainly incompetent at epidemiology, but so are a great many autism researchers incompetent at autism research. And being wrong in science must never be treated as a crime. Wakefield’s «offence» was to challenge the mighty vaccine quackery industry, the exact same one as is currently terrorising the whole world with its World War Three – DO watch this video to see how filthy the «proper» science is… «We Are Being Lied To! Here Is How…» https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljxah4NrYKU .
As a result huge resources were pumped into the greatest character assassination op in history, bursting full of lies, many of which you have repeated here. For years they sneered at him to sue for libel. Finally he did, and…. then in their eagerness to have the matter properly aired in court, instead they came up with the most ridiculous excuse imaginable to avoid having that trial. (Supposedly the fact that the BMJ was being published in Texas and would affect W’s career as a resident of Texas did not suffice to justify him suing in a Texas court.) Ask yourself this ONE question. If they really had truth on their side, WHY did they not allow that libel case to go ahead. Basically because Deer and all the rest associated with him stink to hell. You should retract the rubbish you have written here, and should spend less time cosying up to the seemingly nice people you meet at fancy conferences. There is a difference between being pally and being honest – please learn to tell the difference. Cheers.
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Thank you for the comments Robin. Hopefully you will read the book, it is very interesting. Please be aware that Wakefield had claimed an initial approval by his ethics board, which upon revision was for another project. The source of his cohort of patients was biased and he did not disclose the same. He lied/misrepresented data about his patient’s diagnoses, timing of developmental milestones as well as timing of side effects after vaccination. The histological findings were negative and the colonoscopy non-specific, and he knew of this before the lancet publication. If I am mistaken in any of this, please correct me. Otherwise, Wakefield did shoddy research while making himself rich from the same. I have heard him repeatedly in lectures and can;t change my mind as to what he is; a charlatan. Hope you are doing well. Take care, my friend.
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Manuel, I’m afraid it appears you have been misinformed about Dr Rimland’s requirements. Everything in my book is supported by documents, which were checked independently of me by Johns Hopkins University Press, who assigned two staff to spend months on this formidable task. The book was twice peer reviewed and cleared for publication by separate defamation specialists in New York and London.
In November 2004, for example, Dr Rimland published the following reminder on the ARI website:
«Regrettably, some parents have reported to us that certain DAN!-listed practitioners they contacted were in fact not truly sympathetic to
the DAN! approach, despite their having requested to be on our DAN! referral list. In response to this problem, in July 2002 ARI
requested all those on the DAN! practitioners list to sign a statement asserting that they subscribe to the DAN! philosophy, and conduct
their practice in accordance with the DAN! philosophy. (Click here to read the DAN! philosophy statement.)»
The «philosophy statement» is a menu of beliefs and commitments including the following paragraphs:
*Microbial overgrowth including viral infections in susceptible children after a) certain vaccines, b) intestinal parasites, and c) bacterial and yeast overgrowths in the gut.»
*Toxins, such as PCB’s, and particularly heavy metals, such as mercury from environmental sources and certain childhood vaccines.»
He also published in April 2004, a list of purported research, utterly dominated by Wakefield’s claims, in which Rimland states:
«Following are some of the scientific studies that demonstrate the MMR vaccine to be a significant causal factor in autism. Note that these studies are consistently ignored in the medical establishment’s publications claiming that there is no evidence for vaccine-caused autism.»
Jane Johnson may now be uncomfortable over the amount of money she funneled to the charlatan Wakefield, and of course I note the speed with which he was ejected from the Thoughtful House premises in 2010. But, as I understand it, negotiated a confidentiality agreement with Wakefield over the reasons for his departure, and I don’t believe that was any more in the public interest than her previous support for him.
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