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.