BREAKING: BMJ calls Andrew Wakefield a fraud

By Phil Plait | January 5, 2011 6:52 pm

This is HUGE: The BMJ, an online medical journal, has accused Andrew Wakefield — the hero of the modern antivaccination movement — of being "a fraud".

The skeptic and medical community have been hammering Wakefield for years; his study linking vaccines and autism was shaky from the start, and he suffered a series of humiliating defeats last year: the Lancet medical journal withdrew his paper, he was struck off the UK General Medical Council’s register, and was found to have acted unethically.

Of course, the word "fraud" implies intent; when writing about Wakefield I had my suspicions, but always wrote as if he were just wrong, and not deliberately lying to vulnerable parents.

But deliberate fraud is what he’s now accused of. Brian Deer, an investigative journalist, has written a multi-part series on the BMJ site which slams Wakefield. Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, also writes about this… and just to be clear, she uses the word "fraud" nine times in her editorial. Not surprisingly, it’s been picked up by several news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and ABC.

Deer has been on Wakefield’s case a long time, and has been critical in exposing Wakefield’s shenanigans. Wakefield and the antivaxxers have attacked Deer many times, but their accusations are as hollow as the claims of links of autism to vaccinations. And let’s be clear: vaccines don’t cause autism.

Deer has long shown that Wakefield had a lot of financial incentive to create a fear of vaccines, including lawyers paying him to find a link to autism, as well as Wakefield developing his own version of a measles vaccine. From CNN:

According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. Godlee said the study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR [measles-mumps-rubella] vaccine and three never had autism.

"It’s always hard to explain fraud and where it affects people to lie in science," Godlee said. "But it does seem a financial motive was underlying this, both in terms of payments by lawyers and through legal aid grants that he received but also through financial schemes that he hoped would benefit him through diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-related issues."

The original study has been shown by several investigations to have been terrible; as the quoted part above mentions several of the children never had autism, and many showed signs of it before they were vaccinated. Despite this, Wakefield became a hero to the antivax movement.

Brian Deer’s article on BMJ is nothing short of a tour-de-force, and is a horrifying tale of how Wakefield allegedly falsified medical research deliberately while operating under a huge conflict of interest. Deer’s article is meticulously referenced and footnoted… but still, I know this won’t stop the antivaxxers. The large movements aren’t based on good evidence, and no matter how much solid evidence you show them, they’ll reject it.

What I do hope is that parents out there will see this and pause. I am a parent, and I went through all the usual fears you get when you have a child. I can only imagine the suffering so many parents out there have undergone, and with tremendous heartache I’ve read many, many accounts of their feeling of desperation and hopelessness. But we cannot let our fear override what’s best for our children.

The antivax movement is dangerous because when vaccination rates drop it puts everyone at risk, but especially the most defenseless among us: infants. We are seeing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease all over the world, and we’re seeing infants too young to be vaccinated dying because of lowered herd immunity. This is no joke, no exaggeration: babies are dying. There are many potential causes of lower vaccine rates, but the antivax movement is is not helping the situation.

Andrew Wakefield may not have started the antivax movement, but he certainly egged it on very strongly, along with such mouthpieces as Jenny McCarthy, and Meryl Dorey and the AVN in Australia. If the charges of fraud can be made to stick, then we might be able to make some progress toward reality once again, and lower the rate of outbreaks of measles, pertussis, and polio… and save a lot of lives in the process.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Debunking, Skepticism

Comments (93)

  1. Matt W

    Yes! Triumph for reality!

    Although, seeing his name in the post was disturbing since we share it. I kept yelling, “Phil, it wasn’t me!”

  2. Sarniaskeptic

    The word fraud is now interchangeable with “powerbalance”. Ie “Andrew Wakefield is a power balance bracelet.” FYI

  3. ccpetersen

    Phil,

    I read Deer’s article and am SICK at how Wakefield manipulated data, ignored relevant data that would not have supported his foregone conclusions, and USED these kids for his own ends. And some of them had conditions that appear to have been ignored by the “good doctor” in his race to make money off of a fake syndrome and a lawsuit settlement. They were his guinea pigs… and now they are still sick and he’s on TV whining about how he’s being persecuted, yadda yadda yadda. He doesn’t need more attention; the kids do, but he doesn’t. How soon before he’s at the business end of a lawsuit pointing at him for his malfeasance?

  4. This is indeed great news!

    I would like to know what those antivaxxers would say about when they will get asked to explain this.

    Good one for the real medical stuff!

  5. Finally, someone actually calls him out for what he is! I don’t believe any punishment is severe enough for the amount of damage he has caused to the world as a whole.

  6. kevbo

    Deer and the BMJ must be confident, what with the libel laws being what they are…

  7. fred

    It’ all about getting grant money and a job.
    This is why I have issues with global warming.
    Oh! Excuse me they change it to climate change.

  8. Lawrence Lo

    Fraud is a kind word to describe him. I would use mass murderer. How many kids died from not having been vaccinated, and how many more from the breakdown of herd immunity.

  9. StubbyGB

    All I can say is, Its about time.

  10. ethanol

    fred said: “It’ all about getting grant money and a job.
    This is why I have issues with global warming.
    Oh! Excuse me they change it to climate change.”

    Never mind that the quickest way to obtain prestige and funding in science is to conclusively contradict the consensus. Confirming previous results is much less attention grabbing than overturning them and yet with respect to climate change it continues to be confirmed…

  11. Aaron

    @2. Julio Vannini:
    I am pretty sure that they will say that this is just a big conspiracy against the “good doctor,” which has been orchestrated by Big Pharma.

  12. truthspeaker

    fred Says:
    January 5th, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    It’ all about getting grant money and a job.
    This is why I have issues with global warming.
    Oh! Excuse me they change it to climate change.

    “They” would be George W. Bush.

  13. Kudos to the BMJ.

    I just hope the celebrity antivaxxers wake up. Being that a good portion of this country would sooner listen to an ex Playboy Playmate and a TV show host to spread the Playmate’s misinformation than actually listen to real scientists and doctors.

  14. CaptTu

    Anderson Cooper interviews Wakefield on tonight’s AC360 at 10pm EST on CNN.

  15. Jack M.

    #6 kevbo:

    That was my first thought, too. Using the word “fraud” in that way is a VERY bold move in the UK with their libel laws.

  16. John

    So, do scientists act with vested interests or not?

    I’m confused now. ;)

  17. Ron1

    @ 7. fred Says:
    “It’ all about getting grant money and a job.
    This is why I have issues with global warming.”

    Didn’t your mama ever tell you that two wrongs don’t make a right? Or, in your case, two stupid comments don’t make you intelligent. Troll!

    ………………………………………….

    @2. Sarniaskeptic

    Great observation. Bravo!

  18. Mark

    Age of Autism is still defending this POS. How the hell do people get so deluded!

  19. Valinerya

    #8 Lawrence brought up a good point. Would parents have a civil or even a criminal case against him if they did not have their children vaccinated, the children contracted a disease that could have been prevented, and they died from it? Provided they can prove their decision was based directly on Wakefield’s “teachings?”

  20. Nic B 205

    Yes!
    First read about this in Ben Goldacre’s marvelous and disturbing book; Bad Science. Look it up

  21. Matt T

    Considering the position Wakefield is in, he can do a lot of good. If he shows the world he has the balls to man up and take the fall, imagine what the antivaxers will have to do. Their “hero” would have admitted to being wrong. At this point, all the whining in the world won’t save his career. He can still save lives if he pleads guilty!

  22. Brian137

    So, do scientists act with vested interests or not?

    Apart from the fact that they have chosen careers in science and generally have an aptitude and affinity for its subject matter and methods, they are as diverse as the human race itself. That said, science (and math) can be a tremendous source of fascination and satisfaction. To come to understand, to figure it out, to do the best you can, to hit the nail on the head – wow!! What satisfaction, what a feeling of completion, what a mistress.

  23. T. Miller

    Great news! The only question is if the crazies will retract their position. My guess is that there will be long term damages event though this is an obvious fraud.

  24. Gus Snarp

    I truly hope that the media attention this is getting makes more parents and future parents aware of this. When I first became a parent someone forwarded me the Kennedy article about how vaccines were causing autism. I didn’t know anything more about it, didn’t follow the skeptic blogs, and I believed it. Fortunately I couldn’t bring myself to not vaccinate my son, but this shows the reality that more people tend to hear Jenny McCarthy’s side of this, hopefully this news will change that.

  25. Gus Snarp

    Darn iPhone made me double comment.

  26. I’m so glad this is finally making a wave in mainstream news! I saw first hand what happens when kids are not vaccinated. A boy in my daughter’s daycare years ago was not vaccinated because of his parents belief that vaccines were harmful and that if he did Qui Gong he would be healthier than getting vaccines. He brought chicken pox to daycare and my daughter didn’t get it because she’d been vaccinated and none of the other daycare kids got it because they’d all been vaccinated, but one of the kid’s sisters got it because the parents had her with them when they picked up their son when the boy with chicken pox was there (and no one knew he had it yet since you can be contagious days before the symptoms show up). The sister that caught it was only 10 days old! Luckily, she came through it ok, but it was horrifying for the parents to go through that and it could’ve turned out so much worse. The mom of the unvaccinated kid was unrepentant and said now the 10 day old would be healthier than if she’d gotten a vaccine and she (anti-vaccine mom) had done the family a favor and they should thank her. The truth is you can re-catch chicken pox if you have it that young so all it did was upset the family and put the newborn at risk.

  27. Messier Tidy Upper

    Great news for reality and people all around the globe.

    I think we celebrate with singing a round of this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1xw0Ob5bqs

    Vaccine song. :-)

    Seems the pro-vaxxers are winning & the anti-vax, pro-disease nonsense is starting to deservedly fade away into well-merited oblivion – good to hear if long overdue!

  28. wade

    Very glad that this has occurred BUT how did this get into Lancet in the first place (given I assume peer-review and the studies many flaws) and why 12 yrs for this to finally occur and why 11 yrs before Lancet withdrew the paper–cheers wade

  29. ccpetersen

    Julia, the parents that allowed their diseased child to infect a newborn are saying essentially, “Thank us for almost killing your child.”

    What a diseased mindset these antivaxxer crystal chewers have.

  30. I wonder how quickly they’d shut down their website if we spiked the water fountains at Age of Autism with antipsychotics. If Wakefield admits he screwed up and funds a year’s supply of MMR vaccines as punishment/recompense, AoA would write an article that their good doctor had been replaced by a brain-washed clone.
    These people make me sick. Figuratively speaking, of course, since my vaccines are all current.

  31. Gary Ansorge

    18. John

    If you’re asking whether they’re human, the answer is yes, which is why we had to invent the Scientific Method, to compensate for the very human tendency toward self aggrandizement. It’s the best method we’ve ever developed for ensuring that what think we know really has some correspondence to reality.

    I expect those who have invested their lives in the antivax movement will be no more likely to adjure their commitment than will those who are certain the apocalypse is coming,,,soon.

    http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/bible-sect-apocalypse-prediction-110103.html

    This link mentions some of the fruit loops currently rolling around loose in the cereal box and they’re just as certain they’re right as are the antivaxers.

    Ah, well, eventually, old age will clear the slate and we’ll be able to stumble a step or two forward but only if we keep up the pressure, educating people about reality.

    Gary 7

  32. Wendy

    The sad thing is, the antivaxxers won’t care, no matter how much cred the BMJ has.

    It reminds me of a part of the movie Donnie Darko. ***SPOILER ALERT*** When motivational speaker Jim Cunningham (played by Patrick Swayze)’s kiddie porn ring is exposed and he’s hauled off to jail, his #1 fan, the “weird gym teacher” Ms Farmer, continues to support him despite all evidence that he’s a total perv.

    Antivaxxers are Ms Farmer.

  33. Robert Stephens

    “Deer’s article is meticulously referenced and footnoted… but still, I know this won’t stop the antivaxxers. The large movements aren’t based on good evidence, and no matter how much solid evidence you show them, they’ll reject it.”

    Yes, of course they will. They will keep rejecting it until it has been definitively determined what it is that causes autism. Of course, that is probably still quite some time away, I’m afraid. The human brain is so complex and so little understood, but progress is being made. Lets hope that some major breakthroughs come in the near future rather than in the distant one.

  34. JB of Brisbane

    Cue Andrew Wakefield’s lodgement of defamation suit in five – four – three – two -

  35. Monkey

    Cue suit against Wakefield for murder in five-four-three-two-…

  36. TheBlackCat

    That inverview with Anderson Cooper was unbelievable. Here is a summary:

    Cooper: What is your reaction to this allegation?
    Wakefield: They are all lies. I answer all the allegations in my book.
    Cooper: I’m asking you to respond, not to peddle your book
    Wakefield: I won’t answer the question unless you’ve read my book
    Cooper: Okay…what about this allegation?
    Wakefield: It’s a lie, I prove that in my book.
    Cooper: Can you tell us why?
    Wakefield: No, read my book.
    Cooper: But the parents say you were wrong.
    Wakefield: Deer never interviewed the parents, I prove that in my book. He is also a hit-man hired by vaccine manufacturers
    Cooper: He signed a statement saying he wasn’t.
    Wakefield: He is lying, and I prove it in my book.
    *pulls out book, shakes it in the air*
    Wakefield: BUY MY BOOK!!!
    Cooper: But he isn’t the only one saying this. Lots of researchers, doctors, and journalists from around the world agree with him.
    Wakefield: Everyone else is just listening to him. No one else has done any independent research or bothered to look at the evidence or medical records. Everything against me is coming from Dreer and Dreer alone. I explain this in my book. No one who is saying bad stuff about me has read my book. Everyone needs to read my book.
    Cooper: Okay, thanks for your time.

  37. TheBlackCat

    Yes, of course they will. They will keep rejecting it until it has been definitively determined what it is that causes autism. Of course, that is probably still quite some time away, I’m afraid. The human brain is so complex and so little understood, but progress is being made. Lets hope that some major breakthroughs come in the near future rather than in the distant one.

    They will just argue that there is some subset of people who have a different form of autism that is caused by vaccines. No matter how much we learn about the brain, no matter how much we learn about autism, they will still claims that we haven’t dissected the brain of every single autistic person on the planet therefore we can’t prove vaccines don’t cause autism.

    This isn’t just a guess. This is the standard line they use whenever we learn more about autism (since every time we learn something new about autism it makes vaccines less and less plausible as a culprit).

  38. Georg

    According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers.

    Who will imprison those “law”yers?
    Basis of US and UK-typical corruption
    is the “law” system.
    And it sweeps over to Germany more and more.
    Georg

  39. Luke

    The reason for the spike in Autism is quite simple and that is the need to put a label on everyone. Your kid has an obsession with particualr objects he must have Aspergers. Your kid can’t make friends and loves routine he must have autism, he doesn’t behave he must have a behavorial disorder. Doesn’t pay attention in class? ADHD.

    There is really no such thing as normal and quirky behavior or personality “defects” are nothing more than what makes your child unique.

    This of course does not mean there aren’t real kids with real problems, but they are being denied valuable attention and resources because of the other kids who don’t need the help, but their parents want a reason why their kid isn’t “perfect”

  40. I had the good fortune to see Mr. Deer speak on the Wakefield investigation at London Skeptics in the Pub, and he was a very engaging and credible speaker. He really opened my eyes to the unethical methods used by Wakefield, the paucity of the evidence, and the conflicts of interest that were present.

    It is nice to see that the BMJ is publishing this piece and giving the whole sordid story the profile it deserves.

  41. Lawrence

    Austism is a scary & complex syndrome for parents to deal with – on top of taking care of a baby/small child, all of a sudden, something isn’t quite right (and in some cases, is really, really wrong). So, they want to know why – why their kid isn’t perfect – and Wakefield offered a very simple answer for them, blame the vaccine.

    We live in a society where people want instant gratification – and unfortunately autism is not one of those things that can be easily explained (and even when they do ultimately find the cause – and my money is on a genetic component, I’m sure it won’t be explained in a 15 sec sound bite).

    I get very angry when people peddle this anti-vax crap around, while not accepting the responsibility that their choice is putting other people, particularly children, but adults can suffer too, at serious risk.

  42. SLC

    I have only one question to raise here: why isn’t the US government taking steps to deport this piece of filth back to Great Britain.

  43. Phil Donnelly Rooney

    I hope a criminal case can be made. I regularly see young men with mumps, consequently infertile.

  44. @SLC: It’s not like Wakefield did something really bad, like publishing redacted State Department memos on his website.

  45. Happy Camper

    @28. Julia

    “The mom of the unvaccinated kid was unrepentant and said now the 10 day old would be healthier than if she’d gotten a vaccine and she (anti-vaccine mom) had done the family a favor and they should thank her.”

    I would have been hard pressed to keep from beating that sanctimonious a**hat to a bloody pulp on the spot! At the very least I would have had some very strong words for her.

  46. Dan I.

    @ 47 Happy Camper

    I would have gone, “Great, could I get that in writing just so when my kid gets seriously ill I can sue you for medical expenses based on your admission?”

  47. JupiterIsBig

    #47 – hear hear – I would be livid !

    And the baby won’t know for 40 or 50 years or more if it is going to have a recurrence resulting in shingles, which can also be debilitating …

  48. Kevin

    This was a story on the “Today Show” this morning, and the “consulting doctor” they have on was adamant that Wakefield is a fraud and should be held accountable.

    It’s too bad that none of this is going to have any effect. These anti-vax wackjobs won’t listen to reason.

    I know that people rant and rave against “big government” but I think that if a parent won’t vaccinate their child – they should have their kids taken away from them, and the parents prosecuted for child abuse.

  49. Jack M.

    Kevin: “It’s too bad that none of this is going to have any effect. These anti-vax wackjobs won’t listen to reason. ”

    We’re not trying to convince the antivaxxers that they’re wrong. We’re trying to convince the regular mothers and fathers that the antivaxxers are wrong.

  50. Happy Camper

    @48 & 49

    I believe the legal term is depraved indifference. That said, one would be hard pressed to prove the parents responsible for the infants illness but I would still consult with my attorney.

  51. One Eyed Jack

    Considering British libel laws, I predict it won’t be very long until Wakefield files a lawsuit. It seems to be the standard practice among liars, thieves, and hypocrites.

  52. TheBlackCat

    The BMJ has to have taken the potential for libel into account. This is not an off-the-cuff letter, this is a long-running investigation that will result in a whole series of articles on the matter spread over weeks. I find it hard to believe they have not run this past their legal department beforehand.

  53. pelican

    Phil- teeny tiny suggested phrasing correction … the BMJ is not merely “an online medical journal,” it’s the British Medical Journal … kind of the British Equivalent of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

    It’s a big important journal with a long history and a high impact factor.

    I’m only halfway into my first cup of coffee this am, but I am having a very hard time thinking of another instance where a journal this important called the work of an author- work initially published in another, competing, high impact journal – “fraud.” The South Korean cloning fiasco comes to mind, but even then, I don’t remember anyone using the “f” word with that.

    This is a bigger deal than Lancet retracting the Wakefield study, by far.

  54. Jim

    @43 While I agree that the diagnosis can be misapplied, I don’t think that the blame can be simplistically applied to any one group – teachers, evaluators, parents and therapists all have responsibility in delivering and managing a diagnosis of autism.

  55. @OneEyedJack

    Considering British libel laws, I predict it won’t be very long until Wakefield files a lawsuit. It seems to be the standard practice among liars, thieves, and hypocrites.

    Wakefield already filed a libel suit against Deer and the Times several years ago, but subsequently withdrew the suit. Whether he’ll try again…probably not.

  56. Number 6

    @TheBlackCat….Thanks for the high points (really low points) of the Anderson Cooper/Wakefield interview.

    That sure takes a lot of moxie (in his case, bald-faced greed) to tell Anderson (and us) to read (make that — buy) his book after he’s been accused of fraud. Here he is with the proverbial “no clothes on”, and he’s still trying to squeeze a buck or two more from some who may be naive about his case.

    Guys like that have no moral sense…They are sociopaths. We’ve had our share here in Illinois….the biggest fish caught here a while back is now peddlin’ pistachios in a TV commercial until he goes to the big house.

  57. noen

    “Yes! Triumph for reality!”

    Indeed, I couldn’t agree more.

    Journal’s Paper on ESP Expected to Prompt Outrage

    One of psychology’s most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events.

    Science, it just works. Bitches.

    However, I suspect that what is “reality” will suddenly change to not include things to which they are ideologically opposed among a certain crowd of those who “lack belief” and who always just follow the science wherever it takes them.

  58. Nigel Depledge

    Gus Snarp (27) said:

    Darn iPhone made me double comment.

    Just out of curiosity, what else does it tell you to do?
    ;-)

  59. Grizzly

    I would like to echo the sentiment that this is not about convincing the anti-vax lobby, it is about educating the rest of the population. As a parent of an Autism Spectrum child I understand the gut-wrenching need to understand “Why?”. Look at the Anti-vax sentiment as being another form of Pareidolia – the innate human tendency to find patterns in visual cues. Those who understand the effect laugh and point at the funny pattern on the toast, those who don’t see a miracle.

    People searching desperately for answers look at patterns and seize on them as the reason without looking at a bigger picture, hence the rabid defense of Wakefield.

    It makes about as much sense as the correllation between global warming and the decrease in the number of pirates. But it is not something you will dissuade the anti-vaxers from.

  60. @TheBlackCat ,

    Wow. You weren’t kidding. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, here’s the interview.

    Part 1 (along with an introduction): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6kOxkPJfRM

    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx7phe3Djqk

    His counter-arguments basically just boil down to “It’s a huge conspiracy against me and I have all the proof right here in my book which you can buy and read.”

  61. QuietDesperation

    It’s teh BigPharma trying to oppress teh trooth!

    You know that’s what the anti-vaxxers will say.

  62. Happy Camper

    Stick Andy with a fork, he’s done!

    Wakefield is many things but I don’t think he is stupid. Filing a lawsuit would be like taking a bath in gasoline and then jumping into a fire. His best bet is to quietly slide into obscurity.

  63. Blaise Pascal

    I predict that Wakefield won’t file a libel suit. The BMJ would not have used the language they did if they thought there was any risk of losing a libel suit. If Wakefield sues, his fraud will end up being proven in a court of law — and he’d have to switch to saying that the English Courts and juries are in the pockets of Big Pharma.

  64. Number 6

    @Julia….Interesting story!….Does anyone know of any legal cases where a family sued another family over the death or illness of a child that was vaccine-preventable because the latter family refused to vaccinate?

  65. Paddy

    @28 Julia,

    To be strictly accurate… postnatal infection with chickenpox, however frightening for the parents, generally isn’t severe. It would have been an entirely different matter if a woman in late pregnancy had been infected, or if we’d been talking measles or whooping cough (which, under the circumstances, we might well have been) rather than chickenpox, but infants do all right unless already immunosuppressed for some reason.

    There is, incidentally, still an ongoing debate as to whether to vaccinate for varicella (chickenpox) within the global medical community. Some rich countries do, others don’t. See this BMJ editorial for more on the reasons why: http://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a1164.full

  66. QuietDesperation

    A big victory for truth, and then this happens:

    http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/01/05/discovery-exorcist-files/

    I have to admit to a small desire to watch this train wreck as one might gawk at, well, a train wreck.

  67. Matt Penfold

    I predict that Wakefield won’t file a libel suit. The BMJ would not have used the language they did if they thought there was any risk of losing a libel suit. If Wakefield sues, his fraud will end up being proven in a court of law — and he’d have to switch to saying that the English Courts and juries are in the pockets of Big Pharma.

    I would not surprise me if the BMJ and Deer were trying to provoke Wakefield into suing, with the hope of being able to discredit him ever further, or maybe to get to him perjure himself.

  68. Paddy

    To add to comment 68:

    On the other hand, there is one real risk that this 10 day old child will have been exposed to, and that’s to developing shingles (varicella zoster reactivation) in later life, which can be very serious.

  69. TheBlackCat

    I predict that Wakefield won’t file a libel suit. The BMJ would not have used the language they did if they thought there was any risk of losing a libel suit. If Wakefield sues, his fraud will end up being proven in a court of law — and he’d have to switch to saying that the English Courts and juries are in the pockets of Big Pharma.

    I predict the same, but for different reasons. Such a lawsuit costs a lot of money, and the chance of reward is probably not great. Further, Wakefield would have to present his arguments to the public, which means he would not be able to sell as many copies of his book. I suspect he may even like the attacks against him, since it gives him another opportunity to push his book.

    So I think the financial incentives, which seems to be all Wakefield cares about, are for him not to sue. Remember, we are talking about someone who was willing to tell parents to let their children die in return for a few hundred grand. I don’t think he cares at all about his public image except to this extent that it effects his profits, and none of the people he is currently fleecing money from believe these allegations anyway.

  70. Happy Camper

    I think Andy has about as much chance of winning a libel lawsuit as stuffing butter up a wildcats butt with a hot towel.

  71. Bryan Feir

    Heard about this on CBC Radio this morning, and figured I’d see an article about it here…

    http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2011/01/05/autism-vaccine.html

    And yes, I doubt the BMJ would have used the word ‘fraud’ that often if they didn’t think it would stand up to heavy scrutiny.

  72. Brian

    When does the movie come out.

    Brendan Fraser has to play Wakefield – am I right?

  73. Brian

    On a serious note – I too hope this keeps some parents from believing the anit-vax nonesense. I have a 2 year old and I did give pause, but there is no merit to their claims. Vaccines save lives – sure there are rare complications but autism is not one of them.

    I think Lawrence #45 said it just about perfectly.

  74. Wrote up my thoughts over at Silenced by Age of Autism on what parents might be going through after this. I imagine that there will be some pretty intense emotions, and those parents who accept reality will need some support. I, for one, would like to offer that to them. I hope others do the same.

  75. Luke

    62. noen:

    “However, I suspect that what is “reality” will suddenly change to not include things to which they are ideologically opposed among a certain crowd of those who “lack belief” and who always just follow the science wherever it takes them.”

    Give us a call when something, anything, that could currently be described as supernatural, is shown to exist. Until then your “I’m in the middle, the most sensible position!” bent with regards to atheism is noted.

  76. Bryan D

    You’d think that this would finally put this nonsense to bed, but sadly I think we all know better.

  77. Now for the bad news. There is an article on AOL news about how the antivaxers (Jenny Macarthy specificaly mentioned) are ALREADY denouncing this.

  78. JR

    Even if you grant that vaccines cause autism (which I definitely do not!), I think I’d rather have autism than smallpox.

  79. Allyson Beatrice

    What I find supremely irritating are headlines like this (copypasta): “Despite Controversy, Some Still Support Study Linking Vaccines to Autism.”

    That’s the headline. The entire piece below it firmly states that vaccines are safe, and that the crackpot/fraud line that vaccines are linked to autism has caused widespread scares leading to the deaths of children.

    But that was the headline chosen.

    I need a sledgehammer and a shovel.

  80. Joseph G

    @#72 Matt Penfold (and Blaise Pascal): I hope he does sue, for that reason. I’m reminded of the suit that David Irving filed against Deborah Lipstadt, in which he sued her for her claim that he was a Holocaust denier (which he considered libel). The end result was a lengthy judgement showing that he was in fact a “Holocaust denier” by any reasonable definition of the word, and additionally, that Holocaust denial is demonstrably bogus.
    I say, let the facts get their day in court. The charlatanry will ultimately surface if the charlatans aren’t allowed to use their usual tricks (I’d love to hear him demand that the Judge buy his book, and then accuse him/her of being part of the Big Pharma conspiracy.)

  81. I’m keeping a list of positive responses to the BMJ (Yes Wakefield is a fraud, and here are the implications…) and negative responses (Wakefield’s research IS TOO valid and vaccines cause autism anyway) at A roundup of responses to the BJM & Wakefield’s research was motivated by fraud.

    Some observations
    1. The positive responses come from a broad range of sites — politically left and right; people who are skeptics/ people who have heretofore (to my knowledge) never commented on vaccines or autism before, and so on. The negative responses are from a predictable set of sites and people.
    2. The news coverage in the US has (perhaps inadvertently) perpetrated the idea that all parents of children with autism believe in the vaccine causation myth. It is a complete falsehood. Many parents of children with autism and adults with autism robustly reject the myth.
    3. Kev Leitch, whose daughter has intense autism, has a moving post on how Wakefield’s actions have damaged everyone affected by autism

  82. macdonald

    Re the chicken pox example. One of our children had a rare complication some years after chickenpox which resulted in a one-sided facial paralysis. Our child did pretty well after it, but some people are left with major facial asymmetry – and there’s a chance of a recurrance. I wouldn’t be thanking anyone for exposing a child to chickenpox!

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