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Shame of British Science I

Posted Mar 01 2013 12:00am

BMJ Gibberish Today in Oxford starts the two day Evidence Live conference sponsored by the British Medical Journal and the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at which journalist Brian Deer is an undistinguished guest, winding up the event tomorrow afternoon with a “keynote” speech. To mark the occasion Age of Autism is republishing the open letter it published early last month to the centre’s director Dr Carl Heneghan and colleagues, to which there has never been any reply. What Deer’s muck raking techniques and proven deceits have to do with scientific evidence is the sick question which hangs over the entire event.

Dear  Dr. Heneghan,

I am writing to voice my objection to Brian Deer’s scheduled appearance  March 26 at Oxford University as a keynote speaker in the EvidenceLive  Conference, sponsored by the British Medical Journal which is currently  being sued for libel over allegations of fraud made by Deer in the BMJ, which have already been substantially proven false in the English High Court through the successful appeal of Prof. John  Walker-Smith, senior author and clinician in the controversial Wakefield Lancet paper. (This sponsorship also represents a conflict of interest  for the conference.)

Brian Deer is an agenda journalist. He was hired in 2003  by a Sunday Times editor, Paul Nuki , who told him “I need something big” on “MMR”   (Nuki’s father was on  the Committee on Safety in Medicines when MMR was introduced in the late 1980s, while Nuki junior now heads the National Health Service’s main “information” site, NHS Choices). Sanctioned by his newspaper, Deer then interviewed parents using a false identity  , disguising from his subjects his role in an earlier report on successful Irish DPT litigant Margaret Best, in which he claimed “vaccine and drug companies might be welcome scapegoats.” 

Contrary to his later conceit that he was somehow taking on “the establishment” Deer obtained unimpeded access to confidential medical and legal  documents which he was ill-equipped to interpret (and while the agencies stood by and did nothing). Moreover, the allegations were rapidly taken up by the BBC and an NHS website linked to his. However, any public  interest defense effectively collapsed with the exoneration of Prof  Walker-Smith, who is widely recognized as the world’s leading expert in  pediatric gastroenterology and who had to spend eight years of his  retirement fending off incompetent allegations, and undergoing a show  trial.

Equally outrageously it was Deer, subsequent to his initial newspaper articles, who covertly submitted three formal complaints to the General Medical Council requesting the prosecution of doctors Walker-Smith, Murch and Wakefield, while coming to a mutually beneficial arrangement with the GMC prosecutor that he not be named, allowing him to continue reporting on a case when he had a personal interest. Deer was the only complainant against the three doctors and his role as complainant was confirmed in a High Court Judgment of Mr Justice Eady.

In the High Court last year, Mr Justice Mitting rejected virtually all Deer’s claims about misconduct in the Wakefield Lancet paper which had been adopted by the GMC prosecutors: the data regarding autism, GI illness, onset of symptoms had not been misreported, the paper correctly described the referral of the children, the paper was not funded by the Legal Aid Board, and there had been no unauthorized or inappropriate investigation of children. All these claims, which had originated in Deer’s reporting were found to be without foundation . Furthermore, Deer’s re-interpretation of the Wakefield paper’s GI findings, and the claim that Wakefield had in some way tampered with them, were denied and disproven in letters to BMJ by both histopathologist co-authors of the paper, neither of whom was on trial at the GMC ( here   and here .)

Following the exoneration of Dr. Walker-Smith, the University College London (the parent institution to the Royal Free where Dr. Wakefield was employed) stopped its own inquiry into “the Wakefield affair” on advice of the UK Research and Integrity Office. This was despite the BMJ’s plea for the inquiry to continue. UCL stated that such an inquiry would cost a substantial sum of money and would yield nothing conclusive.

Deer’s presentation at the University of Wisconsin in October of last year defamed several researchers including microbiologist Dr. David Lewis, board member of the National Whistleblowers Center, whose investigation turned up a 2004 document showing that the UK Freedom of Information Office provided Deer with copies of necessary ethics approvals to cover the research component of the Lancet study, which he apparently never passed on to the GMC. A letter from the attorney for the National Whistleblower’s Center informing U of W of the defamatory content of Deer’s lecture and other of Mr. Deer’s fabrications and falsehoods can be read here .

Deer’s breaches of ethics and journalistic standards know no bounds. When parents of children in the study became outspoken in their support of Dr. Wakefield, Deer retaliated by publishing children’s identities online after accessing their private medical records. Deer has frequently disparaged autism parents, blaming them for their children’s disorders in the crassest terms: 1) “…The festering nastiness, the creepy repetitiveness, the weasly, deceitful, obsessiveness, all signal pathology to me.”   2) “…a living example of how autistic disorders, and allied conditions, such as pathological demand avoidance syndrome, psychopathy and whathaveyou, are genetic. Certainly, if you are aware of his behaviour, you can see how hard he would run from the idea that it was the expression of his own genetic makeup that lies behind his son’s disorder .”

Brian Deer has played a major role in the corruption of the scientific process. He appears to be no longer employed by any news organization and has not published an article in nearly a year.  He has no visible means of support aside from advertising revenues from his website. In 2011, he gave the keynote address at a pharmaceutical conference hosted by a foundation with financial ties to three MMR manufacturers.

An open letter which covers the major issues in the Wakefield controversy can be read here .
Please reconsider Brian Deer’s inclusion in the speaking schedule of the upcoming conference. If these are the means necessary to defend the vaccine program then there is something deeply wrong.

Posted by Age of Autism at March 25, 2013 at 12:06 AM in Dr. Andrew Wakefield Permalink

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