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What letter, Mr. Olmsted? Why this one, of course.

Posted Mar 14 2012 4:47pm

When Brian Deer wrote one of his 2009 article for the Sunday Times: Focus: Hidden records show MMR truth , he introduced the article with a discussion of the father of Child 11, the only American child in the Lancet 12:

ON a Monday morning in February 1997, a taxi left the Royal Free hospital, in Hampstead , northwest London. It turned out of the car park and headed to the renowned Institute of Cancer Research, six miles southwest in Fulham.

In the back of the cab sat a California businessman, whose commercial interests lay in electroplating, but whose personal crusade was autism. On his lap was a plastic pot, in which snips of human tissue floated in protective formalin.

The snips were biopsies taken from the gut of the man’s five-year-old son, then a patient on the hospital’s Malcolm ward. The boy, Child Eleven, as he is known to protect his privacy, had been enrolled in a programme to investigate alleged risks of the three-in-one measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Mr. 11, as he is known, was the one parent who chose to confirm the results he was given by Mr. Wakefield’s team at the Royal Free. In particular, he wanted to confirm whether the tissue samples taken from his son really contained measles virus, as he was told. After taking samples to people outside Mr. Wakefield’s team at the Royal Free:

“It took a big fight to get the information,” said Mr Eleven. “They told me there was no measles virus. I had the tests repeated three times at different labs in the US, and they all came back negative.”

This comes as no surprise to readers today. Mr. Wakefield’s graduate student, Nicholas Chadwick , was telling him all along that the virology results were negative.

In a later report, How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed , Mr. Deer also introduced the article with Mr. 11. He noted that Child 11 was listed in the Lancet article as having a first behavioral symptom of “Recurrent “viral pneumonia” for 8 weeks following MMR” as occurring 1 week after the administration of the MMR vaccine, a point critical to Mr. Wakefield’s claims. However, according to documents available to Mr. Wakefield, the child showed signs before the MMR. Per Mr. Deer:

But child 11’s case must have proved a disappointment. Records show his behavioural symptoms started too soon. “His developmental milestones were normal until 13 months of age,” notes the discharge summary. “In the period 13-18 months he developed slow speech patterns and repetitive hand movements. Over this period his parents remarked on his slow gradual deterioration.”

Enter Dan Olmsted, proprietor of the Age of Autism blog. Mr. Olmsted sought out Child 11’s father to corroborate Mr. Deer’s story. Such is the importance of contradicting Mr. Deer that he was willing to contradict Mr. Wakefield’s claim in the Lancet as well. Mr. Olmsted claims that Mr. 11 wrote him that rather than 13 months, “The onset of his autistic-like behaviors began around 18 months.”

The one thing that Dan Olmsted, Brian Deer and Mr. 11 apparently agree upon: the report in The Lancet is incorrect. Somehow I expect there is some convoluted explanation Mr. Olmsted would offer to avoid this problem, but lets move on. Unfortunately to a rather odd back-and-forth where neither party (Deer and Olmsted) communicating directly. To start, Mr. Olmsted would have us believe that Mr. 11 is annoyed? angry? with Mr. Deer’s reporting and thinks they “misrepresented the facts”.

Mr. Olmsted wrote [edit to add: Mr. Olmsted is quoting Andrew Wakefield’s defamation complaint here. I.e. these are Andrew Wakefield’s words]

Indeed, the child’s father has since written Deer and the BMJ to explain that Deer was misrepresenting facts about child 11, yet Deer and BMJ have printed no retraction, correction, or mention of this fact.

Mr. Deer noted this claim by Mr. Olmsted in his declaration:

Neither I nor (to my knowledge) the BMJ have received any letter from this father accusing me of “misrepresenting facts.” Nor have we received any request from this father asking for any retraction, correction, or for us to take any action at all. On the contrary, the father confirms the terms of the medical record (which he gave me at a meeting in California in September 2007), but disagrees with the accuracy of that record. The matter is thus purely a (very common) situation where parental recall and medical records do not coincide, and naturally parents believe their recollection to be right.

In a recent article, Mr. Olmsted wrote:

But the father told me: “Mr. Deer’s article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration,” a clear contradiction that called for a prompt correction.

See what Mr. Olmsted did there? He cut short Mr. 11’s sentence and added his own ending. Which made me wonder, what was the full sentence and what was the full context.

If you are wondering that too, here is the full sentence from that email, in context:

Based on the incorrect discharge summary I shared with him, Mr. Deer reasonably inferred that my son’s autistic symptom, predated his receipt of the MMR vaccination, which they did not. Mr. Deer’s article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration, but until the incorrect dates in the discharge summary were pointed out to me this week, I failed to realize that thee discharge summary was inaccurate. While the inaccuracies in the Royal Free discharge summary may be chalked up to sloppy record keeping, if my son really is Patient 11 , then the Lancet article is simply an outright fabrication.

Is that an accusation of “misrepresenting facts” by Mr. Deer, as Mr. Olmsted asserts? Rather than call for a retraction or correction, as Mr. Olmsted claimed, Mr. 11 noted that “The Lancet article is a clear misrepresentation of my son’s history”, and that “the Lancet article is simply an outright fabrication.”

How do I know what is in the full email? Brian Deer entered it (redacted, of course) into the public record as an exhibit to his declaration. Given the way Mr. Olmsted was clearly cherry picking the email, I wanted to obtain the source for myself.

With apologies in advance for any transcription errors. But mostly with apologies to the young man who was Child 11 and to his father:

Daniel Olmstead
Brian Deer
Dear Mr. Olrnstead & Mr. Deer I have spoken with both of you regarding my son who may be one of the subjects in the Royal Free Hospital’s “research study” on autism summarized in the 1998 Lancet article.

The main reason I am contacting you now is to reiterate to Mr. Olmstead that we wish for our family to stay out of the public eye, and request that in any further discussions of this matter our privacy and the confidentiality of our son’s medical history be respected. We appreciate that in published work you, Mr. Deer, did that. My son has not consented to any disclosures regarding his medical history, and I hope that whatever information you disseminate will be shared in a manner that is not personally identifiable.

My second purpose in contacting both of you is to clear up some confusion, albeit generating additional questions which, as I explain below, I do not think are worth pursuing. Mr. Olmstead informed me that he believes that my son is Patient 1 I in the Lancet article, a conclusion he seems to have reached due to a violation of doctor patient confidentiality by Dr F. Given Dr. F’s distance, so far as I know, from these events, and his current state, it is hard to know what to make of this purported information. Mr. Deer’s article appears to assume that my son is Patient 11 as well, describing conversations with a father of “Patient 11 ” that appears to be me. However, we have no confirmation that Patient 11 is my son. When we got information during the Royal Free’s investigation, we were told he was Patient 13. Only 12 patients are reported in the Lancet article. I have no way of knowing how many subjects were excluded from the final report, or whether my son was one of them.

In any event, the description of Patient 11 in the Lancet article is not accurate if, in fact, it refers to my son. The Lancet article indicates that autistic symptoms started at 15 months, a week after the MMR, which is completely inaccurate; my son’s autistic behaviors started 2-1/2 to 3 months after the MMR, which was administered to him at 15 months. The Lancet article is a clear misrepresentation of my son’s history. Moreover, the Lancet article is not consistent with the Royal Free’s discharge summary regarding my son, and both the article and the discharge summary are inaccurate. One of the incorrect statements in my son’s discharge report was that autistic symptoms were seen from 13-18 months, while the vaccination was at 15 months. This is clearly inaccurate as his symptoms began several months after the MMR, as reflected in my initial correspondence to the Royal Free requesting my son be included in the research study. Based on the incorrect discharge summary I shared with him, Mr. Deer reasonably inferred that my son’s autistic symptom, predated his receipt of the MMR vaccination, which they did not. Mr. Deer’s
article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration, but until the incorrect dates in the discharge summary were pointed out to me this week, I failed to realize that thee discharge summary was inaccurate. While the inaccuracies in the Royal Free discharge summary may be chalked up to sloppy record keeping, if my son really is Patient 11 , then the Lancet article is simply an outright fabrication. My son’s autistic behaviors did NOT begin a week after administration of the vaccine, in fact they began several months afterwards, with several medical complications occurring in between.

The bottom line is that, if my son is indeed Patient 11, then the Lancet article made a false assertion that his symptoms set in immediately after the MMR; in service of some attorneys’ efforts to prove “causation” that, unbeknownst to me, apparently drove this research. If the sloppy mishandling of patient information and inaccuracies in my own son’s records is any indication of how that research was done, then I am very thankful that the Lancet article has been withdrawn and the “research study” discredited. That brings me to my third reason for contacting you, which is to express my hope that we can all move on from this debacle and search for real causes of the current explosion in autism cases. I have been involved in and have supported serious research into the causes of and effective treatments for this illness. We know now that the study reported in the Lancet article was a huge and very costly distraction. I hope that you will join me in looking, with an open mind, at real explanations of the current situation, as well as in advocating for adequate medical care and educational services for the many people affected, so that outcomes can be positive, as they are now proving for my son. While some autism may be a natural part of the human condition, what is happening now requires explanation. We will not get it if we spend time rehashing old debates.

As for the confidentiality issues, I appreciate and rely on your courtesy and discretion

Mr. 11 asked for courtesy and discretion on confidentiality issues. I would put to Mr. Olmsted that when he published the first name of Child 11, he may not have been heeding Mr. 11’s wishes.

The father has made a few more statements about these events:

First, about the Age of Autism series: “Olmsted’s logic is twisted and emotional”.

About the research at the Royal Free: “We all make daily human errors, but I guess some people ( Royal Free ) do it for a lifetime !”

and

“What a HUGE embarrassment, and scientific fiasco ! “.

Mr. 11 asked “That brings me to my third reason for contacting you, which is to express my hope that we can all move on from this debacle and search for real causes of the current explosion in autism cases”

Whether one agrees with the “epidemic” or not, the idea of moving on from the “debacle” (which I read in context to refer to the story about Mr. Wakefield and the Lancet study) and focusing on research is a very wise suggestion. As Mr. Olmsted has shown, not only has Mr. Wakefield been a huge distraction, but his supporters have been as well.

  1. Lawrence:
    Interesting - so Olmstead is saying the letter says exactly the opposite of what it actually says.....
  2. McD:
    Great work Sullivan. Olmsted is implying some sort of ongoing correspondence with Mr 11, when he is just quote-mining the one original letter to both Deer and Olmsted. He is trying to paint Mr 11 as an exemplar of the vaccine-damage claimants who form the AoA constituency. This is clearly the opposite of the truth as well. What an ar$ehole. He is exploiting Mr 11 and Child 11. And he is showing utter contempt for autism parents who are still clinging to the shreds of the gut-brain hypothesis.
  3. Krebiozen:
    Now we know why Olmsted only quoted the first sentence of the letter in yesterday's AoA article. What a despicable bit of dishonest reporting, deliberately distorting and misrepresenting the facts. I know I shouldn't be surprised, and I also know that Olmsted's supporters won't be disturbed one iota by this. It is only a matter of time before one of them comments here, claiming through some tortured logic that Olmsted is right and Deer is wrong. That's twice today I've found myself at AoA. Bleugh.
  4. Sullivan:
    AoA have edited the article where they used Child 11's first name. It took them a little longer (like in the last hour) to figure out that the name was quoted in one of the comments. AoA made the edit to the article with no comment, no apology. I've noticed that about AoA. No apologies for mistakes, even the ones they know about. Mr. Olmsted, do the right thing--apologize. A minor point--they also edited the comment as well. It is bad form to edit someone's comment without at least acknowledging it. Too bad they can't edit all the places on the web that copied their post.
  5. brian:
    Now that you have posted the letter, those who commented on AoA will have the opportunity to, as one AoA stalwart quoted Justice Mitting, "read and construe the whole document, not just selected words." If they do, they will understand that Olmsted failed to learn from Wakefield's experience that once you prove that that you are dishonest only fools will believe you.

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