Legal thuggery, antivaccine edition, part 2: An interesting connection

The plot thickens.

Earlier, I discussed how disgraced, struck-off anti-vaccine physician Dr. Andrew Wakefield, deciding that being humiliated once by the courts in a libel action wasn’t enough, has apparently decided to have another bite at the apple. Given that he was so thoroughly humiliated in the notoriously plaintiff-friendly (for libel cases, at least) British legal system, it beggars imagination that he or his attorneys would think that he has a prayer of prevailing in Texas, but sue Brian Deer Andrew Wakefield has done anyway. His legal complaint accuses investigative journalist Deer of libeling him in his article published a year ago in the BMJ that found that he had committed fraud in the research he published in 1998 in The Lancet in which he claimed to have found a link between the MMR vaccine and what later became known in antivaccine circles as “autistic enterocolitis.” Never mind that by that point Wakefield had already been struck off the British medical register by the General Medical Council and ousted from his position at Thoughtful House. Never mind that by that point, his Lancet paper had been retracted. Never mind that a combination of all of those things had, in my opinion, destroyed what little respectability from a scientific standpoint was left of Andrew Wakefield’s reputation. Apparently, if this lawsuit is to be believed, Deer’s article was so damaging to Wakefield’s reputation that he had to act. A year later. By filing a lawsuit that has very little chance of succeeding. As Popehat and The Skeptical Lawyer point out, jurisdictional issues alone make bringing such a suit problematic, to say the least.

As you have probably surmised, I’m very suspicious of the motivation and timing of this lawsuit. Why did Wakefield wait a whole year? Were the trolls commenting after this post, who kept trying to goad Brian Deer into commenting about “child 11” in the Lancet trial working in a concerted fashion to try to get Deer to say something in public that would help Wakefield’s case? In retrospect, I have to wonder if that’s the case.

In the meantime, here’s a curious link I missed the first time around and sent to me by one of my regular readers. This link is with the Autism Trust USA. Poking around, one sees that Jake Crosby and his parents, as well as other Age of Autism hangers-on, are involved, for instance on this tour of Lake Travis in July. Now look at this webpage describing the National Board. Note that Carmel Wakefield, Andrew Wakefield’s wife, is on the board and the executive committee. Note that Imogon Wakefield (apparently Andrew Wakefield’s daughter) is on the Junior Advisory Board. Now look at who else is also on the Junior Advisory Board.

Anna Christine Parrish.

Who is Andrew Wakefield’s lawyer bringing the libel suit?

William M. Parrish.

Coincidence? Possibly, but I tend to doubt it. Is Christine Parrish William Parrish’s daughter? Inquiring minds want to know! It would be a reasonable guess to conclude that she is, although it’s possible that Christine just shares a last name with William Parrish by coincidence. It’s also possible that Andrea Parrish, who signed the We Support Andrew Wakefield petition, is also related to William Parrish, but she might not be, either.

It makes me wonder, though.

One of the biggest questions about why Wakefield is suing now is how he’s able to afford to sue. I could be wrong, but I highly doubt that there would be a decent lawyer willing to take his case on a contingency basis, given how infinitesimally small his chances would be of prevailing and ultimately getting paid enough to make it worth his while. So bringing this suit can easily rack up some huge legal fees for Wakefield, who is currently pretty much freelance. It’s hard to imagine how Wakefield can afford to pay for this lawsuit. There are a couple of possibilities. Either he has a wealthy backer (or wealthy backers) who are fronting the bill for his legal consultations and fees. Alternatively, maybe Parrish is taking Wakefield’s case pro bono because his daughter and Wakefield’s daughter are both on the Junior Advisory Board of the Autism Trust USA. Maybe Parrish is a true believer, hence his daughter’s presence on the board. Who knows? Maybe it’s a combination of the these possibilities.

Either way, the plot thickens, and, sadly, the Andrew Wakefield saga is not over, as much as I wish it were.

ADDENDUM: For those of you who were wondering if this is real, it is.