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Antivaccine nonsense Autism Medicine Politics

Now Andy Wakefield will prevail in his libel suit against Brian Deer because John Walker-Smith won his appeal? Not so fast there, pardner…

I don’t know what it is about the beginning of a year. I don’t know if it’s confirmation bias or real, but it sure seems that something big happens early every year in the antivaccine world. Consider. As I pointed out back in February 2009, in rapid succession Brian Deer reported that Andrew Wakefield had not only had undisclosed conflicts of interest regarding the research that he did for his now infamous 1998 Lancet paper but that he had falsified data. Of course, in response Keith Olbermann was totally played by the antivaccine movement, resulting in some truly mind-numbingly dumb criticism of Brian Deer, but that was more of a sideshow than anything else. Then, a couple of weeks later the Special Masters weighed in, rejecting the claims of autism causation by vaccines made in the three test cases about as resoundingly as is imaginable in the first test case. Then, in February 2010, in rapid succession Andrew Wakefield, the hero of the antivaccine movement, was struck off the British medical register, saw his 1998 Lancet paper retracted by the editors, and was unceremoniously booted from his medical directorship of Thoughtful House, the autism quack clinic he helped to found after he fled the U.K. for the more friendly confines of Texas. Then, to add insult to injury, the Special Masters weighed in again, rejecting causation claims of the remaining test cases of the Autism Omnibus so resoundingly that the antivaccine movement cried “conspiracy!” (as they usually do). Then, in January 2011, Brian Deer struck again, publishing more damaging revelations about Wakefield, referring to his work as Piltdown medicine in the British journal BMJ.

This year, things were different.

By saying that this year things were different, however, let me make it clear that I don’t mean “different” in the sense that there wasn’t another major story that roiled the antivaccine crankosphere. There certainly was. However, in 2009, 2010, and 2011, for antivaccine activists it was all unrelenting bad news as each year began. Indeed, I tend to view the period between 2004 and 2008 as being the high water mark for the antivaccine movement, at least in the US. It’s been (nearly) all downhill since then. It’s hard to tell yet if 2012 is going to be a glitch in that downhill progression, but tis year something happened that, at least to supporters of Andrew Wakefield, seemed like a great thing. To those of us who know his case and know how far Wakefield’s fallen, it smacked of sheer desperation every bit as much as when the National Vaccine Information Center’s Barbara Loe Fisher sued Paul Offit, journalist Amy Wallace, and her publisher Conde Nasttwo years ago for libel, yes, in January. (She lost spectacularly.) Yes, as 2012 dawned, Andrew Wakefield, for some inexplicable reason, decided to sue journalist Brian Deer, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee, and the BMJ for libel based on Deer’s 2011 expose. Actually, the reason wasn’t so inexplicable. My favorite legal folks informed me that the statute of limitations in Texas for libel is one year. Also, his lawyer is apparently a neighbor whose daughter knows Wakefield’s daughter through their activities with the Autism Trust USA. The lawsuit is dated very close to one year after the BMJ’s first article is published. In any case, this news greatly heartened the

Then, just last week, there was more than a bit of whooping it up in the antivaccine crankosphere, which appeared to be partying like it’s 2005, which was when Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. first published his antivaccine screed in Salon.com and Rolling Stone. From the rejoicing that’s been going on, you’d think that Andrew Wakefield had been completely exonerated of fraud and proven right about his fear mongering that blamed the MMR vaccine for autism. This is odd, given that the news story that broke last week was not about Andrew Wakefield directly. Rather, it was about Professor John Walker-Smith, one of the co-authors of Andrew Wakefield’s discredited and retracted 1998 Lancet paper. The antivaccine crank blog is going wild with the news that Professor Walker-Smith has succeeded in his appeal of the General Medical Council’s decision that he should be struck off the medical record along with Andy Wakefield.

On AoA, no less a figure than Jenny McCarthy herself has returned to demonstrate that, as much as she has been keeping her antivaccine activism on the down-low lately, she hasn’t given it up. She did this by posting an article on the antivaccine blog affiliated with her group Generation Rescue entitled MMR Doctor Exonerated–Who’s Guilty Now? In it, McCarthy demonstrates once again that as a scientist she’s a great comedienne. Well, actually, she’s not much good at either, but she’s really bad interpreting science and proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt in this article. First, she crows about how the “parent autism community” antivaccine community is “buzzing with excitement” over the news of Walker-Smith’s success in his appeal of the GMC’s ruling to strike him off the British medical register. No doubt. J.B. Handley and company probably need a chiropractor for back strain from high-fiving each other. Next, there is the appeal to anecdote:

For parents of children with autism, this whole mess has always been a bit of a head-scratcher. The Lancet study’s conclusion that children with autism suffer from bowel disease is something any autism parent could easily confirm, and MMR, by far, has been the vaccine most commonly cited by parents as a trigger for a regression into autism. In my travels, I have heard the same story from parents about MMR leading to regression thousands of times.

Confirmation bias much, Jenny? In any case, Jenny can’t resist asking some rhetorical questions that indicate that she thinks that the Walker-Smith decision heralds the imminent exoneration of her hero St. Andrew not just legally but based on the science. She even goes so far as to ask:

Now what? If the foundation of the proof that the MMR does not trigger autism is crumbling, what in the world are parents supposed to believe? If Professor Walker-Smith is not guilty on all charges, will Dr. Wakefield be next?

The answer is no, Jenny. Sorry, but the “foundation of the proof that the MMR does not trigger autism” is not crumbling, as the issues in the Walker-Smith case were not nearly as clear-cut as they were in Andrew Wakefield’s case. Actually, they were pretty clear-cut in that I think Justice Mitting exhibits horribly mangled reasoning and demonstrates a very clear lack of understanding of medical ethics, in particular the distinction between research and treatment. In fact, this “foundation” gets stronger every year, which is why scientists have moved on to other issues about autism causation. The vaccine-autism hypothesis was a dead end.

Not that that stops McCarthy from asking hopefully:

Unfortunately, the GMC’s decision to turn Dr. Wakefield and Prof. Walker-Smith’s paper into a three-ring circus has put a chill on research into all the possible environmental causes of autism. Will this finally open the floodgates?

In a word: No. Also note that to an antivaccinationist like McCarthy, “possible environmental causes of autism” is code for “vaccines done it.” McCarthy is arguing that, just because Professor Walker-Smith succeeded in his appeal, Andrew Wakefield was right in his science. Seriously. Underneath the verbiage, that’s the argument being made. As I pointed out last week, if you doubt me, Justice Mitting’s full ruling can be found here. As usual, what the antivaccine movement is promoting and what is in the ruling are not necessarily the same thing. Also, as I pointed out last time, The implications of Mitting’s ruling are frightening in their potential. Basically, if his ruling stands, it’s hard not to wonder whether it’s open season on human research subjects in the UK. Autism quacks in the UK have good reason to rejoice. As it stands, one has to wonder whether they can now get away with essentially anything.

Be that as it may, antivaccinationist supporters of Wakefield (wait, I think that’s redundant given that supporters of Wakefield are virtually all antivaccine) really do think that Mitting’s ruling will lead to Wakefield’s prevailing in his libel suit. Truly, the ability of these people to delude themselves knows no bounds. For instance, here’s Dan Olmsted on the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism:

From the Editor: Suit-able

BMJ and Deer file response to Wakefield suit in Texas. Bad timing: Walker-Smith appeal just demolished most of their evidence that Andy is a “fraud.”

Except that it doesn’t, which is part of the reason why I find this comment particularly amusing:

It seems the BMJ is reluctant to have its case heard before a justice system …

http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2012/03/bmj-brian-deer-file-anti-slapp-suit-against-andrew-wakefield/

Many Deer supporters have consistently asked for Andy Wakefield to take the legal route now it has happened it seems it’s a contest they don’t want to happen.

Interesting.

Yes, Brian Deer’s attorneys and Brian Deer himself have filed their responses to Wakefield’s lawsuit. This response consists, as I and many others have predicted, of an anti-SLAPP motion, to which Brian Deer adds his own 101 page supporting document. For those not familiar with the term, SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Basically, SLAPPs are lawsuits designed to silence critics in important public matters. They succeed in this by intimidation and burdening critics with the cost of legal defenses. Often, in fact, those who file SLAPP-style lawsuits do not expect to prevail in court. Rather, they expect to intimidate and burden their critics to the point of silencing them or, at the very least, greatly reducing their effectivenss. In general, wealthy interests, because they have more resources, can afford the expense of pursuing libel suits of this sort, while the defendants usually cannot. As a result, often defendants are silenced. Anti-SLAPP statutes are designed to allow victims of SLAPPs to quash lawsuits and recover damages. Not surprisingly, Wakefield’s libel suit reeks of SLAPP.

The key pillars of Deer’s response to Wakefield’s SLAPP rest on demonstrating that, in fact, Wakefield’s lawsuit is a SLAPP and therefore should be quashed on those grounds. include arguing the factual background and pointing out that the truth is an absolute defense against libel, arguing that the Texas anti-SLAPP statute applies, arguing that Wakefield cannot show malice, and pointing out that Wakefield meets the definition of a public figure, making the bar for libel much higher. Basically, the outline (which I’ve abbreviated to only its main headings) tells you what you need to know:

I. Introduction

II. Grounds for this anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss

III. Evidence in support of this anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss

IV. Factual background

  • Dr. Wakefield and the MMR Scare
  • Brian Deer Begins to Investigate Dr. Wakefield and His Role in the MMR Scare
  • After the Longest Hearing in the History of the GMC, Dr. Wakefield’s Medical License Is Revoked
  • Deer Continues to Cover the MMR Scare with Reports in the Sunday Times in 2009
  • Dr. Wakefield’s Frivolous Libel Claims and Complaints against Deer The BMJ Articles and Editorials

V. Texas’ new anti-SLAPP statute applies to Dr. Wakefield’s claims

VI. Dr. Wakefield’s claims fail because he cannot show that the challenged statements are false.

  • Dr. Wakefield Must Prove that Defendants’ Statements Are Not
  • Substantially True.
  • Dr. Wakefield Is Precluded from Re-litigating the GMC’s Findings,
  • Which Establish the Substantial Truth of the Challenged Statements
  • The Undisputed Evidence Also Establishes the Substantial Truth of the Challenged Statements

VII. Defendants’ statements of opinion and hyperbole are not actionable

  • Several of Defendants’ Statements, Including that Dr. Wakefield’s Research Must Have Been “Fraud,” Are Nonactionable Expressions of Opinion
  • Defendants’ Expressions of Rhetorical Hyperbole and Colorful Language Are Not Actionable

VIII. Dr. Wakefield’s claims based on Brian Deer’s website publications are barred by the statute of limitations

IX. Dr. Wakefield is a public figure and he cannot show actual malice

  • Dr. Wakefield is a public figure
  • Defendants did not act with actual malice.

It’s worth reading the entire response for its richness of detail, but I’ll “cherry pick” a few of the choice bits for my post. The first question that comes up, of course, is the very one that the AoA commenter brought up, because it signals to me what I’m sure will be the recurring attack launched at Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee, and the BMJ, namely that Deer’s response is “cowardly” because it tries to get the lawsuit quashed based on Texas’ anti-SLAPP law. This is a profoundly silly argument. Legal actions are expensive, draining, and time-consuming, particularly when conducted across national borders. Given that Wakefield’s lawsuit has no merit, while it might be “noble” to let the suit proceed and use the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Wakefield, it would be foolish and expensive. The law gives Deer and Godlee a tool to try to get this frivolous lawsuit dismissed, and they’d be foolish not to use it not only to do that but to punish Wakefield for abusing the legal process.

Moreover, as I’ve pointed out before, this argument is profoundly disingenuous in that it would not be in Wakefield’s interest to let this case go to the discovery phase. That would allow Deer and Godlee’s lawyers question Wakefield directly, and he couldn’t dodge that. Moreover, it would allow them to subpoena all sorts of information that Wakefield very likely would not be happy to reveal to the world, and I’d bet that such information would likely only serve to confirm the findings of the GMC and the conclusions of Brian Deer’s investigations. It might also, as I pointed out before, allow the defendants’ lawyers to depose all manner of Wakefield’s connections relevant to this libel suit, possibly even some of Generation Rescue’s luminaries and bloggers at AoA, given that it appears very much to me as though GR and AoA coordinate their attacks on Deer and Godlee with Wakefield. In particular, they are helping to raise money for Wakefield for his legal action.

One of the amusing bits in the anti-SLAPP response occurs when Deer’s lawyers point out that off-the-cuff remarks made by Deer are not actionable:

For similar reasons, Texas courts have long held that a statement of rhetorical hyperbole or one using colorful language is nonactionable. Such a statement “does not, in its common usage, convey a verifiable fact, but is, by its nature, somewhat indefinite and ambiguous. . . .”

Falk & Mayfield, L.L.P. v. Molzan, 974 S.W.2d 821, 824 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1998, pet. denied). For example, Texas courts have identified a long list of statements that are simply too indefinite to sustain a viable libel claim. See, e.g., id. (accusing a law firm of “lawsuit abuse” nonactionable); Zimmer, 257 S.W.3d at 512 (accusing coach of using “obscene gesture” nonactionable); Kerr, 706 S.W.2d at 799 (holding that an accusation of “cheating” in an editorial was nonactionable); Associated Press v. Cook, 17 S.W.3d 447, 454 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, no pet.) (labeling the plaintiff a “blight on law enforcement” who has caused “unbelievable problems” was nonactionable); Yiamouyiannis v. Thompson, 764 S.W.2d 338, 339-40 (Tex. App.–San Antonio 1988, writ denied) (holding that statements calling the plaintiff a “quack, a hoke artist, and a fearmonger,” are “vintage hyperbole, and are not capable of proof one way or the other”). In fact, courts in other cases have considered the very same expressions challenged by Dr. Wakefield here and found them to be nonactionable.

Imagine my relief that, in Texas at least, calling Wakefield a “fraudster” is protected speech. Maybe that’s what I’ll call Wakers from now on.

My relief that many of my more–shall we say?–colorful utterances and writings about Andrew Wakefield are almost certainly protected speech notwithstanding, there’s no doubt that Andrew Wakefield has to clear a very high bar to have any chance of prevailing. He has to demonstrate the following:

Dr. Wakefield may have figured that, in Texas, there would be little “downside” to filing frivolous libel claims and using the suit to raise money and harass his critics. Not so anymore. To avoid dismissal under our State’s new anti-SLAPP statute, Dr. Wakefield must submit evidence to support each essential element of his libel claims. He cannot do this for several reasons. First, the statements he challenges are true. The GMC findings against him–numerous proven charges of “dishonest” and “unethical” conduct–are binding in this case, and they leave no room for Wakefield to argue that he was defamed by Defendants’ reporting and editorial comment. And Defendants have overwhelming additional evidence to establish the truth of the challenged statements.

Moreover, even if Dr. Wakefield could produce evidence of falsity and overcome Defendants’ other defenses, his claims would still fail. He is indisputably a public figure, and therefore must prove that Defendants acted with actual malice–that they knew what they were publishing was false. Again, this will be an impossible burden for Dr. Wakefield. The reporting he challenges was the product of years of investigation by one of the United Kingdom’s best reporters, exhaustively sourced, then subjected to multiple editorial reviews, including an external review by an expert pediatrician. And Dr. Wakefield’s credibility on these matters had been so thoroughly eviscerated by his repeated obfuscation, posturing, and outright lying that Defendants had no doubts about the accuracy of their reporting, despite Wakefield’s protestations of innocence.

Also, as is noted numerous times, Wakefield’s history of frivolous lawsuits does not help his case.

As Popehat notes, this motion, on an initial reading, looks very strong.

Particularly strong is the excruciatingly detailed reconstruction of the evidence against Wakefield, both from the GMC hearings and Deer’s own investigations. If you want to know why it’s purely wishful thinking on Olmsted’s and McCarthy’s part to think that the reversal of Walker-Smith’s loss of his medical license has any significant bearing on either Wakefield’s GMC case or, in particular, this frivolous lawsuit, you’d do well to read the sections in the anti-SLAPP response and Brian Deer’s response to Wakefield’s lawsuit describing Wakefield’s activities and the evidence against him. For example, in Walker-Smith’s case, the primary offense that the GMC found him guilty of doing tests (such as lumbar punctures, MRIs, and colonoscopies) for research purposes rather than clinical purposes. That’s it. Wakefield did so much more:

The GMC panel handed down its findings on January 28, 2010, concluding that Dr. Wakefield had been dishonest, violated basic research ethics rules, and showed a “callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research.32 Included among them were four different proven findings of dishonesty against Dr. Wakefield, all proven to a standard of criminal fault–akin to “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the United States.33 Among other things, the panel found that Dr. Wakefield improperly subjected some children to invasive medical procedures such as colonoscopies and MRI scans. Dr. Wakefield also paid children at his son’s birthday party to have blood drawn for research purposes. The GMC panel found that Dr. Wakefield’s Lancet research was “dishonest,” “irresponsible,” “misleading,” and inaccurate. The panel found that Dr. Wakefield improperly failed to disclose his connections to planned litigation, his patents for a competing vaccine, and the bias inherent in his selection of study subjects. The GMC panel further found that Dr. Wakefield’s conduct “was such as to bring the medical profession into disrepute.”

Basically, at the very best if you accept the reasoning behind Mitting’s ruling, you must conclude that Walker-Smith was Wakefield’s dupe. At worst, if you don’t accept the reasoning behind Mitting’s ruling, Walker-Smith was complicit. Either way, Justice Mitting’s ruling will not help Wakefield in his libel action. After all, Wakefield’s lawsuit was all about the article that Deer published in the BMJ and the accompanying editorial written by Fiona Godlee. Neither rehashed of the GMC hearings, even though it’s clear that Wakefield is trying to relitigate the GMC hearings using the vehicle of a libel suit. More importantly, even if Deer’s and Godlee’s articles were nothing more than rehashes of the GMC hearings, to prevail Wakefield must prove that Deer and/or Godlee believed or suspected what they wrote was false. They clearly did not. The only thing Justice Mitting’s decision held was that the GMC gave more weight to the expert witnesses against Walkers-Smith than the expert witnesses for him (and hence its decision should be reversed) and that the GMC didn’t consider whether or not Walkers-Smith believed the medical procedures were clinically indicated (and hence the GMC decision should be reversed). I’m not sure about the former, and I find Mitting’s understanding of medical research and its ethics to be dubious at best, but even if his reasoning were spot on, neither of his conclusions sheds any light on whether Deer or Godlee thought what they were publishing was accurate or not, while Deer’s and Godlee’s anti-SLAPP response delineates the incredible lengths to which the BMJ went to assure that Deer’s article was accurate:

Not only did the BMJ fully trust Deer and his reporting, it and Dr. Godlee took extra steps to ensure the reporting was truthful. For Deer, who was ever mindful of Dr. Wakefield’s prior litigation and regulatory-complaint history, this meant five months of work to ensure that every word and every citation was verified.166 For the BMJ, this meant a separate fact-check of the first article by a deputy editor (Smith) and an external review for scientific accuracy by an expert pediatrician (Dr. Marcovitch).167 Pre-publication review by outside sources constitutes affirmative evidence of no actual malice. See, e.g., Doubleday & Co., Inc. v. Rogers, 674 S.W.2d 751, 756 (Tex. 1984).

In other words, the reversal of the ruling in Walker-Smith’s case has no bearing on Wakefield’s libel suit. Remember, Walker-Smith’s argument basically boiled down to throwing Wakefield under the bus by admitting he did everything in the GMC complaint but arguing that he wasn’t aware that Wakefield was conducting a research project, much less one without proper approval by an ethics board.

So what now? In a way, I’m rather surprised that Wakefield put himself in such a situation. It sure strikes me as extreme hubris. Consider: Surely Wakefield’s lawyer had to be aware that Texas had recently passed an anti-SLAPP statuted designed specifically to punish the filing of lawsuits of the type that Wakefield is known for. Even worse, by filing this lawsuit, Wakefield might very well have unwittingly set himself up to be the first major test case for the new law. That is not a good situation to be in.

Whatever Wakefield’s motivations, to rally his supporters, hubris and vanity demanding that he try to salvage a shred of reputation, or just a desire to punish those who did the public such a great service in revealing the depths of Wakefield’s perfidy, Wakefield is following an unfortunately well-worn path in suing the legal system to try to silence critics. It is what cranks do. What makes this interesting is that this time Wakefield might pay a price.

What’s also revealing is how antivaccine cranks view not just Wakefield’s libel suit but how they view legal processes in general. In a way, they view such issues in a manner similar to how people in general do, but with our normal tendencies to view results that we like as correct and results that we don’t like as incorrect cranked up to 11. For example, to them Walker-Smith’s success on appeal is not just a ruling that disagreed with the General Medical Council’s explanation of its reasoning for striking off Walker-Smith based on questionable understandings of clinical trial ethics and how medicine is practiced, it’s a vindication of their world view as embodied in Andrew Wakefield. Similarly, Wakefield’s lawsuit is also vindication. It’s not difficult to predict that, when Wakefield’s libel suit is dismissed (and, make no mistake, a frivolous lawsuit like this will be dismissed) and he is hit with Deer’s and the BMJ’s legal expenses, antivaccinationist will view it as more persecution of their hero.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

316 replies on “Now Andy Wakefield will prevail in his libel suit against Brian Deer because John Walker-Smith won his appeal? Not so fast there, pardner…”

Mr D commented here @ RI around the holidays remarking that if sued he might have to reveal an e-mail from a parent of one of the children in the research project. He does just that.

‘The Fraudster Wakefield’ has a nice ring to it. Even more so as it is true. I do hope this gets settled quickly for the main reason as it gives hope to the foolish and offers them unlimited opportunity to ensnare the credulous. Once it is settled, they can only push the poor doctor crap with even less support.

It seems the BMJ is reluctant to have its case heard before a justice system …

Many Deer supporters have consistently asked for Andy Wakefield to take the legal route now it has happened it seems it’s a contest they don’t want to happen.

I see the excuse mill is already spinning merrily away. To Dan Olmsted, I say you are really a pathetic, mewling dolt. Wakers will still get to provide evidence of defamatory statements. What did you expect? He just waltz into court and they grant his every wish like you fools do? This is the legal route, the one you have been crowing about that is taking place in a “real court”. Live with the decisions.

*Rhetorical hyperbole* is protected speech: I’ll have to remember that one- for obvious reasons.
I believe the legal team is able to keep the jurisdictional option open while pursuing anti-SLAPP.

-btw- It looks like Greece is de-faulting: take notice, AJW!

I’m going to make a prediction: in the unlikely event that the anti-SLAPP motion does not prevail, at some point before the case actually makes it to court, Wakefield will drop the charges, claiming that he either had been advised to do so by his counsel or that he actually can’t afford the keep the case going. His supporters will cry, “Oh, poor Andy!” and continue bleating conspiracy theories and villifying any of St. Andy’s critics.

Jenny McCarthy’s son never even had autism. He apparently has Landau Kleffner Syndrome, which has nothing to do with vaccines, so what is her problem? And it’s obvious she doesn’t write her own material. She’s just a puppet for the rest of the dipsters who follow her and use her as a mouthpiece. It’s also telling that Dan Olmstead, over at Age of Autism, worked for a new age personality cult owned newspaper (washington times). These people are out to lunch and God knows what they’re eating.

I was willing to give the parents of the children in the study some sympathy by assuming that they were incredible ignorant about Wakefield’s scheme and, incredible ignorant about the medical indications for the invasive, painful procedures that their children were subjected to.

Brian Deer’s statement in support of the Motion to Dismiss has provided information about some of the parents’ complicity with Wakefield in falsifying the data on the charts:

-Some of the children never had a diagnosis of autism prior to their becoming Wakefield’s patient…they all had “autism” according to Wakefield’s charts.

-Some of the children were referred to Wakefield because of their parents involvement in an anti-vax group in the U.K. composed of parents of “vaccine-injured” children.

-Some of the children were referred/seen consecutively (three in one afternoon) by Wakefield.

-Wakefield’s charts changed the information on the children’s existing charts to reflect a temporal onset of “symptoms” AFTER the MMR jab; deliberately omitting the onset of “symptoms” that were noted in the existing charts as having occurred weeks or months, PRIOR to the MMR jab.

-Wakefield wrote synopses in the charts that “reflected” what parents told him during the first consultations.

Parents of the children in the study continue to support Wakefield…why?

It kinda makes me wonder, why some of the parents whose children were poked and prodded, whose children were subjected to painful, risky, invasive not-medically-indicated procedures, continue to support Wakefield.

It kinda makes me wonder, why some of the parents whose children were poked and prodded, whose children were subjected to painful, risky, invasive not-medically-indicated procedures, continue to support Wakefield.

This is more of a DW question but something I have given some thought too. They continue to support Wakefield because they have formed such an unshakeable belief system that the alternative would be too devastating to consider. It is a power and influence that alternative practitioners are aware of and exploit to hold sway over their marks. It’s a psychological and grotesque pyramid scheme of sorts.

They continue to support Wakefield because they have formed such an unshakeable belief system that the alternative would be too devastating to consider.

Yes! This is why anti-vaxxers get so angry and mean when you challenge their dearly held beliefs. If you are right and they are wrong, then they’ve done a horrible thing – they’ve put their children in danger of sickness and possible death. What parent would want to admit that, even to himself? Those parents still loyal to Andy can’t bear to think that they were used and their children were harmed. It takes a big person to admit they were wrong, especially about something like that.

Fortunately ( or perhaps not) “DW” is around : I often wonder why so few victims of charlatans sue ( esp those who die of AIDS after following denialists’ advice or of cancer after spurious cancer treatment). You see, they are heavily invested in the beliefs that they follow: it’s like buying a stock and standing your ground although the price continues to diminish, wiping out most of your initial investment.

I venture that adamant believers’ identity may become entangled with that of their leader: we all assimilate aspects of people who influence us or those we admire- people may live vicariously through their heroes’ exploits. Obviously this might be relatively innocuous if their idol is merely a sports or music star but disastrous if s/he is an alt med prevaricator who offers bad advice which they assiduoulsy follow. Perhaps identification enhances flagging self-esteem and allows them to envision themselves as being leaders in a ground-breaking new movement, an enlightenment *de nouveau* or a very exclusive club.

Woo proselytisers make use of any and all possibilities to encourage their followers’ loyalty and allegiance. It’s about attachment, devotion and- dare I say it?- *love*.

I am waiting for the explosion of articles at AoA about the Motion to Dismiss and Deer’s supporting document…as yet there is only an “Editor’s Note” with ~ 20 posts.

Where is Lawrence? I “triple dog dare him”, to get past AoA’s moderation to post an *innocuous* remark.

@Candy – I think you have a point. Have recently been informed someone I know who has a severely autistic son subscribes to anti-vax beliefs. She’s a lovely lady, very intelligent and devoted to her son. On some level, she already thinks she harmed him by allowing him to be vaccinated. So to address that, and realise no, she’s actually put him in more danger, would be psychologically very difficult.

The predictable thing is, that regardless of how this plays out, they will turn it to their advantage.

The case is dismissed at this stage – oh, see, Corruption! Bias! Cover-up!

It passes this, and goes to trial – see, we’re right!

Goes to trial and Wakers loses – Corruption! Bias! Cover-up! – Proves we’re right.

Lawrence…in the immortal words of and Schwartz and Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”…

Schwartz: Well I double-DOG-dare ya!

Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare you”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.

Schwartz: I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!

Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!

The predictable thing is, that regardless of how this plays out, they will turn it to their advantage.

The case is dismissed at this stage – oh, see, Corruption! Bias! Cover-up!

It passes this, and goes to trial – see, we’re right!

Goes to trial and Wakers loses – Corruption! Bias! Cover-up! – Proves we’re right.

You are correct however they did paint themselves into a corner by insisting that Wakefield could only get a fair trial in the U.S. Well, he’s got his U.S. court petition and I, for one, won’t let them forget what they have insisted upon. Although I shouldn’t be so cocky as there has been no ruling as of yet.

I often wonder why so few victims of charlatans sue ( esp those who die of AIDS after following denialists’ advice or of cancer after spurious cancer treatment).

I suppose it’s difficult to sue someone when you’re dead. So it’s up to their partners and I suppose a part of them just think their loved one also would have died if they had other help. But some partners search publicity to warn others, like a Dutch politician whose wive died, thanks to several quacks pretending to help her with her cancer.

@Candy #9

“Those parents still loyal to Andy can’t bear to think that they were used and their children were harmed. It takes a big person to admit they were wrong, especially about something like that.”

Yes, and further to that is extricating themselves from support groups, and explaining the change of heart to a partner and family (or admitting they were wrong, afterall). It would just be easier to ignore the cognitive dissonance and not think too deeply about their beliefs.

I imagine those who do realise they are in the wrong, and decide to act on it, would keep it pretty quiet. Better to slip out quietly than be on the receiving end of abuse, threats and scaremongering from former ‘friends’.

I just want to point out a quote from the Popehat post that Orac linked to:

“Mr. Wakefield, you might recall, is a widely discredited advocate for the position that vaccines cause autism, a position cherished by people who believe that the scientific method involves believing things very fervently.”

Beauty.

The mental contortions over there are painful to read. They can’t even decide on which conspiracy theory to propagate; they’re all over the place with Murdoch, GSK, The GMC, BMJ, Mr. Deer and Dr. Godlee. Quite the pit of despair.

Nice post Lawrence. Most of the comments there seem to be of the form: Godlee & Deer lie, lie, lie. Don’t believe anything they say. Imagine this with the speaker’s fingers in their ears.

A lot of emotional spit but no legal polish. They are not going to be happy with any legal outcome other than St Andy’s resurrection and that isn’t going to happen.

@lilady – you’re welcome. I actually have a second post to go with the first, looking at the process from strictly a legal point of view. I’ll post it up here, if it doesn’t make it through.

Addressing their mental conspriracy contortions over there – it has to be a world-wide cover-up, by the media, the corporations and governments – it is the only thing that makes sense to them…..rather than a single doctor & maybe some of his colleagues that were out to make a few bucks by creating a vaccine scare.

I suppose it’s difficult to sue someone when you’re dead. So it’s up to their partners and I suppose a part of them just think their loved one also would have died if they had other help.

A lot of quacks also push the line that its the patient’s fault if the treament doesn’t work. They didn’t do it right or think the right thoughts or they waited too long. It’s never the practitioners fault.

As I often do, I have made a roundup of posts about both the UK high court’s ruling on Professor Walker-Smith and Brian Deer’s anti-SLAPP suit. I’ve included this post in the list, both at Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism (where the list will be static) “What the UK High Court’s Ruling on John Walker-Smith Means and Doesn’t Mean”,

http://thinkingautismguide.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-uk-high-courts-ruling-on-john.html

and at my own blog, I Speak of Dreams “UK High Court Quashed Rulings Against John Walker-Smith; Means NOTHING about Andrew Wakefield”

http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2012/03/walker-smith-ruling-means-nothing-about-wakefield.html

I’ll continue to update the latter post daily.

@lilady – my second post made it through. We’ll see what kind of response it gets. And that’s all I can take of AoA for today…..

Lawrence, I am amazed that #2 got through.

They’ll be hell to pay for the editor assigned to “moderation”. Who put the moderation function on automatic pilot?

“You live by the SLAPP, you die by the SLAPP.”

That’s a keeper Lawrence and I nominate you for today’s internet award.

Particularly hilarious is Ottschnaut’s response to Lawrence:

Dream on. From a legal point of view- obviously you are not a lawyer, yet you like to play one on internet forums.

I’ll put my money on Wakefield’s lawyers.

Deer’s motion is self serving drivel, a rehash of his glory days as a paid liar and blagger for Murdoch. Deer would like Wakefield to be a public figure- but is he?

The new evidence, Lawrence, is that the GMC got it wrong. That is what Judge Mittiing said- and that is what will be considered in Texas.

Deer himself has cited the GMC decision over and over again as proof that Wakefield is guilty to to a criminal standard. You can flush that right down the toilet now that the ruling for Walker-Smith is in.

Reputable law firms can pick and choose their cases. The best indication that there is merit in Wakefield’s action is the fact that experienced litigators took it on. And, Lawrence, you might want to re-read Dr. Lewis’s systematic, point by point demolition of Deer and BMJ in Lewis’s 167 page complaint.

You have to do better, Lawrence. Deer’s response is laughable. His sense of hubris is delicious. When the truth outs, he is fucked.

Hilarious stuff, particularly the last paragraph. There’s definitely a sense of hubris here that’s delicious, but it’s not Brian Deer’s hubris.

The mind boggles. As much as I despise Andrew Wakefield as a bad scientist, a bad doctor, and a fraudulent researcher, I never thought he was stupid. Filing a lawsuit like this in a state that had just passed one of the toughest anti-SLAPP laws in the country that’s looking for its first test case was just plain stupid. If Wakefield’s lawyer told him he could prevail, I’d say he committed legal malpractice.

Orac…I’m sure Wakefield’s attorney filed the motion pro bono; which unfortunately does not prevent Wakefield from making a complaint against his attorney, at the Texas Bar Association.

How about this later comment…

“…Dr Wakefield is the ‘little man’ here. He cannot die by the SLAPP. It’s his only hope of resurrection!!”

lilady – the hyperbole used there is rather OTT, especially the one commenter equating vaccine refusal with “parents who refuse to let their children be burned at the stake.”

I guess my daughter is flame-retardant.

Great comments, Lawrence!

I thought that a post from Quill at Science Based Medicine was interesting:

One can examine the documents in the case and draw conclusions based on what they say yet it matters equally as much when it comes to where the suit is filed and to whom these documents have been presented. In this particular case, it’s in the 250th Judicial District presided over by Judge John K. Dietz. Even by Texas standards, he’s a colorful fellow. One can logically wonder about [Wakefield’s lawyer’s] qualifications in this area of legal specialization, but logic hasn’t an exclusive hold on the law here. This particular court is going to have a great bearing on any outcomes in this case, possibly ignoring any inopportune arguments or inconvenient factual matters. Parrish & his firm likely filed this case in this jurisdiction for very chummy, extralegal reasons they see as favorable to their case. Fortunately for all concerned, there is an appellate.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/an-antivaccine-tale-of-two-legal-actions/

I’ll put my money on Wakefield’s lawyers.

How much money?
Asking for a friend.

It seems liely that Wakefield’s lawyer, William Parrish, has acted pro-bono. No doubt he got all the usual Wakefield bullshit. The trouble is, he now has a couple of hundred pages of dense fact and argument to deal with, and a clock ticking against which Wakefield must respond. He also knows he is facing litigators who are experts in a field he knows he does not fully understand.

You can be sure that Mr Parrish is not now a happy man, and neither are his partners. The idea of preparing a $50,000 response for a man they now know has, to say the least, not told them the full story, for free is not going to wash. Particularly when they know that they cannot win.

I doubt whether Mr Parrish had any idea of Wakefield’s form in using lawyers to vexatiously threaten people. He might even have believed that the BMJ simply made it all up, just pulled it all out of their ass.

But he knows now, and I bet you he will bill every cent for having been made a fool of.

Deer would like Wakefield to be a public figure- but is he?

Looking at page 15 of Wakefield’s complaint, section V, paragraph two, Wakefield accuses Deer and the BMJ of “actual malice”, the standard which must be met in a defamation case regarding a public figure, so Wakefield is implicitly admitting that he is a public figure.

Given what I’ve observed about the mentality of the Wakefield supporters, it’s not a negative outcome if something bad happens to Wakefield–that’s more evidence of how the conspiracy (of Big Pharma, the GMC, etc.) is acting against them. The harder Wakefield gets knocked down, the more noble is their cause because they are fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way. Or something like that.

Like many others, I also wonder why this suit was filed in Texas, not in the UK where libel suits are famously harder to defend against.

Could it be that this suit is merely being used as a fundraising gimmick to get funds from his supporters? Or is that being a bit too cynical and conspiratorial on my part?

Lawrence…the paranoia is running rampant at AoA. It has been decided that you are Brian Deer:

“Yes I think we can assume that ‘Lawrence’, whose name recalls Deer’s ‘middle name’ and blagging personna, and whose writing style and terminology, echoes that of the BMJ/Godlee/Deer SLAPP deposition, has come out of his own cyber *territoy* to do his ‘Lord Haw Haw’ bit here.”

What’s a “territoy”?

Okay, Matthew Cline…you got past the censors. I nominate you for today’s Second Internet Award.

@lilady – I just saw that. Actually, I’m flattered that they would think so highly (or lowly) of my posts. I think they would be sorely disappointed if they knew who I really was.

It just goes back to their mentality that everyone who has a contrary opinion to their own has some hidden agenda or axe to grind (projection if I ever witnessed it).

So, when are we going to hold the RI Happy Hour in DC? I’m totally game!

“So, when are we going to hold the RI Happy Hour in DC? I’m totally game!”

I’m waiting for the ‘official’ invitation to be extended to me and the other RI ladies.

I doubt anyone got my joke: the dead don’t frequently sue those who gave them bad advice -while the *partners* may have been similarly enthralled by the woo, be distraught, feel ashamed of the deceased’s poor choices or most importantly, be un-able to prove that someone had such an overwhelming influence over the victim- was it hypnosis? Or a powerful spell? If the victim was an adult and of sound mind, what can you say? And if consequences are not so dire, would anyone sue? How would you “trace” this?

Over the years, I’ve listened to “scholarly” advice given over the internet/ radio which has given me insight into the guru/ acolyte relationship- there is a disturbing amount of worshipul adulation, mimicry and desire to please by the follower. While most involves medical issues, sometimes queries are about relationships, psychological issues, career paths, locations for moving domiciles and investment strategies: political grandstanding has recently become more apparent, drumming up support for the guru’s pet issues and financial interests thinly disguised as * health freedom*.

I’ve come to view anti-vaxx as a sub-set of alt med woo – there is interchange between the groups: alt med/ health freedom advocates often support the anti-vaxx cause and the latter in turn, may support the natural methods alt med espouses. Thus, AJW is a *cause celebre* beyond anti-vaxx.

@ brian, Interesting observation. I wonder if this being a higher profile case, although not as high as say one of Lindsay Lohan’s drug-fueled sprees, would create an environment of cautiousness. Having a case go to the Appellate doesn’t strike me as being a feather in a judge’s cap.

“Snooki from Jersey Shore”, Lawrence…

“Public figures come in all shapes & sizes – for example, Snooki from Jersey Shore would be considered a public figure for not doing all that much – much the same applies to our crop of “reality TV Stars” in general. All it takes is a bit of publicity (helps if you have a publicist – as Wakefield has had for years) and be recognized in the public space.”

Now you’ve gone too far Lawrence…

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/television/snooki-bun-oven-tv-half-baked-views-garden-state-article-1.1036089

IANAL, but dear hubby is a litigation attorney. His advice to you Lawrence/Brian or Brian/Lawrence is to “watch yourself” (CYA), because Snooki’s lawyer will be instituting a defamation suit against you, for comparing Snooki to Wakefield.

Govern yourself accordingly.

@ Autismum: Take a look at this; everyone is Bonnie Offit:

http://respectfulinsolence.com/2010/11/i_am_bonnie_offit.php

I’ve never liked the name Brian, with the exception of the “Life of Brian” because I always look on the bright side of life….

Too funny that I would be compared to a award-winning English journalist. Again, I guess I should be flattered.

And as for the Happy Hour – we can certainly make it a “RI Ladies Night” with all assorted sundry persons invited as well.

Perhaps we can use Lord Draconis to coordinate the event – I’m serious – would love to share a beer or three with my cohorts here.

Thanks for reminding me of the Bonnie Offit thing, Lilady. Revisiting that was good for a giggle. I was a 18 year old Northern Irish Lad according to some stem cell shills. I rather enjoyed that – makes a nice change from being a pharma whore.

Gotta go, dear hubby is hungry as a bear. Would love to meet you and the other RI regular guys and ladies. How could we arrange the meet-up?

I only mention Lord Draconis because he may be able to provide the “social” forum for coordinating such an activity…..

I think ScienceMom meant this brian, who was pointing on a comment elsewhere about the particular judge in that court.

I’ve never liked the name Brian, with the exception of the “Life of Brian” because I always look on the bright side of life….

Well, I can emphasize to some extent. In fact, I rather like the name “Bonnie” better, so I was distressed that JB Handley and the AoA crowd decided that LBRB Sullivan is really Bonnie Offit (wife of their nemesis) and I am not.

Nevertheless, it’s doubtful that anyone at AoA could accurately determine the identity of a poster, or, for that matter, put two and two together and find that it equaled anything but a conspiracy.

If I weren’t one of the ‘frozen chosen’ (Canadian to those in the south) I would desperately love to have drink with Lilady, DW, autismum, etc. Perhaps a virtual jinnantonic (If I can paraphrase Douglas Adams)(meh, maybe I can’t)

Wish I could join the party but I’m located in the great white north (aka canucksland), any chance of a meetup up here?

A.L.

Hmm, seems to me that there are a lot of us in great, not-so-frozen North. Anyone in Ontario up for a pint?

I was particularly impressed by the density of the poster who said that Wakefield had not been a public figure until Deer’s alleged libel against him.

Yeah, ’cause Andrew Wakefield was a complete nobody when Hugh Bonneville played him in the TV movie…

Two questions:

First, is there recourse on the part of the GMC with respect to the high court’s decision to reverse them? That is can they appeal that decision?

Second, if so would they not argue that regardless of whether or not Walker-Smith was “duped” by Wakefield to perform procedures for research that was not ethically permissable, that the procedures were not clinically indicated either?

That is my understanding from what I have read posted here.

The GMC could, in theory, appeal but are unlikely to do do. JWS is retired and not going to get his hands on more patients so it wouldn’t be a good use of GMC resources,

@ Lawrence: And here I was thinking that you were TE Lawrence. D-mn! Unfortunately, distance precludes my attendance @ your soiree: I need to descend from the tower, drive along the winding road down the great cliffs, cross the wide water etc. ( I no longer reveal exactly *where* the great cliffs are located, you may notice)- But count me in for any virtuals.

@ Autismum: Ha! Interestingly, I have been mistaken for a gay man both here and at another blog – although I have NO idea why. However- in RL, people usually believe me to be Irish- I suspect it’s either my preternatural whiteness or the sarcasm: the Irish seem to like those qualities for some reason.

@ Agashem: Certainly I’d love to but – it’s a long, long way ( see above) So it’ll have to be virtual- altho’ there’s always actual gin around here.

So a virtual toast to all of us!!

Interestingly, I have been mistaken for a gay man both here and at another blog

Perhaps it’s your use of your first and middle name in your signature.

Reputable law firms can pick and choose their cases. The best indication that there is merit in Wakefield’s action is the fact that experienced litigators took it on.

And the fact that even more experienced litigators — in the field of libel, even — took on the defense indicates …

“And the fact that even more experienced litigators — in the field of libel, even — took on the defense indicates …”

That there will be a “Motion to Substitute Counsel” submitted by Wakefield and his pro bono “intellectual property” specialist.

I predict that there will be weekly Wakefield Justice Fundraisers to pay his legal fees…and, to pay the defendants’ legal fees…as well as the anti-SLAPP fines.

Agashem,
I am in Ottawa. I would be curious if there are many other readers from here as well. Apparently there are a few people living in Ontario, but as you say, it is a big place.

Most of my in-laws are Canadian (the others are Dutch). Yes, even the province they live in is very big. Though most of everyone who watches most series on the Syfy channel are familiar with it (a game we play is to try to identify the filming locations).

But, alas! We live in between the two Vancouvers.

By the way, it is amusing enough that the name of our state is confused with our nation’s capitol*. Imagine the confusion if it had the original name after breaking off from Oregon: Columbia.

* An actual phone call to a call center of a bank we have since abandoned: “No, Seattle, Washington is not the City of Washington!” (say both of them out-loud, the irony is that we started to bank there when it was called “Seattle First”). Which is just as much fun as calling a hotel company asking for directions to one of its facilities in Vancouver, WA: “No, Vancouver Island is in Canada, the city we want is just north of Portland, Oregon.”

Autismum – I was thinking more in terms of the high court’s decision blurring the distinction between research medicine and theraputic medicine leaving research subjects at the mercy of the researchers. I would think it would be part of the mandate of the GMC to sustain the oversight they have and therefore that it would be obligatory for them to appeal the decision since it seems to fail in understanding the importance of that distinction.

Been to Ottawa and it is a great town. Did a long road trip, up from Las Vegas to the Canadian Rockies, northwest to B.C., then southbound through Lillooet, back to Seattle and flew home. You really cannot say you’ve seen the Rockies, until you visit the Canadian Rockies.

I love Vancouver Island and took the hydrofoil from Seattle and flew back (scariest flight ever), in a tiny seaplane. Burtchart Gardens and high tea at the Empress Hotel are the fond memories I have.

On a whim, and on short notice, we drove up to Canada from our NYC suburban home to explore the Gaspe Peninsula and stayed in a delightful hotel on the gulf of St Lawrence, facing Perce Rock. Whale watching is terrific there.

Our friends from Germany accompanied us on a road trip to Campobello Island…which was an experience. The tour of the grounds and summer home of FDR are “free” and the historical site is maintained by the U.S. and Canada.

Chris, there’s also the woman who shut down the border crossing for most of a day some years back. As I recall, the story was she followed highway signs for the wrong Vancouver, and turned up at the Peace Arch with a live grenade in her car. (I’m mostly a lurker here who lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys playing spot the location/friends who may have been extras on locally-filmed productions)

Damn, I lost my reply and have to retype it, stupid browser.

lilady,
Wow, you traveled a fair bit during that trip. I have never taken one of these very long road trips before. Someday I suppose I will have to but I do not drive making it pretty difficult.
I used to live in Vancouver and one of my big regrets is never taking the seaplane to Victoria. But for me a scary plane ride is a good thing. I quite enjoy such things.
Finally, I thought it was pretty awesome that you went to Campobello Island. I have never been there myself but I am originally from NB and I do not see many people discussing visits they made there. Sadly NB often seems to be ignored compared to PEI and Nova Scotia. I have been to Grand Manan, an island very near Campobello and it was very nice. I would love to go back again.

Hubby and I are history buffs. We have seen many of the Presidential libraries, even Truman’s in Missouri and Eisenhower’s in Kansas in one long weekend. Did the Reagan and Nixon libraries in California and plan to do a road trip in Texas to cover the LBJ and Bush I libraries. Carter and Clinton libraries would be another road trip we want to take.

On Campobello, we stayed in a cottage on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence, bonfires every night, watching the fog and the tides.

The only cruise we have ever taken is the southbound cruise from Bellingham Alaska to Vancouver. It is a magnificent trip with a naturalist aboard on the upper deck to help us spot the whales and eagles.

Travis, I am a bit south of you, in Kingston. You actually have a pretty active skeptic group in Ottawa, in Kingston, nada 🙁
Love Canada and have lived in six provinces (I am an army brat, was in the army and am now an army wife). Have also lived in the UK! Lucky me…..

Hey Agashem, I’m in Prince Edward County! Looks like a little nexus in mid-Ontario.

I see from skepticNorth that there aren’t any groups in Toronto, weird eh?

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