On the antivaccine front, this year began with antivaccine hero Andrew Wakefield filing suit against investigative reporter Brian Deer, the BMJ, and Fiona Godlee (the editor of BMJ) for libel based on a series that Deer published in the BMJ outlining the evidence for Wakefield’s scientific fraud in his (in)famous 1998 Lancet case series. This resulted in a massive rallying of the antivaccine troops around Wakefield, as well as temporarily making him appear relevant again after so many much-deserved humiliations and defeats, in the wake of his having had his license to practice medicine in the U.K. revoked by the General Medical Council, resulting in his having his Lancet article retracted and his losing his job as medical director of Thoughtful House. More importantly, it allowed Wakefield to hit his supporters up for cash for his legal fund. The basis of Wakefield’s libel suit appeared wispy and tenuous to virtually any observer with half a brain and a slight knowledge of libel law in the U.S., but that didn’t stop him. Not surprisingly, the court slapped Wakefield down conclusively, dismissing his suit on jurisdictional grounds, leading to another conspiragasm among his supporters.
Ever since Wakefield’s suit was dismissed, people have been wondering: Will he appeal? He had 30 days to appeal, which meant that, as the month of August wound down, so did Wakefield’s time to appeal. Most of us figured that Wakefield probably wouldn’t appeal, having milked his followers for enough cash and temporarily brought himself back into the spotlight. After all, filing the initial suit probably didn’t require too much in the way of resources, given that it appears that a buddy of his (or the father of one of his daughter’s buddies) appears to have done it pro bono. However, starting an appeal risks bringing on massive expenses. So, as the 30 day deadline to file for an appeal came and went, most of us paying attention to the case assumed that Wakefield had quietly folded.
If you look at the Texas Third Court of Appeals website for case 03-12-00576-CV, you’ll find that on August 31 a notice of appeal was filed in the court of appeals. It would appear that Wakefield is indeed going to appeal the original decision. Unfortunately, the appeal isn’t yet posted on the website; so I don’t know on what basis Wakefield is going to appeal, but it looks as though he is appealing. I fully expect that he’ll likely be slapped down again, but I guess anything that allows him to continue to play the martyr and hit his credulous followers up for more cash is probably a good thing to him, particularly if his motivation is to try to cause Deer and the BMJ more inconvenience and the massive expense of defending a transatlantic lawsuit. He may, however, be playing with fire, given that his sure looks like a SLAPP suit to me. I’m also a bit surprised that appears to be the house propaganda organ for team Wakefield, Age of Autism, hasn’t chimed in yet. I’m sure it’s coming.