Another World Exclusive
[Stop Press 9/Feb/09 -Wakefield Responds to Sunday Times’ False Allegations]
The reputation of The Sunday Times of London takes another nose dive in yet more junk journalism by an unethical unprofessional freelance journalist to revive a seemingly flagging career [more of which below].
The new accusations appear in The Sunday Times headlined:-
MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism” – The Sunday Times, London – February 8, 2009
Sources say The Sunday Times’ freelancer approached Dr Wakefield only on the Friday just before the stories were being submitted for publication [Sunday 8th Feb] with false claims such as that:-
In the cases of some 8 children – two thirds of the total – you changed normal histopathology results to abnormal results, in a so-called “research review”, despite claiming that the series was merely a clinical report.”
But it was other doctors employed in the Department of Histopathology who were experienced in bowel disease who dealt with such matter and not Dr Wakefield. This is a matter of record at the GMC and sources say Dr Wakefield is mystified as to how The Sunday Times’ freelance journalist could not have known that when he wrote his stories and submitted them to The Sunday Times for publication. This “data fixing” allegation is another absurd allegation from the Sunday Times.
Not only are these more inaccurate stories with laughable claims, but seemingly illegally quoting out-of-context confidential information from Court disclosed medical records of injured children. In England such action is a potential contempt of Court, punishable by fines and imprisonment.
In contrast The Sunday Times has failed to report the outcome of the US Federal Court’s findings that children have been found to have developed autism as a result of vaccination [also reported by ChildHealthSafety: AUTISM – US Court Decisions and Other Recent Developments – It’s Not Just MMR]
The Sunday Times has not covered the news release issued on Friday by Dr Wakefield, Thoughtful House Medical Center and 20 Child Health Safety organisations as also reported here by ChildHealthSafety: Dr Andrew Wakefield Demolishes Ignorant US Vaccine Lobby Posted on February 6, 2009.
Instead the children’s confidential records appear to have been used and quoted out-of-context to create these latest “sensational exclusive revelations“.
Illegal Use of Children’s Confidential Court Medical Records
The Sunday Times’ freelance reporter did not return confidential Court documents, permitted to be used in confidence only for the proceedings for which they were provided. On his own admissions he has instead retained them and has been pouring over the confidentially Court disclosed children’s medical records in his South London home.
The information from the children’s medical records published in The Sunday Times is highly unlikely to have come from disclosures from the GMC’s lawyers or the GMC, save for extracts which may have been referred to in the proceedings. But The Sunday Times’ freelance journalist only has early medical records.
What The Sunday Times’ commissioned freelancer does not appear to have are the histories taken carefully during the investigations at The Royal Free Hospital in around 1996/7 and which are the more reliable account of the children’s conditions.
It is the myriad errors in the stories and the absence of the information from those documents which collapses these latest Sunday Times’ stories published Sunday.
It is extraordinary that The Sunday Times allowed a story of such a nature by a freelance journalist with no medical or scientific qualifications to go to print and with no evidence any independent professional opinion was sought prior to publication.
A parent of an autistic child comments:-
When this Sunday Times freelance journalist accused Dr Andrew Wakefield of altering the histopathology results the freelancer presumably simply did not understand the data. Then he goes and makes a public accusation which the Sunday Times publishes uncritically. It is amazing they did not get anyone competent to check the facts.”
This is not the first time The Sunday Times has done this. A previous story by the same freelancer purported to provide comment on a false story about patents, which was so flawed no-holds-barred comment appeared online in the British Medical Journal: Patent allegation patently false: what C4 and Sunday Times didn’t tell you BMJ – 26th November 2004To Page Top
The circumstances and history to this latest debacle look tawdry. The Strategic Health Authority [SHA] for The Royal Free Hospital having previously denied providing documents to The Sunday Times’ freelancer then had to admit having done so in 2004 “in a spirit of cooperation”. But these did not include the early or later more detailed medical histories.
It also appears from the freelancer’s own disclosures that an insider leaked documents from The Royal Free’s files to the journalist in 2003, before the SHA had provided any. The ethics of such action is questionable. This was also at a time in 2003 when the plans to publish stories in The Sunday Times and initiate proceedings in the GMC against Dr Wakefield were already progressing, as already reported by ChildHealthSafety: British Government & Establishment’s Efforts to Deny Compensation to MMR Vaccine Child Victims
A professional journalist’s impartiality is paramount. The job is reporting news made by others, and not creating it. This Sunday Times’ freelancer in contrast made the complaints to the UK General Medical Council against these doctors which have lead to unprecedented marathon hearings starting with investigations the freelance was responsible for lodging over 4 years ago in 2004.
The freelancer’s complaints included numerous allegations which The Sunday Times refused to publish in their original 2004 stories and since. One result of the complaints is that such allegations when made in formal GMC proceedings become reportable when they would otherwise be actionable defamation. The freelancer has fastidiously attended the hearings. Whilst Andrew Wakefield was forced by the pressure of dealing with the unprecedented lengthy marathon UK GMC proceedings to withdraw libel actions against The Sunday Times, it is notable the other allegations have not been published then or since.
Not one parent has complained. That would be odd if The Sunday Times’ allegations had a shred of truth. Wakefield’s supporters include parents of autistic children worldwide. To Page Top
Parents’ Worries Over Misuse of Records
Concerned parents worried about this seeming misuse of their children’s meant-to-be confidential medical records, have been complaining for some time. about it Concerns have been raised with the UK’s Information Commissioner regarding breaches of the UK’s Data Protection Act, intended to protect the private data of individuals, including children.To Page Top
The Sunday Times’ Lack of Objectivity
The Sunday Times’ freelancer who authored the stories, was once described by The Guardian newspaper, London, as “mercurial”, and appears to have plumbed a new low. As a professional this journalist appears obsessed.
With seemingly so little to occupy his time as a professional journalist, The Sunday Times’ commissioned freelance journalist’s own website evidences a cash shortage; recently carrying public appeals for donations. This is unsurprising. Countless hours other journalists would have been too busy to spend earning a living have been devoted on painstakingly creating a 500 plus page website.
The site alone evidences a lack of the detachment and objectivity a professional journalist needs to maintain credibility. It also shows an obsessive interest in dishing non-existent dirt on the eminent gastroenterologists Andrew Wakefield, Simon Murch and Professor Walker-Smith. These dedicated medical professionals have helped countless thousands of autistic children around the world with ground-breaking researches at The Royal Free Hospital, London.
So bizarre have matters become that the freelancer has attended practically every day of the marathon GMC proceedings against the eminent medical doctors only to see the case so carelessly constructed by him being demolished day-by-day by the lawyers representing these good doctors.
Wakefield Responds To Junk Journalism
The detailed allegations published in The Sunday Times were in this article: Hidden records show MMR truth The Sunday Times February 8, 2009.
But here Andrew Wakefield’s response demonstrating The Sunday Times has it badly wrong all over again. This response was written and published in just 24 hours. A necessary and fast reaction to the “guerrilla war” surprise attacks tactics of The Sunday Times – junk journalism at it finest – publishing propaganda with no proper time to respond.
Autism, bowel disease, and MMR vaccination
In his desperation, Deer gets it wrong once again
By Andy Wakefield – 9 Feb 2009
Below is a list of the allegations made by Brian Deer against me, received on Friday 6th February 2009, 2 days prior to his publishing in the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper (my response is provided in Arial font). [Wakefield’s responses shown online in blue].
[Ed: Wakefield not even given 2 days prior notice – notice was less than 24 hours before The Sunday Times’ stories were approved for press on 7th Feb and then appeared online at 10pm 7th Feb. Looks like an ambush – not very professional].
Dear Dr Wakefield,
I’m directed by editors managing my investigation of the MMR matter for The Sunday Times to inform you that we intend to publish further on this topic, and particularly on your role in it. It is now some five years since I first sought to discuss with you your work, and I’ve made numerous attempts to do so. As you will appreciate, the safety of children by means of vaccination is an unparalleled issue of public interest and concern. As you will know, not least as a result of our concurrent attendance at the General Medical Council fitness to practise hearing into your conduct, I’m now extremely familiar with the precise medical histories, diagnoses and so forth of the children enrolled for your study, published in the Lancet on 28 February 1998. Based on this knowledge, and other sources of information, including the cooperation of families enrolled in your research, I must put to you, for your response, a number of serious matters.
(1) That you repeatedly, and without justification, changed and misreported findings from those children for publication in the Lancet.
I cite, for instance, three children who you represented as having regressive autism, who in fact had Asperger’s disorder, or in one of those cases PDAS, which are not regressive and involve no loss of language or other basic skills. You claim that the paper is a series of “previously normal” children, but medical records – which you had a duty to read and understand – show that some five of the 12 children were subject to concerns prior to vaccination, and were not “normal”. Other children, who you claimed to have suffered their first “behavioural symptoms” within days of vaccination, in fact had none for months. In the cases of some 8 children – two thirds of the total – you changed normal histopathology results to abnormal results, in a so-called “research review”, despite claiming that the series was merely a clinical report.
The diagnoses reported in the Lancet were accurate based upon the information provided to the clinicians and review of the available records .
Where there was considered to be a pre-existing developmental problem, this was accurately reported in the Lancet paper . This is not the place to get into a detailed discussion on developmental regression which is still a subject of debate by experts in child development and is certainly not something about which Deer has any expertise. It is a matter of fact that I did not play any part whatsoever in making the microscopic diagnoses of inflammation on any biopsy from any child investigated at the Royal Free Hospital. Intestinal tissues were examined, and the children’s pathology documented, by two doctors (not me) employed in the Department of Histopathology who were experienced in bowel disease, using an agreed protocol to ensure rigor and consistency . These doctors were co-authors on the paper. The same tissues were reviewed by Professor Walker-Smith and his team. I merely entered the documented findings into the Lancet paper. I did not “change” any findings as alleged. The paper was then reviewed by the relevant authors prior to submission to the Lancet in order to confirm that the diagnoses were correct. The findings reported in the Lancet are, in the opinion of the relevant authors, correct. This is a matter of record at the GMC.
(2) That, without justification, you omitted parental links to MMR in the case of one quarter of the children, in order to reach your unsubstantiated claim in the paper that problems came on within days.
Contrary to your claim that the parents of 8 of 12 children linked MMR to their child’s problems, in fact the parents of 11 of the children made this connection whilst at the Royal Free. The additional, unreported, children are Child Five, Child Nine and Child Twelve. Their parents said that problems came on between one and four months after MMR, and their hospital records, which you had access to (and in one case wrote), show this. Through the device of their omission, you contrived to create the appearance of a clearcut temporal link between MMR and autism, when there was none such. Furthermore, by their omission, you contrived to create the appearance that these children were routine clinical cases passing through the hospital, when in fact, as you knew, they were recruited, marshalled and referred in collaboration between you, JABS and a solicitor. As such, they were bound to blame MMR when they came to the hospital.
This is a particularly tortuous argument that reflects Deer’s grasp (or lack of it) on both the scientific process and the evidence. Parents of 8 of the 12 children made the link between MMR vaccination and onset of symptoms contemporaneously. Other parents made the link retrospectively, that is, some years later. We reported on those 8 who made the link at the time of their child’s deterioration and excluded those who made the link later in order to remove any bias associated with recall that may have been prompted by, for example, media coverage. To have done otherwise would have been potentially misleading.
In fact, when all of the medical and parental records were made available via the GMC many years later, it became apparent that one further parent had made the link with MMR contemporaneously, but had remained silent on this at the request of her husband because it had led to doctors dismissing their concerns about their child’s medical problems on the basis that they were “just looking for something to blame.” This in itself is a telling indictment of how a possible cause risks being overlooked because of the prejudice of some physicians.
The second part of this allegation, which is dependent upon the fallacy in the first part, is nonsense. The route by which the children came to the Royal Free was one driven by clinical need and had nothing whatsoever to do with the lawyer Richard Barr. The facts of this matter and in particular the route by which the children came to be seen by Professor Walker- Smith, have been reported to the GMC. This allegation – one which Deer has rehashed in spite of the evidence – has no basis in fact. It need hardly be stated again after so many occasions in the GMC but the leading, primary and principal reason all twelve children ended up at the Royal Free, was that they had bowel or ’stomach’ problems. The matter of vaccination was brought up by parents because they thought that it was relevant to the clinical diagnosis.
(3) That the paper you wrote and published in the Lancet was a device, assisting you in obtaining money from the Legal Aid Board.
I draw to your attention your prior contractual undertaking with Mr Barr, and your joint undertaking to the Legal Aid Board to attempt to find a “new syndrome”. This latter undertaking was entered into before any of the children were admitted to the Royal Free, or you could ever have known of any syndrome. Eighteen months later, you would declare that you had found precisely such a syndrome, based on the 8/12 temporal link, and an alleged coincidence of regressive autism and inflammatory bowel disease. The records show that neither of these are valid. Without the public ever suspecting, the route by which you reached this claim required the wholesale changing and misreporting of data. Following your claims, to which you attached the reputations of 12 other, generally unwitting, doctors, you successfully extracted substantial sums of money from the legal aid fund, not least for the business Unigenetics, of which you were a director, and for yourself personally. We have previously reported that the Legal Services Commission says that you pocketed more than £435,000, plus expenses. The amounts you received increased as the scare you created continued: the grossest possible conflict of interest.
Deer is wrong on all counts. The purpose of the contract with Mr Barr was to conduct a scientific study to look for measles virus proteins in the bowel of children (initially those with Crohn’s disease and later, to include those with autism and intestinal symptoms (such as abdominal pain and diarrhea) that required endoscopic examination and biopsy. On the other hand, the clinical basis for the investigation of the autistic children has been established by my pediatric colleagues – two of the most experienced pediatric gastroenterologists worldwide – beyond any reasonable doubt. Deer has completely missed the point; the “syndrome” that we have accurately and reproducibly described is the combination of autistic regression, swelling of the lymph glands in the last part of the small intestine (ileum) and inflammation of the colon. Any association of this syndrome with MMR vaccine remains to be confirmed and, in contrast with Deer’s claim, the syndrome does not require any temporal link to MMR vaccination at all. This has been made clear to the GMC.
The children who turned out to suffer from the “syndrome” were referred as early as May 1995, long before I had ever heard of Richard Barr or vaccine litigation. Deer is aware of this fact.
Any payment that I received over the course of working for more than 7 years as a expert to the UK courts in the MMR litigation – substantially less than the sum Deer claims – was donated to an initiative to build a new center for the investigation and care of patients with inflammatory bowel disease at the Royal Free. This matter is described in more detail in a forthcoming essay by Bill Long, access to which will be posted in due course at http://www.drbilllong.com/index.html.
I resigned from Unigenetics and was not involved in the dealings of this company with the Legal Aid Board. Finally, I did not “create” a scare but rather, I responded to a scare that parents brought to my attention. To have ignored their concerns would have been professional negligence.
(4) That, additional to the above, in recent years you have reviewed your changes and misreportings in the Lancet, and yet you have neither withdrawn your claims in the paper, nor sincerely and publicly apologised for your conduct, as you should have done.
As a result of the GMC hearings, you have been supplied with all the documentation, and, indeed, were last year taken by counsel through the changes and misreportings. There can be no question that you know the precise details of these children. Particularly given outbreaks of measles, widely reported in UK media most recently today, and the appalling burden of guilt laid on the parents of autistic children who believe it was their own fault for vaccinating their child, you had an absolute duty to come forward at the earliest opportunity and make the position clear. You have not done so, but indeed continue to display the paper’s claims on your website, and to campaign against MMR.
The evidence presented by me to the GMC described precisely and accurately the basis of the findings reported in the Lancet. The absence of any ‘misreporting’ is a matter of record both in my oral testimony and in that of my clinical colleagues. There is absolutely nothing either to withdraw or to apologize for in this matter. It is, however, a tragedy that the continued misrepresentation of the facts has had a negative impact on the ability of affected children to get access to the care that they so desperately need.
(5) That, overall, you created the appearance of a possible link between MMR and autism, when you knew, or should have known, that there was no reasonable basis for this in the histories of those children, and, as a result have caused immense and growing harm, unnecessary concern and waste of public money.
In summary, not one of the 12 children is free of serious doubt as to the manner in which their case has been reported by you. Indeed, there is no real evidence that any of the children were as you reported in the Lancet. When lack of evidence of previous normality, lack of evidence of regression, lack of evidence of inflammatory bowel disease, and lack of any temporal link as you describe, are taken into account, there was no basis in the records for your claim to have discovered any new syndrome at all.
Based upon the parental histories of regression in their children after MMR vaccine, the known link between measles and brain damage including autism  and the findings in the children, there was and continues to be every reasonable basis for suspecting a possible link between MMR vaccination and autistic regression.
The reporting of the children in the Lancet paper is an accurate account of the clinical histories as reported to Professor Walker-Smith and his clinical colleagues. The normality or otherwise of the children’s development was evident in the medical history taken by these clinicians, and backed up by the Health Visitor’s  contemporaneous record of the respective child’s development. The claim to have detected a possible new syndrome was valid and, in contrast with Deer’ false claim, is supported by confirmation of the original findings by others .
As you will see, the issues we raise with you are not the same as the charges you face before the GMC, although the fitness to practise hearings have, as expected, yielded important insights and evidence. It is clear that, particularly in the context of measles outbreaks in the UK, US, Europe and now Australasia, it is important that the public be urgently informed of the true position at the earliest possible date.
On the contrary, the issues raised by Deer are, in many respects, identical to those raised by him on previous occasions. One can only imagine that, as the evidence has emerged at the GMC, the fallacy of Deer’s original allegations has become clear. The timing and content of Deer’s latest allegations and the published article, his behavior at the GMC hearing (See “The Incident“ by Martin Walker , and recent admissions of failings in the area of vaccine safety by the US National Vaccine Advisory Committee, suggest a degree of desperation on the part of Deer and those with whom he is working.
Measles outbreaks are preventable, immediately, by offering to parents with entirely valid concerns about the safety of MMR vaccine, a choice of single measles vaccine; not to do so is unethical and puts the vaccine policy, “our way or no way”, before the wellbeing of children. There is absolutely no question of the continuing investigation and treatment of these children coming to a halt because of this or any other kind of subversive tactic.
References to Wakefield’s Response to The Sunday Times’ Junk Journalism
 Health Visitor checks: a routine regular developmental and physical in-home assessment of children by the National Health Service in the UK
 Lancet 1998:351;637-41
 Deykin EY, MacMahon B, Viral exposure and autism. Am J Epidemiol, 1979;109:628–38. Ring A, Barak Y, Ticher A, et al. Evidence for an infectious etiology in autism. Pathophysiology, 1997;4:91–96.
 Health Visitor checks: a routine regular developmental and physical in-home assessment of children by the National Health Service in the UK
 Gonzalez, L., et al., Endoscopic and Histological Characteristics of the Digestive Mucosa in Autistic Children with gastro-Intestinal Symptoms: A Preliminary Report. GEN Suplemento Especial de Pediatria, 2005;1:41-47.
Balzola, F., et al., Panenteric IBD-like disease in a patient with regressive autism shown for the first time by wireless capsule enteroscopy: Another piece in the jig-saw of the gut-brain syndrome? American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005. 100(4): p. 979- 981.
Krigsman A et al. http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/Cofred/Public/Aca/WebSec.cfm?confid=238&webid=1245 last accessed June 2007) (paper submitted for publication)
Comments to ChildHealthSafety from parents on these “revelations” include that:-
It is troubling that we are asked to accept an unqualified freelance journalist’s personal account of confidential records. How does he have them?
Medical records routinely don’t record adverse vaccine effects. No claim was made in the paper that the cases had clean records prior to vaccination, only that a set of symptoms was set in motion by vaccination.
Child 11 – no dispute about the timing of onset of symptoms in this report. Three labs re-tested samples but no technical information provided about methodology.
Child 1 Not hearing properly could be a symptom of autism, but not necessarily classic. Not enough information to go on. No dispute in the report about timing of adverse reaction to jab. If he had any possible autistic symptoms this does not mean that that he did not become ill or lose mental faculties post vaccine.
Child 2 Adverse vaccine event are generally ignored by the medical profession – parent recall is likely to be more reliable than medical records – otherwise this account is too vague to comment on.
Child 8 “The records did not support this”, absense of recording is not proof of absence. What were the significant concerns “some months before”. Had they continued? We are not told.
Child 6 & 7 Had been hospitalised with “brain problems”. What “brain problems” and when? Were they developing more or less normally until the event? Asperger syndrome is an autistic spectrum disorder and can certainly be regressive (this includes child 12)
Child 8, 9, 10 & 3 The statement “no abnormality detected” for the biopsy is consistent ‘non-specific colitis’ – indeed, it is non-specific because the results were negative.
“Discharged” does not mean “not seen again”.
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Notes on terminology:-
In the US the official diagnostic definition of what we call “Autism Spectrum Disorders” or ASD are instead called “Pervasive Development Disorders” or PDD for short. That is under the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edn)” or “DSM IV” for short.
“Autistic Spectrum Disorder” is the term applied internationally under the “ICD” or “International Classification of Disease”
Many refer to ASD and PDD as “autism” but “autism” is a subset of the spectrum and is often referred to also as “childhood autism”, “typical autism” and “Kanner autism”. [The common behaviours like hand flapping, loss of eye contact and suchlike in young children are unmistakable, whereas other spectrum disorders like mild Aspergers Syndrome can be more difficult to diagnose.]
Copyright ChildHealthSafety 2009 – The authors hereby assert their moral rights. All rights reserved.