Mother Left to Rot In Gaol On Discredited Science – Australia’s Famous “Fair Play” Is Only For Cricket – Not Mothers – The Case of Kathleen Folbigg

Shortlink to this post:

CHS brings you an excellent newly published paper by legally qualified former journalist Michael Nott.  It deals with the Kathleen Folbigg case and addresses how mothers are convicted of murdering their children with no evidence other than unproven discredited theories from expert witnesses and when the causes of death can be natural.  Here is the abstract and to download the full academically published paper click the title.  It is published on the law website Networked Knowledge dealing with miscarriages of justice, law and the legal system.


‘People are … convicted for the illegal acts that they do’ Interview with Richard Refshauge, (then) director of Public Prosecutions ACT, 20 July 2004.


This article considers the two discredited hypotheses of Sir Roy Meadow: Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (‘MSBP’) and the ‘rule of three’ in relation to multiple infant deaths. These hypotheses are controversial. While appellate courts have either rejected them outright or called them speculative, they have been used to achieve convictions in other courts.

This article considers how these hypotheses were used in the trial of Kathleen Folbigg, specifically in the prosecution’s questioning and eliciting of witness responses. Although not acknowledged specifically by name, the hypotheses underlined the expert testimony of the prosecution witnesses, thereby creating a presumption of guilt. It is argued that this presumption was compounded by the use of exclusion evidence and the implied use of discredited statistical calculations previously utilised, and rejected, in the trial of Sally Clark.

These questionable hypotheses were rejected in a later similar Australian case.

There is a failure of courts in the Folbigg case to recognise that siblings could die for reasons that are natural. This article considers the view that evidence of significant bacterial infection cannot be ruled out as a potential cause of death in two of the Folbigg children, thus giving rise to the prospect of an unsafe conviction.


Folbigg, Meadow, cot death theory, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, MSPB, judicial failure, system failure, medical expert evidence, bacterial infection, statistics, sudden infant death, sudden unexplained infant death, rule of three.

Making Medicine More Dangerous for You and Your Children – Drug Industry Wins System Which Hides Drug Hazards

Shortlink to this post:

Why You Should Not Trust Dr Ben Goldacre On Drug Safety – Is Goldacre Really GlaxoSmithKline’s Trojan?

[See also recent new posts: 1) Congratulations Dr Ben Goldacre On Undermining Drug Safety Worldwide and 2) Dr Ben Goldacre Forced By CHS to Answer Criticism Over Drug Safety – But Not Before Goldacre’s Usual Response – Bullying, Abuse & Harassment]

If you go out and buy a car which the dealer knows has serious undisclosed faults, a crime has been committed.

It is an accepted fact even in the drug industry that most drugs do not work in most people.  So if you go out and buy a drug which for most people does not work and which has serious undisclosed faults which could kill or injure [eg. VIOXX] no one in the drug industry goes to gaol.

This CHS post is about safety: your safety, your children’s safety and your family’s safety.

This is also in part about how drug companies withhold data on drug trials which show their drugs do not work and are dangerous.

This post is also about Dr Ben Goldacre’s role in giving the appearance of holding the drug industry to account over drug trial data whilst the end result seems to be Dr Ben Goldacre is helping the drug industry make it look like progress is made whilst in fact manipulating drug safety issues so that we have the same old same old.  In recent times Dr Goldacre along with Dr Fiona Godlee, British Medical Journal Editor, have been campaigning to get drug companies to sign up to the AllTrials campaign. 

Dr Ben Goldacre founded the AllTrials campaign.  Why did he found the AllTrials campaign? What was in it for him?  Who suggested it?  Who funded it? Who supported it? And why have we ended up with what Dr Healy describes as a disaster for us all and a victory for the drug industry, all successfully fronted by Dr Ben Goldacre:

Everyone is in a spin.  AllTrials are asking for more donations to continue their successful campaign.

As someone who has been working the GSK system, I can say with confidence that this is a disaster.

Dr David Healy has published HERE a remarkably astute analysis of how GlaxoSmithKline has succeeded in manipulating the AllTrials campaign and giving the appearance of transparency in making drug trial data available:

…….  soon after being fined $3 Billion, GSK trumpeted their endorsement of transparency by signing up to the AllTrials campaign and declaring their intention to put in place a method to allow researchers access to clinical trial data that would go beyond the wildest dreams of researchers.  See April Fool in Harlow, and GSK’s Journey.

Healy notes regarding Dr Ben Goldacre:

When GSK signed up to AllTrials Ben Goldacre rolled over and purred.  The BMJ featured Andrew Witty on their front cover as the candidate of hope.  ………….

In contrast, on this blog, 1boringoldman and on RxISK a small group have warned consistently that this was not good news.  That what would be put in place was a mechanism that gave the appearances of transparency but in fact would lock academics into agreeing with GSK and other companies as to what the outcomes of their trials have been.

No one wanted to rain on the AllTrials parade – it never seems like a good idea to fracture a coalition. RxISK put the AllTrials logo on its front page.

Not content with a few academic ghost authors, GSK’s maneuver has put industry well on the way to making Academia a ghost, a glove puppet manipulated by company marketing departments.

Meanwhile Iain Chalmers co-wrote an editorial with GSK endorsing the GSK approach (The Attitude of Chicks to Trojans and Horses) and the British Government produced a document on clinical trial data access that could have been written in GSK central.

Seasoned observers of Dr Goldacre’s progress and career may feel they have good reason to be sceptical of Dr Goldacre’s actions and motives.  Sun Tsu counselled that to know what the enemy thinks observe what they do, not what they say.

Dr Goldacre in his books and other writing gives the appearance of being critical of the drug industry.  But he only ever seems to write about issues and events that have been known about for a very long time.  Of course, if enough people start making the same observation then perhaps Dr Ben Goldacre may change his approach and write the occasional exposé. Until then, it is a fairly safe bet that Dr Ben Goldacre will carry on as he has always done and never write anything critical about the drug industry which has not already been well covered elsewhere.

In short, Goldacre has ensured he and his camp followers have the fig-leaf to claim he is critical of the drug industry whilst the reality is no damage is done as it has already been done by many others before.

The fact that Dr Goldacre, from absolutely nowhere, suddenly emerged to found the AllTrials campaign is frankly bizarre.  Why him and why then and now?

Dr Ben Goldacre also owns and operates an online “BadScience” forum.  Members of the forum are encouraged to attack practitioners of herbal and complementary and alternative medicine on blogs, in comment fora and to public authorities claiming their treatments are not scientifically proven.  Dr Goldacre wrote in his advice to his forum members: “The time for talking has passed. I draw the line at kidnapping, incidentally.

Now there are good reasons to conclude one too many of these people are bullies.  But there is one supervening reason.  Other reasons include that some members of the BadScience forum block discussion and that some for sport in their spare time disrupt other fora on the internet and attack, bully, abuse and harass ordinary people and parents of very sick children wanting to share information. Groups like Dr Ben Goldacre’s BadScience forum are organised for just such a purpose on the internet.

A bully picks on others who are weaker than them and Dr Ben Goldacre and one too many of his followers seem to be no exception to this. A bully makes sure, right or wrong, he is always on the stronger side.  Dr Ben Goldacre’s main approach is to attack what he claims is “Bad Science“.  He has for years written as a columnist in a UK national newspaper, The Guardian, a “Bad Science” column.  His website is called “BadScience” and his forum is called “BadScience“.

It is of course also a mystery how it could be that a medical doctor with no degree level scientific training and qualifications was appointed to write a column about science.  And at the time Dr Ben Goldacre was a psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry.  Psychiatry is the least successful branch of medicine in history with treatments lacking any scientific foundations like cutting nerves in a patient’s brain and applying 400 volts to a patient’s brain with what is called electro-convulsive “therapy” [ECT].  Do that to your laptop and the results will not fail to disappoint.

So here is the problem and harm Dr Ben Goldacre poses to everyone by his actions.  The drug industry has had the same approach for over a century.  Medicines from herbs, vitamins and many other other natural products like cod liver oil are known for be safe and effective.  The modern pharmaceutical industry has its foundations and origin in supplying just such products.  But now they are inexpensive and not patented, but still effective and so are a threat to the drug industry’s profitability.

The main reason why Complementary and Alternative Medicine is not “scientifically proven” is because no one has been funding the research to prove remedies already known to be safe and effective for hundreds and even thousands of years.  Dr Ben Goldacre knows this.  So like all bullies he takes the stronger side to bully those in a weaker position.

Now let us put some numbers to this so you can see just exactly what kind of bully Dr Ben Goldacre is.  The U.S. National Institutes of Health [NIH] spends annually on medical research about US$27 billion, on pharmaceutically-oriented Western medicine.  The amount it spends on alternative medicine is a tiny tiny fraction of approximately US$130 million and it did not start supporting CAM research until 1992.

So how can Goldacre claim most of CAM has no scientific basis?  That is easy.  No one has paid to do the science on it whereas they spend billions of dollars on research the drug industry benefits from.  For CAM research to catch up would require the US NIH to devote its entire annual budget just to CAM research and do so for several decades.

Yet Dr Ben Goldacre is reported to have said:

one of the central themes of my book [Bad Science] is that there are no real differences between the $600 billion pharmaceutical industry and the $50 billion food supplement pill industry“.

Clearly that is not true when one looks at the amount just the US government spends via the NIH on pharmaceutically-oriented Western medical research.

One of the other problems with Dr Ben Goldacre is that he targets easy targets where criticism might be justified say where an individual makes claims about a product which are not supportable.  That kind of thing is easy.  But the impression given to the entire world by the actions of Dr Ben Goldacre is that all of these treatments are useless and peddled by charlatans when that is not true.

And you must also ask yourself, how can it be then that Dr Ben Goldacre is not campaigning for say half of the US NIH budget to be spent establishing the sound scientific credentials for CAM?  Surely, Dr Goldacre cannot be ignorant of the fact that herbal and CAM treatments and remedies have in many cases long histories of safe and effective use? 

And so why does Dr Ben Goldacre spend so much of his time bullying others when he would be doing a much greater service campaigning for research to prove CAM treatments as safe and effective.  Instead he spends his time trying to eradicate safe and effective CAM treatments and deny them to everyone to the benefit of the drug industry.

Why would he do that if we all can benefit from the wider availability of proven safe effective inexpensive natural treatments?  What is in it for him to harm everyone else’s interests in that way?

And why is he so hell-bent on pursuing the drug industry’s agenda of wiping out herbal medicine and CAM treatments instead of campaigning to establish they are safe and effective?

To know what the enemy thinks observe what they do, not what they say.

And we recommend to all CHS readers to go to Dr David Healy’s blog and read what Dr Healy has to say about Dr Ben Goldacre’s AllTrials campaign and how badly it has ended for all of the rest of us.

This is what Dr Healy has to say about what Dr Ben Goldacre’s AllTrials campaign has achieved:

The key thing that companies are trying to hide are the data on adverse events.  To get to grips with the adverse events in a clinical trial is a bit like playing the children’s game Memory – where you have a bunch of cards with faces turned face down and you get to pick up two and then have to remember where in the mixture those two were when you later turn up a possible match.

Patterns of Deception

In the same way, picking up adverse events is about recognizing patterns – patterns of events, and patterns of deception.

To do this you have to be able to spread maybe a hundred documents out over a big area and dip back into them if something in one document reminds you of something in another.  The new GSMA-ESK remote access system simply won’t allow this.

Not only will it not allow this but it is about to make things far far worse than they are at present.

At the moment when it comes to studies like Study 329, GSK have been stuck by a Court order with putting the Company’s Study Reports up on the web where they can be downloaded and pored over – all 5,500 pages of them for Study 329.  They have refused to do the same for the 77,000 pages of raw data from Study 329, making it available to a small group of us through a remote desktop system.

For all other trials – future and past – investigators won’t even be able to get the Company Study Reports in usable form.  They too will only be accessed remotely.

For anyone who wants to look at the efficacy of a drug this might just about work for outcomes that involve rating scale scores or lipid levels.   The efficacy of drugs is pretty well all that most Cochrane groups, Iain Chalmers and Ben Goldacre are interested in.  The Cochrane exceptions have been Tom Jefferson, Peter Doshi and the Tamiflu group.

But this system is a bust when it comes to adverse events and it won’t work if the efficacy outcomes are in any way complex.