OPEN LETTER to the Sponsors of Brian Deer’s Lectures at The University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, October 2012
Marshfield Clinic and Labs (Brian H. Ewert, MD, C. Todd Stewart, MD, Gene R. Shaw, MD)
Gundersen Lutheran Clinic Jeffrey E. Thompson, MD, Julio J. Bird, MD, Mary Kuffel, MD)
U of W La Crosse Foundation, Allen Trapp, President, Greg Reichert, Asst. Chancellor
College of Science and Health, Dean Bruce Riley
Departments of Biology, Microbiology, Chemistry, English, Health Education and Promotions, Communication Studies, Exercise and Sports:
Dr. David Howard, Chair, Biology Dept., Dr. S. N. Rajagopal, Chair, Microbiology Dept., Dr. Aaron Monte, Chair, Chemistry Dept. Dr. Susan Crutchfield, Chair, English Dept. Dr. Dan Duquette, Chair, Health Education and Promotions Dr. Linda Dickmeyer, Chair, Communication Studies, Dr. Mark Gibson, Chair, Exercise and Sports Science
Faculty of the Dept. of Microbiology: Sue Anglehart, Marisa Barbknecht, Bonnie Jo Bratina, Michael Hoffman, Michael A. Lazzari, Marc A. Rott, William Schwan, Diane Sewell, Bernadette C. Taylor, Peter Wilker, Mike Winfrey
Susan Betts, Dept. of Microbiology
Premed Club, Jordan L. Ludwigson, President
Biology Club Microbiology Club, William Close, President
Institute for Biomolecular Sciences
Members of Distinguished Speakers Committee
cc: Editor, Racquet Student Newspaper, Chancellor Gow
My name is Jennifer VanDerHorst-Larson, and my open letter to university officials was singled out by Brian Deer for response. As you know, Mr. Deer recently lectured at the university about the Wakefield/MMR vaccine controversy. On his website, Mr. Deer referred to my letter as a form of “abuse.” (Please judge for yourself if it’s abusive.) My letter here. Mr. Deer’s response.
I am the mother of a boy with autism who developed normally – exceeding his milestones – until he received his Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) and other vaccinations at 15 months. He reacted immediately and showed clear evidence of regression the day after his 15-month shots. By 18 months, he had lost all of his skills. By 19 months, all he did was cry, bang his head and say “go” – his only remaining word. I was told to consider an institution for him, and he wasn’t even two.
At age 12, he is now diagnosed as severely autistic and in need of 24-hour supervision. He will never be independent. My son is also diagnosed with colitis – the bowel disease that was diagnosed in the Lancet 12 children with autism – denied by Brian Deer who spoke at La Crosse University. The gut-autism hypothesis has been placed under prolonged attack by those defending the vaccine program, including Brian Deer whose unsupported statements about the Lancet 12 children’s health (“They don’t have bowel disease!”) have resulted in UK parents being unable to find medical help for their autistic children with bowel disease, the effects of which are profound and tragic.
High Court Judge Mitting has since rejected Mr. Deer’s claim that the 12 children were not seriously ill and did not require the medical attention they received from Professor Walker-Smith’s team at the Royal Free Hospital where Dr. Wakefield co-authored the controversial Lancet paper.
I am one of thousands of parents who have reported that their child (or children) regressed following vaccination. I was given the official medical explanation by Minneapolis doctors that my son’s regression was coincidental, even though no other pediatric medicine or procedure is associated with large numbers of “coincidental” reports of regression into autism. To my knowledge, there is no case of a completely unvaccinated child developing normally and then spontaneously, dramatically regressing into autism. I think that’s significant. A retrospective, vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study would tell us more, but the government refuses to undertake such a study.
To Mr. Deer’s claim that the vaccine/autism link is a “fringe” theory put forth by “small groups of ill-informed, misguided” and “malicious people,” “desperate for attention,” I can only respond by asking you to watch this brief CBS interview of former NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy describing how medical authorities have refused to consider the possibility of an autism/vaccine link in susceptible children, for fear of scaring the general public:
There is also the case of Hannah Poling, a child who developed normally until she received 9 vaccine doses at one doctor’s visit. Her family will be compensated in the amount of $20 million over her lifetime by the U.S. government for her autism resulting from MMR and thimerosal-containing vaccines. The Cochrane Review is not reassuring of MMR safety either, concluding: “The design and reporting in MMR safety studies both pre- and post marketing are largely inadequate.” Please see the last page of my letter for links to independent studies that support Dr. Wakefield’s work, including peer-reviewed papers that duplicate his original findings in five additional countries.
People who criticize vaccine safety are not “cranks, flat-earthers, conspiracy theorists, cult members, anti-vaccinationists” or “desperate-parents-looking-for-something-to-blame,” as people like Mr. Deer describe us. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, police officers, scientists, business owners, students, professors…people from all walks of life who consider the current, one-size-fits-all vaccine program insufficiently tested and demonstrably unsafe. The number of vaccines has exploded in a generation – as has autism. Little wonder the vaccine makers and doctors sought and received total indemnification from lawsuits for vaccine injury, an exemption from typical liability that has been in effect since 1988.
As I write this, Mr. Deer’s personal website is advertising “Flumist” – a flu vaccination. As regards the $34 billion global vaccine industry, Brian Deer is far from an impartial observer. Neutral journalists are not asked to be keynote speakers at pharmaceutical conventions in luxury accommodations in the French Alps hosted by a foundation with financial links to three MMR manufacturers, as Mr. Deer was in November, 2011.
I made 12 points in my letter about Mr. Deer, and I wish to reply to his responses here. I am beginning with the final point because I believe Mr. Deer’s response to it is the simplest, most clear-cut example of how he misleads the public.
12. Among the more egregious of his many false statements at La Crosse was Mr. Deer’s claim that Dr. Wakefield “called on parents to boycott the MMR vaccine.” He in fact recommended parents request the single measles, mumps and rubella shots that were available at that time in the UK, rather than the combination shot.
Mr. Deer replied: “Ms VanDerHorst-Larson’s posited distinction is devoid of difference.”
Deer’s claim that Wakefield called on parents to boycott the MMR would lead the great majority of people to conclude that Wakefield advised parents against vaccinating their children for measles, mumps and rubella. Very few members of the audience at his La Crosse lecture would be aware that in the UK in 1998, single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines were available as well as the combination shot, making the claim that “Wakefield called on parents to boycott the MMR vaccine” a lie by omission, misleading listeners to believe Wakefield was opposed to vaccinating children against these diseases.
At a press briefing, Andrew Wakefield was asked by the dean of the Royal Free medical school (Arie Zuckerman) to endorse the vaccine program which at the time included the option of single vaccines. At the briefing, Wakefield was asked what his personal opinion was, and his response, which endorsed single vaccines, was politicized by the government and the pharmaceutical industry by the removal of the single vaccine option in the following months. The removal of this option was certain to have led to a reduction in vaccination rates – for which Wakefield has received full blame.
Now back to question #1.
1. Regarding Mr. Deer’s credibility, even those unfamiliar with the details of the controversy would have to question his claim: “Neither I nor BMJ knew Wakefield was in Texas.” (Dr. Wakefield has resided in Texas for 11 years and Mr. Deer has “investigated” and reported on him while he has lived in Texas.)
Mr. Deer adds a new unsupported claim – that Dr. Wakefield “looks to people such as Jennifer VanDerHorst Larson for his livelihood.” This statement is false. As for Deer’s denial of his knowledge of Wakefield’s residency, Deer’s 2009 BMJ article reveals that he had full knowledge of Wakefield living in Austin: “Wakefield has left Britain to live in Austin, Texas, where he runs a clinic…”
Multiple references show Deer knew for certain that Wakefield was living in Texas from 2005-2010. Deer now implies that Wakefield may have moved to Minnesota in 2010 simply because he gave a talk there. Following that logic, one could infer that Mr Deer now resides in La Crosse rather than in London! The suggestion that Wakefield moved (with no evidence to back it up) appears to be an attempt to evade Dr. Wakefield’s defamation lawsuit.
As for Deer’s claim that his co-defendant, BMJ, also did not know Wakefield was in Texas, evidence that BMJ knew is contained in multiple links below. Yet, BMJ Editor Fiona Godlee testified under penalty of perjury that she did not believe anyone at BMJ ever knew Wakefield was a Texas resident. This is clearly false.
My second point:
2. In his letter to the BMJ, National Whistleblower Center board member David Lewis, who examined the “Lancet 12” children’s histopathological grading sheets, makes it clear that Wakefield’s co-author, pathologist Amar Dhillon, did indeed diagnose colitis “in a number of children” contrary to Mr. Deer’s statement at your university that none of the children had bowel disease.
Mr. Deer’s response does not disprove Dr. Lewis’ claim, but only attempts to smear him – stating that Lewis “has no qualifications in medicine or pathology.” However, editors at Annals of Internal Medicine rated Dr. Lewis in the top 10% of reviewers in 2010. Lewis was considered sufficiently qualified by Nature to have had his analysis of the Wakefield matter reported on by the prestigious international science journal. The National Whistleblower’s Center, which Deer inaccurately portrays as a “front” for an employment firm, is called “an advocacy group” by Nature.
Lewis’ accomplishments in medical and environmental research have been covered by Nature, Science, Lancet, JAMA, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The London Times, NPR, PBS, CBS, ABC, and BBC.
(Speaking of credentials, Deer testified under oath that part one of his BMJ series was externally peer-reviewed when in fact it was not. Dr. Harvey Marcovitch, listed as the external reviewer, was an Associate Editor of BMJ and was listed as such in an accompanying editorial in BMJ.)
In that same response, Deer thoroughly misleads the reader about the evidence of the two histopathologists writing to BMJ. Contrary to what Deer implies, both histopathologists supported the Lancet case series findings. What they actually said can be read in the BMJ.
Dr. Wakefield’s detailed explanation of how Deer misrepresented the pathology – referencing the actual documents – can be seen in this video at the 5:30 mark (recorded at a university where Dr. Wakefield was allowed to speak).
Regarding Deer’s claim that “five experts in the appropriate gastroenterological specialties, consulted by us, confirmed a lack of enterocolitis in the data,” it is noteworthy that when challenged by Eugenie Samuel Reich in Nature News, the most vociferous of BMJ’s experts Professor Bjarnason said the forms don’t clearly support Deer/BMJ’s charges. Furthermore, not a single one of those experts responded after Dr. Dhillon defended his role in the study.
My third point:
3. Brian Deer stated at your university that Dr. Peter Fletcher was never Chief Scientific Officer of the UK Department of Health. This statement is easily proven false. Deer misrepresented the UK’s former Chief Scientific Officer, no doubt due to Dr. Fletcher’s criticisms of the MMR: “There are very powerful people in positions of great authority in Britain and elsewhere who have staked their reputations and careers on the safety of MMR and they are willing to do almost anything to protect themselves.”
As Deer now concedes in his response to me, Dr. Fletcher’s correct title was Chief Scientific Officer to the Department of Health in the UK. The questioner at Deer’s lecture had omitted “Department of Health” from Fletcher’s title. Deer could have corrected the questioner’s oversight, but he instead chose to answer in such a way as to imply that Dr. Fletcher was never a Chief Scientific Officer of any kind in the UK. The fact is, the Department of Health’s Chief Scientific Officer would have been the one concerned with issues of vaccine safety, making Fletcher’s comments on MMR extremely relevant.
Regarding Deer’s criticism of Dr. Fletcher’s expert witness work, please see my response in #11 below.
My next point:
4. Wakefield’s co-author in the Lancet Paper, Dr. John Walker Smith, was recently exonerated and had his license to practice medicine restored, showing that Deer’s allegations against Wakefield and Walker Smith, which were rubber stamped by the General Medical Council, had no foundation.
The reasons Mr. Deer provides for the High Court quashing the GMC findings against Dr. John Walker-Smith are false. High Court Judge Mitting gave the GMC’s attorney Joanna Glynn every opportunity to provide the missing arguments and she did not do so. Mitting also reviewed the case to see whether there were any arguments. He did not dismiss the findings on a technical point: the GMC failed to provide the reasons in the High Court just as they had at the hearing, and Mitting was unable to find any himself. He made clear rulings about what the evidence did and did not show. The GMCs evidence simply did not support the charges which they were determined to uphold.
Virtually all of the accusations against Walker-Smith related to alleged misconduct in the Wakefield ‘Lancet paper’ of which Walker-Smith was senior author and clinician. Justice Mitting reviewed all the evidence relating to the charges (which were based on Deer’s allegations) and could not find a basis for them. It is simply impossible to see how, if Walker-Smith did not mis-report in a paper which he signed, Wakefield could have been guilty of the same quashed accusations (with the exception of the disputed disclosure on ethical approval – where there is certainly no motive for fraud).
Deer is well aware that Walker-Smith, as the leading clinician in his field (widely known as the father of pediatric gastroenterology), had generic approval from the ethics committee of the Royal Free Hospital to retain biopsies for scientific investigation that had been taken for primarily clinical purposes, and this is what Justice Mitting said occurred. The clinical procedures required ethical approval, which was obtained, and the paper needed no ethical approval because it was simply an early report on children investigated for clinical reasons and did not require it. Deer can say that truthfully there was no approval but there was no breach of ethical guidelines, so he is quoting the judge’s findings in a deliberately misleading way. Furthermore, the judge determined that children were genuinely sick and properly investigated contrary to Deer’s allegations.
Deer is also fully aware of, but does not disclose, the reason Wakefield did not appeal: he was not covered by insurance that funded the pursuit of an appeal as Walker-Smith had been. In fact he began an appeal but had to withdraw for lack of funding, and it currently lies in abeyance. The charges against all three were entirely based on accusations by Brian Deer.
Following the exoneration of Dr. Walker-Smith, the University College London (the parent institution to the Royal Free where Dr. Wakefield was employed) stopped its own inquiry into “the Wakefield affair” on advice of the UK Research and Integrity Office. This was despite the BMJ’s plea for the inquiry to continue. The UCL stated that such an inquiry would cost a substantial sum of money and would yield nothing conclusive. So much for Mr. Deer’s mountains of evidence against Andrew Wakefield.
Mr. Deer’s citations from popular media vilifying Dr. Wakefield prove nothing more than the workings of the news cycle – medical journals establish “facts” that are picked up and republished, unquestioned by general media which rely heavily on ad revenues from pharmaceutical companies.
Next, I wrote:
5. Brian Deer’s attacks against Wakefield began when his Sunday Times Editor, Paul Nuki, told him “Find something big” on the “MMR” as Deer himself revealed here Nuki had a DIRECT FAMILY TIE to a government employee responsible for MMR safety. Paul Nuki is the son of Professor George Nuki who sat on the Committee on Safety in Medicines when it passed Pluserix MMR vaccine as safe for use in 1987.
Deer accused me of altering his words even though I provided the link to the quote. I can only refer readers to the link and ask you to draw your own conclusions. I consider it noteworthy that Deer’s sentence denying the cited quote also contains a personal attack against me: an “embittered anti-vaccine campaigner.”
Deer responds that Nuki senior was a rheumatologist, which is irrelevant; he was on the Committee on Safety in Medicines when GSK’s Pluserix MMR vaccine was approved for use. It is also irrelevant that Pluserix was licensed throughout the world, as it and similar products using the Urabe strain of the mumps virus have been withdrawn in many places including Canada, Japan, Brazil and Italy. Point of fact: the British licensing authority was warned of the dangerous adverse effects of Pluserix (which subsequently had to be withdrawn) in November 1987, nearly a year before the vaccine was introduced in the UK. Pluserix caused meningitis in children in the UK just as it had in children in Canada. This medical scandal is passed over by Deer who merely states that Pluserix was licensed worldwide.
Nuki junior subsequently moved from the Sunday Times to head the main National Health Service website ‘NHS Choices’. He was also co-opted to a Department of Business committee advising on how to control science journalism.
My sixth point:
6. In February 2009, Sunday Times proprietor James Murdoch was appointed to the board of MMR manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline with a brief to “help to review external issues that might have the potential for serious impact upon the group’s business and reputation.” This was swiftly followed by new attacks on Andrew Wakefield’s reputation by Deer and other Times Newspaper journalists.
Deer replies that the Murdoch family could not have instigated the original investigation. However, I never made any such claim. I clearly stated that it was the new torrent of allegations in 2009, closely following on the heels of Murdoch’s appointment to the GSK board – with a brief to help protect the group’s reputation, for which he was paid substantial sums of money – that’s in question.
Mr. Deer claims James Murdoch was not the proprietor of The Sunday Times and had no editorial responsibility. The fact is, Murdoch took “direct responsibility for the strategic and operational development of News Corporation’s television, newspaper, and related digital assets in Europe…” according to his Wikipedia entry. He was direct boss of the Eastern Empire including Times Newspapers. He’s described in The Telegraph as having “control of British daily newspapers The Times and The Sun, weekly papers The Sunday Times…” This would clearly include influence over editorial content. The fact that Deer has “never heard of any Murdoch family member expressing any view about vaccines” is completely irrelevant.
My next point:
7. Mr. Deer failed to disclose that he was privately the author of at least three complaints to the General Medical Council that later took away Wakefield’s license. Violating journalistic ethics, Deer had created the very news that he later covered. (GMC created a letter a year later stating Deer was not listed as the complainant.)
Deer usually defends this accusation in this manner: “Malicious liars and cranks fabricated the suggestion that I was reporting my own allegations.” (Last comment.)
But this time, Deer states that he was not the complainant because the GMC itself was the complainant. However, the letter showing GMC as the complainant was produced a full year after Deer made at least three formal complaints against the three doctors, and it was also stated that he had done so in a High Court ruling of Mr Justice Eady, who stated:
Well before the programme was broadcast [Mr Deer] had made a complaint to the GMC about the Claimant. His communications were made on 25 February, 12 March and 1 July 2004. In due course, on 27 August of the same year, the GMC sent the Claimant a letter notifying him of the information against him.
Deer’s argues, “It would have been irresponsible and perverse for me to decline to produce evidence when requested by a statutory body inquiring into matters impacting on the safety of children.” However, his position was very different from an objective, disinterested journalist being interviewed by an investigating authority: he was clearly requesting that the doctors be prosecuted by the GMC, making him a hidden key player in the very news story that he was covering. Moreover, it was a mutually beneficial arrangement with the GMC and its lawyers, ensuring that they would continue to get beneficial coverage.
My eighth point:
8. Mr. Deer also failed to disclose that there were no complaints against Wakefield by the children’s families, most of whom very strongly support him, and many of whom credit his team with a diagnosis that led to effective treatment of their children’s bowel disease.
Deer was unable to challenge my statement that no Lancet 12 parent complained about Wakefield to the GMC, and he instead provided the false allegation of just one parent who misinterpreted how his son’s case was represented in the Lancet paper. The parent of Child 11 falsely accuses the Lancet paper of saying his son’s autistic regression began within two weeks of his MMR vaccine, when the paper only said his son developed viral pneumonia within that time frame – a fact this parent does not dispute. Indeed, this parent blamed the MMR vaccine for his child’s illness and regression that followed his child’s MMR shot, just as Wakefield reported.
Furthermore, Brian Deer misrepresented this child’s developmental history, writing in the BMJ that the child’s regression began two months prior to his MMR vaccine, based on an incorrect hospital discharge summary that Deer failed to fact-check (as the child’s father referenced in a letter he addressed to Brian Deer). Therefore, this father’s allegations against Dr. Wakefield are not correct and stand in stark contrast to the majority of the parents of the Lancet children who fully support him.
Multiple records by independent medical experts establish the facts. Aside from the error in the discharge summary, no one – no doctor, no parent, no document – has ever said Child 11 was anything but healthy and developing normally before receiving the MMR. Only Brian Deer has stated otherwise, in the BMJ. Deer has similarly manipulated facts to make symptoms of autism appear to have existed prior to the MMR shots of the other children in the study – contrary to parent reports and medical evidence.
In his response, Deer cites Statement 4 of a consensus report of leading U.S. experts in gastroenterology as evidence that “Wakefield’s claims of having discovered a bowel disease distinctive to autism have been rejected.” However, he has misrepresented this report which does not dispute that “NLH of the ileum and colon are an abnormal finding in most children with ASDs.” Rather, it states that similar findings are known to be present in children with typical development, as well as children with food allergies and immunodeficiencies. It concludes, “The significance of these findings is unclear.” The same report laments the absence of “high-quality clinical research data.” (Who would seek or provide funding for such a study after the experiences of three of UK’s leading doctors – Walker-Smith, Murch and Wakefield?)
I then wrote:
9. The Lancet withdrew the Wakefield paper seven months after the Lancet’s owner, Sir Crispin Davis, became a non-executive director of MMR manufacturer Glaxo SmithKline. His brother, Nigel Davis, was the high court judge who presided over the secret hearing to remove funding from MMR litigation. Nigel Davis then issued a statement (referring to himself in the third person): “the possibility of any conflict of interest arising from his brother’s position did not occur to him.”
My letter contained one error – confusing the timing of the Lancet’s withdrawal of the Wakefield paper with the timing of the following action taken by the Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton: Dr. Horton made the false allegation on the BBC that the Lancet was unaware of Wakefield’s involvement in the MMR litigation at the time of the 1998 paper’s publication. (Horton’s correspondence with Wakefield’s law firm prior to the Lancet article being published is proof of his knowledge.) Horton took this action of distancing himself from the paper in 2004; however the paper was not retracted by the journal until the GMC findings in 2010. Horton was silent while his boss, Crispin Davis, CEO of Reed Elsevier (Lancet’s owner) made allegations about Wakefield to the House of Common Science and Technology Committee on March 1, 2004, without either disclosing his own recent appointment as director of MMR maker Glaxo SmithKline or that it was his brother, Sir Nigel (now Lord Justice) Davis, who had ruled on the MMR litigation just three days before.
Not only did Lord Justice Davis later tell an official investigation that “the possibility of any conflict of interest arising from his brother’s position [with GSK] did not occur to him” (as he had originally briefed the press when the matter came to light) but that he did not actually know his brother held the position, which might have sounded more credible if he had stated so in the first place. He had also somehow been unaware of the Lancet editor distancing the journal from Wakefield before the hearing despite the news storm of the preceding weekend. In short, Judge Davis presided over a closed hearing appealing the Legal Service Commission’s decision to withhold funding for MMR litigation, and his reasons were not published (contrary to Deer’s claim that the hearing was not secret). Later, Judge Davis’ decision was upheld by Lord Leveson (who is now engaged in a public inquiry into media abuse in the UK), and his reasons were likewise not published. It should be noted that Leveson has in the current inquiry refused to consider concerns from parents over Brian Deer and his Sunday Times MMR investigation, and by “coincidence,” Leveson has been assisted by Queen’s Counsel Robert Jay who represented the Legal Services Commission at the Davis hearing.
Regarding the 2007 case Deer cited that was “materially identical case to the one that failed in England in 2003,” it was not a case heard in U.S. civil court, but in “vaccine court” which is part of HHS – the government agency responsible for the safety of the vaccines they approve. That case, as well as the complete history of how thousands of autistic children in the U.S. were denied compensation for their vaccine injuries due to actions from US and UK courts, are described here.
My tenth point:
10. The chairman of the GMC panel that struck Wakefield off the medical register, Surendra Kumar, failed to disclose that he owned shares in MMR manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.
Mr. Deer responded that on November 3, 2008, Wakefield and his two co-defendants in the GMC case formally submitted to the panel that its chairman had no conflicts of interest. However, Kumar went into the GMC hearing not having disclosed 1) that he owned shares in GSK, 2) that he had sat on the Committee of Safety in Medicines (CSM) 1996-1999, and 3) that he currently sat on two of the licensing authority committees (created after CSM was broken up c.2002). If the doctors and their attorneys protested, the entire proceeding would have to re-start from scratch which was entirely impractical. Therefore, Kumar’s conflicts were not contested. Kumar should have disqualified himself. Perhaps he knew that if all of these conflicts emerged far enough into the hearing, no action would be taken to remove him.
As for Deer’s reference to “cranks” making the conflict of interest allegation, and his link to his own article, please see #13 below about ad hominem attacks.
My 11th point:
11. Mr. Deer’s opening slide at the La Crosse talk, clearly intended to refer to Wakefield, speaks volumes about Deer’s lack of neutrality: “If he wasn’t so fucking greedy, he’d a been tougher to spot.” (The only money Wakefield earned as an expert witness was donated, by him, to the Royal Free Hospital. This is well documented.)
As Mr. Deer’s response exemplifies, it’s a continuing theme of his to demonize expert witnesses who give testimony that is critical of MMR safety – Fletcher, Wakefield and others are characterized as “greedy” and worse. Deer attempts to discredit 13 of them (including world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. John Walker-Smith) on his personal website. And yet, expert witnesses testifying on behalf of vaccine manufacturers are left alone by Mr. Deer. Dr. Stephen Bustin, for example, amassed £225,000 ($360,000) even before he gave evidence at the Cedillo hearing in the U.S. (in a similar case of MMR vaccine injury). That’s the equivalent of 1500 hours of work in a relatively short time period, but no challenges from Brian Deer. It’s noteworthy that in the link Deer provides to the list of experts involved in the MMR litigation, he describes their duties as “the attack on the vaccine,” belying his loyalty not to objectivity in science journalism, but to relentless promotion of the fastest growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry: vaccines.
The professional fees paid to Dr Wakefield as a medical expert over the course of his nine years involved in the MMR litigation were substantially less than that claimed by Deer. They were also substantially less than fees paid to witnesses for the MMR manufacturers. The money was donated by Dr Wakefield to an initiative to build a new Gastroenterology Center at the Royal Free through the exploitation of proprietary technology. As the GMC lawyers wrote in an attendance note with Mr. Chengiz Tarhan, the Finance Director of the Medical School, “However, CT (Chengiz Tarhan) pointed to a letter from him to Dr. Wakefield dated June 26, 1998 where CT confirmed Dr Wakefield’s wishes that all the inventor profit from the Transfer Factor patent was to go to a charity and that the inventors would make no money for themselves whatsoever.” This is in Wakefield’s affadavit, and is therefore a public document.
Mr. Deer has also falsely reported that Dr. Wakefield failed to disclose his work as a medical expert in MMR litigation, even though he disclosed it in multiple published papers – as Wakefield cites at the 1:24:12 mark on this video. (Deer’s claim that the 12 children were brought to the Royal Free by lawyers and were not clinically referred is proven false by the chronology given by Dr. Wakefield at the 1:22:05 mark on the same video.)
In summation, I believe I’ve provided more than enough evidence to demonstrate that there are
two sides to this story – only one of which has been covered by the mainstream media – the one that’s favorable to one of its top advertisers: the pharmaceutical industry.
If I could rewrite my original letter today, aside from correcting the error in #9, I would add one more point:
#13. If Brian Deer has such a strong case, why does he rely on ad hominem attacks against autism parents such as myself as well as his many other critics? If he speaks the truth about Andrew Wakefield, why the need for constant name-calling and outrageous smear attacks?
Autism father and online journalist John Stone, who writes about the Wakefield case here is a frequent recipient of Deer’s libelous attacks. In one instance – Deer wrote:
“… Mr Stone is stalking me… I think Mr Stone is best understood as a living example of how autistic disorders, and allied conditions, such as pathological demand avoidance syndrome, psychopathy and whathaveyou, are genetic. Certainly, if you are aware of his behaviour, you can see how hard he would run from the idea that it was the expression of his own genetic makeup that lies behind his son’s disorder.” A comment.
Deer frequently targets parents who criticize his work, and blames them for their children’s autism:
“And they wonder why their children have problems with their brains….” Comment 19:39.
“I genuinely think that the three individuals I was criticising – and I know who all three of them are – do need to question whether their personal behavioural issues are indicative of a better explanation for their children’s issues. Certainly a lot better explanation than MMR… The festering nastiness, the creepy repetitiveness, the weasly, deceitful, obsessiveness, all signal pathology to me.” Final comment.
Of one of his most persistent critics, Deer writes:
“The most startling array of particularly nauseating falsehoods were authored by a … buffoon with mental or characterological issues… [who is] published at a particularly deranged cranksite.”
Deer somehow accessed private medical records of the Lancet 12 children, posted their names on his website and distorted their medical facts to suit his agenda (for example, calling symptoms of a common ear infection an early sign of autism, thereby making the child’s autism symptoms appear to predate the child’s MMR shot). He justifies his unethical behavior by invoking “the public interest”:
“The cranks and malicious liars need to beware. Medical confidentiality is not absolute. There is a balancing that needs to be performed. Confidentiality needs to be balanced against the public interest. If the overriding public interest requires that confidentiality be broken, it will be broken.” See comment.
None of these examples is the writing of an objective journalist. But then, Brian Deer is not an objective journalist. Deer appears to be no longer employed by any news organization, has not published an article in six months and has no visible means of support aside from advertising revenues from his website. He has never reported on the funding source(s) for his attacks on Wakefield. More to the point, he has played a major role in the corruption of the scientific process that should have led to greater knowledge about autism. But just the opposite has occurred. The “elaborate fraud” was in fact initiated by individuals with an interest in vaccine industry profits – an interest that has been aided by Brian Deer.
Thank you for taking the time to read my response and for considering the other side of this controversy. If you’d like to read the scientific studies that support a link between regressive autism and bowel disease, a link between bowel disease and measles virus, a link between measles virus and vaccination with MMR, and wider safety concerns over MMR, you won’t find them listed in TIME magazine, USA Today, Pediatrics or BMJ – all of which rely on pharmaceutical advertising. An autism father whose child regressed following his MMR has compiled many of those studies at this UK website.
To see a list of peer-reviewed papers that duplicate Dr. Wakefield’s original findings in five additional countries, including the US, Italy, Venezuela, Canada and Poland see HERE. A critique of the 16 epidemiological studies frequently cited to defend vaccine safety, including the MMR can be found here. For reference, Wakefield’s now retracted “Lancet paper” is here.
Some local parents speak about their affected children on YouTube (I am not identified in the video, but am wearing a red scarf). Andrew Wakefield’s La Crosse press conference and Brian Deer’s lecture are also on this YouTube.
I’ve included a brief bio to give you a sense of what I do in addition to parenting a 12-year-old boy with regressive autism. I think you’ll agree, it’s not the bio of a “crank.” I’m particularly proud of the Holland Autism Center which I founded so that my son and other children with autism can maximize their potential while spending their childhoods with their parents – not in institutions.
Jennifer VanDerHorst Larson, Co-founder, President, The Canary Party
Owner/CEO Vibrant Technologies; Owner, Founder, CEO Holland Autism Center and Clinic; Founding Board Chair of Children with Autism Deserve Education (CADE); Board member of Autism Recovery Foundation; Co-Founder of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota; 2012 National Republican delegate for Minnesota
The Holland Center is a pediatric rehabilitation treatment center. Opened in 2004, it was created to provide an integrated treatment approach to children with autism. Holland integrates ABA, speech, occupational therapy alongside biomedical treatments for children in a chemical-free, gluten/casein/peanut-free environment.
Honors: “25 Women to Watch” Minneapolis/St.Paul Business Journal 2008, “40 Under Forty” Minneapolis/St.Paul Business Journal 2007, “Best Places to Work- 2007, 2008” and “Fast 50 Private Companies”- 2006.
The Canary Party is a movement created to stand up for the victims of medical injury, environmental toxins, and industrial foods by restoring the balance to our free and civil society and empowering consumers to make health and nutrition decisions that promote wellness.
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