A fundamental question in the latest controversy surrounding Brian Deer and Andrew Wakefield is how competent and objective a reporter is he? With so much hidden – the data for his latest article, his communications with the GMC – on what basis do we accept the objectivity of his world view? Is this someone with a balanced and lucid account of events? Has he any competence to interpret medical data, for which we only have his word. A still continuing discussion on the web blog LeftBrain/RightBrain has left him looking exposed – challenged to produce his GMC correspondence, the only potential defence he has that he did not unduly try to influence the prosecution of Andy Wakefield, he has become brittle. At one point he comments on the group of parents challenging him:
"And they wonder why their children have problems with their brains." (HERE)
But unless you thought that was simply a one-off injudicious statement he returned the following day to elaborate:
"Well, actually Joseph, I didn't intend that observation as an insult. I made it as a shorthand way of raising an issue that I believe may reasonably be raised.
"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." (HERE.)
Now, these are fascinating remarks coming from someone who proposes himself capable of interpreting medical and psychiatric records. He comes back to justify an apparently wild statement as a psychodynamic theory of his own idiosyncratic making, only to tail off once again into personal abuse. Moreover, he seems completely oblivious to what he has done: it is apparently all right lash out at people in this way, and claim medical/scientific authority for his observation.
Let us say finally to the Sunday Times and the GMC it is not all right, and this nonsense must stop.
John Stone, based in London, is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism
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