Fiona Godlee, British Medical Journal editor’s defence of their failure to disclose financial interests “it did not occur to us”(HERE) , brought to mind the very similar reaction of MMR litigation judge Sir Nigel Davis when he was asked about his brother’s directorship of MMR defendants GlaxoSmithKline. Sir Nigel seems to have issued two press statements (HERE):
"In 2003, Mr Justice Davis's brother was appointed as a non-executive director of Glaxo SmithKline, a company which was formed as a result of a merger with SmithKline Beecham. At the date of the hearing before Davis J (February 2004), the possibility of any conflict of interest arising from his brother's position did not occur to him. If he was wrong, any possible remedy must be sought in the court of appeal."
"In 2003, Mr Justice Davis's brother was appointed as a non-executive director of GSK. At the date of the hearing before Mr Justice Davis (February 2004), the possibility of any conflict of interest arising from his brother's position was not raised with him and did not occur to him. If he was wrong, any possible remedy must be sought in the court of appeal."
Later on when there was an investigation by the Office for Judicial Complaints Sir Nigel seems to have remembered after all that he didn’t know. Meanwhile, it also does not seem to have occurred to his brother Sir Crispin, when three days after Sir Nigel’s adjudication in the MMR litigation he gave evidence on the Wakefield affair to a House of Commons Select Committee as boss of the Lancet, either that he was a director of GSK or that his brother was the officiating judge in the case.
Brian Deer, however, was hugely annoyed with me for pointing it out, writing in his usual dispassionate and factually balanced style:
"Take, for example, their latest campaign: the denigration of a High Court judge. Mr John Stone of JABS, who I've previously characterised as being, in my view, "the doyen of petty complainers", notes that Sir Crispin Davis, chief executive of publishing and information giant Reed Elsevier (which owns the Lancet), and, since July 2003 a non-executive director of drug company GSK, was the brother of Sir Nigel Davis, the presiding judge in a High Court judicial review, in February 2004, related to MMR.
“The ruling elite remains surprisingly small. But for Mr Stone this discovery is orgasmic: he's been insinuating conspiracy for years. Promptly, Jackie and Co issued a JABS press release, impressively dated "London, England, 13 May 2007". It was evidently hold-the-front-page stuff...
"JABS, again, seeks to suggest a connection between the lawsuit failure and Crispin Davis. How that works, god only knows. The mind of Mr Stone is mysterious. But, if Crispin Davis had any interest or influence - which I'm sure he didn't - it would have been to encourage the funding to continue, and to allow the MMR cases to go to trial. Although JABS has persistently suggested that somehow only they were distressed by the scheduled hearing's abandonment, the truth is that the drug companies were anxious to see the cases heard in London: preferring the usual wisdom of an English judge to the frequent insanity of American juries."
By now there seems to have been an awful lot of “not occurring” going on.
More recently the collective amnesia seems have infected Deer himself. It evidently did not occur to him when disclosing his conflicts of interest to BMJ that he had recently enjoyed the hospitality of the American College of Toxicology at a conference in Baltimore (HERE) heavily sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, and notably MMR manufacturer GSK (HERE ).
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.