By Anne Dachel
Dr. Max Wiznitzer: ‘If you can't trust the integrity of the researcher, you can't trust the research.’ (HERE)
On April 4, Dr. Max Wiznitzer spoke at Marietta College in Marietta Ohio about autism and vaccines. Wiznitzer is considered an autism expert because he’s a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, OH and he’s got 25 years experience working with autistic children. He’s also testified a number of times against parents who claimed that vaccines caused autism in their children.
In his speech at Marietta College, his message was clear: Vaccines don’t cause autism and British doctor Andrew Wakefield’s research on the MMR vaccine was a fraud. Wiznitzer said, ‘If you can't trust the integrity of the researcher, you can't trust the research.’
Wiznitzer claimed that “Wakefield's hypothesis was fueled by media attention and peoples' willingness to believe an unscientific study because it was published in a journal.”
Wakefield was the center of huge media storm back in January when British reporter Brian Deer had a lengthy article published in the British Medical Journal. It was all about how Wakefield had manipulated his patients’ medical records to create a link between vaccines and autism.
The American media ate it up. Newspapers ran stories and the major TV networks gave it lots of coverage, even bringing in their medical experts for commentary.
Lost in all of this were the actual people involved in Wakefield’s work. Not one source talked to any of the parents of the 12 children Wakefield wrote about in his original 1998 Lancet paper. These were the autistic children he treated as a gastroenterologist. He found they had a novel form of bowel disease. Their parents had come to him for help. These parents reported that their children regressed after receiving the MMR vaccine. The U.S. press left most of this out of their reporting, alleging only that Wakefield linked vaccines to autism and he did it for personal gain.
Righteous indignation flowed from news anchors and network doctors. Medical fraud would not to be tolerated by CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CNN.
Sanjay Gupta went on CBS NEWS and interviewed Wakefield. Gupta told him, "These charges are a big deal in the world of science. The most damning evidence of all is that perhaps these numbers, the dates, were all fabricated to sort of make a case.”
George Stephanopoulos at ABC NEWS during an interview of Wakefield said, "Given all this [fraud], why should anyone trust what you have to say about this matter?"
Dr. Nancy Snyderman at NBC NEWS: "They're [the BMJ] saying he fabricated data, that this was fraud, that he willingly changed the details about the kids he reported on. They do not mince their words. ...This is a shock that is going to be heard around the world."
“Let me read to you from the British Medical Journal, ‘Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest? That he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project?
“That’s not editorial opinion. That’s scientific opinion.”
Dr. Manny Alvarez at FOX NEWS in a segment entitled, Stop Lying About the Autism-Vaccine ‘Link,’ had this to say: “Now, to find out that Dr. Wakefield’s research was an “elaborate fraud,” with alleged financial motives, hurts me more than anything.
“In my opinion, scientific fraud is one of the most lethal crimes that any person can commit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Doctors take an oath of ‘do no harm.’ And for a doctor to knowingly publish fraudulent “data” to support bogus claims for personal and professional gain is disgusting.
“I feel angry, but more importantly I feel sad, not only for my Ryan, but for the millions children and their families that are still searching for answers.
“I have no doubt that understanding autism and its roots will be identified in the near future. Hopefully, not by doctors like Wakefield, but by doctors who are really looking out for our children.”
By far the most damning coverage of Wakefield came from CNN, specifically from news anchor Anderson Cooper.
“A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines is an ‘elaborate fraud,’ according to a medical journal -- a charge the physician behind the study vigorously denies.”
During an interview of Wakefield, Cooper said, “Not only did you do a study that was scientifically and ethically flawed, it was…an elaborate fraud….You altered numerous facts about patients’ medical histories to support your claim…”
“Sir, if you’re lying then your book is also a lie. If your study is a lie, then your book is a lie.”
From the outside, it looked like the American media was doing its job and was devoted to uncovering the truth.
In reality however, this was coverage of convenience. Look at the recent breaking news reports revealing that a top vaccine researcher paid by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been charged with multiple counts of fraud and money laundering.
Danish scientist, Dr. Poul Thorsen has long been a hero to the American medical community and federal health officials. He’s one of the major players in the famous “Danish Studies” that soundly disproved a link between vaccines and autism. This research has been used for years to silence the experts who believe vaccines are seriously harming our children. The media has cited it endlessly as proof of vaccine safety. The Institute of Medicine relied on it for their famous 2004 report that declared the overwhelming evidence showed no link between vaccines and autism. And the federal vaccine court used this research against parents who claimed that vaccines caused autism in their children.
This past month we learned that there’s a dark side to Thorsen. While he’s been a favorite of U.S. officials who need his research to back their claims that vaccines don’t cause autism, he’s now accused to stealing some of their funding. U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking to extradite him on 13 counts of wire fraud and nine counts of money laundering. He’s supposed to have stolen over $1 million of autism research funding. A Danish news source said that in 2002 Thorsen moved to Denmark and became the principal investigator for the grant, and was responsible for administering the research money awarded by the CDC.
Thorsen was hired to investigate a possible link between vaccines and autism and he gave the agency the findings they wanted. They were happy to continue paying him through 2008.
During the time he was researching vaccines, he submitted over a dozen fraudulent claims, signed by a laboratory section chief at the CDC, each for repayment of expenses that he claimed were related to his research.
That is huge. What does this do to the credibility of his findings that supposedly cleared vaccines of any link to autism? Why isn’t the media demanding that CDC officials explain how this could have happened?
It seems no one cares, at least not the people at the major networks in the U.S.
Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Anderson Cooper, Dr. Manny Alvarez, George Stephanopoulos, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta haven’t said a word about it. Not a word.
The emotional attack we witnessed when the issue was Dr. Wakefield’s research seemed to show that these news people really cared about the safety of childhood vaccines. They were right there telling us that when someone creates false claims of damaging side effects it could cause parents not to vaccinate and put kids at risk.
Where is their concern when charges involving Thorsen’s findings are being made? What is his safety claims aren’t valid?
This brings up a recent PBS interview HERE
on the same subject with Dr. David Amaral, research director at the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis. Amaral is one of the top experts in the country when it comes to autism. Robert MacNeal, a veteran journalist, talked to Dr. Amaral about the possible cause of autism.
MacNeil asked, “What is your position today on vaccines and autism?”
In response to this, Amaral gave the broad disclaimer, “I think it's pretty clear that, in general, vaccines are not the culprit.” And the reason was the standard, studies show no link.
Then he added this blockbuster, “It's not to say, however, that there is a small subset of children who may be particularly vulnerable to vaccines.”
He went on to say, “And in their case, having the vaccines, or particular vaccines, particularly in certain kinds of situations -- if the child was ill, if the child had a precondition. Like a mitochondrial defect. Vaccinations for those children actually may be the environmental factor that tipped them over the edge of autism. And I think it is incredibly important, still, to try and figure out what, if any, vulnerabilities, in a small subset of children, might make them at risk for having certain vaccinations.”
MacNeil asked if more studies of these possibly susceptible kids should be done.
Amaral answered, “Yeah. So I think, personally, it's a reasonable thing to do. Because I think that autism is ultimately going to have many, many causes. There are going be many, many subsets of children that are going to have different etiologies. Some of which are going be more environmental, some of which are going be more genetic. And I frankly don't think that there's going to be a large group of children that -- their autism is caused by their standard immunizations. But you know, it could be a small subset.”
Isn’t this what Wakefield did? Didn’t he propose the possibility that vaccines were harming certain children and more study was needed?
So why haven’t we heard from Alvarez, Cooper, Gupta, Snyderman, and Stephanopoulos regarding the public statements of David Amaral? Isn’t Amaral also perpetrating a fraud, in the words of Nancy Snyderman? Isn’t he also lying, according to Anderson Cooper?
This selective coverage can only be seen as blatant hypocrisy.
When considering Poul Thorsen’s actions, the words of Max Wiznitzer need to repeated, ‘If you can't trust the integrity of the researcher, you can't trust the research.’
And I’d like to add, if you can’t trust the integrity of members of the media, you can’t trust their reporting.
Anne Dachel is media editor for Age of Autism.