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In Memoriam Paul Foot: Private Eye in an Ethical Tangle Over MMR

Private-Eye-Golden-Satiricals-524389By John Stone

The editor of the British satirical journal Private Eye, Ian Hislop, told the UK’s Leveson Inquiry into media ethics on Tuesday concerning the MMR controversy:

"Yes, we got it wrong. I was advised by our MD not to pursue it and I should have listened to him. The story went on too long. Mea Culpa."

Private Eye’s columnist ‘MD’, otherwise known as TV presenter, comedian and doctor, Phil Hammond has close pharmaceutical connections and has campaigned (with ultimate success) through Private Eye and British Medical Journal for the Merck/Sanofi HPV vaccine Gardasil  to be preferred in the UK to GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix. Although this may not be known to Private Eye readers Hammond has disclosed in BMJ that he “has been paid to speak at dinners by many drug companies (including GSK and Sanofi Pasteur).” Sanofi are also partners with Merck in Europe: Merck, GSK and Sanofi Pasteur are the three former defendants in the MMR litigation. He also presided over a grand industry award ceremony in 2007, in part sponsored by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, in which the host journal, Scrip World Pharmaceutical News  - which caters for pharmaceutical industry executives - paid tribute to him in glowing terms:

“Those not up for an Award shared an enjoyable evening with the nominees, one that balanced business and pleasure for all concerned. Host Dr Phil Hammond, a writer, broadcaster and qualified GP, captured the mood with his light-hearted critique of the healthcare sector that the 750 guests enjoyed greatly. Dr Hammond is well known mainly in the UK, yet his often-provocative address successfully struck a chord with the Awards’ international audience. In particular, he sympathised with some of the difficulties facing the industry, especially in this era of reimbursement challenges. "I'm looking forward to the day when I can actually prescribe some of the drugs that win Awards," he told the audience. Julie Walters, CEO of MediaSpeak, and representative for shortlisted company Synosia, spoke for many when she said: “Our guests from the US loved the Awards, especially Dr Phil Hammond. Book that man for next year!””

Private Eye began to retreat from its support for MMR families after the death of its leading investigative reporter, Paul Foot, in 2004 and the no doubt increasing influence of Hammond. However, MD Hammond’s review of the science post GMC verdict in 2010 is less than convincing (Private Eye 5-18 February 2010). He cites four sources – including the notorious Madsen study - which do not tell a clear story either individually or collectively and which he does not appear to understand beyond the spin which has already been put on them.

For the Eye’s benefit, the Madsen study is compromised by a multitude of factors, notably that the co-author who liaised between the US Centers for Disease Control and Aarhus University, Poul Thorsen, is nowunder indictment for 13 counts of financial fraud and 9 of money laundering  relating to his work for the CDC. The pivotal role of Thorsen in the commissioning of the study is evident from this internal CDC email of 2000:

'As we discussed on Friday, we have become aware through Poul Thorsen of an exciting opportunity to study the role of MMR vaccine and autism using several registries/existing studies and the repository of biologic specimens and laboratory capabilities in Denmark. Attached below is a proposal for such a study. Poul will be leaving on Thursday to travel to Denmark where he will be meeting with the PIs for the proposed study on June 6th. We would like to be able to have Poul say whether it is likely that CDC (NIP) can fund the study, if NIP is interested. The proposed budget is included; there may be additional sources of funding (in addition to NIP) but we are not certain at this time. Unfortunately, the DD Branch does not have much (if any) $$ to fund the study, but we do have the expertise that we have developed due to the autism surveillance in Atlanta and the MMR/autism casecontrol study. I will be out of the office tomorrow, but you may contact Diana or Poul if you have questions. Thank you so much for considering this proposal.’

It is very hard to determine the good faith an article conceived under such circumstances, and there are unresolved problems about the complicity of Dr Thorsen’s colleagues in his financial activities. Additionally, the Cochrane Review of MMR was much more trenchant about the inadequacy of this study than indicated by Hammond, stating:

"The follow up of diagnostic records ends one year (31 Dec 1999) after the last day of admission to the cohort. Because of the length of time from birth to diagnosis, it becomes increasingly unlikely that those born later in the cohort could have a diagnosis"

And:

“The interpretation of the study by Madsen was made difficult by the unequal length of follow up for younger cohort members as well as the use of date of diagnosis rather than onset of symptoms for autism.”

Review of the data in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons also suggested the under-estimation of autism cases in the vaccinated cohort. Notably, Prof Suissa, an epidemiologist from McGill University made available to Dr Wakefield a letter he had written to New England Journal of Medicine (for which publication had been blocked) in which his recalculation of the raw data suggested that autism incidence should be 45% higher in the vaccinated group, rather than 8% lower according to Madsen’s figures. The Madsen team have never been prepared to enter into correspondence over possible anomalies in their study. When the paper was criticised in JP and S it was a leading pharmaceutical industry ghostwriter, Adam Jacobs, who attempted to answer.

Cochrane also suggested selection bias in the controls of the study by Smeeth  favoured by Hammond:

““In the GPRD - based studies (Black 2003; Smeeth 2004) the precise nature of controlled unexposed to MMR and their generalisability was impossible to determine…The study (Smeeth 2004) appeared carefully conducted and well reported, however, GPRD-based MMR studies had no unexposed (to MMR)representative controls. In this study the approximately 4% to 13% seemed to be unexposed controls regarded by the authors as representative. Such a small number may indicate some bias in the selection of controls.” (Re: Smeeth 2004)”

There were numerous other problems, collated by John Heptonstall  which Smeeth et al would not be drawn on.  One problem with GPRD studies was that ascertainment of autism cases appeared to an order of magnitude smaller than the officially reported numbers in the child population, so most of the autism cases would have been in the non-autistic control group.  But it is typical of the arrogance of government epidemiologists that they will not answer awkward questions.

A further problem lay with Cochrane itself: that the rubric of “no evidence for” masked the reality that there was also “no evidence against”: in short behind the weasel terminology the science had not be done, and after sifting 5000 related studies Cochrane could not find 31 epidemiological articles for review which were any good. Moving beyond the plainly misleading “plain language summary” the abstract was rather more candid:

"The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate.”

Nor, was the situation any better with the six autism related studies, none of which was rated of low risk of bias. Cochrane reported well of a CDC funded and executed gut related study but this was compromised by the fact that the data was buried after completion. It was outrageous that the media and the public were told that MMR was safe, when the scientific answer was that we did not know, and the institutional answer that we were being betrayed by scientists en masse not conducting proper science.

Hammond also failed to understand the point that actually even relatively well conducted epidemiological studies could not show for certain that this damage was not occurring in sub-groups, as the late former National Institutes of Health director Bernardine Healy pointed out on CBS News. Healy recommended the clinical study of sub-groups for vaccine damage, which is of course what Wakefield was doing. The work could not be invalidated by epidemiological studies. Hammond mentions also four studies co-authored by Wakefield which were not included for review by Cochrane but of course these were anyhow not epidemiological studies which could have fitted into a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies.

But for Hammond the clincher was the weasel worded and designed study by Hornig and Lipkin "Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study". But “lack of association” is not “no association” and Hammond carefully states:

“The children were selected because their gut symptoms were sufficiently grave that a biopsy was indicated for clinical reasons, which allowed the researchers to obtain tissue samples for the current study and try to replicate the Wakefield research, which found measles virus RNA in bowel tissue of 77 percent of children who had both autism and gut disorders, but not in children in a non-autistic control group.

“However, the Lipkin research found no difference between the two groups, with evidence of measles viral RNA found in only one case and one control, depsite using three labs and the best molecular detection methods available. Neither did the timing support a link between the vaccine and either autism or gut disorders. Only 13 of the 25 children with autism had the vaccine before the onset of autism, and in only 16 had the gut symptoms preceded the autism.”

It is nevertheless hard to see how ethically you get to the position from this where persistent measles virus in the gut is not worth investigating or treating. As the study itself admits in the discussion section, referring to the earlier Wakefield co-authored study :

“Our results differ with reports noting MV RNA in ileal biopsies of 75% of ASD vs. 6% of control children…Discrepancies are unlikely to represent differences in experimental technique because similar primer and probe sequences, cycling conditions and instruments were employed in this and earlier reports; furthermore, one of the three laboratories participating in this study performed the assays described in earlier reports. Other factors to consider include differences in patient age, sex, origin (Europe vs. North America), GI disease, recency of MMR vaccine administration at time of biopsy, and methods for confirming neuropsychiatric status in cases and controls.”

Two excellent commentaries show the Hornig study could have been designed not to find an association. Dr Hammond, it would seem, proposes that children with inflammatory problems and persistent measles virus should not be investigated or treated because it is not politically acceptable, even though they certainly exist. This looks like the medical profession protecting itself, not children.

Paul Foot wrote in the  Guardian December 2003 :

“Last week's Channel Five programme Hear the Silence about the MMR controversy was one of the best dramas I have seen. It was not just a moving true story, beautifully acted. It was also a shocking indictment of the medical establishment. A group of parents were confronted with the fear that their children had become autistic after having the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. A responsible authority should surely take such fears seriously and deploy the full extent of scientific research to testing the fears, if only to allay them. The reaction of the authorities was exactly the opposite.

"The one senior doctor who took the parents seriously, Andrew Wakefield, had his research stopped and was effectively banished to the US. Despite his record as an often published scientist, he was widely smeared. Legal aid for the parents to sue the government was cut off.

"On the programme, the two sides confronted each other. On the parents' side there was anguished concern, backed by sober science from Wakefield. On the other was outraged impatience, led by two slightly fanatical GPs, including Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West. He insisted there was no link between autism and MMR, and loudly failed to prove that this was so. Instead, he went some way to proving the time-honoured medical principle that doctors know everything, and patients nothing."

When Foot died a few months later Private Eye and the Guardian set up a prize for investigative journalism, but when they closed ranks with the British establishment over MMR they did not honour his memory. The only thing they have not done so far is award it to Brian Deer (and here), although who knows what the 2011 awards to be announced next month will bring.

John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.

 

 

 

Comments

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Jenny Allan


http://www.ageofautism.com/2012/01/in-memoriam-paul-foot-private-eye-in-an-ethical-tangle-over-mmr.html

I too wrote to Leveson about Murdoch's Sunday Times and the BMJ fabrications, lies and misinformation concerning the Wakefield et al/MMR/autism issues. I was very angry about Leveson's refusal to take account of the parents' concerns, whilst apparently giving credence to the anti Wakefield mutterings of ex-Communist Revolutionary party and now neo marxist, Fiona Fox, whose Science Media Centre is in existence to 'push' government and corporate agendas including nuclear power and GM foods. The ravings of- unseated by his constituents- ex MP Evan Harris, were also given preference by milord. The unfortunate Ian Hislop was effectively bullied into his 'mea culpa' admission over the Wakefield reporting:-

This is from the Greenslade Guardian Blog:-
"Is this as close as Private Eye ever gets to a mea culpa?
Friday 5 February 2010
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/feb/05/private-eye-magazines
“In its print article (not available online) the Eye briefly summarised the GMC findings but focused to a curious degree on the reaction of the parents to the verdicts.
"Several parents of the children who featured in the team's original research papers, which was at the centre of the GMC case, stormed out of the hearing in angry protest at the findings – particularly the suggestion that their children's tests were not clinically necessary. Others were in tears."
The Eye goes on to point out that the parents of the children had never complained about Wakefield and that they were not called to give evidence. Why is this such a prominent part of the story?”

Well, Ian Hislop plainly showed both fairness and compassion in his Private Eye reporting and he should be commended. In view of Lord Justice Mitting's verdict following Professor Walker-Smith's appeal against the GMC verdict, which found the 1998 Lancet children were all diagnosed and treated in accordance with clinical need, and the scathing comments by the Judge concerning the 'inadequate and superficial' examining of the evidence by the GMC, I think Leveson should take another look at this issue in the light of this new evidence.

I intend to write to Lord Leveson after all the present political hubris, which has put Prime Minister Cameron 'on the spot' has died down a bit.

Jenny Allan

My apologies for regurgitating part of a previous comment, but in view of John Stone's expressed disgust, about the way that Private Eye has now completely betrayed its Paul Foot roots, this Guardian report condemning Ian Hislop's sympathies towards the Parents of children treated at Professor Walker-Smith's Royal Free clinic, seems relevant.
This report was the one which Hislop was forced to recant via his 'mea culpa' admission to Lord Leveson. Shameful!!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/feb/05/private-eye-magazines
"In its print article (not available online) the Eye briefly summarised the GMC findings but focused to a curious degree on the reaction of the parents to the verdicts.
"Several parents of the children who featured in the team's original research papers, which was at the centre of the GMC case, stormed out of the hearing in angry protest at the findings – particularly the suggestion that their children's tests were not clinically necessary. Others were in tears."
The Eye goes on to point out that the parents of the children had never complained about Wakefield and that they were not called to give evidence.
Why is this such a prominent part of the story?"

I would like to answer this last Guardian question in the vague hope that some internet shill might bring it to the attention of some of those culpable press personnel.

"These sick, suffering children and their concerned parents, in a just society, would have been central to any press and media reporting of child vaccine issues. By deliberately bypassing and ignoring all parental vaccine concerns, not just those directly concerned with the 1998 Wakefield et al Lancet paper, these news outlets have shamefully been complicit in the subversion of human justice and democracy."

John Stone

Repulsive report of the John Walker-Smith hearing in the latest editon of Private Eye. It tells you that the judge shredded the GMC's findings, but gives none of the context. They don't tell you that the findings had their origins in the allegations of Brian Deer and Evan Harris in the Sunday Times, and it does not tell you that the judge could find no evidence that Lancet paper children were not treated on the basis of clinical need, or that they were not genuinely ill,, or that the paper had nothing to do with a research protocol, or with Legal Aid Board funding. All it tells you is that Prof Walker-Smith has been exonerated. The days of Private Eye being a subversive anti-establishment newspaper are over: they are an establishment rag and shttier than most.

Jenny Allan

Nick Davies was a worthy winner of the Paul Foot award 2011. Also shortlisted was Jerome Taylor of the Independent for his exposure of the way that secretive 'family courts' in the UK abuse their power. In this case an autistic young man was forcibly taken into institutional care against both his own and his father's wishes. The press publicity generated by this disgraceful episode has led to far reaching changes in the way that 'family courts' operate.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/bra-fathers-right-to-love-2295560.html
From above:-
"Mark Neary, the quietly spoken father who challenged the might of his local council, has won the final battle to secure the liberty of his autistic son.
In emotional scenes at the High Court, Hillingdon Council offered Mr Neary a public apology after a stinging ruling that it had breached a basic principle, when for almost a year it deprived 21-year-old Steven Neary of his liberty.
All social services departments across the country were warned by the judge not to abuse the power they have under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act to lock up people who are judged unable to make decisions for themselves.
It should only be used under "stringent conditions", Mr Justice Peter Jackson said. "It is not to be used by a local authority as a means of getting its own way on the question of whether it is in the person's best interests to be in the place at all."
*A Facebook page 'Get Steven Home' was set up, inviting persons to lobby for Steven's release, by writing to politicians and town councillors etc. This page is still very active.

John Stone

The Paul Foot Award 2011 was finally given to Nick Davies of the Guardian for his investigation of News International phone hacking scandal. Double standards still rule while they continue to turn a blind eye to the Sunday Times/Deer MMR investigation: our children remain the acceptable damage. Shame!

John Stone

For comparison Hammond posted his commentary on the GMC findings on his website:

http://drphilhammond.com/blog/2010/02/18/private-eye/dr-phil%E2%80%99s-private-eye-column-issue-1256-february-17-2010/

Also today Private Eye finally published the shortlist for the 2011 Paul Foot Awards and Brian Deer isn't on it:

http://www.private-eye.co.uk/paul_foot.php

Angus Files

Glax Britannicus,

You know I was going to attend and make a few bob/dollars selling "anti -back -slapping shirts"reduce the pain... but i couldn`t find any on the internet to sell..but anyway I shall still attend and BACKSLAP!!WOOO!!possibly Glaxo supply them as standard kit ?? Hell knows?

Angus

Glax Britannicus

According to an un-updated notice on the Private Eye website nominations for the 2011 Paul Foot awards should have been announced in early January for a ceremony this month, though with nine days left there is still no final date published. It is possible that the Paul Foot Awards are now out of keeping with the times and Glax proposes an alternative set of awards, the Brian Deer Awards, nominations to include this year:

Brian Deer
John Witherow (Editor of the Sunday Times)
Martin Moore (Director, Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off)
Fiona Fox (Director, Science Media Centre)
Ben Goldacre (Guardian "science" columnist)
Alan Rusbridger (Editor of the Guardian)
Fiona Godlee (Editor of British Medical Journal)
Ian Hislop (Editor of Private Eye)

Glax proposes a back-slappiing ceremony to take place on the morning of the 1st of April, and we wish them all the best of luck in the run-off.

Kafka's Trial Revisited

I thought these people were supposed to be subversive:

http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/01/19/qjmed.hcp196.full?view=long&pmid=20085995

John Stone

PS The jury for the Foot award would do well to consider the report from Dr David Lewis:

http://www.ageofautism.com/2012/01/whistleblower-scientist-accuses-british-medical-journal-of-institutional-research-misconduct.html

and the criticisms of Deer and BMJ in the letter from Andrew Wakefield's lawyers last November:

http://www.drwakefieldjusticefund.org/images/wakefielddemandletter11-10-11.pdf

John Stone

lapogus

Yes, the ritual public hand wringing by the media - and now Hislop - over MMR is the analogue of the wailing over the death of the beloved leader in North Korea last month. Of course people just pay with their careers here and not with their lives.

Looking back over Private Eye's early MMR coverage I am really not sure what Hislop had to apologise over to Leveson, and the concerns from it still exist: it was properly researched and I don't believe it provoked legal suits.

Also, of course, the fact that he has done it is a signal that he understands (as by now does every other mainstream journalist) that you cross this lobby at your peril. Not really clear hitherto, however, that he has digested the full implications.

Your decision not to buy Private Eye in future is well understood.

John

lapogus

It is very interesting to read the background to the Eye's u-turn. I have been a reader and subscriber to the Eye since the early 80s. But I am very saddened by Hislop's gullibility and the editorial line he has now taken on MMR and the witch-hunt of Dr Wakefield. Hence I am cancelling my subscription (and the one I pay for my brother overseas). The MMR children and parents deserve much better than this, and it will go down as an embarrassing episode in the magazine's history that Hislop capitulated and then endorsed the government's MMR coverup so readily.

John - FYI about 10 years ago, BBC Scotland made/broadcast a TV documentary about Ninewells Hospital in Dundee (very similar to ITV's Jimmy's in concept). In one episode, I distinctly remember a mother with a very distressed young child, for whom the doctors had decided a lumbar puncture was necessary to assist in the diagnosis. I remember this because prior to the procedure, the very concerned mother asked the nurse if MMR could have been responsible for the child's pain (the boy had been recently vaccinated). Needless to say the nurse answered in the negative.

Jenny Allan

Further to my comment regarding Sally Smith's questioning of GMC expert witness, paediatric gastroenterologist, Professor Ian Booth, in a REAL court of law it is forbidden for Council to use leading questions in order to 'skew' that person's testimony. This is particularly important in the case of an expert witness, who should not be led into what amounts to 'yes or no' responses. Wikipedia explains it thus:-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_examination
"The Direct Examination or Examination-in-Chief is one stage in the process of adducing evidence from witnesses in a court of law. Direct examination is the questioning of a witness by the party who called him or her, in a trial. Direct examination is usually performed to elicit evidence in support of facts which will satisfy a required element of a party's claim or defense.
In direct examination, one is generally prohibited from asking leading questions. This prevents a lawyer from feeding answers to a favorable witness."

Of course, the GMC is not a REAL court of law, but is 'quasi judicial'. They have their own 'stable' of QCs who seem to make up their own rules regarding 'due process'.
I am quite sure that these tactics WILL NOT be allowed in the forthcoming UK High Court appeal against the GMC verdict on Professor Walker-Smith.

The Rhinegold

You there in the water, why wail you up here?
Here what Wotan wishes you.
The gold no longer gleams upon you girls,
Henceforth bathe in the new radiance of the Gods!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXM-811Z4z0

'Several parents of the children who featured in the team's original research paper, which was at the centre of the GMC case, stormed out of the hearing in angry protest at the findings - particularly the suggestion that their children's tests were not clinically necessary. Others were in tears. No parent or guardian ever complained about care or treatment and all consented to the tests and procedures. They say they would have told the GMC that the treatment they received at the hospital helped their children's symptoms - but they were never called to testify.'

Mark Struthers

Phil Hammond is a comedian, a medically qualified comic. “Trust me, I’m a doctor” has been his little joke since his BBC 2 series back in the late 1990’s. However, trusting doctors – and their vaccine industrialist buddies – seems to have become a problem in recent years. In my opinion, jokers like Hammond have been complicit in this grand betrayal. And it isn’t funny!

John Stone

Jenny

Thanks for the clarifying that.

John

Jenny Allan

John Stone says:-
"They (the GMC)ought to have accepted the documentary evidence that the children were investigated under ethical permission 162/95 (granted to Prof Walker-Smith when he arrived at the Royal Free in 1995) and not the Legal Aid Board protocol (172/96) which was never undertaken."

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/26719415/Daily/Day_040.pdf
The sworn evidence of PROFESSOR IAN WESTERBY BOOTH on Day 40 of the GMC hearing seems to have been a crucial factor in the panel's 'unethical' verdicts.

Prof Booth comes over as a sincere and articulate clinician , but QC for the prosecution, Sally Smith, was determined to skew his testimony over the disputed ethical permissions.

From page 21 onwards:-
Sally Smith "I want to turn very briefly to the ethical framework with regard to research. I want to ask you about project 172-96"

"That, as you know, is a letter from the solicitors in the
MMR litigation to the Legal Aid Board. It says 6 June 1996 at the top, and the second paragraph reads:
“To give you further information on the costing proposals I enclose a copy of a draft, (not entirely finished yet), of Dr Wakefield’s proposed protocol for the study and his
costing proposals.”
Knowing what you do, Professor Booth, of the ultimate protocol that was submitted to the ethics committee, which I will turn to in a moment, does this document seem to you to describe the same or a different study?"

Prof Booth "This is the same study."

QC Ms Smith does not refer to the Lancet study at all during this part of her questioning. Several times, Prof Booth is plainly bewildered by her questions and asks for clarification. At the conclusion of this line of questioning, the ethical permissions necessary for the Legal Aid funded study,(which NEVER happened)172/96, had been deftly transferred in everyone's minds to the Lancet study which was already covered by pre existing 162/95 ethical permissions.

John Stone

Aidan

Very nice but it does not answer any of the points about the present issue, and I would be much more interested if you were drawn into specifics of that.

As to the current NHS debate everyone knows that the Secretary of State for Health is out on a limb and it would scarcely further Phil Hammond's career to support him, so this is irrelevant (particularly as the NHS will be a healthy market for pharmaceuticals and vaccines whichever way the debate goes).

John

Aidan O'Callaghan

The suggestion that Dr. Phil Hammond is really motivated by private interests and not acting for the greater good is a ridiculous thing to say. This can be seen by anyone who follows his very public views and writings on the British National Health Service (NHS).
You may not be aware but the current Conservative led government in the UK is widely suspected of aiming to privitise the NHS by the back door, all supposedly under the name of improved patient choice, control for doctors etc. The many ins and outs of this are well documented elsewhere so for the sake of brevity I will say this. Under the proposals GPs and doctors working out of private clinics and public hospitals alike stand to make significant money in profits in comparison to NHS salaries. They would in practice be paid to prescribe and in theory have uncapped incomes. Are we to assume Dr. Hammond's tireless campaigning to prevent any creeping privitisation of the NHS is simply due to the fact that no private health care interest has bothered to get one of the best known Drs. in Britain in their pocket? That seem implausible at best. Not only as a working GP would Dr. Hammond profit from this, if a vested interest could secure his very public voice in favour of such changes, they would. He would also be handsomly rewarded for his influence. On the contrary he is publically campaigning against the government proposals and for maintaining the integrity of the NHS.
There are many cases to illustrate how Dr. Phil is motivated by patient well being rather than protecting the powers that be or big pharma, e.g. It was he that brought the Bristol Heart Scandal to public attention.
The case is clear, Dr Hammond, while happy to make money from his celebrity, continues to work as a GP motivated to work for the benefit of public health rather than personal profit.

John Stone

Martin

The GMC was able to take the view that it could find anything it liked, however contrary to the record, however much it abused the requirement for the highest standards of proof. It was able to do this because it was able to rely on the total abjection of the British media, which had come to include Private Eye. At no point did any mainstream media outlet consider that it was its business to report the defence. In fact everybody, absolutely everybody, was effectively conniving at injustice.

This is exemplified by the remarks of the Guardian's health editor Sarah Boseley on the evening the GMC panel brought in its findings:

"Opinion is divided in the medical establishment on the wisdom of pursuing Wakefield – and particularly his colleagues who played a lesser role in the drama – at the GMC. Some say there was a clear case to answer and that the GMC had no other option but others believe that no good can come of it."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jan/28/andrew-wakefield-downfall

But at no point did Boseley (or anyone else) take it upon themselves to explain why a significant part of the medical establishment were worried that it would eventually blow up in their faces, and did not even think there was a proper case to answer. I think this also shows the particular arrogance of the Guardian, indicating that they know very well something is amiss but they are not going to tell their readers.

There is also a slightly chilling absence in the middle of MD's comments too: satisfaction that the matter is concluded and a very flawed official explanation of the state of knowledge, but also an uneasy feeling that it is just very cool selective reporting and he knows it. Any well-informed doctor might ask how it could be that when autism is commonly associated with gut abnormalities that the Royal Free's paediatric gastroenterology department was on the GMC's reading unnecessarily investigating children who didn't manifest (and why, after all, would they do that?). The other possibility, not openly considered but somehow hovering, was that it was quite simply a ruthless bureaucratic stitch up.

John

Martin Hewitt

In John Stone's reply to Jenny Allan above, January 22, 2012 at 05:42 AM, he says "They ought to have accepted the documentary evidence that the children were investigated under ethical permission 162/95 (granted to Prof Walker-Smith when he arrived at the Royal Free in 1995) and not the Legal Aid Board protocol (172/96)"

I don't think ethical approval 172-96 was meant to cover the Legal Aid Board research. 172-96 is available on line and clearly makes no reference to preparing evidence for a legal case. Likewise it focuses on one issue - the impact of vitamin 12 deficiency on mental disability - and so could not have been the ethical approval for the Lancet paper, which refers to 4 different hypotheses, including one penultimate para on V12 deficiency, and is a largely speculative study scoping a range of possible issues concerning bowel disease and autism. The GMC prosecution made the case that 172-96 covered both the Lancet paper and the legal aid research. However, the evidence doesn't support the GMC's position, echoed by Deer, that 172-96 covered both projects because they both used the same investigation procedures. This argument ignores the express purpose of the research programme outlined in 172-96 and assumes that the only thing that matters is that the investigative procedures are the same (they are the same because they are the stock in trade of gastroenterologists). The different purposes of the research for the Lancet and the LAB are considered irrelevant. Rather like saying the study of the gut of autistic children is the same as the study of the gut of men from Mars because they both use the same procedures. The GMC - and Deer - clearly have a limited understanding of scientific research procedures - with disastrous results.

John Stone

I note, if a mainstream journalist was to ask Harris just a few awkward questions the whole scandal could be finally blown open.

John Stone

It has just been point out to me additionally that the elision between project 172/96 and the LAB project, neither of which was carried out, also seems have been made the GMC.

I note further from AW's book 'Callous Disregard'p242:

'Documents recently released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal the complainant, Brian Deer, knew in 2004 that the research biopsies had EC approval as part of 162-95. This was disclosed to him in January 2004 through his FOIA request to the Strategic Health Authority that has responsibility for the Royal Free Hosptial (letter from John Walker-Smith to MS. Carroll of the RoyalFree Ethical Practices Committee 27 February 2007).

So, the question arises why was this was not revealed by Harris in 2004 in his Sunday Times editorial or the parliamentary debate? Or even in 2010 when he was writing in BMJ?

These people are sitting on a powder keg.

John Stone

A friend has asked me to post something further on this. She notes that in the case of her son, where the trail of vaccine damage is particularly clear, a leading psychiatric consultant (whose name is known to virtually every autism parent in the UK) offered the same tests carried out at the Royal Free according to Dr Harris in the parliamentary debate,

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/2004/mar/15/mmr-vaccinations-and-autism

but this was in 1992 and immediately after the withdrawal of GSK's urabe strain version of MMR. The parents apparently demurred over the lumbar puncture.

It is of interest that the vaccine was not withdrawn by the authorities but by the manufacturers for use in the UK, but it continued to licensed by the UK regulator for use in the poorer corners of the earth and Dr Harris's father sat on the regulatory committee according to Who's Who which failed to insist upon its withdrawal. He also sat on the sub-committee ARVI which reviewed adverse vaccine reactions and was present at the last meeting for which minutes are available in September 1990, with reports of reactions to the SKB (GSK) vaccine tumbling in.

http://www.advisorybodies.doh.gov.uk/jcvi/foi2006-adv-minutessept1990.pdf

John Stone

Jenny

I hope you are right about the High Court and John Walker-Smith. It ought to be open and shut: the GMC ought to have accepted the evidence of the three doctors about the sickness of the children and the appropriateness of the clinical procedures (also of the histopathologist Susan Davies and probably others called for the prosecution). They ought to have accepted the documentary evidence that the children were investigated under ethical permission 162/95 (granted to Prof Walker-Smith when he arrived at the Royal Free in 1995) and not the Legal Aid Board protocol (172/96) which was never undertaken. And they ought to have known that it was entirely anomalous to maintain that the doctors were acting under the LAB protocol in the Lancet paper but find them to be in detailed breach of its many terms, when actually it was just an early report as it said on the tin.

Meanwhile, we know of course that the GMC lawyers came to a mutually beneficial secret agreement with Deer that he not be named as complainant, meaning (1) that he did not have to testify under oath and (2) could go on reporting as if a disinterested party.

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3362116/a-deer-in-the-headlights.thtml

And, of course, in the middle of this confusion of the wrong ethical permission is not just Brian Deer, but the "slightly fanatical" Dr Harris.

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/2004/mar/15/mmr-vaccinations-and-autism

However, given the disreputable history of this matter I don't count any chickens.

John

Jenny Allan

John Stone says:-
"And now we all have to pretend that Brian Deer is the fount of all knowledge on paediatric gastroenterology while one of two leading paediatric gastroenterologists in the world - Prof Walker-Smith - has lost his license. But Foot saw it all in a snapshot in December 2003."

Whatever public smokescreens are being put up to protect Brian Deer, I cannot envisage our UK High Court, which has proved to be NO FRIEND of the GMC in the past, being fooled by any of this rubbish. Remember, neither the Lancet twelve's parents, NOR Brian Deer gave sworn evidence to the GMC,(with the exception of one parent who was 'conned' into giving evidence for the prosecution).

ANY of those parents would have testified to the compassion and professionalism of Professor Walker-Smith who oversaw the childrens' clinical diagnoses and treatments. My grandson was NOT one of the Lancet 12, but was diagnosed and treated by the same Royal Free team for the SAME bowel disorder. His condition improved enormously as a result.

We all owe a great dept to this brave man who was prepared to put his reputation on the line for our children. I PRAY that he receives justice soon.


Benedetta

"Now we all have to pretend that Brian Deer is the fount of all knowledge on paediatric gastroenterology "

Yeah, I don't understand this at all. Ever time I read about Brian Deer I keep asking now what is his credientials?

John Stone

Autismum

No, I think Hislop is basically rather courageous. What I think has happened is that he hasn't made the same human judgements here as Paul Foot did. We've created this ridiculous mystique around science, and everyone is pussyfooting around it as if it isn't about money, influence, politics - and "scientists" are no steadier, more truthful than than bankers, politicians etc.

Foot - I think - just posed the question to himself why Evan Harris wanted to shut parents up and concluded there was something to hide. It's a fairly basic question which most media people do not now want to answer. And they are not doing their job.

Of course, part of the outrageous stupidity is that you can address any of this through statistics: you have to find out clinically what's wrong with the children, and the GMC had to ignore swathes of evidence that they were pretty sick - and health officials quoting statistics at you doesn't make a single child better. Another delusion of Phil Hammond was that whereas the children in the Hornig/Lipkin paper were seriously ill, the ones at the Royal Free were somehow just fine.

And now we all have to pretend that Brian Deer is the fount of all knowledge on paediatric gastroenterology while one of two leading paediatric gastroenterologists in the world - Prof Walker-Smith - has lost his license. But Foot saw it all in a snapshot in December 2003.

Autismum

I doubt that Ian Hislop, the most sued man in English legal history, fears Ben Goldacre or is intimidated by "the bulllying of Science Media Centre," when he's taken on the likes of Maxwell and Murdoch

Jake Crosby

Great article, John.

Suissa's criticisms of the Madsen paper were, more specifically, that it made the wrong assumption in assuming that the increased risk in vaccinated groups compared to unvaccinated groups were due to age being a confounder because the age at which children got the MMR vaccine also depended on their outcome as autistic or not. If the issue was confounding, the risk of developing autism should be the same regardless of when the kids get vaccinated with MMR. Indicted fraudster Thorsen and his team should've known that, but instead covered up the association by misreporting it as confounding - and the journal was complicit by not publishing the letter pointing this out!

Eventually, they are just going to have to come to terms with the fact that their own data contradicts their talking points.

John Stone

Jenny

I just think that Ian Hislop's position is like all the other mainstream media editors, unwilling to stand up to the bulllying of Science Media Centre, Ben Goldacre etc. And of course they claimed a major scalp with the editor of the Observer in 2007 (over a story which was completely true).

http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/04/autism-the-64-billion-dollar-a-year-question-for-simon-baroncohen-ben-goldacre-fiona-fox-and-autism-.html

John

Jenny Allan

Yes -I suspect that Evan Harris, in his spurious role as 'Hacked Off' advisor and supporter to the Leveson Inquiry witnessess, had an insidious influence over Private Eye's Ian Hislop's 'Mia Culpa' evidence to the Inquiry.

In fact Mr Hislop was only 'culpable' of accurately reporting the reactions of the Lancet parents to the GMC verdicts on Dr Wakefield and his colleagues. The fact that ANY reporter should be criticised for this, shows how much our once brave and independent press personnel have allowed themselves to be bullied by business and political interests. Honesty and compassion are no longer considered necessary or desirable. How utterly shameful this is, and an affront to the memory of Paul Foot, who must be 'turning in his grave!!

John Stone

Let's be clear. Just 8 weeks after Paul Foot identified Evan Harris as being professionally arrogant and "slightly fanatical" he was in the Lancet offices with Brian Deer intimidating editor Richard Horton:

Harris:

“Within a week [after receiving a telephone call from Deer] we were in the Lancet offices explaining to a stunned editorial team what lay behind that fateful 1998 paper.”

Horton:

“The tension in that earlier meeting had been heightened by the shadowy presence of Dr Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament.”

http://www.ageofautism.com/2012/01/evan-harris-distances-himself-from-brian-deer-position-remains-untenable.html

Jenny Allan

John Stone says:-
"Could it possibly be that plans to nominate Deer were thrown into disarray by the Wakefield libel suit, and still have not been resolved?"

You may well be correct in this assumption John.
Brian Deer's 2011 Press Award for his BMJ articles, which had GSK Director James Murdoch's News Corporation representatives on the judging panel, might well have been part of a wider campaign to undermine Professor Walker-Smith's forthcoming High Court appeal case.

More and more, democracy and lawful justice, are being undermined and prejudged by orchestrated press and media campaigns, which in very recent times appear to have unduly influenced democratic elections and legal and court procedures.

Jenny Allan

Letter to the Guardian 2010, post GMC verdicts, complaining about Private Eye's previous coverage of the Wakefield et al MMR controversy:-
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/feb/05/private-eye-magazines
From above:-
"In its print article (not available online) the Eye briefly summarised the GMC findings but focused to a curious degree on the reaction of the parents to the verdicts.
"Several parents of the children who featured in the team's original research papers, which was at the centre of the GMC case, stormed out of the hearing in angry protest at the findings – particularly the suggestion that their children's tests were not clinically necessary. Others were in tears."
The Eye goes on to point out that the parents of the children had never complained about Wakefield and that they were not called to give evidence. Why is this such a prominent part of the story?"

To me this tirade, which strongly CRITICISES Private Eye for reporting the parents' reaction to the verdicts, is a DAMNING indictment of the way that truthful and accurate press coverage has been totally submerged and smothered by politcal and corporate interests. The Lancet 12 children and their parents, should have been CENTRAL to press and media reporting of these issues. 14 years later, These parents are still struggling to be heard, never mind listened to.

From above:-
"Private Eye editor Ian Hislop went on to Radio 5 Live and talked to Simon Mayo in December 2008 and admitted that MMR was not linked to autism."

So that's OK then. The investigative journalists, who have neither the skills nor the inclination to properly investigate any of the many research papers which back up the Wakefield et al findings, nonetheless consider themselves able to make such sweeping statements?


AussieMum

John,

It is interesting that Private Eye intends to publish their short-list entries early Jan 2012 (as per their website) and here we are - 21st January 2012 (Aust time).

Your theory could be spot-on.

Elizabeth Gillespie

John Stone

It is a consideration that the short list for the 2011 Paul Foot awards was supposed to be published early this month and still has not been.

http://www.private-eye.co.uk/paul_foot.php

Could it possibly be that plans to nominate Deer were thrown into disarray by the Wakefield libel suit, and still have not been resolved?

If so this article might prove a timely reminder of what Foot, himself, thought. Everything that has happened since simply compounds his observation about medical high-handedness and arrogance.

Janet Rossington

Important we never forget the memory of Paul Foot: one of the few investigative journalists who never compromised his principles of justice for the exploited and down-trodden; a true socialist to the end when so many were being taken in by Blair's turn.

Angus Files

John to much truth for them to take it in .Better just to call them all liars they lied ,and lied ,and lied and, lied a-n-d- l-i-e-d, all for the "shut up money" ...

The dis-united UK

Angus

Bob Moffitt

"For the Eye’s benefit, the Madsen study is compromised by a multitude of factors, notably that the co-author who liaised between the US Centers for Disease Control and Aarhus University, Poul Thorsen, is nowunder indictment for 13 counts of financial fraud and 9 of money laundering relating to his work for the CDC."

What happened to the investigation of Poul Thorsen's "fraud" .. and .. more importantly .. were those "known and unknown co-conspirators" mentioned in Poul's indictment ever publicly identified?

wisden

That would be the same Phil Hammond who pissed on patients with M.E. (chronic fatigue syndrome) in his stand up act. Something on the lines of "what a brilliant disease to get, sleeping through the 1980s on benefits when everyone else was on the dole."

Deborah Nash

Brilliant work John - you make a great investigative journalist.

WHAT AN EYE OPENER!!!
It is definitely an article that should land on every desk at Private Eye.

JanP

An excellent account, with back up references, well done John.

It can only be a matter of time before the government have to admit there is a problem with the vaccine regime.The costs are becoming extensive now for health/social/education for the hundreds of thousands diagnosed with ASD.

Will the Leveson committee extend it's criteria to Brian Deer to find out how he has gained his information on children?

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