By Anne Dachel
It was truly a sad day for education on October 4, 2012 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse as Brian Deer came to La Crosse to speak as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series in Life Sciences. The title of Deer’s talk was, An Elaborate Fraud: The MMR Vaccine & Autism. I was there with a number of other parents from the autism community from WI, MN, IN, and IL.
The University of WI-La Crosse made their position clear in the opening remarks of professor of immunology, Bernadette Taylor, before an audience of hundreds of UWL students. “There is no debate… This University did not invite a debate on that issue.”
Case closed: the University would not allow for a free exchange of ideas so informed, intelligent students could make up their own minds.
Brian Deer was then allowed to present his version of the most heated controversy in medicine today: Is our aggressively expanded vaccination schedule behind the exponential increase in autism. According to Deer and the UWL, the debate is over. Only a few desperate parents still believe in a link. The science has spoken.
This was a forum for Deer to expound on his claim that Dr. Andrew Wakefield had perpetrated a fraud on the public when he wrote about the possible link between the MMR vaccine and bowel disease and autism in children and Deer expressed no concern over why autism is now an epidemic affecting one in every 88 children, one in every 54 boys in the U.S.
Deer showed slides throughout his lecture. On the opening slide, in full view as the students came in, Deer had this quote highlighted: “If he wasn’t so fucking greedy, he’d a been tougher to spot.” In small type below were the words “Sam Rothstein, Casino, 1995.” Shown with the quote was a hand holding five aces—one extra ace of spades.
In his opening remarks, Deer explained that this was from the movie, Casino, which was about fraudulent gamblers and how they were caught, an obvious reference to Wakefield.
Deer attacked everything about Wakefield and his work. He ridiculed him both personally and professionally. He claimed Wakefield manipulated data and falsified the records of his patients. He said that Wakefield tried to blackmail officials into funding additional studies. He said Wakefield recruited patients to use as “guinea pigs” for his fraudulent research. He alleged that none of the 12 patients Wakefield wrote about actually had bowel disease. He said that the claim of Michelle Cedillo in Vaccine Court had been a fraud and that she was shown on video to display autistic behavior before her MMR. He even made a reference to Dr. Wakefield’s mother where he speculated that she might have been into the sherry before he interviewed her.
Deer singled out Josh Edwards from the UK. He described him as a boy who had GI disease that resulted in the removal of his bowel because of a “severe food intolerance,” and not the result of the MMR vaccine.
Deer never mentioned that the British government indemnified the manufacturer of the MMR vaccine against all liability for MMR damage and that the UK government will be liable if it’s recognized that this vaccine triggers bowel disease and autism.
I submitted a question to Mr. Deer which was read during the Q and A. “Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer in the UK, supports the position of Dr. Wakefield. What is your opinion on this?”
In response Deer announced that Dr. Fletcher was NEVER CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER IN THE UK. He claimed that Fletcher was someone who worked for the government but who left his position after a disagreement with his employer.
In truth, I’ve been in contact with Dr. Fletcher for years and even a cursory search online will show that he truly is the former Chief Scientific Officer in Britain. This is a clear indication of the validity and honesty of Deer’s claims.
Dr. Wakefield’s appearance.
Andrew Wakefield also came to La Crosse on Oct 4, but he wasn’t allowed to speak at the University. Instead, before Deer’s 5:30 talk, Wakefield held a 1 pm outdoor press conference at Myrick Park, near the campus. There Wakefield talked about the autism epidemic and how the medical community has failed to recognize or treat the overwhelming health problems that affect increasing numbers of children. He presented his story about the parents who came to him for help because of the severe bowel disease their children had developed after the MMR vaccine. He described how the government has covered up the truth in the epidemic and what it’s meant to him personally. He assured parents that he’s not going to stop until the truth is recognized and we stop inflicting this damage on children.
One local doctor was there and he brought up the studies that show no link and he claimed that Wakefield’s work had never been duplicated. Wakefield disagreed and offered to debate him about it. In response to my question about why the medical community and the American Academy of Pediatrics has not recognized autism as either an epidemic or a crisis, Wakefield said that if you talk with doctors privately, they will admit something is wrong and that they are concerned. Publicly, they know that talking about autism as an epidemic invites speculation on the cause and that leads to the controversial link to vaccines, something most doctors are not willing to do.
La Crosse Tribune reporter, Patrick Anderson, was at the park for Wakefield’s speech. He talked to parents and listened intently to their stories. I spoke with him and gave him copies of both of Wakefield’s books, Callous Disregard and Waging War on the Autistic Child, along with Silenced Witnesses, about the parents of the children Wakefield saw.
Anderson acknowledged that there are two sides to the controversy in his story that had the headline, Finding vaccine truth: Crowds hear two takes on dismissed study.
I posted a number of comments on the Tribune story and sent this letter to the editor in an email:
I saw your coverage of Brian Deer’s talk about Dr. Andrew Wakefield and the link between the MMR vaccine and bowel disease and autism in children at UW-L on Oct 4, 2012. The title was, Finding vaccine truth: Crowds hear two takes on dismissed study. Actually, the two sides in the debate weren’t presented at the UWL. The University would not provide a forum where Dr. Wakefield could present his position.
I was at Deer’s talk where associate professor of immunology, Bernadette Taylor, introduced him saying, “There is no debate… This University did not invite a debate on that issue.” The University wouldn’t allow for a free exchange of ideas so informed, intelligent students could make up their own minds.
Dr. Wakefield would have presented his side—he came to La Crosse and spoke at Myrick Park on Oct 4—but the University wouldn’t allow him on campus to talk. Instead the students were given only Deer’s claims which are highly controversial with mounting evidence and experts challenging them all. As a WI resident and a UW system graduate, I find the actions and attitude of the UW-La Crosse truly disappointing and concerning.
The two TV stations in La Crosse also covered Deer’s visit.
WXOX La Crosse had the story, British journalist to speak at UW-L about false vaccine autism link, in which presented Deer as the hero in uncovering the fraudulent claim about the MMR vaccine. (They had no place for comments on the story.)
WKBT La Crosse had the story, Vaccine-Autism debate reaches La Crosse. I posted comments on both the WKBT piece and the La Crosse Tribune story.
I put up links to coverage about Dr. Peter Fletcher.
I posted interviews that disproved what Deer was saying.
I posted the trailer to the new film, The Greater Good, about vaccine side effects.
I posted a link to the studies that dispute the safety claims.
From the personal comments attacking what I wrote, it’s clear that this controversy is not settled and that many people don’t want both two sides to be heard in this debate.
All over the UWL campus were posters about Deer’s lecture with the headline, “An Elaborate Fraud: The MMR Vaccine & Autism.”
All I could think was that the phrase, “an elaborate fraud” was a perfect description for what the University of WI-La Crosse and Brian Deer had perpetrated on the students who attended his talk.
Here is a five minute interview done yesterday, Oct. 6, by a radio station in Milwaukee, WI. Deer used this opportunity to trivialize and dismiss the autism community and our children.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism., Visit her news site at AnneDachel.com