An Elaborate Fraud, Part 4: News Analysis -- The British Medical Association Is “Standing Up for Doctors” Even If It Means Attacking Patients
If you go to the web-site of the British Medical Association you will find the BMA’s tag line prominently displayed: “Standing up for doctors.” It’s a position most notable for what they do not stand up for: not patients, not science, not health, just the doctors who join the association. The home page elaborates what this means more directly, “We are … an independent trade union dedicated to protecting individual members and the collective interests of doctors.”
In other words, The BMA is an unabashed economic entity: a trade union. And its primary purpose is to defend the money and power of its members. It’s that simple. Who does the BMA stand against? The adversary of the day might vary a bit. But on a day to day basis, the biggest conflicts British doctors face are with patients. When patients comply with what doctors tell them to do and generate income for them, they are useful to the BMA. When they want to take control of their own families’ health, or worse, suggest that member doctors may have caused harm, well that’s a different matter. When patients' interests conflict with “standing up for doctors,” It’s pretty clear what the BMA’s job is.
The BMA attacks critical patients as if they were their enemy.
One of its instruments for defending doctors’ interests is “science,” or more accurately, propaganda masquerading as science. Notably, the BMA publishes the British Medical Journal, the journal that earlier this year disseminated Brian Deer’s accusations of fraud against Andrew Wakefield. Despite Wakefield’s lengthy and Byzantine trial on allegations surrounding his medical ethics and research design in front of the General Medical Council (GMC), allegations of scientific fraud were not part of the GMC proceedings. Until January 2011, freelance reporter Brian Deer, and Deer alone, had accused Wakefield of lying about data and falsifying evidence. That is, until the BMJ entered the mix, effectively certifying the validity of Deer’s 2009 accusations in The Sunday Times with a dramatic flourish that proved even more devastating to Wakefield’s reputation than the GMC trial. How devastating were these accusations? In a press release, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee claimed to be “struck by a comparison between researcher Andrew Wakefield’s fraud and Piltdown man, that great paleontological hoax that led people to believe for 40 years that the missing link between man and ape had been found.” Sadly, these extravagant allegations were picked up by the global media, spread like wildfire, and, despite their manifest implausibility, the charges stuck.
For any doctor or scientist who might ever have been inclined to support a critical patient the message was clear: when the BMA and its flagship journal the BMJ go after you, they will be ruthless.
Lost in the frenzy over Wakefield’s alleged scientific fraud, however, is the fact that the origin of the evidence in the 1998 Lancet article never came from Wakefield. Rather, the Royal Free Hospital's investigation (which included many others beyond Wakefield) was launched based on the collection and reporting of observations originally made by parents. These parental observations included varying forms of regressive autism or encephalitis, inflammatory bowel disease and a temporal association between exposure to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) and the onset of symptoms. As time has passed (and in every one of the cases reported in The Lancet paper), the parents’ continuing reports support Wakefield’s original account. In addition, many thousands of parents have subsequently reported an identical sequence of events. At kitchen tables all over the world, the MMR has become known as “the autism shot.” The heart of the matter, therefore, is the tension between the British medical establishment on one hand and the Lancet parents on the other.
So in accusing Wakefield, the BMJ is really doing something else; they are accusing the Lancet parents of committing an elaborate fraud.
Why would the BMJ condone such an aggressive attack? Sadly again, in publishing Deer’s accusations, the house organ of the BMA was advancing the interest neither of science nor the truth. Instead, they were “standing up for doctors”: for the income doctors gain from frequent visits to the doctor to receive vaccination; for doctors’ freedom to avoid costly minutes with skeptical parents during their well-child visits; and for the power of doctors to force parents to comply with the recommended vaccination schedule.
As for Deer’s reporting, while Wakefield provided the proximate target, not far under the surface lurked an aggressive attack on parents who have the temerity to question the mandates of the BMA and public health officials. It’s quite a ruthless attack: Parents who question vaccine safety are a danger to the public health; Parents who allege vaccine injury are liars; Parents who take offense to intimidation and coercion are anti-vaccine campaigners; Parents who seek resources to support a vaccine-injured child are cheating the system to get rich.
This kind of attack is not delicate work. But in making the decision to tie its reputation to Deer’s, the BMA made a risky choice.
One need not look very far to find evidence of Deer’s boorishness. It’s most plainly exemplified by his unvarnished contempt for noncompliant parents. One widely circulated example was provoked following on-line challenges to Deer’s reporting by three autism parents: Lancet 12 mother Isabella Thomas, Age of Autism Contributing Editor John Stone and a third unnamed blogger. Jumping into the fray in a Pharma-friendly blog, Deer had this to say about the critical parents (see HERE)
And they wonder why their children have problems with their brains.
Apparently not content with just this brief insult, Deer elaborated further (see HERE )