Brian Deer Blunders in British Medical Journal
By John Stone
A blunder by Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer has left him exposed in the columns of British Medical Journal on-line, leaving open the question of how he could have legally obtained information on the background to cases in the disputed Lancet study including the identities of the patients and their families (HERE).
Deer had intervened in continuing correspondence following ‘the findings of fact’ in the General Medical Council case against Andrew Wakefield, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, and the Lancet’s decision to retract the 1998 paper. Misunderstanding a claim by distinguished US paediatrician and autism/vaccine campaigner, Ed Yazbak, that his grandson was one of the Royal Free cases, Deer wrote:
“I know the names and family backgrounds of all 12 of the children enrolled in the study, including the child enrolled from the United States. I don't believe that Dr Yazbak has a family relationship with any of them.”
In fact, Yazbak had never intended to imply that his grandson was one of the original 12, only that he had been a patient at the Royal Free and had been included in ongoing research into autism, gut disease and MMR at the hospital.
The issue of Deer’s access to confidential patient material had arisen before - both in relation to articles in the Sunday Times and to posts on his website - but there had never been opportunity to question him about it in a public forum before. Deer was immediately embarrassed by a mild mannered response from Yazbak, pointing out the misunderstanding, but asking how he came by such information, and a more caustic one by well-known New Zealand vaccine campaigner, Hilary Butler.
“ It almost seems that Mr. Deer is less upset about what I wrote than about the fact that some web site somewhere had picked it up. I certainly have no idea where my remarks were circulated and by whom and I have no control of that.
“In any case: If anyone else misunderstood my statement (s), I sincerely apologize for the confusion. No deceit was ever intended! I must say that I am troubled that Mr. Deer was able to obtain the names and family backgrounds of the 12 original study patients.
“I am also surprised that he finds it fair to censor my defense of Dr. Wakefield after he subjected him to public flagellation for so long. Maybe it is time for Mr. Deer to take a deep breath and relax. “
“There are several UK medical studies relating to vaccines where I suspect that the authors are up to no good, so I would like unrestrained access to all key documents to see if I can confirm my suspicions, but can't quite work out how to do this.
“Could Brian Deer please let the BMJ know the means by which UK legislation allows free lance (or any other) journalists, to view original research files, and compare them with Royal Free (or any other hospital or private practice) medical files of children with full identities available, all test results available, without parental consent; the studies' authors consent; privacy restraints or hospital ethics committee approval?”
But worse was to come for Deer when the following day he was further challenged by senior British doctor, Prof John Dodge – who is Honorary Professor of Child Health at Swansea, Emeritus Professor of Child Health at Belfast, and has a remarkable string of letters after his name (CBE, MD, FRCP, FRCP(Edin), FRCPI, FRCPCH, DCH):
“Like Hilary Butler, I was surprised that the journalist Brian Deer apparently holds names and addresses of autistic patients, as well as the details of their clinical histories.
“As the former director of a national disease registry, I am well aware of the difficulty bona fide medical researchers often encounter, and of the great lengths to which hospitals and Trusts go to ensure confidentiality, and where possible anonymity, for patients before they will release any information, for fear of violating the Data Protection Act.
“It is particularly surprising that a journalist for a lay newspaper under orders to find a big story (Mr Deer's own words) could persuade a respected teaching hospital to give him such data. Did the request go to the research ethics committee? Did he obtain written consent from the parents? Was he not given instructions to destroy all information which could possibly identify individuals as soon as he had extracted what he needed, in which case he should no longer hold names and addresses?
“Remembering the threat of litigation if journalists should try to reveal the immunisation status of the child of the then Prime Minister, I can only conclude that Mr Deer either covered his back and went through the correct procedures, or else that he assumed that the parents would have no appetite, or money, to take him, his newspaper or the hospital Trust to court for violating their privacy. I await his clarification with interest.
“Competing interests: Occasional frustration at inability to obtain information from medical records for epidemiological research”
It is also a remarkable aspect of this story that despite the ethically questionable nature of these activities Deer’s work continues to receive the support not only of the government and the National Health Service, but collaborators such as Prof Greenhalgh and Dr Evan Harris MP. Some of these bodies and personages ought to start considering their position in relation to this affair.
As to Deer, he remains silent...
John Stone is UK Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
Only a short drive ...
777 Vedado Way, NE Atlanta 30308, to the the Centers for Disease Control since 1 June 2000.
See Google Maps
Posted by: CDC Atlanta Connection | October 20, 2014 at 05:05 PM
BMJ still has Deer's admission that he has all the files on the site--I suggest it would be worth archiving that--anyone who knows how.
Posted by: Sue | March 24, 2010 at 03:28 PM
So Brian Deer cannot only violate patient confidentiality, he can get the BMJ to cover for him.
Posted by: MinorityView | March 24, 2010 at 02:59 PM
I would just like to inform everyone that following "a legal complaint" several of the responses asking how come Brian Deer's was able to view personal medical files, have been removed of the BMJ's e-responses, and one other response altered to remove any allegation of breach of patient confidentiality.
Posted by: Hilary Butler | March 24, 2010 at 02:43 PM
Notice from Brian Deer's website:-
'In the battle to preserve an economic base for original journalism, including the necessary expense, skill and labour invested in what are sometimes long inquiries, it's vital that copyright is protected. This protection must deny others any right to reproduce the material published on this website, or material by Brian Deer published elsewhere, other than, say, as a single copy of a single item for personal offline reference. Plagiarism has become an endemic problem. Journalists, writers, academics, or others who plagiarise* Brian Deer's narratives, research [including documents obtained] or insights may face civil action and/or public criticism.
'Standard charges. Due to repeated infringements, a standard charge is in place for the unagreed use of Brian Deer's copyright property, however acquired. Without prejudice to rights to damages for infringement or plagiarism, the charge per item is 500 US dollars for the first month's or part month's usage, plus 200 dollars per month thereafter, plus costs and expenses incurred in the collection of fees.
'Among other things, copyright and plagiarism protection allows credit, follow-up and a flow of information from visitors to this site to accumulate here, and not be lost, diverted or exploited elsewhere. Many visitors have mailed this site, often supplying invaluable information, insights or opinions. You can contact Brian through this page.
'Recommendation of webpages is customarily achieved by creating hyperlinks - and links to this site, or individual items on it, are much appreciated. The material on this website is copyright as indicated. All rights are reserved. The copying, storing, redistribution, retransmisson, republication (including in blogs), transfer or commercial exploitation of material on this site is expressly forbidden.
'* According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; to use (another's production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source. According to plagiarism.org: "Any 'facts' that have been published as the result of individual research are considered the intellectual property of the author." Authors should particularly note that plagiarism guides make it clear that mere footnote or endnote references do not evade a charge of plagiarism, and that each individual fact must be attributed in the text where it is used. For reference, with regard to Brian Deer's MMR investigation, almost all of the key facts and documents are not public domain, and, such is the culture of plagiarism, he will act against authors who represent his writing, interviews, documents, or other research, as the fruit of their own inquiries, whether referenced or not. If you feel that this may spoil the "read" of your narrative and damage your interests: hard luck. You should have done the work yourself'
Posted by: Nemesis | March 23, 2010 at 05:41 PM
More pressure BMJ Rapid Responses today:
Posted by: John Stone | March 23, 2010 at 01:47 PM
I'm not sure about over the pond there in England, but here in the States, publicly posting confidential medical information in a public medium is grounds for a lawsuit.
Invasion of Privacy. I think there would be quite a few people smiling if you were to pursue Deer on these charges. Now, this is just a suggestion.
Also, thank you and your child for all you have done and have been through. You are truly courageous.
Posted by: Craig Willoughby | March 18, 2010 at 11:33 AM
I have responded to Brian Deer's comments in the BMJ as my sons were part of the Lancet Study and I am concerned that a journalist like Brian Deer can get hold of my sons medical files without my permission. I responded to the BMJ on the 13th March 2101 and to date they have not posted it. See below:
Thank you for your response
We value your contribution. If accepted, your response will look like this online and should be viewable within 24 hours:
Here is what your letter will look like online:
Response to Brian Deer's comment
BA5 2FG Wells
Send response to journal:
Re: Response to Brian Deer's comment
Brian Deer had the names of the Lancet Children and dates they entered the Royal Free hospital on his web-site for all to see long before the GMC hearing. His view was that some of us parent were in the media. The problem with that is that I did not tell the media that my boys were part of the Lancet study until Brian Deer let it be known. I have e-mailed him on numerous occasions asking him how he got hold of my children's medical notes without my permission. He has never interviewed me or my family and has not replied to this question. I believe Brian Deer got hold of confidential information on our children and want to know how this can happen. He told me in an e-mail that he managed to prise confidential documents from the Royal Free Hospital. This question below has not been answered by Brian Deer: Could Brian Deer also please let the BMJ know the means by which UK legislation allows free lance (or any other) journalists, to view original research files, and compare them with Royal Free (or any other hospital or private practice) medical files of children with full identities available, all test results available, without parental consent; the studies' authors consent; privacy restraints or hospital ethics committee approval?
Competing interests: Sons part of the Lancet study
Posted by: Isabella thomas | March 18, 2010 at 08:51 AM
Noddy Deer anyone that does the dirty for the goverment in the UK is put to Nod themselves sooner or later good night Noddy Deer..
Posted by: Angus Files | March 17, 2010 at 07:17 PM
This ploy is not uncommon. People like the "offiteers" will give a journalist HIPAA protected information knowing that the journalist does not have to reveal their source although they should, especially in a medical journal...Then, the very people (HIPAA violating docs and other HCP's like the Offiteers) that gave the privileged information will then use the likes of journalists like Brian as "their source" when they write their "books." The irony is that these bad docs and HCP are the original leaks in the first place. They also like to cite their old "opinions' as facts.
Posted by: anonymous | March 17, 2010 at 06:38 PM
After a peek into this Atlanta address it seems that the couple that live there, voice talent and stage actor, bought the house in 2004 from a man that owned it since 1981. He owns/owned several other houses in Atlanta. It is possible that the house was rented out prior to it being bought in 2004. None of the names (including stage names) attached to this house have any connection to the CDC.
The question perhaps may be what was Deer doing in 2001?
There is an interesting something on his website dating back to 2002.
He may be a Braves fan.
March 25, 2004 is when he "broke" the Wakefield story on his website.
The house sold on May 17, 2004 to the current owners for $460,000, which is actually inline with other houses in the neighborhood.
Posted by: bensmyson | March 17, 2010 at 06:22 PM
This is absurd that any Tom, Dick or Harry can get access to any child's medical certificates. There is many a case where parents have problems trying to get hold of their own children's medical records in the UK especially when suspicions arise on vaccines. Some records just simply disappear altogether.
I would like to see Brian Deers medical records to see if he has been vaccinated. One has to assume he was first in the queue for the swine flu vaccine.
Posted by: Ford Van Damage | March 17, 2010 at 04:51 PM
Brian Deer caught in in the head light.
Posted by: One voice | March 16, 2010 at 08:44 AM
Different whois sites give different information on briandeer.com. When I use whois.net, I see that the site is registered to http://www.wildwestdomains.com, which is a domain re-seller. And when I use whois.com, I see it is registered to Cheap-DomainRegistration.com. Maybe the owner of this company or companies lives in Atlanta. Maybe Brian Deer simply chose to base his website in the USA, which doesn't have the same libel laws as in the UK?
Posted by: Jennifer S. | March 16, 2010 at 08:21 AM
patricia pratt, thank you for the link to the video on Brian Deer. http://www.viddler.com/explore/ziggy/videos/1/ Even though I should have gone to bed, I couldn't stop watching. That man is a sociopath. A disgusting human being.
Posted by: Kristina | March 16, 2010 at 03:22 AM
Yes, that explanation would certainly be consistent with the fact that the said property also changed hands during the period.
Posted by: John Stone | March 16, 2010 at 03:00 AM
Mr. Deer Hunter's camoflage is no longer protecting him from being recognized by the animals in the forest. He is a Bambi Killer.
Posted by: Autism Grandma | March 16, 2010 at 12:30 AM
Greetings from Karma, Mr. Deer. You chose your path, you lied down with dogs. With your little slip up, now there's a threat the dogs will be exposed. Let's see how well they support you now. Come clean - let the real dastardly men take their rightful fall - it will be so very cathartic.
You'll sleep much better at night.
Posted by: Disgusted | March 15, 2010 at 11:47 PM
Hi there, John Stone--
Doing a bit more digging into Brian Deer's internet registry of his webpage, it appears that he has a bogus phone number posted (212-212-2121), so the Vedado Way address is probably bull****, too. Maybe he was visiting the CDC and copied down a random address from the neighborhood and used it on his registry.
It might interest you to know that this posting of incorrect information is in violation of the law: http://www.icann.org/en/announcements/advisory-10may02.htm
In fact, ICANN does "Require registrants to agree that willfully submitting inaccurate contact details (or failing to respond within 15 days to an inquiry regarding accuracy) shall be a basis for cancellation of the registration"
Maybe it's time for some intrepid reporter to contact ICANN and get that information corrected ;-)
Posted by: Theresa O | March 15, 2010 at 10:03 PM
I gather the assessed value is for tax purposes and the price of $460,000 not anomalous for the district.
Posted by: John Stone | March 15, 2010 at 09:21 PM
Sorry, should read:
Yes, and it is indeed curious that Deer’s website has apparently been registered at 777 Vedado Way, NE Atlanta 30308, in the neighbourhood of the Centers for Disease Control since 1 June 2000 (http://whois.domaintools.com/frwikipedia/briandeer.com , http://www.aboutus.org/BrianDeer.com ). It has remained there despite the property changing hands according to web records on 21 June 2004 for $460,000, which is approximately 3 times its market value (http://www.realtor.com/property-detail/777-Vedado-Way-NE_Atlanta_GA_30308_e5e74403?source=web ).
Posted by: John Stone | March 15, 2010 at 08:08 PM
Yes, and it is indeed curious that Deer’s website has apparently been registered at 777 Vedado Way, NE Atlanta 30308, in the neighbourhood of the Centers for Disease Control since 1 June 2000 (http://whois.domaintools.com/frwikipedia/briandeer.com , http://www.aboutus.org/BrianDeer.com ). It has remained there despite the property changing hands according to web records on 21 June 2004 for $460,000, which is approximately times its market value (http://www.realtor.com/property-detail/777-Vedado-Way-NE_Atlanta_GA_30308_e5e74403?source=web ).
Also, remarkable to note - as Dan points out - that Deer intervened on Atlanta TV website 3 days ago to complain about a report on Poul Thorsen:
Posted by: John Stone | March 15, 2010 at 07:04 PM
And another thing... I do think that Brian Deer's feet should be held to the fire to find out how he got the information about the 12 families involved in the Wakefield case.
I wouldn't trust Brian Deer as far as I could throw him and I certainly wouldn't want that type of pond scum knowing anything about my family and/or my child's medical history.
Posted by: A Friend | March 15, 2010 at 06:21 PM
"and by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson - while the NHS 'MMR the Facts' website linked to BrianDeer.com!"
Are you kidding me? The NHS 'MMR the Facts' website actually links to BrianDeer.com...? Can't get more pathetic than that ....
Posted by: A Friend | March 15, 2010 at 06:14 PM
Great article! Also, thanks to Patricia, for posting the link to the cryshame video. I'd been trying to find that video for someone, but had forgotten where I'd seen it. I've officially saved it this time! The more people who hear the families and Dr. Wakefield's true account, the better. It still amazes me that the governments (here and in the UK) have been able to just sweep all vaccine controversy under the rug, and just chalk it all up to "misguided parents looking for someone/something to blame." Then, hold a few bogus hearings with a predetermined outcome for a couple troublesome doctors and parents, and call it a day. You'd think that would only get them so far. It's a bit discouraging that it's working for them. Guess we need to make more noise!
Posted by: Anne | March 15, 2010 at 04:20 PM
There certainly is a problem about reporters rifling through private medical records in the UK and using them for whatever purpose. But you are also right that it is a problem for the source, and it is the bigger problem. In this case the UK National Health Service and UK Government have backed Deer's reporting from day one (as have some senior medical professionals) so it looks as if your medical records are confidential until the state finds it expedient to turn a blind eye. Deer's initial report was backed by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson - while the NHS 'MMR the Facts' website linked to BrianDeer.com!
It augurs ill for the universal computerisation of patient records which is now UK government policy.
Posted by: John Stone | March 15, 2010 at 04:11 PM
To Angus Files: re. "How much harm has Deer caused the parents and children by publishing the names of these children on his website..", do you have a note of the date this happened or even better a copy of the entry on the website and when you notified a police force?
Posted by: Journal Checker | March 15, 2010 at 02:46 PM
John. thanks for the excellent post. Yazbak's urging Deer to take a deep breath is priceless. Brian ratchets up every conversation to a fever pitch of moral urgency with the highest stakes -- for instance, when the Atlanta TV station ran a piece about Thorsen, it did something in the video that Deer took exception to -- "I know nothing of Dr Thorsen, but I strain to avoid the conclusion that, whatever he may or may not have done, you have acted dishonestly, with the intent to mislead your viewers. I look forward to hearing that you have looked into this matter, and removed any online clips, and made the necessary correction and apology." Dude, relax. Americans don't freak out quite as quickly as Brits seem to.
Having said this, i'd like to also add that in the U.S., at least, a reporter obtaining private information from sources is a problem for the source, not the reporter, unless the reporter has committed a crime in the process. So I'm less interested in Deer here than in whether laws were broken or ethics compromised by those who gave him access. Once he had it, however, I do think it was dubious for Brian to use the info to try to whack a critic like Yazbak -- and based on a misunderstanding, no less. Like Yazbak said, Brian should chill before he does himself any more damage. -- dan
Posted by: dan olmsted | March 15, 2010 at 02:12 PM
This excellent video shows us the true measure of the man.
the link is found on:
Brian Deer and the GMC.
Posted by: patricia pratt | March 15, 2010 at 12:47 PM
This story needs to be up on Huffington Post! Who can put it there? (seeing as the New York Times front page isn't an option)
Posted by: MinorityView | March 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM
My apologies to Mr Deer... It was not his dear old grandma but a wise old aunt who offered him such profound advice.
C:\Documents and Settings\admin\My Documents\Andrew Wakefield - Brian Deer offers an insight.mht
Where would we all be now if it hadn´t been for her pearls of wisdom I wonder.
Posted by: patricia pratt | March 15, 2010 at 12:28 PM
Deer needs to have a come to Jesus moment. Does he have kids? How can he live with his self?
Posted by: jen | March 15, 2010 at 11:51 AM
please send this link to Big Noise Films
Posted by: maggie | March 15, 2010 at 10:52 AM
Maybe it's time for Deer to step back and ...stop being a douchebag.
If you aren't part of the solution than you are part of the problem. Deer is making every step of my son's recovery harder.
Posted by: casey | March 15, 2010 at 09:30 AM
The Autsim Storm is getting stronger..keep it up folks..
Lets not forget the charge against Dr Wakefield is for spurious harm to childrenHow much harm has Deer caused the parents and children by publishing the names of these children on his website..removal suddenly only after various parents contacted the Police...I for one even although it wasnt about my child..
Posted by: Angus Files | March 15, 2010 at 08:54 AM
I mean "ever" see a day in court.
Posted by: kathleen | March 15, 2010 at 08:45 AM
There is such a feeling of emptiness when the cover-up is so blantant, and still we are the ones seen as unreasonable and uninformed.
If this were about anyone other than teflon Deer they would surely be held accountable.
I doubt that %^%&%^$ will never see a day in court!
Posted by: kathleen | March 15, 2010 at 08:43 AM
"If I have followed this correctly, Deer got access to the children's identities through a court order against Dr Wakefield in libel proceedings."
Do you mean to tell me that if I want involve my child in an autism study, say an independantly funded vax / unvax study, and the some worthless P.O.S. reporter wanted to "find something big" to discredit it, that the reporter could "get access to [my chiild's identity] through a court order against [the doctors] in libel proceedings"?
Wow. There is a monkey study out there being witheld from publishing, but reporters have this much power? I hope not.
Posted by: Tim Kasemodel | March 15, 2010 at 08:06 AM
Prof Dodge raises urgent questions - if Deer is lying about having that information, that just confirms that he is lying lowlife (nothing new there). But if he is telling the truth, it would confirm that there is something very sinister going on and that he has had direct 'logistic' support from big players. Either that or he somehow managed to break into hospital's database and literally steal records. Either way, if he is telling the truth this has major legal implications.
Posted by: Natasa | March 15, 2010 at 06:15 AM
http://briandeer.com/solved/gazette-large.htm Yes it is about time Mr Deer himself was fully investigated. I think this interview link speaks volumes about the man. His present silence speaks volumes also.
Irony is not this man´s strongest asset, he has quoted his grandmother as telling him never to believe anything he reads in the newspapers.
Posted by: patricia pratt | March 15, 2010 at 05:55 AM
Thank you John - excellent!
Posted by: TheresaC | March 15, 2010 at 03:54 AM
Can anyone explain the 'blunder' here? Deer quite openly said he knew who the children were, Dr Yazbak's grandson wasn't among them, and Dr Yazbak then fulsomely apologized. Does Age of Autism consider telling the truth a 'blunder'?
If I have followed this correctly, Deer got access to the children's identities through a court order against Dr Wakefield in libel proceedings.
Posted by: Tina | March 15, 2010 at 03:46 AM
What a despicable hypocrite, surrounded by other despicable hypocrites.
Posted by: Twyla | March 15, 2010 at 02:07 AM
Mr. Deer needs to explain how he was able to obtain the information. I hope that the parents of the children in Dr. Wakefield's study use this opportunity to extract the truth from Mr. Deer, who appears to be to journalism what Paul Offit is to the vaccine-autism debate: a pharma whore puppet.
Posted by: JB Handley | March 15, 2010 at 01:43 AM
Well, well, well. Here's hoping that someone has the "appetite" for that lawsuit against Deer.
Why are so many criminals compelled to brag about their crimes?
Very much like Thorsen, it seems those, like Deer, who "know too much" about the dirty dealings of certain medical and government authorities become awfully cavalier about their legal indemnity. And this finally makes me understand why Deer and certain American vaccine defenders in the press are constantly sneering at vaccine injury families for supposedly believing in "conspiracy theories". It seems to be because individuals like Deer know there actually is a degree of conspiracy and they feel it shields them. Unfortunately for them, they simply overestimate how far it goes. It doesn't pervade every single courtroom and not all judges would take kindly or respond expectedly to coercion. It doesn't involve all potential jurors. Not every medical professional is "in on it". And in the end, people like Deer aren't as protected as they appear to think they are-- not if they step too far out on that limb.
Posted by: Gatogorra | March 15, 2010 at 12:42 AM
Deer can get personal information on these children to run his character assassination campaign, yet the Geiers cannot even gain access to the Vaccine Safety Datalink where medical records cannot even be attributed to HMOs, much less specific patients, to study the link between mercury in vaccine and autism. For shame.
Posted by: Jake Crosby | March 15, 2010 at 12:27 AM