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Ben Goldacre Challenged on Wakefield and the GMC on his own Guardian Column

GoldacreWEB2611_228x331 By John Stone

“It is troubling that people would be prepared to sit back and watch a serious injustice being committed because of a disagreement with those being falsely accused of improprieties. I think we need an explanation.”

The anomalies mount up. Last week I called Goldacre over his vacillating position on Wakefield’s Lancet study and the GMC findings (HERE ). I pointed out that statements he had made both in 2005 and last month seemed to contradict the GMC result. As usual with Goldacre he blanked my criticisms directly but as if in reply in his review of the year in the Guardian this weekend (HERE) he cited his January article welcoming the GMC verdict.

Taking the war to Goldacre’s own territory I posted twice on the matter beneath the Guardian column, and was met not only with his customary silence but also that of all the usual Skeptic brigade who normally surround him. Notably, I reproduced my letter to the BMJ of February in which I challenged everyone and anyone to square the circle of the GMC findings. This was under an article by government scientist Prof Trisha Greenhalgh who had contributed an analysis of the Lancet paper to journalist Brian Deer’s website (HERE ). It was very clear also that Goldacre’s view of the paper was opposed to Greenhalgh and Deer. I was in effect challenging Greenhalgh, Deer and Goldacre from their different perspectives to explain how the GMC verdict could possibly be right. No one – in front of a professional audience - came to set me straight, and although Deer subsequently contributed to the thread in a controversial way he did not respond to the central issue I had raised. The truth is that no one can answer and a gross injustice has surely been committed. Here is the text of my post (HERE), which may or may not be allowed to remain up:

‘Regarding Wakefield and the GMC I would just like to reproduce my comment in BMJ Rapid Responses in February noting that I could easily have been taken up on it then by Ben, or Brian Deer or Prof Greenhalgh (Deer, indeed, sent a comment to the same thread but had nothing to say on this matter). Moreover, it is interesting to note that what Ben has been saying about the Lancet study is in direct contradiction of Greenhalgh who had contributed an article to Deer's website about the study (but not to a peer review publication):

‘’The panel stated in the short version of their findings on fact read out to journalists at the GMC last month...:

‘’“The Panel has heard that ethical approval had been sought and granted for other trials and it has been specifically suggested that Project 172-96 was never undertaken and that in fact, the Lancet 12 children’s investigations were clinically indicated and the research parts of those clinically justified investigations were covered by Project 162- 95. In the light of all the available evidence, the Panel rejected this proposition.”

‘’However, it is my understanding that 162-95 was not a "project" in any normal sense but the ethical approval granted Prof Walker-Smith on his arrival at the Royal Free Hospital in September 1995 - as probably the most senior figure in British paediatric gastroenterology - to retain biopsy samples from colonoscopies for research purposes. If this is the case it would seem a basic criticism of the panel, that in reaching their view, they did not explain why this ethical permission did not obtain in this instance. We are also confronted by the oddity that the panel having concluded that the study was in fact project 172-96 then found the three doctors to be in breach of its terms at every twist and turn, instead of drawing the more obvious inference that it wasn't 172-96 at all, but an "early report" as stated. (And this, incidentally, is why several of us think that Ben Goldacre had it right in the first place.)’

‘It is troubling that people would be prepared to sit back and watch a serious injustice being committed because of a disagreement with those being falsely accused of improprieties. I think we need an explanation.’

I have also now written to the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger:

‘Dear Mr Rusbridger,

‘Re: Ben Goldacre's position on the Wakefield affair

‘I would like to draw your attention to discrepancies in your columnist's handling of this matter. In 2005 Dr Goldacre wrote an award winning article insisting that Dr Wakefield's Lancet paper "was and still remains a perfectly good small case series report". It is therefore troubling that he should have welcomed the GMC verdict against the three doctors which on no evidence that the panel could cite found fancifully the Lancet paper was not what it (and Dr Goldacre) had said it was but an ill conducted version of a protocol for a study commissioned by the Legal Aid Board. This was so discrepant from reality that GMC panel also found that the doctors had breached the terms of the protocol in innumerable respects. And Dr Wakefield was found to be "dishonest" on the basis that he had not declared or accounted the LAB funding as being for the Lancet publication.

‘I might have been prepared to accept that Dr Goldacre had simply been persuaded of the GMC position if he had not spoken again in an Irish on-line publication last month saying very similar things to the 2005 article:

‘“But you have to remember this paper didn’t actually say MMR causes autism, it didn’t even speculate on that. It was accompanied by an editorial that said by the way people should be very clear that it doesn’t mean that MMR causes autism.

‘“Also, this was a 12 subject case series report - it was a description of only 12 children’s clinical anecdotes, and while this is not good evidence to say MMR causes autism, it is a perfectly legitimate thing to publish.”

‘If this is right (and I believe it is) then the big fraud is surely that of the GMC, and should not Dr Goldacre and the Guardian being saying this? I have put this to Dr Goldacre a number of times on-line… and he chooses not to answer, but it is apparent his view is not only factually correct but is completely incompatible with the GMC findings.

‘Yours sincerely,

John Stone’

Further reading:










Autism Grandma

Hi John,

DANG!!! You look like you are about 42!!! Since you're married already, I guess you can't be my son-in-law.

You are definitely not "swivel-eyed", but Brian Deer is definitely sneaky eyed.

Maybe you should show my email to your wife. She will appreciate you all the more:)

Keep posting at AoA. We all love to read what you write!!!

John Stone

Autism Grandma

How nice of you to think of me. I think I might be a bit old (56) apart from being married with two children (one autistic). I am of course very honoured.

Based on the photograph someone - it might have been Brian Deer - declared me to be swivel-eyed!


Autism Grandma

Hey John,

I don't usually write personal notes here but I can't resist just this once. By your photo you are obviously a good looking man, and such an intelligent mind behind a handsome face is quite rare. So it's just too bad that you are across the ocean or I would try to hook you up with my daughter. She is very intelligent and beautiful with big boobs to boot. HA!!! But then again you may be married already anyway, so perhaps you have brothers with similiar DNA? Or maybe we could clone you so there would be more of you to go around. [SMILE]

John Stone

Autism Grandma

I think there is an issue of why people lie. Churchill's reputed remark to Stalin (correctly the truth was a "she"!) was quite certainly over the allies succesfully decieving the axis over it invasion plans (as they largely it did). It confronts the possibility that lies may sometimes be a good thing. I have no doubt in this instance of the feelings moral rectitude that accompany much of the manipulation of truth by our health officials, editors and journalists. But let us say it is essentially disgusting. They have lost grip of the plot and are serving themselves not the public. And the public no longer have any way of assessing the value and reliability of the information coming from these people.

I speak on the cusp of a new official offensive against swine flu. The phrase "Crying "wolf!"" also comes to mind.



Smugly treacherous, Dr Ben, like Dr Dick (Richard Horton), editor of the Lancet, is a special master at the scientific arts of flip-floppery, treachery and smugness. A pox on the both of them!

Autism Grandma

Re:"The truth is so important it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies."

I think that Kent's usage of this quote from Winston Churchill is because this tactic is being used by our enemies in this "vaccines war". The truth about the vaccines is "so important" in that it will entirely expose the vaccine industry, medical system and government corruption, unless they keep this truth "surrounded by a bodyguard of lies."

Likewise during World War II, the truth about what was really happening in Germany, the extermination of the Jews, Polish, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many other political prisoners, had to be "surrounded by a bodyguard of lies", orchestrated by Nazi government propaganda. However by the end of the war many of Germany's soldiers and civilians were realizing the reality of truth, and were turning against the Nazi government. By this time the military was drafting 12 year old boys into the army, and many people had lost friends and relatives to concentration camps. Finally many German citizens were asking "What is really going on?"

And today more and more people now are finally asking "What is really going on" with the VACCINES???!!! I often think of Age of Autism as "Radio Free Europe" broadcasting the truth in the midst of lies and massive propaganda.

Here is a movie based on a true story that occurred on Christmas Eve in Germany during WWII. It says alot about what the individual people believe versus what the government is telling them.


Katie Wright

OMG- is this guy unbearably smug or what

John Stone

Autism Grandma

Of course, Churchill was referring to a wartime situation where there was an imperative to deceive an enemy. In the alleged war on disease we are not the enemy, we are the collateral: by and large deseases do not need be deceived (or only by analogy). Goldacre's Bad Science column has a mission to create a scientific enemy, and he does science a disservice. There is an argument, of course, that this is technical, that the public can't understand, can't be trusted. The reality, of course, is that people who can't be trusted are the liars and propagandists for an unaacoutable public health policy.

Autism Grandma

"I'm well aware of the strength of the opposition arrayed against us and often think of Winston Churchill's maxim that sometimes "The truth is so important it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies."

What I Really Want for Christmas - The Truth
By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

Jake Crosby

Excellent job, John. I feel so proud to see that the article I pointed you to has precipitated this awesome letter you wrote to the editor. And if he doesn't respond, you can always go over his head just like I did with Clark Hoyt when he was public editor of The New York Times.

John Stone


Goldacre is not only a doctor he is doctor at the heart of the medical establishment - while the Guardian styled him a junior doctor he progressed from the Institute of Psychiatry to Nuffield College, Oxford. His father is professor of public health at Oxford and is funded by the DH.

When the GMC brought in its findings fellow Guardian journalist Sarah Boseley muttered darkly:

“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.”

But presumably the part of the medical establishment that "believe that no good can come of it" have been prepared to sit by and watch the farago happen, saying nothing, and hoping that it won't blow up in their faces as they deserve.

So, let's hear the truth now, even though it is seven years too late.


Ed Yazbak

Like John Stone, I have been concerned about Dr. Goldacre’s volte-face.

I was quite favorably impressed when he chastised the GMC and wrote that Andy Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper "was and still remains a perfectly good small case series report". I remember being quite surprised at the time that his editor even allowed the piece to be published.

I was not aware of the second assertion until I read about it on AOA. It strongly suggests that he was solid in his belief and it renders his most recent stand all the more disturbing.

One is not surprised when some higher up “gets to a reporter” but Goldacre is not a reporter; he is a doctor first and a medical writer second.

As a colleague, I hope for our sake, that no one forced him to “fold”.

John Stone

Deborah N,

Yes, BG's website advice "personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for your own safety" speaks of an aggressive ideological/institutional commitment. His message to the media about Wakefield was don't say anything good about him. His admission that the 1998 study was perfectly good was an interesting piece of fastidiousness.


Paul Shapiro

These twisters of the truth
are haunted
in the moments of reflection.

Thank you John, for reminding them
of their dishonesty!

Angus Files

Cheers John ,Can you hear the silence from the other side ,we can here loud and clear...


Deborah Nash

To be a good scientist one has to have an open mind. Unfortunately some scientists think they know it all and that parents being representative of the general public know nothing. What is scientific about parents being told to ignore what they have seen with there own eyes? Of course the GMC panel did just that. They closed their eyes to all the evidence that was presented by the defence and put their faith in the lies of the Prosecution.


What is Ben is he qualified in gastroenterology , is Deer qualified in gastro , there views are their views children suffer because of these views , it is time for honesty , you have no knowledge unless you are a parent of a vaccine damaged child , i am no Gastroenterologist but i am honest and dedicated to my son


Sounds like Ben Goldacre wants to play it both ways, but if he has an ounce of integrity he would clarify what he has said. Good for you to keep at it, John.

Joan Campell

Yes thanks John for keeping up the good work that you do.
People are questioning the lies and corruption now.


It looks like he wants to be able to switch sides as necessary.


The details of the GMC debacle are simply over the heads of most physicians. They'd rather accept the dumbed down argument, and keep their own lives simple. So much easier that way. The rest of us are living complicated lives AND see the truth clearly, in all its intricacies.

John Stone


I think Goldacre's colleague Sarah Boseley had it right in January when she warned that a large part of the profession were warning that no good would come of the GMC. But of course its the media that are really in the dock, and not in the way that Goldacre pretends.



What? Silence? No "cutting" replies? No cliched recitations of bad studies? Silence?

Thank you again for the update, John. We're not silent.

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