'On Thursday 12 April 2012 British Medical Journal's appeal against Andrew Wakefield's libel suit being heard in Texas goes before Travis County Court in Austin. John Stone, AoA's UK editor, reports on developments in the case.' You can donate to the Andrew Wakefield Justice fund HERE.
BMJ editor Fiona Godlee swears that she and her colleagues did not know that Andrew Wakefield lived in Texas, in the face of documentary evidence.
By John Stone
In an attempt by British Medical Journal to wrest Andrew Wakefield’s libel case from the jurisdiction of a Texas court its editor Fiona Godlee has denied ‘under penalty of perjury’ that she and her colleagues were ever aware that Wakefield resided in Texas, despite numerous references in the journal to this fact since 2005. The declaration which was made to the court twice, first on 28 February 2012 and then on 5 April, coincided on the second occasion with the presentation by Wakefield’s lawyers of annotated evidence that the fact had often been reported by the journal. This claim must cast doubt on Godlee’s competence and reliability as a witness. It follows her remarkable claim last year, at a meeting of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, that she did not know that BMJ’s business partners Merck and GSK were manufacturers of MMR vaccine . It also follows the revelation last month that BMJ had not had the article by Brian Deer – on which its claims of fraud against Wakefield were based – externally peer reviewed, as claimed at the time of publication, (See BMJ HERE.)
The wording of Godlee’s twice made declaration is as follows:
‘Indeed, to the best of my recollection, even though I was aware that the Plaintiff had relocated to the United States, I do not believe that I knew that the Plaintiff was a Texas resident at the time of these publications, and I am not aware of anyone else at BMJ publishing group who knew the Plaintiff was a Texas resident.
‘I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.’
Meanwhile, an affidavit (paras 28-38) from Wakefield’s lawyers (signed John D Saba) lists references by the journal going back six and a half years:
Clare Dyer on-line 10 November 2005 ‘High Court judge criticises Andrew Wakefield for trying to silence his critics’ quote:
“Dr Wakefield, who now works in Austin, Texas…”
Owen Dyer on-line 12 July 2007 [print version 17 July] ‘GMC hearing against Wakefield opens’ quote:
“Dr Wakefield, now lives in Austin, Texas…”
Owen Dyer on-line 3 April 2008 [print version 5 April 2008] ‘Wakefield tells GMC he was motivated by concern for autistic children’ quote:
“Dr Wakefield, now lives in Austin, Texas…”
Clare Dyer on-line 29 January 2010 ‘Wakefield was dishonest and irresponsible over MMR research, says GMC’ quote:
Dr Wakefield…is now executive director of Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, Texas..’
Clare Dyer 2 February 2010[print version 6 February 2010] ‘Lancet retracts Wakefield’s MMR paper’:
‘Dr Wakefield…is now … in Austin, Texas…’
Fiona Godlee on-line 4 February 2010 [print version 6 February 2010) ‘Editor’s Choice: MMR and other controversies’ references Dyer’s reports:
‘In Brief’ on-line 25 February 2010 [print version 27 February] ‘Wakefield resigns from autism centre he founded in Texas’ quote:
‘Andrew Wakefield,…, has resigned from…the autism centre he founded in Austin, Texas…’
Brian Deer on-line 15 April 2010 [print version 17 April 2010] ‘Wakefield’s ‘autistic enterocolitis’ under the microscope’ quote:
‘In 2005 [Dr Wakefield] established a private clinic in Austin, Texas…’
Zosia Kmietowiscz on-line 24 May 2010 [print version 29 May 2010] ‘Wakefield is struck off for the “serious and wide-ranging findings against him”’ quote:
Dr Wakefield…became executive director of Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, Texas…’
Brian Deer on-line 9 November 2010 ‘Pathology reports solve “new bowel disease” riddle’ quote:
‘Wakefield…now self-employed in Austin, Texas…’:
Clare Dyer on-line 14 March 2012 [print version 17 March] ‘BMJ invokes new Texan freedom of speech law to fight Wakefield libel case’:
When Dr Godlee was appointed to the post of editor-in-chief at BMJ in 2004 she already had a known agenda to defend the vaccine programme and MMR. In 2010 BMJ removed correspondence from its on-line columns indicating Deer’s unauthorised access and use of confidential medical documents. The BMJ has repeatedly ducked making Deer disclose that he was the complainant against Wakefield and colleagues at the GMC hearing and has also repeatedly excused him from disclosing pharmaceutical industry patronage. Moreover, Godlee and the journal only themselves made the most belated and inadequate acknowledgement over its business partnerships with Merck and GSK in relation to its attack on Wakefield (see BMJ HERE.)
All this is in stark contrast to Godlee and BMJ’s continuing Robespierre-like public stance on research integrity and conflict of interest (example 1) (example 2) (example 3). In 2004 Godlee was appointed chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) with Harvey Marcovitch - who was also a co-signatory of the BMJ editorial condemning Wakefield and as it later emerged alleged external peer reviewer of Deer’s paper despite being a BMJ editor of long-standing - as her deputy. Godlee was succeeded as chair of COPE by Marcovitch in 2006 and by another long term associate Liz Wager (who also sits on BMJ’s ethics committee) in 2008 . Wager is an industry ghost writer and research publication advisor. She also sits on the advisory board of the United Kingdon Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) as Markovitch did before her.
It really is beginning to look with this latest manoeuvre as if – despite the many promises – all the King’s horses and all the King’s men won’t be able to put Humpty together again.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.