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Best of: Wakefield vs. Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee and the BMJ: Dispatches from the Front

AustinManaging Editor's Note: We ran this post by Dan Burns last March.  Here it is as again as a complement to the post we ran yesterday,  Andy Wakefield's Day In Court.

By Dan E. Burns

This is Chapter One in a series of occasional dispatches from An Independent Me, a charity for ASD adults on the front of the autism epidemic. Read the PROLOGUE HERE.

Zero and I stomped down the parking garage stairs near the Travis County Courthouse, footsteps ricocheting through the concrete ramps.  Above us, the courthouse stood like a stone sentinel, caressed by shadows of summer foliage, live oaks and panicles of crepe myrtle, this July day in 2012.

The hearing was about jurisdiction. Dr. Wakefield was suing BMJ – the British Medical Journal – for libel. Hack writer Brian Deer, commissioned by the Sunday Times of London, had called Dr. Wakefield a fraud; and Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ, reprinted the libelous Times article, embellished it, and profited from it in promotions throughout the United States, including Dr. Wakefield’s home state of Texas. Would the lawsuit play out in a Texas courtroom, or would the proceedings be remanded to England, home base for the libelers? “Mr. Wakefield has been found unfit to practice,” the BMJ team argued. “Why should a Texas court decide what has already been litigated in England?” Beyond that today rumbled the larger question: Who is the fraud, Wakefield or Deer?

I remembered a scenario Dr. Wakefield had created for me, first time we met. “Imagine a village,” he said, “where young adults with autism could live and work, enjoy life, continue to heal, and give back to society. Imagine the residences, the clinic, restaurant, gift store, microenterprise center, the gardens, the wellness center for conventions and outreach. Hang a sign on the gate that says ‘Autism Village.’ Now come back in thirty years. The village is abandoned and the sign is rusty, swinging in the wind, because the epidemic has ceased to exist. That’s the future I’d like to see. Let’s make it happen.”

Zero and I tunneled through courthouse security to reception. The staffers were kids in T-shirts and scruffy jeans. They could have been taken for juvenile delinquents if they’d been on the other side of the desk. “We’re looking for Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield vs. BMJ, Godlee, and Deer,” I said.

“Fifth floor,” said the JD. I turned around, and there was Dr. Andy Wakefield and his family behind us, outfitted for the opera and boarding an antiquated elevator. “Thanks for coming,” said Andy through the closing door. “See you up there.”

The compact courtroom was crowded with black-suited attorneys and legal aides. Marc Fuller, the short guy with glasses, was lead attorney for the BMJ. William M. Parrish, the tall guy in cowboy boots, led for our team.

The Wakefield family took their seats. Corin, their handsome young teen, entered the row first, followed by Andy’s wife Carmel, ethereal and pale from her body-shattering head-on collision with a truck, but walking upright and unassisted. Was that a rosary in her hand? Andy, blue blazered, took the middle position, holding a pen. To his left their sequined daughter Imogen, a high-school activist who together with her British counterpart Bella raised money to support ASD kids by staging “Give Autism a Chance” events. Imogen’s braided hair framed her forehead like a crown. I imagined her mother, carefully and painfully crossing each regal braid with her broken, mending fingers.

Enter the judge, Amy Meachum, blonde, a bit too cheery, clutching a massive binder full of documentation. “Sit down,” she breezed, with the feigned informality of someone who held a position larger than herself. “Y’all kept me up late reading,” she said, holding up the binder, yellow post-it notes sticking out like frizzy hair. “Can cut to the core of this? Or we’ll be here all day.”

There was no cutting. The first two hours turned on legal terms: special vs. general appearance, specific jurisdiction, Chapter 27, anti-Slapp, purposeful availment, incantations projected as PowerPoint slides on dueling monitors. The BMJ attorneys dominated the dialogue. By midmorning I was bored, exhausted, and needed to pee. It seemed that nothing had been accomplished. “Bottom line, the British government has an overriding interest in this case,” said the short guy, “and it should be settled in Britain.”

“What are you hearing?” I asked Zero. He claimed to have auditory perception up to 40,000 hertz, twice the normal human range. Back at the ranch, afternoons, when the hens had disappeared into the woods seeking bugs and shade, he gave us the Daily Chicken Report: “They’re OK.” Zero also claimed he could tell when someone was lying by perturbations in the vocal track. “There’s a couple of flaws in the short guy’s case,” he said. “His voice says so.”

The court recessed for a ten-minute biology break. The distinguished William M. Parrish, Big Tex with a silver fox haircut, was in the men’s room washing his hands. “Go get ‘em, cowboy,” I said.

“I will.”

Back in the courtroom, it was our turn. Parrish planted his boots on the floor, unfolded his flagpole frame, and stood up. “Your honor,” he said, “This is a story about suffering children and their mothers and families, and a doctor’s decision to listen to them.” The room stirred. Here at last was the argument we had come to hear.

“On January 6, 2011,” he continued, “Anderson Cooper interviewed Brian Deer. ‘If Andrew Wakefield can prove he didn’t falsify his data,’ Deer said, ‘he could file a libel action against myself, the Sunday Times of London, and against the BMJ. If not guilty, he would be the richest man in America. So why doesn’t he sue me?’”

“Objection,” said the BMJ guy.

“Hold on a second,” said Judge Amy. I stole a glance at Andy. Now we were at the core of it. “Your honor,” continued Parrish, “Brian Deer came here with a chip on his shoulder. If you pick a fight in Texas, you settle it in Texas. That’s why we’re in this courtroom today.”

More dueling monitors, but the drama had peaked. The judge promised a quick resolution. “I’ll be in contact soon,” she said.

As we walked back to the parking garage, Zero and I caught up with the Wakefield family. Andy looked pleased. He felt that our points had been well received. “Now I can go home and get out of this hot blazer.”

But the resolution was not “soon,” as promised. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday went by with no word from Judge Amy. “Look on the bright side,” said Zero. “If everything was going right, there’d be nothing to look forward to.” But when the order finally came, it was a disappointment. Motion denied. Oddly, the original typewritten date, July 31, a Tuesday, had been scratched out. Inked in longhand was August 3, 2012, a Friday. Why the delay?

“Don’t give up hope,” said Andy.

Contribute to the Dr. Wakefield Justice Fund at www.drwakefieldjusticefund.org/

We await the appeal.

Dan E. Burns, Ph.D., is the father of a 25-year-old son on the autism spectrum and the author of Saving Ben: A Father’s Story of Autism. Dr. Burns is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and is Adult Issues Liaison for AutismOne. He facilitates planning, vocational programming, and funding for An Independent Me, a charity in the Austin, Texas area for teens and young adults on the Autism Spectrum. Dr. Burns is focused on empowering parents to organize communities where their adult ASD children and friends can live, work, play, and heal.



John Fryer

One problem we face is that we often assume others are like us and honest.

In fact it is perfectly clear that dishonesty from authority runs through the attempts by any family to get redress for harm done to them by authority whatever it is.

Its not us. IT IS!

We dont know. THEY DO!

Its never happened before. EXCEPT 250 000 times in that public data base we claim is rubbish when it tells ALL.

The first arguments true or false for autism was it was the parents fault. Everyone agrees today it isnt the parents fault but the arguments today are still lies.

We dont know what causes autism - false! We know many things that cause autism but we still cant accept mercury is one of the dozen or so causes, we cant accept tylenol taken before or after vaccines does any harm except it is the single worst drug known to man (and one day old babies) with one or two exceptions.

But one of the worst is the deliberate addition of fluoride to water and claim a teratogen, mutagen and carcinogne ie with similar properties to organomercury whether ethyl or methyl related.

With such an environmental insult from before birth it is little wonder non-infectious illness is so high and infectious illness is so low. Nothing can exist easily in such a toxic environment and bugs and little things are the first to succomb followed 3 years on or sooner by the survivors of all this the growing child.

And if you follow the history of fluoride abuse you see a carbon copy of what is happening to people like Andrew. Regard the sacking of Phyllis Mullenix and the fortuitous addition to her staff of a certain Harold Hodge who first tested out plutonium and uranium on humans and then found fluoride was worse so tested it out on a whole town or city in USA. Phyllis was completely unaware for a long time that what happened to her was planned and that authority knew of the neurotoxic harm of fluoride decades before she reinvented the wheel and found the same neurotoxic property which again had to be handled just like the thimerosal property of neurotoxicty had to be handled in 1999.

To be fair to authority we cant blame them for if justice was the way to go there wouldnt be anyone left to run the country.

The ordinary person has to look out for himself of perish.

Thimerosal, fluorides, tylenol, GMO all make big bucks by killing people.

Herbs, vitamins and good bio-food and pure unadulterated water are just things of history they got us to 2013 but theres no MONEY in them!

BAN these and force everyone to take the POISONS!

CAPITALISM is thriving!

Angus Files

Yes White Rose… I hope I see the day when Salisbury et-al are hauled back to the real world and proven to be the least humanitarian species on the planet...I can’t call them human as they have lost the bit in the make up that makes them human...


In Deer's BMJ article he claims that Rosemary Kessick's son started head-banging several months after MMR, not the two weeks Mrs. Kessick told Dr. Berelowitz at the Royal Free. Deer further contends that Wakefield manipulated Mrs. Kessick into making the two-week claim when talking to her in 1995.

So I was surprised to find this description of Child 2's medical history written, it appears, by a Professor Warner in 1992:

"....severe temper tantrums and over activity from 16 to 20 months of age. At that stage he lost all his language which he had acquired, became very withdrawn and appeared to have totally glazed eyes. He also became very clumsy, began to walk on his toes and starred to dribble for the first time."

Child 2 got MMR on Nov. 8, 1989, three weeks before he turned 16 months old. Those "temper tantrums" at 16 months, might they have included head-banging?

Jenny Allan

As I understand it 'Judge Amy' was appointed after a public vote in Texas. No doubt being blonde and pretty attracted a few votes in her favour, but her 'attitude' to her job leaves a great deal to be desired. That comment about “Can cut to the core of this? Or we’ll be here all day.” sounds very unprofessional to me, and would certainly not be acceptable in a UK Court of Law.

Jake Crosby's revelations about Judge Meacham's Husband, acting as a lobbyist for a Texan Association of Paediatricians, which published and endorsed the disputed BMJ Deer articles, and added to the Wakefield vilification as well, was quite shocking.

Victor Pavlovic

White Rose, great comment, and one day with God's help hopefully soon, this awful truth of the intentional vaccine devastation imposed on so many children will be all the rage, and all these criminals locked up, forever!

White Rose

I of course want a victory in Texas , naturally .

But a message to the Godless people out there , it really doesnt matter if you manage to scupper us again by your sneakiness and skullduggery .

Because my child is effin vaccine injured for life .
So my one man campaign against you vaccine murderers is going to last at least that long .
Salisbury might well retire this year , it doesnt make any difference , you will not be forgotten in any of this .
And I pray for the day when we can haul your ass back into court for the crimes against humanity that you have clearly perpetrated . And to the rest of your brigade , Bedford , Goldigger , Elimann , Finn ......our day will come .
There will be no amnesty granted .

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