I'm having a lot of trouble trying to write an article about MMR/Autism whistleblower, William Thompson.
On the one hand I don't want to waste this opportunity to show the scientific community that our concerns our real, and yet at the same time I don't want to let this guy off for concealing important evidence for more than a decade.
At the outset I have to say I'm really not a punishing kind of guy. In law school I worked for the US Attorney's office in San Francisco, assembling wiretap evidence in a large Oakland drug case. That meant I spent a lot of time listening to tapes of these guys talking.
And I found them not to be the threatening kind of all-powerful criminals you see in police thrillers, but discovered they were really leading pathetic, miserable lives. I also couldn't escape the realization that somebody like me, the top 10% of society, would be prosecuting the bottom 10% of society to make sure that the 80% in the middle remained relatively safe.
It's probably no surprise I ended up in teaching, trying to help students be interested in and excited by science, and also to be individuals who valued honesty. I wanted to help people be good, not punish them when they go bad. I've often thought that the best of science and the best of law share a common aim, as when a person stands to present testimony in a courtroom they swear an oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." The same expectation applies to scientists who work at government institutions when they publish scientific research in major journals.
It's with this in mind I have to detail some of my troubles with Dr. William Thompson.
From an e-mail Dr. Thompson allegedly wrote on October 18, 2002 to Melinda Wharton. "I am writing you once more regarding the recent Department of Justice (DOJ) request for a broad range of documents associated with MMR, thimerosal, and autism. I first spoke with you on September 3rd of 2002 regarding the sensitive results we have been struggling with in the MADDSP MMR/Autism study." I may not be a CDC scientist, but I've been both a lawyer and a science teacher and it seems to me that the phrase "sensitive results" is one probably never uttered by Galileo, Darwin, or Einstein.
Further on in the e-mail Thompson wrote, "I don't think anyone has broken the law but I was extremely uncomfortable when Dr. Coleen Boyle, a coauthor on our paper, was required to testify before Congressman Dan Burton's committee in Aprile of 2002 regarding MMR and autism . . . My level of concern has also caused me to seriously consider removing myself as an author on the draft manuscript." Again, I don't recall Galileo, Darwin or Einstein being concerned about somebody's congressional testimony breaking the law, or that such concerns would lead to them removing their name from a paper.
On February 2, 2004 Thompson wrote a letter to Dr. Jule Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control. It began, "We've not met yet to discuss these matters, but I'm sure you're aware of the Institute of Medicine Meeting regarding vaccines and autism that will take place on February 9th. I will be presenting the summary of our results from the Metropolitan Atlanta Autism Case-Control Study and I will have to present several problematical results relating to statistical associations between the receipt of MMR vaccine and autism." I don't recall Galileo, Darwin, or Einstein ever referring to their findings as "problematical results," even though they did cause significant controversy at the time. All they concerned themselves with was whether their findings were true.
And I can't help but think that Galileo, Darwin, or Einstein would never have found themselves writing as Thompson did in a statement released by his lawyer on August 27, 2014, "I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed."
These are Dr. Thompson's own words.
I want to be supportive of Dr. Thompson, thank him for finally revealing this evidence, and yet, this is taking place ten to twelve years after the events in question. Twelve years ago my daughter was four years old. Today she's sixteen and still can't speak, can barely walk, and is in diapers.
I think of those years in which family, friends, and co-workers have distanced themselves from my wife and I because of our belief that our daughter's problems started with a vaccination. Thompson has been part of the scientific clique which has made so many of us autism parents pariahs among those people we love the most.
And I can't help but think of the good scientists who have been led astray by the deception of Thompson and others at the Centers for Disease Control. It's been my experience that scientists work extraordinarily hard and in the limited time they have to keep up on other news they go to sources they trust, like the CDC. I hope that they will look at this new evidence with an unbiased eye.
I really do want to thank Dr. Thompson for coming forward at this time, although it would have been much better if he'd done it earlier, when his conscience first troubled him. I think of the good scientists, like Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Dr. Brian Hooker, or my co-author, Dr. Judy Mikovits, who held firm to their principles. Wakefield has often said that the MMR controversy has cost him, "His job, his career, and his country." Dr. Mikovits has endured a similar level of torment as have other honest scientists who have presented inconvenient findings. For me, that is the definition of scientific courage. Scientists like Wakefield, Hooker, and Mikovits would NEVER dream of concealing data. For them, that would be the equivalent of a crime against humanity.
As a Christian I believe in redemption, but it must first be preceeded by confession and repentance. There is yet hope that Dr. Thompson may do some good for the autism community, but a great deal more needs to happen. Perhaps the wheels are already in motion. I anxiously await the next moves.
I decided against becoming a prosecutor because I didn't feel like going after the bottom 10% of society. But when I look at somebody like Thompson, I can't help but feel a little different moral calculus. Unlike some poor drug dealer on the streets of Oakland, Thompson had every advantage. It's almost enough to make me want my old job back at the US Attorney's office.
If you would like to call for a retraction of the 2004 MMR study by the Centers for Disease Control and published by the journal Pediatrics, then please go to this web-site and sign a petition.
Kent Heckenlively is a Founding Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and co-author with Dr. Judy Mikovits of Plague: One Scientist's Intrepid Search for the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism, and Other Diseases, being published on October 7, 2014. Visit their website at Plague The Book. You can pre-order the book HERE.