Below is my correspondence with the United Kingdom House of Commons Science and Technology Committee from January, which I am publishing now partly in response to further malicious attacks on the reputation of Andrew Wakefield in the London Times. The committee – presently dissolved due to the General Election – naturally failed to deal with the matter. The chairman of the committee, Stephen Metcalfe (in photo) –an elected politician – handed on my complaint to the clerk, Simon Fiander, who defended their claim that Wakefield had committed fraud by citing a British Medical Journal editorial of January in 2011 as if nothing had happened the interim. In essence they were claiming that because something had been said six years before it could be idly repeated. Although Fiander extended a specific invitation to submit evidence to the committee’s inquiry into research integrity three attempts were rejected. The reality is that when it comes to vaccination the British establishment cannot deal with the truth in any shape or form:
To the Hon Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee
14 January 2017
Dear Mr Metcalfe,
It is my intention to submit evidence to the committee about research integrity but after consideration I decided to write to you about statements made in the committee’s recent publication Integrity in Research (Postnote 544) , which singles out the Wakefield 1998 Lancet paper as an example of fraud citing the editorial in the British Medical Journal by Godlee et al from January 2011. While the committee may have done this in good faith it should not be in the position of knowingly committing errors of its own and therefore I suggest that the pamphlet is urgently withdrawn. Subsequent, to the publication of the Godlee editorial (and the accompanying articles by journalist Brian Deer) the position of the BMJ began to crumble.
A fundamental error in the Deer/BMJ case to swiftly emerge was that Mr Deer (who had no competence to interpret medical records) was making use of GP notes which were not available to the authors of the paper, and could not be used as a guide to what they knew.
Early on Dr Godlee was forced into a covering statement :
"The case we presented against Andrew Wakefield that the1998 Lancet paper was intended to mislead was not critically reliant on GP records. It is primarily based on Royal Free hospital records, including histories taken by clinicians, and letters and other documents received at the Royal Free from GPs and consultants."
This sidesteps rather than addresses the problem.
Another issue that Godlee was forced to respond to was that the BMJ had failed to acknowledge its own conflicts, with its commercial relationships with MMR manufacturers Merck and GSK. In the end the BMJ put up a notice with a partial admission of the problem over the on-line editorial but not over the Mr Deer’s articles (which left readers none the wiser). Even so, the published notice only mentioned advertising revenue from the two companies and not the fact that the BMJ learning division received unlimited grants from Merck through its non-profit arm Univadis. And none of this, of course, received any of the publicity of the original publication [4, 5].
From the beginning the BMJ was obstructive about publishing comments pointing to (many) factual errors in Deer’s presentation . This became more serious when the journal blocked in substance a detailed examination of the case, with new documentary evidence from a senior scientist Dr David Lewis . In the wake of this a news article published by Nature contained further admissions from the journal :
"Before publishing Lewis's letter, the BMJ asked Ingvar Bjarnason, a gastroenterologist at King's College Hospital, London, to review the materials. Bjarnason says he doesn't believe they are sufficient to support claims in the Lancet paper of a new disease process. He also questions whether "non-specific" on the grading sheets refers to colitis, saying it could refer to any kind of gut changes. But he says that the forms don't clearly support charges that Wakefield deliberately misinterpreted the records. "The data are subjective. It's different to say it's deliberate falsification," he says.
"Deer notes that he never accused Wakefield of fraud over his interpretation of pathology records. But he says that records read to him from the Royal Free pathology service clearly stated that the children's gut biopsies were within normal limits, even though they were reported in the Lancet paper as having enterocolitis.
"Fiona Godlee, the editor of the BMJ, says that the journal's conclusion of fraud was not based on the pathology but on a number of discrepancies between the children's records and the claims in the Lancet paper."
It should also be noted that both the histopathologist co-authors of the paper wrote to the journal on separate occasions repudiating Deer’s version of events [9,10].
The case continued to disintegrate in 2012 when Sir John Mitting fully exonerated the senior author of the paper Prof John Walker-Smith in the High Court (Wakefield, himself, not being funded to appeal) having failed to find evidence, central to the GMC case, that the paper was based on a study protocol proposed to the Legal Aid Board, or that it misreported data, or involved inappropriate or unauthorised investigations .
Later in 2012 the BMJ reported the conclusion of University College London (which had been drawn into the BMJ’s demands for inquiry) that there was no case to be answered. Zosia Kmietowicz wrote :
"In a paper on the development of its new framework, UCL said that after taking advice from the UK Research Integrity Office and “a senior legal figure” it concluded that “the net result [from an investigation] would likely be an incomplete set of evidence and an inconclusive process costing a substantial sum of money."
It was also vastly inappropriate that Dr Godlee’s editorial was signed by another BMJ editor Dr Harvey Marcovitch, who was also at the time head of GMC panels (particularly while these matters were under legal appeal). The claim by BMJ that Deer’s articles were externally peer reviewed (but actually by Dr Marcovitch) was also apparently false (a real example of fraud?) .
The case that the Wakefield paper is a prime example of fraud seems to be politically motivated rather than historically well-founded.
Finally, I draw your attention to the fact – as I drew it to your predecessor Andrew Miller – that when Crispin Davis, CEO of Reed Elsevier and proprietor of the Lancet, denounced Dr Wakefield before committee in March 2004, he himself failed to disclose that he was a director of GSK and that it was actually his brother, Sir Nigel Davis, who had dismissed the MMR litigation in the High Court three days earlier .
 Godlee et al, Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent, BMJ January 2011, http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452
 Martin Hewitt, How Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal Fixed the Record Over Wakefield (links to three parts) http://www.ageofautism.com/2015/03/how-brian-deer-and-the-bmj-fixed-the-record-over-wakefield-part-2.html
David L Lewis PhD, Apparent Egregious Ethical Misconduct by British Medical Journal, Brian Deer, https://niceguidelines.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/lewis-report-jan-8-2012.pdf
 Eugenie Samuel Reich, Fresh Dispute Over MR Fraud, http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111109/full/479157a.html?s=news_rss%20
 Wakefield vs. BMJ (Texas litigation) Deposition of Jane Smith, p. 29 ff. , note p.91http://www.rescuepost.com/files/ex-c-bmj-smith-depo.pdf
John Stone (Autism Parent and UK Editor, Age of Autism)
Dear Mr Stone,
The Chair of the S&T Committee passed your email to me, and asked me to thank you for your letter.
In your letter you take issue with the way the Wakefield case is presented. This is set out in the 'POSTnote' produced by the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology (POST), to which the Committee then refers in its call for submissions for its inquiry. The assertion in the POSTnote about 'fraud' is referenced to the 2011 Godlee article in the BMJ, although I recognise that you take issue with her about her actions and views in the case. I will pass on your letter to POST.
The Committee would in the meantime welcome a submission from you and/or Age of Autism for the inquiry.
Clerk, Science & Technology Committee
Dear Mr Fiander,
Thank you for your swift and courteous reply on behalf of the committee. It is, of course, for the committee to guard its own integrity, but I do point to the anomaly. The committee publishes comments as fact citing a six year old editorial when much has happened in the interim, and plainly this is not just in my opinion. New and contradictory evidence came to light; British Medical Journal had to back down on crucial matters; a High Court judge reviewed the evidence relating to reporting in the paper and dismissed the GMC case against the senior author; University College London finally backed down from holding an inquiry for lack of evidence (on the advice of the United Kingdom Research Integrity Office and a senior legal authority).
The committee itself was involved in these events. If we go back to November 2011, and the partial publication of Dr David Lewis’s report in BMJ Rapid Responses, the British Medical Journal plainly found itself out on a limb. Dr Godlee, mindful of the fact that the evidence was unravelling against Wakefield wanted UCL – which was increasingly wary of conducting an inquiry - to go after the other authors of the paper, and in her frustration called upon the Science and Technology Committee to take over the job. This sounds suspiciously like a witch hunt. Andrew Miller, on behalf of the committee replied (letter of 8 November 2011):
"You also indicate concerns about the broader questions of whether or not UCL adequately investigated the roles of all those who put their names to Dr Wakefield’s papers and whether there was pressure to minimise any investigations in order to protect the institution. These relate to the integrity of the academic institution as a whole and are not simply an issue of whether or not the institution promotes ‘good science’. This is a matter rather for a body such as HEFCE, which has the task of ensuring academic standards in publicly-funded bodies."
It is plain from this that the position had already moved on from the Godlee et al editorial of January 2011 which is now fully six years later being cited as established fact, while the message of the committee chair then was that it was outside the committee’s competence.
However, the committee also needs to alert itself to the problem of confirmation bias. A few paragraphs along from the statement:
"While deliberate fraud does occur (such as that involving Andrew Wakefield, whose1998 paper suggested a potential link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism),.. it is thought to be extremely rare..."
"Risking public health, for example by asserting evidence that may cause people to decide to either undergo or refuse trials or treatment or to use products that have not been shown to be safe or effective. For example, despite Wakefield being struck off the medical register, and the retraction of his paper in 2010, the take up of the MMR vaccine has only recovered to the pre-1998 level in the last two years..."
In reality, in terms of research integrity we need good science irrespective of whether it fits in with the agenda of public health programmes, and what institutionally speaking has been done to Wakefield may not be a good model for public science. With all the focus on infectious disease and the expanding vaccine schedule there has been none on the ever increasing flood of autistic and otherwise neurologically compromised children entering our schools since 1998 (no explanation, no public concern and great deal of obfuscation). In Scotland, now, the number of young children with an autism diagnosis is likely to be above 1 in 30 and rising.
It might also be pointed out that while approximately 10 million people will have died in the United Kingdom since 1998 only three people have died from contracting measles (one of them actually due to gross medical negligence and all three otherwise very sick people), so it is necessary to have a sense of proportion. We need to remember that in 1998 Wakefield advocated splitting the vaccines, which was at the time an NHS option. This was rapidly removed by the government, thus politicising the issue. If people who raise questions about public health are just trodden underfoot there is a much bigger problem and the possibilities for corrupting the process are infinite. The committee should be very careful.
John Stone (Autism Parent and UK Editor, Age of Autism)