Anti-ScienceScienceSkepticism

Wakefield: from disgraced MD to GDMFL

Andrew Wakefield is having a rough time these days. His famed study linking autism and MMR was retracted by the Lancet. He was stripped of his medical license because his study was not only wrong, but was conducted unethically… and now, according to Brian Deer at the BMJ, he’s not only wrong; he’s not only a little unethical; he’s a God Damned Mother Fucking Liar®. Straight up mother fucking liar.

Seems all this hubbub about Big Pharma profiting off of vaccines and lying about the safety of vaccines may have been what psychologists refer to as “projecting”. Or… more likely what psychologists and lay people alike call, “lying like a goddamn mother fucking liar to cover your own ass for profit.” Because, you see, Wakefield didn’t just conduct a bad study. His study was a fraud.

Jamie Bernstein and Bruce Critelli pose with Wakefield while wearing Hug Me I'm Vaccinated Surlyramics NecklacesNow I’m not talking about someone fudging some statistics. He didn’t just take data and do funky magic anti-vax math with it. He changed the data. He changed the stories of his subjects. He flat out lied. His subjects were fictional characters based on real children he interacted with during his study. (The study you are about to read is based on a true story. All names and clinical data have been changed to protect the innocent… and by “innocent” we mean “money”… and by “money” we mean the nearly £500,000 (~US$760,000) he was paid by attorney Richard Barr to come up with evidence to support a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.)

Wakefield was “looking for” (read: already concluded) a link between MMR, regressive autism and non-specific colitis. Deer writes:

“Children with enteritis/disintegrative disorder [an expression he used for bowel inflammation and regressive autism] form part of a new syndrome,” he and Barr  explained in a confidential grant application to the UK government’s Legal Aid Board before any of the children were investigated. “Nonetheless the evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology.”

The two men also aimed to show a sudden-onset “temporal association”—strong evidence in product liability. “Dr Wakefield feels that if we can show a clear time link between the vaccination and onset of symptoms,” Barr told the legal board, “we should be able to dispose of the suggestion that it’s simply a chance encounter.”

And looking at his findings, you’ll see that he sure did seem to find a link. 9/12 of the children had regressive autism (which is a form of autism that results in the loss of previously mastered skills and milestones, compared to classical autism where the child will fail to meet the milestones to begin with), 11/12 had colitis and 8/12 of those children developed symptoms within days of receiving the MMR. Half the children studied hit the trifecta with both autism and colitis developing within days of the vaccine.

As a lay person, I don’t know how impressive those numbers are… but for 12 years the Lancet thought they were good enough to publish, so I’ll appeal to their authority and say “WOW! Yowza! That’s amazing! I’m never vaccinating my children! It’s too scary! They’ll become autistic and have poo problems! If MMR can cause this, what else can it cause?” (The lay definition of “non-specific colitis” is “poo problems” BTW. )

But when you break it down, case by case, and look at the information that Wakefield presented vs what Brian Deer discovered, you find that the link is not as strong… or, if you prefer more precise language, totally fucking imaginary.

Let’s take, for example, “Child 11”. Child 11 was one of the reported trifecta kids. According to Wakefield, 11 experienced his first autistic and bowel symptoms within one week of receiving is MMR vaccine. But 11’s father, and medical records, say otherwise.

. . .“His developmental milestones were normal until 13 months of age,” notes the discharge summary. “In the period 13-18 months he developed slow speech patterns and repetitive hand movements. Over this period his parents remarked on his slow gradual deterioration.”

That put the first symptom two months earlier than reported in the Lancet, and a month before the boy received the MMR vaccination. And this was not the only anomaly to catch the father’s eye. What the paper reported as a “behavioural symptom” was noted in the records as a chest infection.

So Child 11 did not suddenly become autistic after receiving his MMR. Yet, Wakefield reported that he did. It’s not clear whether or not his autism would be considered “regressive”. And he was never diagnosed with colitis.

“Please let me know if Andrew W has his doctor’s license revoked,” wrote Mr 11, who is convinced that many vaccines and environmental pollutants may be responsible for childhood brain disorders. “His misrepresentation of my son in his research paper is inexcusable. His motives for this I may never know.”

Wow.

But you know, Mr Wakefield was performing a gigantic-scale study… certainly when you have that many patients something is bound to get confused or misinterpreted. I mean… twelve people. He doesn’t even have enough fingers to keep track of all those kids. And Kid 11 was one of the last kids examined for the study. By the time you get to like 8, aren’t they all the same anyway?

Hopefully Brian Deer’s entire claim that Wakefield is a God Damn Mother Fucking Liar® is based on more than just one kid.

So… let’s get down to it. Besides Child 11, how many other kids were diagnosed with regressive autism and colitis within 14 days of getting vaccinated? Five. Five out of twelve is probably still a good number. How about we take a quick look at the five other trifecta kids.

Child 1 — First possible symptom of autism, 9 months otherwise developed normally until 18 months… then, BAM, regressive autism! Just three months after getting his MMR at 15 months! But Wakefield reported that symptoms developed within days of receiving the shot… and… Wakefield reported that the first autistic symptoms started within one week!

*grumble*

But there’s still 4 more who fit all the criteria.

Child 2 — Deer asked the child’s mother about his symptoms

Her concerns about MMR had been noted by her general practitioner when her son was 6 years old. But she told me the boy’s troubles began after his vaccination, which he received at 15 months. “He’d scream all night, and he started head banging, which he’d never done before,” she explained.

“When did that begin, do you think?” I asked.

“That began after a couple of months, a few months afterward, but it was still, it was concerning me enough, I remember going back . . .”

“Sorry. I don’t want to be, like, massively pernickety, but was it a few months, or a couple of months?”

“It was more like a few months because he’d had this, kind of, you know, slide down. He wasn’t right. He wasn’t right. Before he started.”

“Not quicker than two months, but not longer than how many months? What are we talking about here?”

“From memory, about six months, I think.”

Two to six months is not less than two weeks. Next?

Child 3 — Never appeared to be developing normally, so obviously didn’t begin showing symptoms of regressing after MMR. Was not diagnosed with colitis, and it’s not clear whether any symptoms at all developed within 14 days of receiving the shot.

Child 4— Well…:

Multiple concerns of the parents and doctors over child 4’s development are documented before he received MMR. These include “developmental delay”, “general delay” and restricted vocabulary. The boy’s mother had persistent concerns that he was “deaf”, and there were also“concerns over his head and appearance”
So 4 was already showing some signs of autism BEFORE getting an MMR…

Ok, Child 6, you’re the only one left who gets a yes in every column! Give some Wakeylove to momma —  What do you have for regressive autism?… Aspergers?! That’s not regressive autism! Did it at least start right after your MMR in June 1993? Yes? Yes? Yes!… Well, sort of.

Mom can’t keep her story straight and it changes with every single visit to every single doctor she sees. And there’s reason to believe she might be trying to say the right thing to win a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.

Each of Wakefield’s strongest links were either ambiguous in at least one category, stretched to fit the criteria or flat out fabricated.

Deer sums up Wakefield’s wrongness:

How the link was fixed

  • The Lancet paper was a case series of 12 child patients; it reported a proposed “new syndrome” of enterocolitis and regressive autism and associated this with MMR as an “apparent precipitating event.” But in fact:
  • Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism
  • Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were “previously normal,” five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns
  • Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination
  • In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results—noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations—were changed after a medical school “research review” to “non-specific colitis”
  • The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegations—all giving times to onset of problems in months—helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link
  • Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation
  • Before reading Deer’s full article, I was thrilled. I wanted to dance, drunk and naked, around town in celebration. Wakefield was exposed!

    But after reading it, I’m sad. I’m angered. I’m a little nauseous.

    As happy as I am that he’s being outed as a liar and a fraud, I have a hard time celebrating the hypocrisy, greed and narcissism that has unnecessarily killed thousands of people. He wanted a big pay off from a frivolous law suit. The rest of us just want our kids healthy. We worry about things like disease and autism because they’re not trivial to us. Our jobs as parents is to protect our children. Wakefield told parents that the only way to protect them was to not vaccinate… so they stopped. And now people are dead because of that.

    Wakefield may be disgraced. He may have a destroyed career. But he continues to be hailed a hero amongst the anti-vax crowd. He’ll still get his speaker fees. He’ll still get his royalties. And his hoax will continue to scare parents and cost people their health for years to come.

    And he continues to defend himself:

    Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation

    Elyse

    Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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    44 Comments

    1. Another logical outcome of the “Greed is Good” mantra that flooded the USA in the last 40 years. A lot of people don’t care who (or how many) gets hurt in their search to fill their pockets. It’s faster to become a fake celebrity, win a lawsuit and retire than it is to work an entire career for your wealth.
      Sorry I’m so cynical, but this is a recurring theme in our world these days.

    2. There was a Wakefield from Great Britain
      With whom J. McCarthy was smitten
      “Data”‘s his word
      For piping hot turds
      Andrew, us you must be shittin’!

      or

      A. Wakefield’s humanity’s blight
      I’d so like to punch out his lights
      He looks like a weasel
      When people get measles
      To castrate him’s within their rights

      or

      I must say to once-doctor Andrew
      “Your ethics and science are poo-poo
      Your anti-vax swill
      Is making me ill
      Is there a vaccine for what you do?”

    3. I hope he can be brought up on legal charges for this. Children died from measles after he fraudulently scared parents away from vaccines.

      He knew what he was doing. He knew measles killed people. He knew parents would not vaccinate their children.

      He should be brought up on charges of reckless endangerment if not manslaughter or even murder.

    4. Last night my wife was discussing this with some moms on the babycenter boards. A lot of them were asking things like, “what’s going to happen to all those anti-vax people now?, there’s nothing they can say.”

      We were like, “Oh, you precious, innocent people.” If only. As always, we will see that this changes nothing for ideologues that are vaccinated against evidence. We need to stay mad, which is tragically easy to do.

    5. @B Hitt:

      I suspect most anti-vaxxers will claim that it’s all a giant conspiracy to frame Wakefield. They’ll say that they’ve been so successful in exposing the Truth (TM), that Big Pharma got all scared and concocted this elaborate hoax to discredit the study. It’s not that hard to go from anti-vaxxer to conspiracy theorist.

      Or maybe they’ll just shift focus and pretend that they never blamed MMR, and that the real cause is the non-existent mercury, or “viral overload” or aluminum or some other crap. They’ve been preparing for this possibility by inventing other ridiculous scenarios to fall back on.

    6. Not surprisingly the response, what little there is, over at Age of Autism is, and I quote….

      “LaLaLaLa; I can’t hear you! This is just another smear against Saint Wakefield! Well, I’ve never! Mr. Deer is biased, must be all the Big Pharma” money! £500,000? What £500,000? Show me the bank deposit slip that proves there was £500,000 and we’ll talk! Once again, LaLaLaLa I can’t hear you.”

      One ubermoron pointed out how a supposed American father (Mr. 11) used British syntax. I use the same type of “British syntax” when I’m trying to sournd erudite. Gasp! I must be a fraud. ZOMG, I MUST GET THE POISON OUT!!!!111!1

      GET ME AN EXORCIST OR A CHELATION THERAPIST!!!!1!11!!

      aaaargg……….

    7. Recently my favorite name for people like this, so as not to smear any particular group, is fuckknuckle. It’s fun to say and less used than asshat; let’s change that shall we. I realize this may offend masturbators, but there alone in their rooms (::fingers crossed::) anyway so screw them.

      Chant it with me now.

      FUCK-knuckle, FUCK-knuckle, FUCK-knuckle, FUCK-knuckle, GOOOOO Fuckknuckle!

      I have not had enough sleep. :(

    8. @Dalek Lama

      How did you deal with the stench of coruption?
      Will all-tempra-Cheer take that out or is that a dry clean only situation? Or did you half to burn those clothes? I need to know because I have a sweater that I just loved before I bumped into an oil lobbyist, can’t wear it inside anymore.

      So. Tired.

    9. @Dalek Lama: I applaud your bravery and strong stomach. I was there but watched from a safe distance. I would have barfed on his weaselly face.

      @mrmisconception: I love it! Andrew Wakefield, yooooou’re aaaaaa FUUUUUUUCKKNUUUUUCKLE!!!

      @catgirl: If the universe grew a mouth, and stated in perfectly articulated English “My physical laws preclude anything in vaccines from rearranging the brain’s circuitry to produce autism. P.S. G.F.Yourselves!” the anti-vaxxers would come up with some kind of conspiracy theory to explain it away.

    10. @B Hitt: According to friends of a friend on Facebook (commenting on his post celebrating Wakefield’s utter disgrace), it’s all a Big Pharma conspiracy. The timing is too convenient, and it’s apparently just intended to scare us all into getting our flu shots. Attempts at countering that were just met with the classic “Lalala, I can’t hear you.”

    11. I think in “teachable” moments like this, people usually learn the wrong message. Instead of not trusting anyone but verifying their facts and logic, people instead look to a charismatic heroic figure to trust instead.

      Instead of checking facts, they look to a hero to rescue them. They apply the same bad logic that lead them to trust Wakefield and use it to trust someone else based on the same flawed charisma, attractiveness, sycophantic brown nosing and is the person one of “my group”.

    12. Also, in case people haven’t heard the story, Jamie passed Wakefuck a note before we had the photo taken. She asked him not to read it until he was alone. I’m sure he was thinking ‘Wow! This pretty, young lady is hitting on me!’

      The message was along the lines of ‘How can you sleep at night knowing what you do? It makes me sad to know that people actually believe what you say.’ I wish I could have seen his face when he read it.

    13. I could probably go on the AoA website and post the obligatory “the stupid, it burns” comment and those fools would think I was agreeing with them, but then again, since dissent isn’t allowed there they would have every right to believe that I agreed with them.

      I was looking around to see what the anti-vaxxers were saying about all this when came across a blog from September by a mother in California that was rightfully worried about her child getting pertussis. It was well written and, it seems, scientifically sound; then I came the comments section. Wow, anti-vaxxers just don’t have any real arguments do they? About a third of the comments were the usual “nice job, well said” sort, about a third were the anti-vax crowd doing their best impression of a feces volcano, and the rest were reserved for people trying to mop up the spewed shit.

      The arguments I saw against vaccination were of the following variety (I have paraphrased for condensation sake);

      1. You really need to do some research before you write an article about something this important. (so far I’m with them) But don’t listen to doctors, scientists, and health reporters (or anyone who has, like, knowledge) instead you need to talk to the mothers of autistic children, holistic doctors, and random celebrities. (well, they do know best)
      2. Pertussis is cyclical and was on the rise even before people stupidly stopped vaccinating their kids. The only way to have any real immunity from pertussis is get natural immunity. (I will give you that dead people do not usually get diseases)
      3. I know someone who got a vax shot and immediately started to convulse, plus also I got a really stiff arm from the tetanus shot they made me get when I mangled my hand in the snow blower. If I ain’t never had tetanus before, I ain’t goin’ to get it now. ( O_o )
      4. Vaccines are not part of nature’s plan, if we need immunity from a virus we will get it naturally. (you know what else is “natural”? dying in childbirth, let’s bring that back shall we?)
      5. Besides, why do you care? You vaccinated your kid right? So if mine gets sick you can say I told you so, but don’t make me do something I don’t want to do. (hey, fuckwit, herd immunity doesn’t work that way)
      6. Anyway, this is just my opinion, and you’re trying to keep my kids out of schools that I pay for because you don’t agree with my opinion. (your opinion is killing people, we are trying to keep your little germ factories away from our kids because we don’t particularly like the sound of ribs breaking)
      7. THE DRUG COMPANIES! THE DRUG COMPANIES! WHAT ABOUT THE DRUG COMPANIES! They make great big huge giant profits off of vaccines and wouldn’t tell us if they were bad ‘cause of the evils and stuff. (vaccines are low markup drugs, most companies wouldn’t make them if not compelled to, and drug companies are the most evil thing ever except for the alternative)
      8. I won’t vaccinate because they grow them on the fetuses, EEEEWWW. (yeah, that’s simply not true. Stop getting you science news from Mike Adams Health Ranger™)

      This was all within the first 20 (out of 101) comments, I had to stop or my was going to esplode.

    14. @tmac57: Agreed, but I do wish we could nix the phrase “the connection between vaccines and autism.” It only solidifies the notion that there is a connection in the minds of casual viewers who aren’t paying attention to the main point. (I don’t think Anderson Cooper used this phrase but I saw another video where Wolf Blitzer and Sanjay Gupta used it repeatedly)

      @mrmisconception: Great job making it through 20. Your summary is dead-on.

    15. Oooh, in the footnotes section of the BMJ article it says:

      “No other funding was received, apart from legal costs paid to Deer by the Medical Protection Society on behalf of Andrew Wakefield.”

      So Wakefield’s insurance had to pay for Deer’s legal costs in some court case? Granted, I haven’t followed every little thing about this, but I’m sure I would have read somewhere that Wakefield lost in a suit involving Deer.

      Any pointers to what that might be?

    16. @Buzz Parsec

      And wasn’t that asshole Mars (the planet not the god of war or the candy company) seen hanging out in the sky on those nights? That must have something to do with it.

      Or the high-tension power lines, or maybe the Bermuda Triangle, or the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Pluperfect or some such sh………

      THE BLOOP! IT WAS CAUSED BY THE BLOOP!

      I just solved two mysteries, I am exhausted. Whew!

    17. “8. I won’t vaccinate because they grow them on the fetuses, EEEEWWW. (yeah, that’s simply not true. Stop getting you science news from Mike Adams Health Rangerâ„¢)”

      Uhhhh, actually that is true. It’s been like that for decades. Two cell cultures (originally derived from aborted fetuses) are used to produce virus – WI-38 and MRC-5. Look them up.

      Anti-vaxxers twist this fact into claiming that vaccines contain “aborted fetal tissue”, which is a lie, along with any insinuation that more abortions are required to continue doing this. But the claim that vaccines are grown on cell cultures originally derived from aborted fetuses is completely true, although I’ll grant that the version you gave is distorted, but probably for humorous effect.

      It’s so one-sided an issue that even the Vatican is OK with it (http://www.immunize.org/concerns/vaticandocument.htm), but it is at least a true statement, for some vaccines.

    18. The Lancet are protecting the identities of the people who said that this was a valid piece of scientific work. If you can’t trust a peer-reviewed journal for scientific facts, where are you going to go for them (as a layperson)? Should we be turning a little skepticism towards the scientific establishment in this case?
      I don’t see how this is a win for anti-vax parties – really?
      Seems like a gift for anyone trying to discredit arguments against vaccination, really.

    19. @Bytor: IIRC, several years ago, Wakers sued Brian Deer, but dropped the case before it went to court. Deer may have recovered court costs from that. I don’t recall.

      @csrster: maybe the word isn’t denigratory in your country. However, HERE it is, and it is always considered polite to respect and follow the customs of the country you are visiting. Please be polite and not use the word.

    20. @Myrkabah

      Uhhhh, actually that is true. It’s been like that for decades. Two cell cultures (originally derived from aborted fetuses) are used to produce virus – WI-38 and MRC-5. Look them up.

      I get that, but saying that those cell cultures are fetuses is like saying you own your great-grandfather’s hammer and you’ve only had to change the head three times and the handle twice.

      I know that your point was that it once was made from fetuses but the people who use that type of idiotic logic (the people at that blog, not you) are about a trustworthy as the people who say there is anifreeze in vaccines. The point could be made that they are technically right but they are not right in any real world sense.

    21. @Dawn:

      Dawn, coreyjf, catgirl, and others. I certainly don’t want to start a cunt-war. But I have to object to your objections.

      1. Where both myself and Mr Wakefield hail from, cunt is used in this context to signify the worst of the worse. It is much more harsh than Mother Fucker, an epithet, as it happens, that some may find far more offensive than cunt.

      2. Without being facetious this is the Internet, and it is not a country.

      3. Could you allow for cultural differences please, and respect my freedom of expression? All I was saying was that Wakefield is a cunt, and if you went into any pub in Britain and asked them what I meant by that, there would be an almost unanimous agreement that this chap is clearly not very nice.

      4. I will respond to further posts on this subject if you want, although I’d rather not derail the topic; I just wanted the right to reply.

      Finally, crster – I appreciate you are defending my usage of the word cunt, and I assume you are either British or Australian. Wakefield’s sex is not relevant, though, to those who don’t like the word.

    22. @lamanga2004:

      Personally, I always thought Wakefield was more of a prick and a dickhead, really.

      There you go: Two masculine derogatory and denigratingly sexist devil words to your one feminine derogatory and denigratingly sexist devil word.

      :)

    23. I’m keeping a list of positive responses to the BMJ (Yes Wakefield is a fraud, and here are the implications…) and negative responses (Wakefield’s research IS TOO valid and vaccines cause autism anyway) at A roundup of responses to the BJM & Wakefield’s research was motivated by fraud.

      Some observations
      1. The positive responses come from a broad range of sites — politically left and right; people who are skeptics/ people who have heretofore (to my knowledge) never commented on vaccines or autism before, and so on. The negative responses are from a predictable set of sites and people.
      2. The news coverage in the US has (perhaps inadvertently) perpetrated the idea that all parents of children with autism believe in the vaccine causation myth. It is a complete falsehood. Many parents of children with autism and adults with autism robustly reject the myth.
      3. Kev Leitch, whose daughter has intense autism, has a moving post on how Wakefield’s actions have damaged everyone affected by autism. Go read it. It’s good.

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