Russ Roberts

Deer on Autism, Vaccination, and Scientific Fraud

EconTalk Episode with Brian Deer
Hosted by Russ Roberts
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Investigative journalist Brian Deer talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Deer's seven years of reporting and legal issues surrounding the 1998 article in The Lancet claiming that the MMR vaccine causes autism and bowel problems. Deer's dogged pursuit of the truth led to the discovery that the 1998 article was fraudulent and that the lead author had hidden payments he received from lawyers to finance the original study. In this podcast, Deer describes how he uncovered the truth and the legal consequences that followed. The conversation closes with a discussion of the elusiveness of truth in science and medicine.

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0:36Intro. [Recording date: January 25, 2011.] Investigating claims that vaccination causes autism among children, 1998 study. Claims not just inaccurate, but fraudulent and corrupt. In 1998, Lancet, one of the most prestigious if not the most prestigious medical journal in the world published a study claiming a link between vaccination and both autism and bowel disease. Tell us what that study claimed and what the basis for those claims were. Published in The Lancet, which is a British based medical journal, comes out weekly. Reckoned to be secondary to the two most prestigious journals, which would be the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. But nevertheless, immensely influential. In Feb. 1998 edition, published a 5-page paper by a team of doctors at the Royal Free Medical School, Hampstead, led by a Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who at the time--former trainee surgeon, never finished training as a surgeon but had moved into medical research, with 12 other doctors including pediatricians and pathologists he published a paper claiming that 12 families had turned up at the hospital associated with this medical school in East London between July 1996 and February 1997. The children they brought with them were children with various kinds of developmental disorders, mostly described in the paper as regressive autism--a kind of autism where children appear to be making normal progress and then suddenly start to go backwards. They lose language and they lose skills. This usually occurs in the second year of life. In 8 of the cases the parents had said to the doctor words to the effect of: It was the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) doctor. Our child had been developing normally, and in the first two weeks started to show the first signs of autism. These children were then admitted to the hospital for a battery of tests, including colonoscopies as far as the small intestine, which means inserting a tube all the way around the large bowel into the small bowel. They had lumbar punctures; they were put through brain scanners; drank radioactive drinks. Battery of tests that lasted 5 days. Dr. Wakefield claimed in this paper that he'd found in them inflammatory bowel disease. So, three things: regressive autism, inflammatory bowel disease, and the parents were saying the first signs of autism came on within just 14 days of the vaccination. The authors of the paper then went on to adopt those and claimed they had discovered a new syndrome of bowel disease and autism associated with the 3-in-1 vaccine.
4:50Now, they did not suggest any causal connection other than this correlation. Twelve families presented; 8 of them had very recently from the onset of symptoms had had this vaccine; but they didn't make any claims about how the pathology might work. Not quite true they didn't make claims of causality. They didn't have a medical mechanism for how this came about. Not in that paper, but Wakefield produced another paper which he submitted to the Lancet at the same time where he did propose that mechanism, but that paper was rejected. Originally, the two papers were supposed to be published together, in his mind at least, but the Lancet rejected the second paper where he did propose a causal mechanism. What was that mechanism? Measles virus. He proposed that the measles virus, which is live, a normal part of the MMR vaccine, had infected the children's guts and persisted in their guts; it was this that caused the gut damage and went on to cause the brain damage. But this is a small number of children--8 children. Was there any other evidence among folks that there was an onset of symptoms shortly after the vaccine? No. In fact other people who studied this soon after found that there was no link. In fact, that link was very quickly abandoned. The paper was published--I'm wondering why it was but we'll come back to that; and it made quite a splash, I assume. Made the evening news on all the networks, though going back to 1998 we didn't have as many networks as we have now. Most of the national media covered it the next day. The medical school in Hampstead announced this paper with a press conference, televised; and actually distributed a 23-minute news release in which Wakefield appeared calling for the MMR vaccine to be suspended. A kit given to media by which they could create media products highlighting this allegation. They put a great deal of work into this; installed extra telephone lines into the hospital. Ready to push this on the British public. That's 'cause they cared about the children, of course--as we'll see turns out not to be so true. It also generated a large set of additional work trying to look at the link between vaccination and autism. What did that work find? This was a matter of great public interest. Here we had a suggestion, a snapshot if you like, of what could potentially be a hidden epidemic of catastrophic injuries to children. If this picture was being replicated at hospitals all over the world, that would be an issue of great public concern. So, not only was there the media response, there was also response by government. The British government, Department of Health, commissioned studies; U.S. Federal government commissioned studies; independent academic institutions began studying this. They did big number crunching to try and see whether there had been an increase in cases of autism that corresponded with an increase in vaccination levels. Looked to see whether there was bowel disease in autistic children that hadn't been discovered before. Looked at it in all kinds of ways. Every single study that anybody that anybody ever did on this subject found not only no support for Wakefield's claims but clearly rebutted them.
10:15All being done against a background of an apparent increase in the incidence of autism, so people were very eager to find correlates and ideally causal agents, and this was a possible one. There had been an increase in vaccination rates around the world. Appealed to people in a back-of-the-envelope way. Were there any studies done outside of the United Kingdom? Studies done in Denmark, United States. Medical science is very internationalized; when something occurs in one country you find people with similar interests in other countries will start studying it. Everybody drew a blank. As the years went by, more and more studies accumulated which showed no association. Yet there was Wakefield's work. He also did subsequent publications which also worked very much along the same lines. He continued to be a spokesperson for this theory and obviously he alarmed an enormous number of parents. Yes. If you search the internet, it's full of anxiety about autism and vaccination, correct? That's right. Here in America, the standard worry is the preservative used in vaccinations, which I think has mercury in it. Thimerosal, which has been removed from children's vaccines. But that has nothing to do with the Wakefield story. Well, it sort of does. Although the MMR vaccine has never contained Thimerosal because it's a live vaccine and Thimerosal would kill the components. Which vaccines do include it? Mostly it's been the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine; some flu vaccines. Back to MMR. Accumulating body of evidence that there doesn't seem to be a correlation; we have Wakefield continuing to make claims that it is. How did you get involved? When his original paper was published, I was involved in looking at the controversy of the earlier, DTP vaccine, because there had been a controversy over that which had led particularly in the United States to the drug industry saying they were not going to produce it any more because we're being sued so much. There was an epidemic of lawsuits going back to the 1980s following a program that was broadcast from the CBS network called "Vaccine Roulette," which also incidentally came out of the United Kingdom. I happened to be looking at that purely by chance when Wakefield's paper was published. I looked at his paper and thought there was something very odd about it, doesn't sit right just reading it on the page. Said at the time I was absolutely not going to get involved in MMR. Journalistically at the time, allegations against vaccines, if you want to do them in a responsible way rather than simply go to government experts or parents or people with interests and write down what they say and present the clash of opinions--if you want to understand what the story is really about, they require an enormous amount of work. Vaccine issues are multidisciplinary. They can involve epidemiology, big number crunching, statistics; in the MMR case gastroenterology, virology, developmental pediatrics. Really want to understand and get on top of all these areas. I said at the time I'm not going to get involved in another vaccine story. Professionally, if you are a journalist, you don't want to get too associated with one thing or you become the office expert. At the time people were already saying: MMR, Brian Deer, he's our expert, based on what I'd done in DTP. But in 2003, one of the editors was changing jobs, taking over some feature pages; wanted some stories. Said to me: Can't you do investigation? I said: Well, what? Three or four different ideas. One was MMR. Didn't want to get involved because there was a lawsuit coming up. By serendipity the lawsuit was cancelled and we'll just do a feature, spend 2-3 weeks on the outside on MMR. Three weeks turned into 7 years, though not the whole time. Did make a couple of TV shows about other things as well.
16:59When you started looking into that Wakefield study, how did you proceed and what did you discover? Did routine journalistic work. At the start, put a phone call in to Dr. Wakefield. He always works with professional publicists; this time his publicist, within about 3 hours of me calling, his publicist had made a complaint against me to the paper. A bit of a strategic mistake on their part. The essence of the mistake is I am self-employed. But I have worked for the Sunday Times since 1981--that is my home. I was a staff reporter, a specialist, they sent me to the United States, and so on. But they imagined that this meant I was some sort of outsider. When they got onto the paper and started making complaints, they were making complaints against somebody who actually sat at the next desk to the editor, who had worked with the head of the legal department since we were all young together. So, it didn't work, the complaint. I was a known entity. Whilst I am regarded as being a difficult, mercurial person, I think it is true to say I am trusted. That was the first mistake they made. Right at the start I rung up some parents who had been in the original paper and interviewed them. Interviewed them in a way they had not been interviewed before. Produced important information within hours of beginning the story. Which was? I phoned a lady who had started a campaign group against the MMR back in the 1990s and she told me in the conversation that members of her group were in the Wakefield study; said: they are all members of our group and still in the group. So these parents who had turned up at the hospital, she told me they were all members of her campaign group. Immediately alarm bells started to ring, because nothing about that had been mentioned in the paper. They all just appeared to be routine patients of a big London hospital; but she was saying they were part of a group. A group that had been created before the study. It was the result of her campaigning. She put advertisements in newspapers and made approaches to a firm of lawyers. It's a long-established technique that lawyers will try to get articles into media highlighting the subjects over which they wish to litigate and giving their names in the papers. That's how they increase their client list. So, that was the picture that was beginning to emerge quickly, within days if not hours of beginning this story. That was useful to you because of course, in the original study, the 12 parents were anonymous, not identified. All of a sudden they fell into your lap. Wouldn't say the families fell into my lap, but the people we'd been seeing in media saying my child was vaccinated--Madonna and child photographs. Journalists love these kind of things, human interest. I began to realize that all these people who were popping up in media were one and the same people who were in the study which appeared to validate their claims. How did you interview them and what did you discover? The key one in the series of 12 was family 2. The mother, it came out over a period of time, had been a long-time collaborator of Dr. Wakefield's. I went to interview her; in fact, I used my middle name which had been editorially approved from my managers rather than my full name so they wouldn't google me and see I was an investigative reporter. I said I was Brian Lawrence, my middle name. How were you representing yourself? My friends say I'm a journalist you wouldn't want to write about you. You would google me. I asked her all the questions people ask, isn't it awful; who do you blame? I then went into exceptional detail as to what actually happened when she said her child was vaccinated and developed these problems. Went over her story in great detail. She'd already recently been involved in litigation; so the matter was very clear in her mind. She told me a very detailed story. You could say: People forget, matter of time; but this was the moment when she was saying her child's life had forever been destroyed. Have to expect she would have that in her mind. It was quite clear that the story she was telling me did not correspond with any case in Wakefield's paper. What it boiled down to in her case was that she had changed her story, told one story when she'd gone to the hospital and now telling another story; and the two stories couldn't be reconciled. The difference was when did the problems of autism first reveal themselves. In her story that she told the hospital, it was 14 days; but in her actual story, far from the case. In fact it was months. She'd given one story which suited the paper. She may have done so in complete good faith. Might have misremembered. But when she had the opportunity to study her child's records, it was a different story. That was one of the examples. You could say a few months is still causal. Can't think of why that would be the case. Then could say just about anybody. Children are all vaccinated about that age. That alone didn't refute the study. Over the course of time I spoke to other parents. I spoke to the father of a child from California. One of the 12 children had been flown 5000 miles from northern California to this London hospital and had been enrolled in this study. He came over one year for Wimbledon, tennis, and I showed him the Wakefield paper; he looked at it and said: That's not true. What was not true about that one? The time; the symptoms; he also complained--he'd done something extraordinary. He'd had Wakefield's tests for measles, got an extra sample of his child's biopsies, jumped into a taxi, driven across London to another laboratory and had them tested at another laboratory. Where Wakefield was saying there was measles virus, the other laboratory, very prestigious international center, said there wasn't any. How did you find him? Diligent journalism.
27:52Study seems to have some problems with it. How did it develop into a scandal? At an early stage, February 2004 firstly and then in November 2004, I published first in the Sunday Times a very big piece revealing that Wakefield had been employed to do this research by a firm of lawyers, and secondly that the children recruited into the study had in some sense been marshaled, gathered together, some solicited, brought to the hospital. So in fact the study had been contrived for lawyers. Then later that year I did an hour-long prime time television program on the U.K.'s channel 4 network, nationwide semi-public, where we revealed that Wakefield had taken out a patent for his own single measles vaccine just before he announced to the world that they should boycott this triple vaccine and vaccinate with single vaccines. The tests being carried out in his own laboratory had shown there was no measles virus in these children. As a result of that, Wakefield made his second big mistake. His first was to have complaints made against me to my employers. Second was to begin litigation. He sued for libel. What evidence did you have that he had taken money from lawyers in advance of the study? That's an enormously damaging claim. We only had a little of it then. He couldn't have expected--maybe this was his second mistake and suing me was his third mistake--in late 1996, early 1997, going back to when Princess Diana was still alive, that the incoming Labour government, the Tony Blair government, with a commitment to produce a Freedom of Information Act. America's had a freedom of information act for so long no one can remember when it began. We had one introduced by the incoming Blair government. Enacted in 2000, started to take effect in 2004. Because the government had told government bodies to act as if the Act was in force, I was able to get from public bodies the fact that Wakefield had been paid. Funding Authority, in Britain called the Legal Aid Fund. Kind of like public defender system except the government doesn't provide the defenders--it provides the money. So, it was a government fund to allow access to poorer people to litigation which had funded Wakefield's lawyer. He could never have expected when he was doing this research that all of a sudden his funding would be exposed to scrutiny, and also the Ethics Committee. In America called Institutional Review Boards. Bodies of doctors, scientists, others associated with medical centers which give permission for research to take place. The paperwork of that body of the Royal Free Hospital also moved into the public domain by the Freedom of Information Act. I think I was the first person ever to get hold of these kinds of papers. What did those tell you? That the work that had gone on, ileal colonoscopies, lumbar punctures, MRI scans, radioactive drinks, EEGs, did not have ethical approval. Clearly was a mismatch between the documents that had been generated by the Institutional Review Board and the work that had been done. Which itself gave probable cause to investigate further. The public didn't matter the interests, but it gave probable cause. So, he sues you in 2004 after the TV show and newspaper piece: you had accused him of cooking up a study for profit. Ugly. Were you a little bit scared? The lawsuit began in the beginning of 2005, and he immediately applied to the courts to have it frozen so he could go around telling people he was suing but not actually sue. Litigation in the United Kingdom is immensely expensive. Losers pay everything. But we went to court for the television company and got a court order to compel him to continue suing. Put up or shut up. He then with financial backing from the British doctors in fact continued to sue. In the course of this litigation which went on for 2 years--well, from a personal level might be quite scary. There were occasions. He also sued me for my website, for which I have unlimited liability, would have lost my home had it been true. I would be sitting at my computer doing some work and there would be a ring on the doorbell and there would be a man dressed in black leather with a motorcycle helmet on and he would present me with an envelope. This happened to me twice. I opened the envelope and there's an [?] for Wakefield's legal costs for the hearing that was going to take place the next day in court. The figures were about $30,000 U.S. dollars, that kind of money just for one hearing. That was the kind of pressure they were trying to put on me. The next stage which was very unfortunate for him was that we got a court order against him requiring him to hand over to our lawyers the hospital medical records of the children. I never took possession of them. The judge balanced the issues of the confidentiality of the children as opposed to the fairness of the litigation in front of the court. Ordered that I be allowed to read the unredacted--with their names and all their details--of the 12 children. There were just 11 at the time--the American wasn't involved in this. So under strict supervision of my lawyers, with a lawyer sitting at the end of the table throughout, I sat and read the medical records of the children. Did it make your hair stand on end? I cannot even say that. I have never said anything about what I read in those medical records. The position is that they were disclosed to me in the course of litigation and I may make no use of anything I saw in those records or disclose anything. As I was sitting there reading them, Dr. Wakefield's lawyers were in a taxi travelling across London to the High Court to disband the lawsuit against me. When I got home that night--and I hadn't taken any notes with me or documents--I went home, phone rang, and it was my lawyers saying: It's over. They've thrown in the towel. So I'm in the position where I have read the medical records of these children but can make no use of the content of them. However, I have to say--I've talked to my lawyers about this--it is a fact that it's impossible to un-know something. Once you know something, you can't stop knowing it. Unrealistic. So, what I did was to ensure that I presented myself at the next opportunity where these medical records would go on display. And they would go on display at a Disciplinary Hearing which arose from my original stories. British General Medical Council, the body representing like a medical board for the whole of the United Kingdom, initiated disciplinary hearing. Between July 2007 and May 2010 they had a public hearing which lasted 217 days. Among other things, but mostly, these medical records were read into the public domain over and over. So, I was able to be present throughout. The picture began to build up. The true stories of these children could not be reconciled with what was published in the Lancet. Mismatch so enormous you would begin to wonder whether you were talking about the same children. Laid out in public by Queen's Counsel--senior trial attorneys. Five of them, plus junior lawyers, and a disciplinary panel of 5 who were doctors, would go through these records over and over looking at what was wrong with these children, dates, etc. I was able to sit there as a reporter and scoop up that information and present it to the public.
40:18When using the Freedom of Information Act, the High Court ruled you were able to see those. So you are looking at them with the lawyers making sure you are not stuffing them in your socks, and the lawyers for Wakefield are racing across town so you won't be able to see them, presumably. What their motive was we'll never know. Uncanny coincidence. It raises the question: Why did Wakefield produce those records? He had no choice. Why didn't he destroy them? Why did you say they were lost--that was 6 years ago, 8 years ago. Because the Disciplinary Hearing, which the General Medical Council had brought, was already in play. They had already started doing the work for that. So his lawyers were in possession of these documents. They didn't have to go to him to get them. They'd already got them for the General Medical Council proceedings and already in their offices. You may find it hard to believe, but lawyers do work generally to an ethical code. Could lose your career forever. So they turned over to us--I think he was very surprised. I don't think he quite realized that they would have to turn over those to us. And indeed they turned over many documents, extraordinarily incriminating documents, that would again be read into the record of the General Medical Council. So, we learned he'd been contracted for 2 years at the rate of £150 pounds an hour, which was a lot of money then and a lot more now. And ultimately he accumulated £435,643 pounds plus his expenses, which at the prevailing exchange rate we reckon was about ¾ of a million U.S. dollars he was actually paid by the lawyers. So that information came over to us as well, but again, it wasn't information we could immediately use. So, we have a Disciplinary Hearing, and he loses. So, what happens to him? In January of last year, he was found guilty of a raft of most extraordinary charges. There were four counts of dishonesty. One was dishonesty in his research--research fraud--in his aspect of the way the children had been recruited for the study. One was a finding of dishonesty in the financial aspects of the study--financial fraud. And then there were two counts of common lying: dishonesty and lying to other doctors who had asked him. People saw this paper, and asked him: Where did you get the money for this and he lied about this. Another doctor had a big panel where a whole group of professors and experts had been convened in London to discuss his research. One of the specialists there asked: Where did you get the children? And he lied about that. So he was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty. Then a dozen counts of causing children to undergo this extraordinary battery of invasive and actually quite hazardous tests for no clinical reason and without any kind of ethical approval. He's not a pediatrician and he had no relevant background in clinical care. In fact his contract said he was not allowed to involve himself in the care of patients. So this great raft of charges was found against him in January. Then in May of last year he was ordered to be what we call struck off, which is lose his license to practice medicine; and then on December 21, just last month, the final stage occurred, when it was found he was not appealing the decision. Because doctors being what they are, if you lose your license in the United Kingdom you are entitled to appeal to the High Court; and he went round telling all his supporters that he was appealing to the High Court, this was outrageous, he never did any of these things, the General Medical Council are working for the drug industry, I'm working for the drug industry; it's all an evil conspiracy against him and he was appealing. But on December 21 the General Council recorded that he had not pursued his appeal, and he is what we call "erasure"--like the word: he was erased from the medical record and he is no longer a medical doctor. And I don't think he ever will be again.
45:57I think not. Like both erasure and struck off. Nice ring to it. Finality. On this program, we like to talk about the seen and the unseen. So, the seen are those poor 12 kids who got punctured and poked and all those things. But the unseen are the children who didn't get MMR. Their parents had anxiety about their vaccine. What was the impact of the study on vaccination rates? Do we have any idea? That's the one people focus on--U.K. vaccination rates fell from 92%. Started just before this paper, because Wakefield was going around telling everybody appearing on a television program saying that the MMR caused inflammatory bowel disease. He subsequently went on to abandon that, but anyway he was saying that. And then this paper appeared. The backstation[sp?] rates fell from 92% of children at age 2 had received the vaccine down to 80%, and that was sufficient to--generally it's felt that 9 out of 10 children have to be vaccinated to stop measles returning to the population. It fell well below the rates necessary to keep measles at bay. And there were sporratic outbreaks of measles. In fact, measles was declared to be endemic again in the United Kingdom, as a result of this couple of children died. Which in the scheme of things is not a lot of dead children. Around the world, 300,00 children die of measles, so the fact that two of them were British is perhaps not necessarily a headline except in Britain. But people talk about infectious disease, but I think there is another group of people who continue to be horrendously victimized as a result of this scare, and these are the people who believe that their child is autistic because they had them vaccinated. Or who have guilt. Horrifying. That group of parents--my heart goes out to them that they have been told this story. Because--and I've come across this a lot over the years, and I can't speak from first-hand experience, I can only speak from telling to me by parents--when people have a child and it's the most precious thing in their life and it is so life-transforming and central to their thoughts and their feelings, and the parents find perhaps their child can't hear them when they are calling them, or perhaps the child can't start looking at their fingers all the time or perhaps recoils from being touched or starts to behave in an unusual way--parents go on what I call the desperate quest. They go to their pediatrician. They go to specialists. Here and there. Initially, the pediatricians are very reluctant to say: Your child may have autism. The response normally is: We just have to see; children develop normally at different rates. But when those reassurances are not born out in fact, you find quite often parents become angry towards their pediatricians. They become suspicious, and they start to think: What's to blame? And then along comes Dr. Wakefield with it's the facts seen, you've been subjected to some sort of conspiracy by government. Centers for Disease Control, the drug companies are knowingly behind it. Wakefield attended a Washington Rally in Washington, D.C., where he not only said the MMR was causing autism but the public health doctors in government and elsewhere knew that the vaccine was causing autism and were covering it up. A most extraordinary allegation to make against members of the medical profession, borne out by nothing in terms of evidence. No whistle-blowers have ever come forward ever produce. Doctors throughout the world confronted with autism or agents have done anything but their best to try to get to the bottom of these things. So, he has gone to the parents and told them they are the victims of a wicked conspiracy which has injured their child; and that makes some of these parents very angry, guilty, hurt; and all of them bewildered about how they can find a way out. The good news perhaps is that sometimes children who first show signs of autism and other developmental disabilities actually improve and go on to live perfectly satisfactory lives. But unfortunately, some don't; and the parents of those children are desperately vulnerable; and I think have been desperately preyed on by this man's false research.
51:45So, the law firm that paid him roughly $2 million dollars in advance of the study--what happened to them? They did start a lawsuit, but then after about £18 million British pounds--a lot of money--after they shared that among their experts which is Dr. Wakefield and people he recruited, and their lawyers, the lawyers said: We can't make a case that the MMR vaccine causes autism. They abandoned the lawsuit and went off into the distance. The lawsuit was then exported across the Atlantic and there was then a lawsuit heard in the Federal Vaccine Court in 2007 I think the hearing was. That again found no evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism. That went to the U.S. court of appeals just last year--August of last year for the Federal Circuit upheld the rulings that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism or bowel disease. So, despite this investment, the law firm that created this scandal--they just lost a lot of money? No, they made a lot of money. How? The government's legal aid fund. In the United Kingdom, the government's legal aid fund picked up the tab. They gave them £18 million British pounds to develop this case--to employ Wakefield, other doctors. Then in the United States, in the Federal vaccine court system, even if the claims fail, the attorneys bringing the case get paid. So in both systems, in both Britain and America, you've got government systems which pay lawyers alleging vaccine injury. So, they didn't need it to be a great study. They just needed it to be good enough to get the thing started. Having a study in The Lancet--that'll do. I talked to people behind the legal funding and they made it very clear: the internal advice they were getting from Wakefield was the same. So, what Wakefield was able to do was to get 12 other doctors to sign up to the proposition--what was the expression he used--apparent precipitating event. Precipitating means cause. So, the event was the MMR vaccine; and that caused the money to be released. And how has The Lancet responded? My final piece was on this subject. I didn't have the clear pieces we have now. But I raised this with The Lancet back in February 2004; and within 48 hours they denied it and hoped it would all go away.
55:49We talk a lot on this program about science and about the challenges of overcoming biases--self-deception, confirmation bias very present in economics and in all endeavors of human existence. A story like this--salute you, extraordinary achievement. Also deeply depressing. You could have said when it first came out it was junk science--a story based on 12 sample points, without much understanding of how they were generated. It makes you wonder--and people have looked into this--just the tip of the iceberg. Now, of course, not all studies are corrupt as this one turned out to be; but many are fraudulent. Where does this leave us with our understanding of medicine, epidemiology? What is your assessment of the field, having gotten into the kitchen as it were? Most people in this subject have seen it in terms of vaccines, measles, infectious disease, autism, or things like that. From the start, I've always seen it as being as being an issue of the integrity of science. Whether this paper was true or not and how he could get away with how he got away with. I think it is a depressing picture. It's been in the region of $10 million dollars to crack a case series of 12 patients. The money involved with the General Counsel hearing, the litigation involved, journalistic fees, and all the staff gone around this to get to the bottom of this little case series of 12 patients. The great bulk of science is not that interesting to the general public and therefore would not create the cause for a newspaper reported to be funded by a newspaper or television station to go after this for such a long period of time and get all this investigative work done with government regulators and what have you. So, you really would have to wonder what else is going on in laboratories and medical centers. The fact that Wakefield thought he was going to get away with it, and the casual way he went about it leads me to think he was working within a culture within which that wasn't far from unusual, wasn't far from extraordinary--the kind of misrepresentations he made were far from remarkable by common standards, I suspect. Part of it the nature of human beings; part of it the elusive nature of truth. Part of it is the nature of the publication process. When I was googling around trying to get background for our conversation, I came across a recently published study that showed a relationship between autism and living near a highway, a major highway. If you lived within a certain number of feet of a major highway, I think you had a 10% higher chance of getting autism. The authors were at least honest enough to report that their results didn't hold up if you lived near a busy city street. So, here's an awkward thing. They find a correlation and they are happy to opine on the source of the correlation. They say: There must be some chemicals in gasoline and pollution and cars that cause autism. Could be. But it's awkward for their theory that in their results they don't find a correlation with major city streets. So the authors explain: There must be different chemicals near those streets. Well, that would be one hypothesis. The other would be their initial theory is wrong. There is no relationship. It's just a statistical anomaly, as we know, a few percent each time. In a large enough sample, you are going to find relations that are not causal. Ed Leamer podcast. People shopping around and then painting a bull's eye around the hole. Very difficult to get clear evidence in that field of autism. If there are environmental factors at work, there could be so many. I don't know how many years to test the hypotheses we've got now. The simply hypothesis is we've gotten better at testing. My lesson--what I try to teach my children--is to be skeptical of scientific findings. Hard for us. A lot of us are vulnerable. We like good stories. We like to be scared. We like to think the scientists have the answer. A lot of us in the street think: well, if scientists don't have the answer, what's the point of them? That's what we have them for. To discover that scientists actually don't have the answers but are all just putting forward ideas for testing and maybe eventually one or two of them will prove to be correct is kind of a bit of a dispiriting view of the nature of science. A lot of romance about it; Caldwell podcast, scientism, use of language of tools of science.
1:02:30What are you going to turn to next? Absolutely hope that one of the last things I will ever have to be involved in in terms of vaccines. Not sure I want to spend a lot more time on long investigations. Saying of the Buddha: The things we dwell on become the shape of our minds. I'm kind of tired of the hunt aspect of it and the adversarial quality to investigative journalism, the extraordinary hours that have to be put in to it to get anywhere. The complex legal issues that are always coming up. In an ideal world I'd find something that didn't require me to do more than write a couple of hundred words in a piece and be cheap and cheerful. But I have a feeling that is just how I am feeling at the moment and it won't be long before something else comes along that I get interested in and get drawn off into. I think what I need now is a holiday! I for one now am grateful. Striking a blog against fraud doesn't make up for all the pain and losses people suffered as a result of the fraud, but it will open people's eyes down the road to other things.

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COMMENTS (45 to date)
Anonymous writes:

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David writes:

Just finished listening to this weeks podcast and have to say that I love the topic, yet have a bit of trouble with some comments toward the end.

You cited a study on a correlation between living close to a highway and rates of autism and seemed disappointed that the authors of the paper included negative results. I think that was a quite responsible thing for them to do and if more papers would be this forthright with this information, the entirety of science would be in better shape.

I guess that I never had the belief in scientists and their ability to give birth to wholly formed perfectly realized truth. I have always had the faith in the iterative process of the scientific method as our best hope at getting closer to the truth.

The problem often lies in how uncritically people are in the reporting of scientific results.

Russ Roberts writes:

David,

Maybe I expressed myself poorly. I wasn't disappointed that they included negative results. I was disappointed at how they interpreted those results. Those results contradicted their hypothesis. They should have stopped there and realized that without a deeper understanding of a possible link between automobile emissions and child development, they had nothing to say. Google "highways autism pregnant" and you'll get an idea of how much news coverage that study received. It depresses me.

bluhawkk writes:

Why hasn't Wakefield been criminally charged?

Andrew Fischer Lees writes:

Re: this whole bit on "other studies don't receive enough scrutiny..."

Are there insufficient incentives for scientists to criticize one another's work? I thought there were plenty. If incentives are lacking, has anyone though about changing the incentive scheme, rather than bemoaning the fact that some poor science slips through the peer-review filter?

This seem like a problem that a few cash prizes could fix.

-afl

David B. Collum writes:

Fascinating story. I had heard about the possible causal link but had no idea about the gruesome details.

Biomedical science seems to be more heterogeneous than your average physical science. To call a doctor a scientist is a stretch. I've seen some dreadful biomedical seminars with data that could not get past most people's nostrils. Maybe Wakefield had credentials, but many do not. This story is not about the failure of science to self-cleanse (which it normally does quite well) but an amoral character using all his wits and resources to game the system. Hard to defend against that.

I guess I should add that similar conflicts of interest appear to be pervasive in economics as well. Mishkin certainly got left with some explaining to do after that gotcha moment about his Iceland report.

Mike writes:

Before I listen to the podcast, am I going to get the same old strawman argument about yuppie's wanting other people to get their children protected so they their children won't need to take the shot?

Or, are you going to ignore that Russia, much of Europe and Japan have BANNED thimerosal from their flu and immunity shots?
My guess is that you will ignore that science.

Is this going to be another whitewash of corporate Risk Management of Pharma profits, vs. the Risk Management of the Pharma Industry's customers health.

Will I be Three for Three?
The Suspense is Killing me.


Mike writes:

My annoyance comes form the fact that the Pharma industry put out the press release that they were Removing Thimerosal from flu and immunity shots.

The press release came out.
The Thimerosal didn't.

Russ Roberts writes:

Mike,

This podcast has nothing to do with thimerosal. Sorry to disappoint you.

Nick writes:

Dr Roberts,

Fantastic podcast!

Can't thank you enough for this one. The mainstream media in the US largely buried this story, not giving it the same level of hysterical coverage that the original study and the subsequent high-profile press events by some celebrities got. People need to know this anti-vaccine movement is based on a lie cooked up by lawyers and frauds. Kids and others are being put at risk by parents refusing to vaccinate.

I really enjoy your podcasts on dubious science such as the psychology podcast. I suppose its probably outside the scope of this podcast to get Dr Steve Barrett from 'quack watch' on?

I also was sort of surprised you didnt bring to light the fact that, an enormous sum of money was spent on numerous subsequent studies to refute this fraud, this money could have been spent on legitimate research into autism. Not only did this study cast doubt on what turned out to be a beneficial medical advancement, but it also wasted an enormous amount of valuable resources.

wes writes:

Mike, you get more mercury from a tin of tuna than from thiomersal in a vaccine shot. But this podcast has nothing to do with it. What always striked me as odd with the anti-vaxxers is the argument that pharma is making huge profits from vaccines.

Vaccines prevent you from getting sick. Otherwise you'd have to go to a doctor or a hospital to get treatment and medication. Surely it is more profitable for pharma to allow you to get sick. i.e prevent vaccination? Because they would be able to sell more treatments to you? I am still confused on that one.

In the case of MMR. I think its the media that whipped up the hysteria around MMR and autism rather than the failure of science to prevent bad research that was the major problem here. Had there been no media hysteria this rubbish science would have been safely ignored, buried deep in the journal somewhere, just as many other research is being ignored today.

Robert K writes:

Nice change in pace for Econtalk. As I was listening it, I almost thought I might have been listening to an episode of This American Life or something! (Not sure if that will be perceived as a compliment or otherwise.)

I did have several questions/thoughts as I listened to it.

One, there seemed to be a tone that the Wakefield study was ground zero for the vaccine/autism theory. Is that so? Have there been any other independent studies that have linked, legitimately or not, vaccines & autism?

Two, Deer's primary problem with the science seemed to be the length of time between vaccine & symptoms. Russ challenged him a bit on that topic but it did not go very far. I could certainly believe that it could take several months or even years for symptoms to occur, if there was indeed any link.

Three, I think I understood that all of the money that funded this came from the British government. It wasn't clear of the seeds of the research. Did some government official tell the law firm to conduct a study to try to link vaccines & autism? Or was it a more benign request to research vaccine impacts or autism causes or something else? While it appears that Wakefield willfully corrupted his research, were there other culprits here? Either bureaucrats or attorneys at the law firm? I'm struggling to accept that Wakefield is the "lone gunmen" here, so to speak.

Citizen writes:

Open-minded readers may want to hear Dr. Wakefield defend himself two days ago, interviewed by Alex Jones. There's another side to this story.

Podcast hour 1 (intro and preview, first 12 minutes)

Podcast hour 2 (main interview)

Miles writes:

This episode was a bit far from economics, but it was very enjoyable. If anything, I'm just irritated that none of my other media sources provided such a lengthy interview with Mr. Deer.

I did cringe at the end though, when you discuss being skeptical of science. The consensus scientific and medical opinion NEVER moved away from vaccination. Science as a discipline wasn't wrong here. The skepticism should be directed at specific studies, at one-off correlations, and at simplified summaries for sensational headlines.

So while I absolutely agree about the importance of skepticism and the problem of "scientism", I see the solution as being MORE science (the real kind). I worry that your statement might be taken as approving of the flat-earthers, the people who still doubt smoking causes lung cancer, and the conservatives who believe CO2 has no influence on the Earth's temperature.

These days real science is under an attack from a strange variety of sensationalist sources, when more people need to just calm down and look rationally at the bulk of scientific evidence when making their decisions. Don't be a Jenny McCarthy, "trusting your intuition" even when there is a preponderance of research telling you something else.

Thanks for a great podcast.

Mark C writes:

Russ,
With all that Wakefield was charged with, it was never stated what the consequences of his actions were. Did he ever go to jail? Was he ever fined?

Or did he get to keep his ~$750,000, and the lawyers their $18,000,000. If so, what keeps other doctors from doing this? Obviously he lost his license, but that is a ton of money and might have been worth it to him to produce some junk science.

Morag writes:

Perhaps listen to the other side of the story.

The truth (with indisputable evidence) is here:

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-gary-null-show-wnye/2011/1/27/the-gary-null-show-012711.html

dat writes:

Enjoyed the show, but now it seems that Dr. Wakefield should be given a chance to defend himself, which should be interesting considering these articles...

Documents emerge proving Dr Andrew Wakefield innocent; BMJ and Brian Deer caught misrepresenting the facts

Wakefield Gives Proof: No Fraud. Brian Deer Lied.

Andrew Wakefield Responds to Brian Deer: Summary, “I regret nothing…"

Brian Deer's 'Wakefield Fraud' Report Is Full of Misrepresentations. Big Pharma must be terrified of the truth.

Wakefield & MMR – Brian Deer Fails To Answer

Brian Deer's 'Wakefield Fraud' Report Is Full of Misrepresentations

And...I wonder how these events are affecting the careers of Wakefield and Deer. Who got the big bucks? (Maybe that's the real economic story.)

Russ Roberts writes:

Citizen,

I stopped listening about two minutes in when the host of the show (who thinks Wakefield has been treated unfairly), says that Wakefield is demanding a retraction from the British Medical Journal for publishing Brian Deer's articles. But that is cheap talk. He should sue them for libel. He tried suing Brian Deer for libel already. Didn't work.

He took money (hundreds of thousands of dollars) from a lawyer and didn't disclose it in 1998. He did a bunch of invasive tests on kids that weren't approved. The article was retracted by the Lancet. There was a two and half year investigation and he lost his ability to practice medicine in the UK.

The saddest part of this story is that a sample of 12 children was used to scare parents. This is a tragedy.

James writes:

Wow, I can't remember the last time I heard an Econtalk I would describe as "shocking".

James J. writes:

[Comment removed for crude language. --Econlib Ed.]

wes writes:

@Dat I tried looking for documents

The first: Entero-colitis and Disintegrative Disorder Following MMR - A Review of the First Seven Cases

Can't find on google-scholar, sciencedirect, scopus, Highwire.

These are the search engines I use to find articles related to my field of research. Yet, I find no mention of the presentation, a link to the actual powerpoint file or a follow up scientific article. The only mention is on the thousands of quack sites of peoples opinions.

So left only with the title, I can still dismiss due to the small sample size (review of the first seven cases). If its a review of a cohort study of 400 000 cases after MMR (i.e The Danish study) then it holds a little more water.

If that is the first so called evidence? Do I have to bother looking for the rest. You really have to put your best article on the top of pile.

Robert K writes:

I listened to the Alex Jones interview with Wakefield this morning. Mr. Jones is a bit hard to deal with. He is quite hysterical about all sorts of alleged conspiracies. And I question Wakefield a bit for even agreeing to be interviewed by him. That said, once I got past the ranting of the host and listened to Wakefield, it was certainly interesting to hear his side of the story. At the least, he counters some of Deer's claims about the case itself that don't sound unreasonable. If readers/listeners are interested in this topic, it is illuminating to listen to both sides. I'm finding myself feeling a bit cynical towards both Deer & Wakefield.

Ward writes:

The asymetrical risk taken by lawyers; they participate in the upside and avoid the downside in many ways in both our countries...a fitting subject for another podcast.

Very, very interesting podcast. Thank you.

Allow me please to point out that real estate next to a major highway is likely to be cheaper, while real estate next to a busy street in a city may not be, because living in a city may be desirable for other reasons. Thus there is a selection bias in the data of autism next to highways -- children studied are most likely coming from poorer families. The first step in any statistical analysis, as I teach my students, future actuaries who one day will be in charge of your pensions, is to check for bias in the data.

What you failed to mention in this podcast is that the underlying contributing cause of this "science" fraud is the availability of public money to finance it. Without the government slush fund for the lawyers, this outrage would have become far less likely. In the U.S. the government slush funds have produced probably equally or more shocking results, but investigation of them may turn out to be a very dangerous endeavor.

Neil T., England. writes:

Fantastic podcast, thanks so much. Here in the UK the original story was huge, and even now there seems to be a residual worry about MMR (my personal perception, so based on no data whatsoever....). The full ramifications of the story haven't been that well publicised, in my opinion, so I found it rivetting. Thanks again.

Warren writes:

Loved this one! As an economist I am often demonized because of my take on things (I think all economist are), but this one hit home. My ex-wife is one that played into this garbage and did not want to vaccinate the children. Well we did but it goes to show how many people fall prey to these things. That is why I love what you said at the end about being skeptical about things come that from "scientific studies." They can be damaging to many. I am not saying that all are that way but there are some that can be. My wife now watches "The Doctors" and rehashes to me all the calamity that will come if I eat a peanut or whatever. There is truth and there is fiction, we have to be careful of what we digest. Thank you so much for this podcast, it was outstanding.

EPZEN writes:

As a physician I have to say this was a great podcast.

I don't have a problem with small studies as long as they are interpreted as being nothing more than hypothesis generating (i.e. inconclusive but raise a question that needs further study). Unfortunately, too often small studies are given too much weight.

I once read a business management article that stated 5% of employees in any given business will be problem employees. The article didn't give a reference so I don't know if this is something that is just commonly accepted.

In any case, I think the 5% rule is probably true and I also believe it applies to a wide range of human activity. It would not surprise me if 5% of all scientific studies have some faked data. This means of course that 95% of all studies are published from hard working ethical researchers.

However, if a 5% person has tremendous influence then a great deal of damage can be done. For example, in politics I believe 95% of politicians are hard working ethical people. Unfortunately, the damage sometimes done by one of the 5% can be huge which in turn gives rise to a general feeling that all politicians are corrupt.

In the end I think all we can do is "trust but verify."

Rex writes:

Mr. Deer clearly had a preferred result from very early on. Listen to him talk about the "mistakes" Dr. Wakefield made. Mr. Deer crows that Dr. Wakefield's "first mistake" was to complain about Mr. Deer to the Sunday Times - because Mr. Deer was buddies with the folks receiving the complaints. If Mr. Wakefield did what he was accused of, his "first mistake," "second mistake," etc. had nothing to do with complaining about (later suing) this reporter. Mr. Deer's "I showed him" attitude is so palpable that it causes me to question everything he says.

keatssycamore writes:

Just listened and I felt like Rex from just above. All that Deer's description about the libel suit (and particularly his overabundance of concern about where the money came for that lawsuit) did for me was to demonstrate that "I showed him" attitude Rex mentions. Frankly, it's an attitude that doesn't seem at all compatible with giving Wakefield's position a fair airing. As a result, just as Rex points out above, Deer wasn't what I would call entirely convincing. Then again I listened to the Wakefield podcasts linked above and those podcasts weren't convincing, so I feel like I can honestly say about all this vaccination stuff, "I don't know."


Russ writes,

"I stopped listening about two minutes in when the host of the show ..."

Well that settles it then, doesn't it? Sheesh. Here's those Wakefield podcast links again for people who are not afraid to listen to things that might raise questions about their pre-existing assumptions/worldview:

here and here


wes,

While I realize this podcast wasn't about mercury/thimersol, I didn't want to let you get away completely scot-free with regard to your comment:

"Mike, you get more mercury from a tin of tuna than from thiomersal in a vaccine shot."

How many infants do you see chowing down on cans of tuna fish? Do you think that an amount of something that may be safe for a grown 100-200 lbs person is always safe for a 10 pound baby? Ever heard about pregnant women being warned by doctors about eating too much fish b/c of the effect of mercury on their fetus? Maybe these are the kinds of questions you might want to think about asking yourself the next time you decide to "pwn" some other EconTalk commenter with what you believe to be a decisive discussion ending comment.

Russ Roberts writes:

Rex (and Keatssycamore and Robert K),

You seem to be forgetting that Mr. Deer isn't just a guest on EconTalk making some claim. If that were the case, then you'd all be right. But he isn't just making a claim. He's making a claim that stood up in court, stood up before a review board and forced a respected medical journal to retract an article. I suspect there were times when he was scared about what might happen to him. I'm sure he's an imperfect human being. We're all imperfect. But don't confuse his attitude or resentment or exultation over the outcome with that of someone accused and convicted of altering an allegedly scientific study for personal profit. They're really not the same.

keatssycamore writes:

Russ Roberts,

I don't think "convicted" is the right word for what has happened so far with Dr. Wakefield. Given that the Doctor is currently out of work and known to be litigious when it comes to libel, you might want to re-think the assertion.

Rex writes:

Russ Roberts,

Mr. Deer is still a person making a claim. The fact you find his claim persuasive doesn't mean his bias shouldn't give a listener pause. Further, while their opinions are certainly worth noting, both courts and medical review boards get things (really, really) wrong on occasion (see, e.g., tobacco and asbestos).

More to the point, however, I'm not taking sides in the ultimate debate. I don't know what the "truth" is here. I am saying that Mr. Deer strikes me as clearly biased and, as a result, I question his version of the facts.

- Rex

mgroves writes:

Every person is clearly biased, and I am more questioning of people who claim to be otherwise.

The fact that Mr. Deer's attention was drawn to Wakefield via complaints against him is an entertaining story that highlights how much serendipity was involved in this fraud coming to light, but the dry facts are the *meat* of the investigation. Those facts stand up to rigorous scrutiny, while Wakefield's do not.

Stephan writes:

Wow, I never thought that this podcast has so many tin foil hat listeners...

Anyway, great podcast.

Mort Dubois writes:

I was also struck by Mr. Deer's tone and his joy in the personal victory over Wakefield. But keep in mind that he's English, and by his accent I would guess middle class. If you aren't familiar with the English press, think Fox News without the objectivity and self-restraint. British reporting is a full contact sport. And there are still very healthy class divisions and resentments in play, to an extent that many Americans would find unsettling. One of the take-aways of this podcast, for me: don't piss off a British reporter.

As to the truth of his position on the vaccination, I'll offer a single data point. I have fraternal twin sons. Both received an identical schedule of vaccinations. One is severely autistic, the other completely normal. The autistic one exhibited regression following some normal development, at the end of his first year. This is also the time he received the MMR. But on the other hand he was always clearly developing at a much slower pace than his sibling. I think that there are definitely children who regress, and it's most likely to be unrelated to the vaccinations. It just happens at the same period of development.

If you have autistic children, you are bombarded with theories about what went wrong and what you should do about it. In the end, you just have to pick something to believe and get on with it. And once you have done that, you always feel a little guilty about not following some alternative course of action. Neither my wife nor I found the vaccination story to be plausible, for us, but what we decided to believe in doesn't have bulletproof science supporting it, either. Autism is so variable in its manifestations that it's not surprising to me that a substantial number of parents have decided to believe the vaccination story. It's probably the best explanation they have, based on their own experience.

Mort

MK writes:

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Nathan writes:

Near the end of the podcast there seemed to be an overall negative tone to science and that it is full of corruption, yet at the beginning this was said

"Every single study that anybody that anybody ever did on this subject found not only no support for Wakefield's claims but clearly rebutted them. All being done against a background of an apparent increase in the incidence of autism, so people were very eager to find correlates and ideally causal agents, and this was a possible one. There had been an increase in vaccination rates around the world. Appealed to people in a back-of-the-envelope way. Were there any studies done outside of the United Kingdom? Studies done in Denmark, United States. Medical science is very internationalized; when something occurs in one country you find people with similar interests in other countries will start studying it. Everybody drew a blank. As the years went by, more and more studies accumulated which showed no association."

The fact that everyone else seemed to find that the Wakefield study was bunk, other than the media, who kept reporting that there was a danger when there was none. This tells me that science still has a good record in checking itself and then correcting itself. It seems that the media is very bad at reporting science and froths at the mouth when anything sensational appears.

Rex writes:

Mort -

Thank you for your comments. Now that I think about it, your insight on how the British press operates and its possible influence seems "spot on" (I think I am using that correctly). I wish you and your sons the best.

- Rex

Christine writes:

Russ,

I want to thank you as a parent for having this podcast. Although I had heard that Wakefield's practices were questionable, I had not heard the full story.

Steve writes:

Russ, I found it very odd that you took on such a hot subject as this is an economics themed website/podcast and it seemed to me that you had an obvious one sided opinion on this subject going into this interview, even though you made a lame attempt of a netural stands at times. It's also seems you did very little research on Dr Wakefield's position on this matter so that you could a least ask a few challenging question taken from Dr. Wakefield's rebutal to Mr. Beers investigative report.

There has been several articles regarding new information on this matter which wasn't brought up.

Documents just made public reveal that another medical research team which included a senior pathologist independently documented evidence of a possible MMR vaccine - autism link 14 months before Dr Wakefield's paper first appears in The Lancet -- based on several of the same children appearing in Dr Wakefield's study.

http://www.vaccinesafetyfirst.com/pdf/BRIAN%20DEER%20IS%20THE%20LIAR%20.pdf


A recent interview with Dr, Wakefield. Hear his side.
http://www.naturalnews.tv/v.asp?v=608256A446123276E4E72A5351322186

There are more and more Doctors coming forward challenging the effectiveness of some of these vaccines and if its worth exposing our children to such a vast number of chemicals and toxins at such an early age.

Dr. Tenpenny interview: This Doctor has many DVD using the CDC's own document to show the lie we're told about vaccine.
http://www.naturalnews.tv/v.asp?v=4CD1FE39DDB89814031B07E7623CE8F7

Here is a quick read from the other side on vaccines.
http://www.naturalnews.com/SpecialReports/VaccinesFullStory/v1/VaccineReport-EN.pdf

This is just the tip of the iceberg on the information available. I could go on and on.

Learn both sides of an issue so you can make an informed decision.

AHBritton writes:

Just to throw my two-cents in (although it is probably too late). Do any of the vaccine skeptics (people who believe MMR might be linked to Autism) have a reasonable explanation for why every serious piece of research conducted since Wakefield's experiment has shown no causal relationship? Do you really believe THE ENTIRE medical research community is in cahoots in a cover up?

If you go to the Wikipedia page on this topic you will find names and links to several studies, as well as meta-studies, demonstrating no link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy

Next, although I have read claims on the internet that a previous researcher 14 months before had found a possible connection and somehow this exonerates Wakefield, I have to ask really?

Even according to what I understand of this Wakefield was deceptive in his claim that these patients came to him initially instead of him picking some from this previous study.

In addition does this really discount the great many other pieces of evidence regarding his deceptions and lies? It doesn't seem to me it does.

Lancet retracted the article, Cochrane library published a review of 31 scientific studies demonstrating no connection, the CDC, National Health Services, and US Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine have all denied any causal link.

But somehow I am suppose to believe that all of these organizations are in a conspiratorial plan constructed by pharma to prevent the truth coming out, and that they have been so successful that there have been NO WHISTLEBLOWERS?

Alfred Differ writes:

Thank you for NOT taking a typically journalistic approach to this subject where a balanced story is told creating the illusion of a balanced competition between potentially valid sides. Life is rarely about these balanced situations and you've done us a service here.

I'm a father who understands the emotional damage Wakefield and his funders have done. My autistic son is almost 12 now and while I didn't get caught up in the MMR hysteria, I was temporarily sucked into the thimerosal one. My training is in physics, but parental emotions over-ruled. I went so far as to get a self-testing kit (mercury)from an advocacy group before my training kicked in. With the package sitting on my desk holding a small hair sample from my son, I finally realized that the test result could do nothing for me. If the result was positive, they would be confirming my bias. If it was negative, I didn't want to believe it. Therefore, I was the worst possible data collector short of someone with a pathological inclination to commit fraud. I never sent the sample in. Instead I went and found a few papers that made predictions for what should happen when the thimerosal was removed and tried hard to wait. After enough time had gone by, the predictions failed and the authors were altering their assumptions on which their hypotheses were founded to back-fit the new data. To say this is bad science is an understatement. I was thoroughly disgusted.

Again, thank you for doing this interview. I will be suggesting others in my situation listen to it in order to encourage an unseen counter-reaction.

cdsapi writes:

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Steve writes:

Hi AHBritton,

Your opinion really only equals 1/2 cent if your using Wikipedia for your research. They give you sniblets of facts and leave a lot out.

This is taken from the wikipedia article.

The paper described a collection of bowel symptoms, endoscopy findings and biopsy findings that were said to be evidence of a possible novel syndrome that Wakefield would later call autistic enterocolitis, and recommended further study into the possible link between the condition and the MMR vaccine. The paper suggested that the connection between autism and the gastrointestinal pathologies was real, but said it did not prove an association between the MMR vaccine and autism.

So he states that the finding didn't prove that the MMR vaccine and autism were associated but suggested that there may be a connection and recommended further studies. So whats so bad about that?

Here is another very interesting article:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr-and-david-kirby/vaccine-court-autism-deba_b_169673.html

I believed wholeheartedly in vaccines as I work in the medical field. Two years ago, my wife became pregnant and with the nudging from a friend I decided to look into this issue with an open mind and to use critical thinking.

After due diligence looking into this issue with a open mind and months of reading. I can say, I'm not a believer anymore in all these vaccines that are pushed on our children. I promote people to self educate and you will be surprised at what you find. Remember, Once you receive the shot or give it to your child, there's no reversing the decision.

Hears something to think about.
When your child progresses to eating foods from formula or breast milk. Your Pediatrician tells you to introduce those foods slowly because they are concerned about allergic reactions but they aren't concerned about reactions to all the chemicals and toxins coming through the needle directly into there blood stream.

There is a lot more then you think coming through that needle that everyone should be aware of before having a vaccine or have one given to there child.

Some Vaccine Ingredients:
Stray viruses and bacteria from the animal cell cultures that vaccines are made in.

Mercury, a well‐documented neurotoxin, is still in the multi‐dose flu vaccines throughout the world. Trace amounts remain in several other vaccines.

Aluminum, a poison that can cause bone, bone marrow and brain degeneration.

Animal cells from monkeys, dog kidneys, chickens, cows, and humans.

Formaldehyde (embalming fluid), a known carcinogen.

Polysorbate 80, known to cause infertility in female mice and testicular atrophy in male mice.

Gelatin, from pigs and cows, known to cause anaphylactic reactions, is found in large quantities in the MMR, chickenpox and shingles vaccines.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in inhaled flu vaccines, is known to cause metabolic disturbances (e.g. diabetes), seizures and other neurologic disorders.

A rebuttal to your statement:

"But somehow I am suppose to believe that all of these organizations are in a conspiratorial plan constructed by pharma to prevent the truth coming out, and that they have been so successful that there have been NO WHISTLEBLOWERS?"

All I Can say is one word. TOBACCO!!!
It's worth recalling that for sixty years the tobacco industry successfully defended a product that was killing one out of every five of its customers against thousands of legal actions brought by its victims and their families. Tobacco lawyers protected the cigarette companies by arguing that there was no proven link between tobacco and lung cancer. They used expert Doctors testifying that cigarette use was totally save.

The FDA and the CDC has been a revolving door for Big Pharma's people.

Vaccine manufactures don't have to worry about lawsuits. All they have to do is get the CDC to add it to the recommended vaccine list and that isn't to hard to do when you have your people in those positions.

Our great leaders have granted them immunity and instead have created a Vaccine Court which has paid out over 2 billion dollars in vaccine injury claims since 1989.

Do your own research. I HAVE!!!

Stuart N. writes:

Russ,
Thank you so much for this interview.
Very telling indeed!
What can we do about this pervasive condition of confirmation bias?
Very disturbing.
Keep up the great work.

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