Thursday, January 28, 2010

A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE

During the struggle to try and secure civil rights for all Americans in the sixties, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. found himself incarcerated in Birmingham, Alabama. His time in jail was put to good use, as he wrote a letter to a group of clergymen who, although sympathetic to Dr. King’s cause, were critical of the Birmingham demonstrations as being too confrontational. In other words, Dr. King was rocking the boat.

The letter Dr. King wrote from the jail, in my opinion, is one of the greatest pieces of prose in the English language, a call for all to do what is right. The whole letter is summed up in its most famous sentence:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.


Those were the first words that came to me when I heard of the decision by the GMC in the ethics case against Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch.

Their wrong was simply to tell the truth. There were others who joined in the Lancet case study that found a potential connection between the MMR vaccine and autistic enterocolitis. The others were pressured to repudiate the article – or to say it more accurately, to repudiate a finding that was not made by the study. Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues never stated that the vaccine caused autism, but merely that there was a need for further study.

Even the recommendation for further study was a threat to a lot of powerful influences in the public health establishment and its allies in the pharmaceutical industry. And the Wakefield findings have been replicated on more than one occasion, so merely throwing competing studies out there would not kill the controversy.

Enter Brian Deer, a British “journalist” looking to make a bigger name for himself. By mangling together two different studies and reports Dr. Wakefield participated in, Deer presented ethics charges that objectively do not hold water. But the charges were not to be heard objectively.

For an excellent and dispassionate look at the charges and their fallacy, see the article by William Long (originally printed in The Autism File), which can be found here in pdf format.

Now, after years of proceedings, wasting God-knows-how-much money and resources, the General Medical Council found that there were violations. As a result, Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues will likely lose their professional licenses. Ironically, the evidence presented to the GMC against the three was primarily testimony by witnesses with far more-extensive conflicts of interest than those ascribed to Dr. Wakefield (see here).

Of course, there will be many who will say that this outcome proves the fallacy of the case study’s conclusions. It is a further piece of irony, that those who will most loudly deliver that collateral attack include many of the same people who would defend epidemiological studies performed by those with fatal conflicts of interest.

I listened to live coverage of the verdict on the Linderman Live program on Autism One Radio. I heard that Brian Deer made a statement that, “it’s a great day for children, a great day for medicine, and – dare I say – a great day for journalism.”

No Mr. Deer, in fact it is a tragic day for children, a tragic day for medicine and science, and – dare I say – a tragic day for journalism. We’ve already seen over on this side of the pond the kind of yellow journalism practiced by Deer. The once mighty Chicago Tribune has sold itself to the powerful interests who are more interested in the status quo than they are the truth.

Even if we were to take the provincial position that today’s announcement was an injustice only in the UK, there is a serious threat to justice here in the US. Without doubt, there will be moves made against many of the physicians and scientists who are helping our children. And the truth may not be a strong enough defense for them.

The truth will only be strong enough to defend us all when the emerging science progresses to the irrefutable point, at which time the Paul Offits, Julie Gerberdings, and Brian Deers of the world will not be able to deny what has happened to our children. Unfortunately, the research needed to bring out that truth is not being funded.

The attacks on Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues are also attacks on us and on our children. We stand with them.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please get down off your cross and stop comparing wakefield to actual heroes like MLK. You're not doing your cause any favors whatsoever.

2/4/10, 9:14 AM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Where exactly did I draw a comparison between Dr. Wakefield and Dr. King? I said the quote was the first thing that came to me, and it was not because the struggles are comparable but rather because the principle stated in that one sentence is one that I often look to for guidance. It is one that calls for all of us to keep fighting for justice regardless of the cost.

Has Dr. Wakefield been thrown into jail? Has he paid for his struggle with his actual life? Of course not. But parallels do not require proportionality. Dr. Wakefield has risked the career he worked hard to build, when others caved in to the pressures being placed upon them. he chose to do the right thing rather than the easy thing. That may not make him as heroic as Dr. King, but he is a hero nonetheless.

2/4/10, 9:58 AM  
Blogger EdR77203 said...

I know that the standard for one side is not the standard for the other. In study after study it is easy to identify problems, primarily in the conclusions that were drawn from the data. For example, how many times has the Japanese MMR study been cited. Two conclusions were drawn from the study:
There is no relation between autism and vaccines. The study did not eliminate vaccines in the control group. Therefore, no such conclusion can be drawn.
There is no relation between autism and the MMR. The MMR contains most of the ingredients that were contained in the other vaccines that were administered to the control group. Again, no such conclusion can be drawn.

But the study says the right things about the innocence of vaccines and therefore the Japanese MMR study could not be wrong. It passed peer review easily and nobody on the pro-vax side questions it.

2/10/10, 7:57 PM  
Blogger Southern GFCF said...

Happy Mardi Gras Rankin Family.

2/16/10, 4:35 PM  
Blogger Sheldon said...

Sorry, you've been fooled by Wakefield. So was I, for a while.

I've read the GMC decision carefully.

I've researched and understand the key concept that the panel did not explain as well as they should have. that medical research is identified by the intent of the doctor to look beyond the patient in front of the doctor.

That is the standard view, worldwide. The panel rejected Wakefield's nonsensical view that routine clinical practice could not be research. Of course it was.

The second great sin of Wakefield was lying in the paper and afterwards.

The GMC didn't even go after Wakefield for everything he did. For example, they let him slide on pretending that he did not have the results from his Ph.D. student, that showed no measles vaccine RNA in any of the samples taken from the children.

Instead, the GMC charges zeroed in on the lies, inaccuracy and misleading statements in the paper and afterwards on how the children came to be included in the research project.

Because it was more than anything else, the claim that these were just routinely seen children who just popped up at the Royal Free that made the story.

He had to lie. After all, who would take very seriously s study of 12 chldren handpicked by the researchers from amongst those either suing vaccine makers or considering suing vaccine makers.

I discuss these issues in depth at my blog. Perhaps they might make you see Wakefield in a different light.

Look at the Wakefield category http://vaccineswork.blogspot.com/search/label/Wakefield
and in particular
http://vaccineswork.blogspot.com/2010/03/olmsteads-dishonest-essay-wakefield.html and
http://vaccineswork.blogspot.com/2010/02/game-over-for-wakefield-at-start-of-gmc.html

4/18/10, 6:31 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Okay Sheldon, I've read your stuff before, and I took a new look at it. Not only am I not convinced you're right, I'm probably more convinced then ever that some people will never be able to see the truth in front of them. Primarily, I'm thinking of all the people that don't take a critical look at Brian Deer and how he came to do what he did, and you seem to be one of those folks.

In any event, your comment remains. Thanks for making it in a civil manner.

4/18/10, 6:47 PM  
Blogger Sheldon said...

I have the same problem with your views.

The key to Wakefield's defense to the ethics charges was that (1) the procedures and tests were clinically indicated and (2) because they were clinically indicated they did not need ethics committee approval. The only part that needed ethics committee approval was additional testing on additional biopsies.

Leave aside the issue of whether the tests were clinically indicated.

I'll ask you to do the same thing I asked Jacob Crosby of Aof A--- provide some decent evidence, outside of the Wakefield case, after 1990, that supports the idea that normal clinical procedures and tests were excluded from the requirement to have 3rd party approval. I'll accept evidence from Canada, the US or the UK as they are all common law countries.

You know where my blog is. You can find my email address there. Drop me a line when you find

4/18/10, 7:12 PM  
Blogger EdR77203 said...

If you look at the evidence that there is no relationship between autism and vaccines, you will find that it is all statistical. This is natural. There really is no way to show that there is or is not a relationship except statistically. So just as naturally, I would expect that if either side wanted to know whether there is a relationship or not they would compare the general vaccinated population with a control group, an unvaccinated population. It has never been done. A poor attempt was made on the cheap using telephone solicitation. It did not make the debate clearer. But when I suggest that this basic homework should be done, the
reaction I get from the pro-vax side is:

1. Ridicule

2. You don't know what you are talking about

3. Leave science to the scientists

4. It is too hard

5. It would be unethical

6. It would never get approved

7. It was proven by the DPP studies and the MMR studies (without eliminating the other vaccines)

8. There would be too many other variables that would have to be
controlled

All of these arguments are specious. The statistical test should be done.

I find that the medical community does not look seriously at what vaccines do. For example the addition of adjuvants force an immune reaction.
The hope is that with the foreign virus present with the adjuvants, the body will react to the virus. If there is pollen, animal dander, dust mites, can the adjuvants force an immune reaction to other foreign particles that happen to be present at the time? Is that possible with 25-30 vaccines administered of every child by the age of 5? Could this be causing the rise in asthma and allergies that has been reported? While this is
possible, I freely admit that I do not know. But if the medical community treated this issue in the same way that they treated the autism relationship (or
lack thereof) they do not know either.

I have an autistic son. Am I convinced that vaccines caused his
autism? I don't know one way or the other, though I lean toward the
affirmative because of the dog's dinner the medical community has done with the
research.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in the good that vaccines do. I
just want them without the ugly side effects.

4/18/10, 11:07 PM  

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