Snapshots

Science-Based Medicine » An antivaccine tale of two legal actions

I don’t know what it is about the beginning of a year. I don’t know if it’s confirmation bias or real, but it sure seems that something big happens early every year in the antivaccine world. Consider. As I pointed out back in February 2009, in rapid succession Brian Deer reported that Andrew Wakefield had not only had undisclosed conflicts of interest regarding the research that he did for his now infamous 1998 Lancet paper but that he had falsified data. Then, a couple of weeks later the Special Masters weighed in, rejecting the claims of autism causation by vaccines made in three test cases about as resoundingly as is imaginable. Then, in February 2010, in rapid succession Andrew Wakefield, the hero of the antivaccine movement, was struck off the British medical register, saw his 1998 Lancet paper retracted by the editors, and was unceremoniously booted from his medical directorship of Thoughtful House, the autism quack clinic he helped to found after he fled the U.K. for the more friendly confines of Texas. Soon after that, the Special Masters weighed in again, rejecting the claims of autism causation by vaccines in the remaining test cases. Then, in January 2011, Brian Deer struck again, publishing more damaging revelations about Wakefield, referring to his work as Piltdown medicine in the British journal BMJ. This year, things were different.

When you don’t have science, sue for libel!

By saying that this year things were different, I don’t mean “different” in the sense that there wasn’t another major story that roiled the antivaccine crankosphere. There certainly was. However, in 2009, 2010, and 2011, for antivaccine activists it was all unrelenting bad news as each year began. This year, something happened that, at least to supporters of Andrew Wakefield, seemed like a great thing. To those of us who know his case and know how far Wakefield’s fallen, it smacked of sheer desperation every bit as much as when the National Vaccine Information Center’s Barbara Loe Fisher sued Paul Offit, journalist Amy Wallace, and her publisher Conde Nasttwo years ago for libel, yes, in January. (She lost spectacularly.) Yes, as 2012 dawned, Andrew Wakefield, for some inexplicable reason, decided to sue journalist Brian Deer, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee, and the BMJ for libel for Deer’s 2011 expose. Actually, the reason wasn’t so inexplicable. My favorite legal folks informed me that the statute of limitations in Texas for libel is one year. The lawsuit is dated very close to one year after the BMJ’s first article is published.

FULL ARTICLE: Science-Based Medicine » An antivaccine tale of two legal actions.

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