Vaccine-Autism Controversy: Wakefield Sues British Journal For Defamation in Texas


The British doctor Andrew Wakefield whose discredited study linking autism to the MMR vaccine set off a global public health scare has sued the editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee and also the British investigative journalist Brian Deer, who has long covered the controversy about vaccines and autism, for defamation. A complaint filed to a district court in Texas alleges that articles, editorials and other documents published in the British Medical Journal include “false and make defamatory allegations” about Wakefield and that the claims in the BMJ were “unfair, incorrect, inaccurate, and unjust.”

“It is really is a bizarro day,” Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear, wrote on the PLoS blog after the announcement of Wakefield’s suit. On the one hand, yes, although you could say that the entire vaccine-autism controversy, not to mention Wakefield’s claim back in 1998 that the MMR vaccine could be causing autism, were bizarre from the outset. The efforts and passion that many, including the Age of Autism website and journalist David Kirby, have exerted to defend the notion of a vaccine-autism link have been great and have only seemed to grow with each further criticism cast at Wakefield including the 2010 decision by the British Medical Council not to allow him to practice medicine in the UK anymore.

(A small, potentially bizarro detail already emerging about Wakefield’s suit has been uncovered by Orac at Respectful InsolenceWilliam M. Parrish, the lawyer who filed Wakefield’s suit, has the same last name as Anna Christine Parrish, who is on the Junior Advisory Board for the the Autism Trust USA along with one Imogon Wakefield; Carmel Wakefield, Wakefield’s wife, is on the board and the executive committee of that organization.)

It was a year ago this week that the BMJ published the first of a series of articles stating that Wakefield’s research was fraudulent and that he had altered the medical histories of the 12 children in the study; Deer even said that Wakefield should face criminal charges. Wakefield has indeed filed a number of previous suits against Deer in British courts and has dropped every one, notes ABC news. Goodlee and Deer are planning to fight the suit; the BMJ has responded to Wakefield and his lawyers’ assertion that the BMJ did not disclose that it had ”received significant revenue from the very vaccine manufacturers whose products need further investigation” at the time of the articles’ publication.

Wakefield now resides in Austin, Texas, which is where the suit was filed. ABC News notes that his suit cites the “Texas Long-Arm Statute” to justify the venue “insofar as BMJ ‘direct[s] a significant and regular flow of publications, including periodicals, journals, articles, subscriptions, and electronic media to institutional and individual residents of this state.’” Goodlee and Deer have “ridiculed” Wakefield’s choosing to sue via a Texas court rather than ”in London, as might be expected as it concerns a predominantly English publication.” The Houston Chronicle says that Wakefield’s suit will be a good test for Texas’ new Anti-SLAPP laws, which “allow defendants (Deer and BMJ) who have been sued based on their speech to force the plaintiffs (Wakefield) to establish they have a valid basis for their suit before going forward, and to collect attorney fees if the plaintiff fails.”

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says that it is “surprising that Wakefield would launch this lawsuit in the United States instead of Great Britain, because with the freedom of the press, it’s harder to win a libel suit of this nature in the U.S.” Might it be possible that Wakefield has no plans of winning the suit, but filed it to keep his name and the vaccine-autism controversy in circulation?


Related Care2 Coverage

Calling Their Own Shots: Parents Seek Vaccine Exemptions

MMR Vaccine Fraud Calls For Parliamentary Inquiry

The Real Damage Wrought to Autistic Individuals by Andrew…


Photo by Dawn Huczek


KS Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Richard B.
Richard B.4 years ago

Companies will be barred from instituting caps on coverage when your costs for treatments goes up due to sickness, you can now get insurance with out caps on coverage at "Penny Medical" search them online.

TERRY R.4 years ago


Joe H.
Joe H.4 years ago

@jackson Z

I am not saying you are a shill,

It's just, you sound like a Pharma shill ,all cozy with the pharma co's Defending them for
what reason? Haven't you heard the Pharma Co's are in a scandal almost bi monthly.

Just how does, one have that much admiration for people that create drugs and they know by their own studies the drug is very dangerous? And then, they bury their findings?

In most cases, we find people who defend the Pharma Co's.usually work in a pr office they created. And the Pharma Co's is usually their clients.

Pharma shills, is it really worth losing your soul for? Judgement day will be very sobering for those who have hurt little children, and those who defended those who hurt little children. All for a pay check.

Alastair L.
Alastair L.4 years ago

@Jackson Z
The is also the fact that mass Flu vaccines cause Flu viruses to mutate more rapidly and in more sophisticated ways. They escalate the 'arms-race'. This effects those who choose not to take vaccines. Getting the Flu but not becoming sick from it is the best form of vaccination against next years flu.

Flu vaccines also stress and potentially damage the immune system of the older people in the community they are typically prescribed on mass to.

Alastair L.
Alastair L.4 years ago

@Jackson Z
Despite giving us your blanket assertions sans evidence, are you aware of this meta-study published on Cochrane Library:

Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.

From the summary:
Over 200 viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness which produce the same symptoms (fever, headache, aches and pains, cough and runny noses). Without laboratory tests, doctors cannot tell the two illnesses apart. Both last for days and rarely lead to death or serious illness. At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses. Each year, the World Health Organization recommends which viral strains should be included in vaccinations for the forthcoming season.

Authors of this review assessed all trials that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people. The combined results of these trials showed that under ideal conditions (vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration) 33 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. In average conditions (partially matching vaccine) 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. Vaccine use did not affect the number of people hospitalised or working days lost but caused one case of Guillian-Barré syndrome (a

Jackson Z.
Jackson Z.4 years ago

So let's see... we have people complaining that the "real medicine" is in herbs (my medicine cannot be replicated by herbals, so no) and others complaining that the author is a "Big Pharma Shill" because she wrote something Care2 conspiracy theorists don't like.

If there are problems with big pharma, and there are, it's that not enough people get their medicine due to inflated costs... not because of the pharmaceuticals themselves.

And no. Vaccines don't cause autism. This has been repeatedly debunked, and yet people keep throwing around the same misrepresented studies because... I don't know, maybe they want us to go back to the days when getting the flu meant you had a great chance of dying.

Alastair L.
Alastair L.4 years ago

If you keep deleting my comments Kristina Chew, I'm going to go back and run all those old blog posts of yours that generated very depressing reading through the plagiarism engine and post the results to your University. I gather that even in the sleepy and conservative backwater of Classics, that stealing and cheating are not encouraged and viewed too favourably.

Alastair L.
Alastair L.4 years ago

I note care2 still hasn't bothered to fix the basic coding flaw that chops of comments without any warning or char-count prior to submission. Plus the lack of an edit function until a comment has had a reply. Pretty basic and given care2's supposed viewing numbers (which I wonder about the accuracy of) and advertising revenue, that's pretty average regard for it's users too.

Alastair L.
Alastair L.4 years ago

Wow Kristina Chew removed my accusations of plagiarism and running a smear campaign against Dr Wakefeild with no professional or even educational background in Science or Medicine.

If only it were so easy for Dr Wakefield to remove the years of false accusations from by Chew using her stock in trade, the rhetorical question where she (lacking conviction in her words) 'asks' so dodgy smearing question. And her other dirty journalism trick quoting some other hack saying something unsubstantiated by facts. A textbook Communist Party of China mis-information technique.

Concerning the plagiarism accusation, I ran some of her "blog" pieces through an online tool for testing plagerism and found more than half her articles that month in the very-high level of plagerism. She usually quotes one or two paragraphs from the NYT or Guardian but re-prhases another 4 or 5 paragraphs from the same article and on occasions even rewrites from an article she doesn't even cite as a source.

I guess doesn't care because when I contaacted another writer and the editor about it I got sustained silence. It's all about eye-balls and that's why I've spent orver a year away from care2 and only returned when I read about this headline in a New Scientist article.

I must say despite NS rusted-on support of any technology that employs scientists no matter how ethically problematic, the NS article was much more dispassionate and fair to Dr Wakefield than Chews article. As I said