ANDREW WAKEFIELD IN THE DOCK
Louise Mclean spoke to Martin J. Walker in late August about the GMC trial of Dr Andrew Wakefield. The hearing has already lasted for more than a year and is not scheduled to finish until April 2009.
Martin J. Walker outside the Royal Festival Hall, London. Picture: Louise Mclean
The last time I interviewed Martin was in 2003. Once again, he chose the Royal Festival Hall, where we found a quiet place to talk about the trial. Martin had been following it day after day in an atmosphere of extreme tension. I too, had twice looked in on the proceedings but could bear little more than an hour each time. The first time Dr. Wakefield was being cross-examined by Miss Smith for the Prosecution and the second time Professor Walker Smith was being grilled. Martin has published his reports on the Cry Shame website He has written numerous reports.
From 1992, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist working in the research unit of the Royal Free Hospital in London, had a number of children with inflammatory bowel disease and regressive autism referred to him. The parents claimed the symptoms had developed after their children received the MMR vaccine. He and his team, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch, who are also being tried by the GMC, investigated the cause of the bowel disease with the full support of the hospital and in 1998 along with other researchers and psychologists published a case series review study in the Lancet.
This study and a concommitent press briefing were attacked. Once that review was published in February 1998 and after a press briefing when Andrew Wakefield stated it might be better to use single vaccines, until a conclusion about research at the Royal Free had been reached, the pharmaceutical industry wanted any criticism stopped immediately.
Dr. Wakefield especially was vilified, research funding grants were withdrawn and his contract at the Royal Free not renewed, forcing him to leave the UK. In 2002 he set up a practice in the US with other researchers to continue his work and is now the executive director of research at Thoughtful House, a non-profit-making school and clinic in Austin, Texas, which treats children with autism from all over the world.
Dr. Wakefield published a rebuttal to the attacks Testimony of Dr Andrew J Wakefield MB MS FRCS FRCPath and you can read more on Dr. Wakefield on the Cry Shame http://www.cryshame.net/ and Whale sites. http://www.whale.to/vaccines/wakefield.html
This trial sends out a clear message to doctors that under no circumstances must the safety of vaccines be questioned, yet the clamour is getting louder, as the autism figures continue to rise.
‘It’s called a Fitness to Practice hearing,’ Martin pointed out. ‘It started in June 2007 till around October, started again in April 2008 till June and then again in July 2008 till the end of August. The final part of the hearing is apparently April 2009.’
Incredibly long time!
Yes, when you consider the charges were prepared 5 or 6 years ago and served on the Defendants by the GMC four years ago. The complaint was first made to the GMC in 2004. It's a considerable time to have charges hanging over you. Something you wouldn’t expect even in the remaining Eastern bloc countries! Also with the charges framed and prosecuted by the GMC before a jury chosen by the GMC, it's about as far from the basic tenets of British justice as you can get.
Seems like the outcome is more or less decided before the start?
One might expect the outcome to be a foregone conclusion. Yet in the case of Dr. Jayne Donegan, who was also recently tried in a Fitness to Practice hearing by the GMC, again on the vaccination/autism issue, she was found not guilty and the charges were thrown out. Whether or not that was bad planning on behalf of the GMC or it was a just verdict by the Panel, I don’t know.
In the case of Dr. Wakefield, my mind goes back to the initial choosing of the Panel Chairman for the hearings, Professor Dennis McDevitt. When his name was protested by the Wakefield campaign people because he had been a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) when MMR was issued in 1988, the GMC realised there was a conflict of interest, took him off the Panel and replaced him. If that was their attitude from the beginning, I don’t see why they would change their perspective and put somebody who is totally fair in his place. I have my doubts about the fairness of the hearing.
And you’ve attended all of it so far?
Nearly every day I think and Tuesday 26th August was the 100th day, so it’s been on for a very long time.
How many articles have you written?
I’ve tried to write a report at the end of each week and give a popular, even satirical account, mainly for the parents. A lot of the parents who have vaccine damaged children are unable to get to the hearing and so their voices aren’t being heard at all…
I believe you said there was one mother who attended?
Yes, you’re right. One mother was asked to appear by the prosecution and she thought she was coming for the defence! She ended up giving evidence for the defence during the prosecution case. The case is so badly organised that the prosecution were only able to bring two or three witnesses who could give serious evidence on it's behalf! The other people who appeared for the prosecution were on the side of the doctors on trial! So they gave evidence for the defence under the guidance of the prosecution, which was very odd!
Is Miss Smith the chief protagonist?
Miss Smith is the Counsel for the prosecution. Although interestingly enough she stands at the head of the room in the same position as a Judge. She is the main protagonist and the person chosen by the General Medical Council to prosecute on their behalf.
You mentioned that the Prosecution and some of the Defence counsel come from the same Chambers?
Yes, but this I think is because of the lack of lawyers in this specialised field. During this hearing, I have seen more suspected abuses of process than I have seen in any other legal proceeding. Sitting there over a hundred days, I feel I’ve become institutionalised into the case. In my writing I try to attract attention to what I consider the worst calumnies and somehow you come to accept some of the lesser ones, almost as it were, taking them for granted.
For instance, we are now long past the point where anyone is complaining about the fact that, a). it was a journalist and not a patient who made the very first complaint; b). the GMC have consistently denied that the journalist made the initial complaint, saying he didn’t and that they themselves made the complaint; and c). although the case centres absolutely on the 12 children or groups of children who were reported in the case review in the Lancet in 1998, not one of the parents has any complaint against the doctors who have been brought to trial by the GMC! All the parents are in favour of the Defendants.
This is very significant because normally in any complaint made to the GMC, you expect there to be a victim in the classical sense, e.g. a woman patient who has been molested or a patient who has suffered botched surgery. But in this case the Defendants have been chosen and the case has to some extent been manipulated and prepared by the government and the pharmaceutical industry. The only victims are pharmaceutical companies who might lose profit or the general public who might, they claim, suffer because of a decline in public health standards caused by a fall off in vaccination levels. In fact Andrew Wakefield first wrote to the head of Immunology, Prof. David Salisbury, in 1992, forewarning the NHS of a serious public health crisis in terms of vaccine damaged children and he wasn’t given a meeting with anyone in government or in the NHS for something like 4 years.
And that was after the second big MMR campaign. In 1988 and 1992 they were talking of a mass epidemic of measles if children were not vaccinated. An epidemic which didn’t materialise and which they are still on about now, claiming it’s just around the corner.
Yes, it’s just to put fear in parents’ minds. MMR was launched in 1988 and at that time there were three trade brands and two of them had the Urabe strain of mumps virus. In between 1988 and 1992, it was found that particular strain caused damage to a large number of children, giving them encephalitis and febrile convulsions, resulting in children with serious neurological problems. As a consequence of cases in Canada and Japan, those two trade names of MMR were taken off the market. The government made an announcement saying they were unsafe, although they described marginal effects, not serious ones.
By 1992 there was only one brand left which the government endorsed. This gives us a clue as to why they have tried to cover up all the ongoing cases of vaccine damage since then. Having got rid of two of the brands, they felt politically incapable of saying this third one is still creating problems with vaccine damaged children. So from 1992 the government said 'no damage can be caused by this vaccine' and they are still now denying absolutely that any children have been damaged by MMR.
Yet the doctors and lawyers involved in the legal cases, have suggested that there have been in the region of 2,000 children in the sub-group damaged by MMR. In the case of the GMC a whole part of the prosecution case rests on their assertion that the children referred to the Royal Free Hospital were not and never had been ill, were not damaged and that the doctors took advantage of these children to do research on them. You can imagine how this must make the parents of children with vaccine induced autism feel?
The parents asked their GPs to refer their children to Dr. Andrew Wakefield - they specifically asked.
Yet the Prosecution has been inferring that neurotic parents put excessive pressure on their General Practitioners so their GPs had no option but to give in and send their children to the Royal Free Hospital in London.
The Prosecution probably want to push the ‘Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy’ label - neurotic parents, especially mothers – first coined by Professor Roy Meadows. If you were to do a study of how many people over the age of 20 are autistic, it would prove that MMR greatly contributed to the rise in cases of autism, as cases were rarer before 1988.
It is obvious to any thinking person that the spectacular rise in autism must be due to some kind of challenge to the immune system. Genes do not restructure or become damaged 'naturally' within such a short space of time. Autism has shot up since the end of the 1980s and now stands at something like 1 in 100 children.
The medical profession would like to say autism is caused by environmental reasons or chemicals in the atmosphere - anything other than vaccines. It’s very hard for the body to withstand something which is directly injected into the bloodstream, one of the deepest parts of the immune system. The measles virus was found in the gut of children in a study that did not set out to link it to MMR. Yet there are ingredients that may be harmful to the body. For example,the Merck MMR vaccine contains: measles, mumps, rubella live virus, neomycin, sorbitol, hydrolized gelatin, chick embryonic fluid, and human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue. See here: http://www.informedchoice.info/cocktail.html
I have to point out that at no time has Dr. Wakefield or either of the other two defendants in this fitness to practice hearing, challenged vaccination per se. In fact different aetiologies of different illness apparently caused by vaccines have developed in Britain and North America. Dr Wakefield's theory rests mainly on the effect of the measles virus that lingers for different periods in different parts of the body. What has happened in Britain and North America differs quite dramatically in terms of research and law. While US researchers are not so dominated by a central State administration they have more freedom, despite the prevailing establishment view, to posit different theories and to carry out different research.
We should bear in mind always what Wakefield actually said or implied from his research. Firstly, he questioned the trials and the safety record of MMR. Secondly, he had no objections to single vaccines, which he considered to have a record of far fewer adverse reactions. Finally, he only ever suggested that MMR affected a relatively small sub-group of children - he never said all autism is created by MMR vaccination. What he did say is that a sub-group of children who already had immune system dysfunction of one kind or another, developed inflammatory bowel disorder. In many of this particular group, behavioural problems presented as regressive autism - a condition that developed after the child had been progressing well.
Of course, had the government taken his research and run with it, they probably would have been able to identify the markers that left some children vulnerable and test for them. To my mind the greatest crime for which the government is responsible, is creating thousands of vaccine damaged children when they had the beginnings of the science to avoid it. Their pride and intrigue has created a tragedy for thousands of families.
An appalling tragedy. Please describe the strategy of the government and pharmaceutical companies in this case.
They had two things they had to stop. Firstly, the court case which had been organised on behalf of around 1,000 children and had taken 10 years to come to court. This case had to be stopped because the government had underwritten any damages accrued by GlaxoSmithKline if parents were awarded compensation for vaccine damage.
They also had to curtail Wakefield’s career, stop him from researching in this area in Britain, prevent him from making statements to the press and media, and above all discredit him as an expert witness. There is no doubt about his stature before all this happened. He was one of the leading medical researchers in Crohn’s disease. He had been given awards for his work.
Anyway, they stopped the legal claims by parents by withdrawing Legal Aid. In claims law in England, you have to select test cases because you can’t go ahead with 1,000 cases - so 10 were chosen. But in 2004, after ten years of preparation, with all children being on Legal Aid, it was suddenly withdrawn 6 months before it came to court! This meant that all the cases came to a sudden end.
In fact some time afterward when this decision was appealed, it was found that the Judge in the case had a brother who was a non executive board director of Glaxo SmithKline, who were the Defendants in the case. Also, the science lobby groups funded by the drug companies andLord Dick Taverne, founder of Sense About Science and a lawyer, campaigned to get legal aid taken from the parents.
At this moment, it seemed heart-rendingly poignant to think of all those poor children when Martin and I were sitting at a table surrounded by healthy children, laughing and chattering during the interval of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, which was playing at the Royal Festival Hall that day. Martin continued….
If we had a system as in America, where lawyers were willing to act and get fees when they win, we had lawyers who had some scruples, courage, honour and integrity, we would find them prosecuting on behalf of such cases as those of vaccine damaged children. But most lawyers in Britain are pusilanimous and lacking in any kind of social conscience. Even young people going in to work for large firms are conned into thinking that pro-bono work for NGOs is a real contribution, when really they should be stepping down and joining hands with grass roots campaigns, especially those that need the law changed. Barristers, particularly are perhaps the most parasitic professionals in British society, they contribute next to nothing while earning hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Anyway, the minute Legal Aid was withdrawn in the vaccine damage claims cases, all the lawyers went home, leaving the parents of 1,000 children stranded. There is another facet to all this and that is that in Britain it is almost impossible to know whether any of the firms of solicitors dealing with cases of this kind are working for their clients, the government or the chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Britain is perhaps one of the only large countries in the developed world were claimants have not won a single case 'in court' against a pharmaceutical company.
And these 1,000 cases - we assume that they were the worst cases?
No, the 10 test cases going to court were the worst but one doesn’t know how serious the others were. You only know that around 1,000 cases were reported to solicitors. The fact that they were taken up by the solicitors means they had credibility. We don't know the full range of symptoms of each case. It is this diagnostic spectrum that further work by Dr Wakefield and others would have determined.
I believe the journalist Brian Deer, was primarily responsible for the fitness to practice hearing against Dr. Wakefield? He made a programme about Andrew Wakefield and MMR for Despatches on Channel 4.
Deer, began the whole thing with his expose in the Sunday Times and then tendered an initial complaint to the GMC. He was apparently helped in his investigation by members of Medico Legal Investigations Ltd. MLI is a private enquiry company which has an ex-Scotland Yard inspector and a man previously in military intelligence as two of its directors. The firm works for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). The company has spent the last 10 years developing and addressing questions of research malpractice that impact upon pharmaceutical companies. They have also put together a number of cases for the General Medical Council.
It seems a rather secretive organisation.
Deer’s expose in the The Sunday Times brought Wakefield’s career and life to a juddering halt and Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet initiated an enquiry into the Lancet paper. Deer is not important enough to be able to destroy someone’s career but when John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, intervened by demanding in Deer's article that Wakefield be immediately reported to the GMC, Deer’s expose assumed a new importance. Within a week, a provisional complaint had been tendered to the GMC. Deer has recently attacked me saying, among other things, that because I have written about his association with MLI and the inclusion in his article of Reid's demand that Wakefield be reported to the GMC, I am actually accusing him of being in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry and in league with the government.
In the light of the ensuing prosecution, it's important to consider that Wakefield had to wait 4 years before he came to trial, whilst attempting to draw the government's attention to a possible health crisis over vaccination since 1992. In fact he was not even granted a meeting until 1998.
Presumably, because the pharmaceutical industry and the Government have so many new vaccines lined up, they want to make an example of anyone who criticises them?
When you think about it, it is an incredible situation. The first parents began to come to the Royal Free Hospital in 1992/93 until the first series review paper was published in the Lancet in 1998. What we are seeing for the first time in British history, is a whole department of doctors, psychologists and research workers looking at the adverse reactions of a vaccination over six years in an NHS hospital! This is why Wakefield and his colleagues have been given such a drubbing. It’s never happened in this country before that the NHS has had a department tied up in looking at adverse reactions!
It does seem that we are having this trial, that must be costing millions, because of the large number of vaccines still in the pipeline.
They appear to be firmly convinced of their own propaganda. I have heard that they think they can put up to 300 viruses in one vaccine to cure up to 300 diseases! As for the fitness-to-practice hearing costing millions of pounds, yes, but should we worry, as it's coming out of the fees paid by doctors to the GMC? If I were a conscientious doctor, I would be questioning the GMC night and day about how they can be so utterly profligate.
Are you talking about a new vaccine with 300 components?!
No, it's their theoretical postulate. It has been written in statements made by people at different times. They want to propagate the idea that they can wipe out all human illness using one vaccine! I think some of these pharma scientists are bereft of brains.
But if you look at it logically using common sense, which I sometimes think is a dying art (or is it a science?!) - a disease or diseases are being injected into the body. You are injecting antigens, mercury, aluminium, formaldehyde and animal products, into a child or an adult, assaulting their immune systems. They are meant to create antibodies but what happens when some people are too weak? Only healthy people can cope with vaccines, sick people suffer the worst effects.
The idea that you can stop human illness by vaccination is just an incredibly bizarre idea. All it does is increase the coffers of the pharmaceutical industry. I can’t see it advancing public health at all.
There is also another problem. Because of generic drugs, the bottom has fallen out of drugs to cure specific illnesses. The industry has two new directions to go in. Vaccinations, for which they have a ready market with a captured population and the development of cognitive enhancement drugs. The world has not really caught on to this latter innovation but it's going to be big business over the next 50 years.
Pharma companies are working on substances which change your personality, change your personal reactions to things. These substances can make you a more sympathetic person, a happier person, a person who can solve problems more quickly, a person who can present at a job interview and make people believe in them, a person who will be immediately better at languages than they were the day before. They are beginning to trial these drugs in terms of people who have addictions, so that the first wave of them will be socially acceptable. The industry will claim that the drugs are stopping people from being alcoholic, from having the cravings which develop into addiction.
But there is a big problem with the development of these substances. The whole of drugs development since the mid 20th century has been based on the idea of carrying out trials using substances which are designed to cure illness. The whole of the law around drugs development is based on that idea. So you can only try and test a drug on somebody if you think you are making people better from an illness or disease.
Cognitive enhancement substances on the other hand have nothing to do with curing disease. How are the drugs companies going to trial them? In essence these substances are no better than street drugs. They are meant to change your personality. So how can they be legally trialled on say 2000 people? How can they give people substances that change their personality to test them out? It is a totally illegitimate concept. Will doctors prescribe them or will they be advertised directly to the public and sold in pubs, for instance?
The drug companies manage to get around most things.
Oh yes. They will do. Anyway, cognitive enhancement substances and vaccines are the main areas of new development.
Two money spinners! But what about all the new drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for example?
Well if any breakthroughs are made, then yes, they will still be very profitable but I don’t think there is much elasticity left in that market.
With regard to your writing, which has been the only voice for the parents in this case, how would you say you developed your work through this period? I know you are an activist writer, a person whose writing adds to a campaign or struggle, becoming a part of it?
Originally I set out to write a book about the whole idea of Wakefield being criminalised through his scientific research. As the case developed and the hearing began, I found that to get information implicit in the case, I had to attend the hearings and watch and write about them. You're quite right, this is the kind of writing that I think is important. Writers critical of the Establishment in different areas should be out there, just the same as photographers or alternative news commentators. There is a role for the campaigning writer who is there at the time, reporting what is going on.
At first it was very difficult for me to find a measure in my writing that would appeal to parents of vaccine damaged children because they are obviously locked into a world where they have the day to day care of their children, as well as having to keep their families solvent. I was worried that my writing might be too serious and theoretical, not populist enough to attract their attention.
I expect lots of parents of autistic children are following it.
Yes, well I hope they are and certainly people on the networks for the campaign are doing that. I found myself writing for the first time in my life in a satirical style and I tried to inject a little humour.
I must admit when I read some of your reports, although very serious, I have laughed a few times at your description of the Prosecution.
As long as people can get the serious, critical analytical information from my writing, then I think it is a good balance.
I have been twice into the GMC courtroom and found it to be a terribly oppressive environment.
It is and it has a very serious effect on the people sitting there. Makes you very depressed. I can’t stress enough that one is sitting in the midst of something which is bubbling away like some witch’s cauldron in central London. You inevitably become embroiled in this false and rather evil world of chicanery, corruption and distortion.
Sitting there, listening to it, you get completely denuded of any better self, better feelings, any kind of spirituality you might have had when you arrived in the morning. It is a very stultifying and morally dangerous thing to have to participate in day after day.
I couldn’t stand more than about three quarters of an hour each time.
Well when you think that Professor Walker-Smith is 71, has been retired for 6 years and has a reputation for being one of the best paediatric gastroenterologists in Europe and now the GMC at the behest of some unseen hand, has dragged him down, criminalising him. He is being told in no uncertain terms that he experimented on children who were well, for his own ends or to bring down the pharmaceutical companies and the public health system. It’s just staggering to watch people try to destroy someone who throughout their life tried to help children, especially such an evidently moral and ethical man.
And while you have been reporting on the trial, you put the book Silenced Witnesses together.
I edited the book but the parents wrote it. Because the parents didn’t have a voice at the hearing, it seemed to me the most important thing was to get their voices heard, to get a book published about the children and themselves. How the parents tackled the situation and dealt with a vaccine damaged child. A way of pouring out the emotions they have previously kept sealed up, a way of criticising the government and the medical establishment. The book was provisionally called The Parents’ Voice and I wrote to our email list and asked parents to come forward to write a chapter. Within a week I had 8 parents who were willing to write full blown chapters of around 8,000 words. Within 3 weeks, I had the first finished chapter in. It was a very good chapter and with all the chapters, I only had to do a minimum of editing. There were no arguments and no competing, which makes a change!
I am sure all the parents would have a lot to say as they had been excluded from the hearing and prevented from expressing their gratitude to Dr. Wakefield, Professor Murch and Professor Walker-Smith.
Yes, I published the book and together with Carol Stott, wrote the introduction. It was a very productive and useful experience and one that was important for the campaign. The Cry Shame website www.cryshame.org now sells the book and also has four excellent films by Alan Golding covering the whole problem of the hearing and how Wakefield has been attacked.
Tell us a little more about the book that you helped produce for Cry Shame, the campaign in support of Wakefield and vaccine damaged children.
Well we decided after we finished Silenced Witnesses, that we would do 4 volumes altogether about different aspects of the whole vaccine story and the way these three doctors and other people were attacked. The second volume will be more or less like the first. Then there will be one about treatment of vaccine damaged children. The third will be about censorship in the media - the way the science lobby groups and the government censor the alternative view of vaccine damaged children….and one other. What we are now thinking is that we want to present a continuous record. When you live in a society where the newspapers remain silent on an issue, you have to create your own record. The media attention of the Wakefield case has been abominable.
Journalists increasingly behave like lackeys would have acted in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or other repressed societies. These people who call themselves reporters seem unable to investigate or broadcast anything which goes against the grain in our society. It’s pitiful to watch.
The only recourse you have in those circumstances is to start publishing something yourself. Make films yourself, make CDs or whatever you can in order to support your case. I would draw attention to Alan Golding’s films on the Cry Shame site. Marvellous short films in a completely experimental area, supporting a definite campaign. Just as my reports and these parents’ voices are being recorded in properly published books and essays. They have authority, a degree of skill and craft behind them on behalf of an alternative cause that the Establishment will not present, will not broadcast. It’s all been a very interesting experience for me as a political activist writer, as a campaigning writer. On the other hand, it is always very depressing to get involved in these situations where to some extent the prognosis looks hopeless - yet we’ve got to rise above that.
Well yes and you never know, there’s always the Law of Unintended Consequences! It’s not over yet until April.
The fact that they have given themselves a long time to hang the Defendants, might just mean that they’ve taken too long and might hang themselves. Just as they have got all the time in the world to introduce new vaccines, to deny that there is any such thing as vaccine damage, we also have months and months in which to fight this cause. And I just want to urge people to go and visit the Cry Shame website. Go there and look at the things that are going on with this case. Donate money if you can, distribute my essays, enquire about distributing Alan Golding's films, support our cause and try to get justice not only for the three defendants but for all vaccine damaged children and their parents. La lotta continua…
Copyright Louise Mclean 2008
Louise Mclean, LCCH MHMA, is the Editor of Zeus Information Service. www.zeusinfoservice.com
Martin J Walker 1947 -
Through the late Eighties into the early Nineties, Martin J. Walker worked as an investigator for lawyers in criminal and civil cases and with many defendants in criminal and civil trials - with and without lawyers. In the late 1980s he co-founded Hackney Community Defence Association (HCDA), an anti-racist group which worked on the defence of people assaulted, fitted up and wrongfully arrested by the police in north east London. In 1990, he began investigating and writing about the ‘health fraud’ movement and the vested interests of science and medicine. His fifth book in 1993 - Dirty Medicine: Science, big business and the assault on natural healthcare was described by Christopher Bird, author of 'The Secret Life of Plants', as 'a masterpiece of investigative journalism and attentive scholarship, elegantly written'. Since then he has published further titles including The Brave New World of Zero Risk: Covert strategies in British science policy and HRT: Licensed to kill and maim. For five years up until 2006 he was a legal advisor to the BBC 1 drama series ‘Judge John Deed’. He has been involved with the campaign on behalf of parents of vaccine damaged children for three years. Martin is the author of a number of books and essays, available on his website. http://www.slingshotpublications.com/index.html