BBC Sarah Barclay Dr. Andy Wakefield
From Carmel Wakefield
One of the comments on John's excellent piece is about the 2002 Panorama documentary that purported to be even handed but was anything but...it jogged my memory about what happened so I thought I would share it here.I was delighted to see that the 2002 Panorama investigation by Sarah Barclay had been “outed” as misrepresenting the facts behind Adam Morrish’s measles encephalitis (SSPE). Below is a transcript from the programme together with the background to the fact that Adam was a child who had not only had measles as a child (for which no medical evidence was provided) but also had an MMR booster in 1990 before developing SSPE in 1993. Ms Barclay while purporting to be an investigative journalist chose not to broadcast this crucial information. Instead the viewing public were left believing that poor Adam’s condition was related to his contact with a child whose parents had been irresponsible enough to allow her to catch measles rather than having her vaccinated. When challenged some years after the show was broadcast, in the manner of so many less than candid journalists, she simply answered a different question and no doubt hoped the issue would never raise its ugly head again. The show’s transcript and my annotations are provided below.
Every Parent's Choice
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC-1 DATE: 3:02:02
ADAM MORRISH: (Playing) Do not switch it off. You see, I am the first man to conquer Mount Everest.
SARAH BARCLAY: This is Adam Morrish as a healthy 9 year old. Adam's only serious childhood illness had been measles. His family had no idea of what might follow years later.
DAVID MORRISH: Over the period of really I guess February to April, May time in 1993 Adam neurologically disintegrated before our very eyes. By October of 1993 Adam had moved through not being able to balance, falling over a lot, being in a wheelchair, not being able to eat. By the middle of the summer he had spoken his last word. By the end of the summer he was blind. By October Adam was in a waking coma and that's pretty much as we see him today.
BARCLAY: Adam caught measles as a baby from an unvaccinated child. The virus lay dormant for almost ten years before triggering an extremely rare and fatal condition known as SSPE.
Adam did come into contact with the mild measles virus just on a bus while we
were on holiday, sitting next to a small girl who had measles. We didn't know
she had measles then, but we do now. And that's of course the thing which I
often think back to and I think.. I mean I can't help.. you won't be surprised
that we have thought on many occasions that if that child had been vaccinated,
Adam may not be in the condition he's in today.
What the viewing public were not told, and what I only found out three years later was that in fact Adam Morrish, having apparently been exposed possible measles as a child was then definitely given two doses of MMR including a booster dose in 1990, but that his parents “intuition” was that the MMR “was not a relevant factor in his condition”. Mr Morrish did however confirm that he had not withheld the information from Sarah Barclay and the Panorama team. They had simply chosen not to make any reference to that crucial fact and to leave the public with the impression that this boy’s catastrophic condition “illustrated the dangers of natural measles.”
When challenged with the fact that this key omission was both unprofessional and unscientific, Sarah Barclay simply twisted the letter of challenge to say that it would have been wrong to “state that Adam had got SSPE from the vaccine”. This had not been asked of her of course. The point was quite simply that this boy’s condition could well have been precipitated by the fact that he was given MMR and it was therefore wrong to neglect to give this information to the public in a programme, which was allegedly about parents’ choice.
Andy and I watched the documentary with a deepening sense of unease. The ending was compelling. The father of poor David Morrish told us about the perils of choice:
DAVID MORRISH: I think it's very important that people take those decisions and think about it at two levels: one as a parent safeguarding their own child, and that's of course the one that we'll probably find the most easy. But if a number of us are choosing not to vaccinate our children, and taking measles for an example, then we will simply get more cases of complications from that disease, and in very rare and very unfortunate cases you'll have complications like SSPE.
He did not tell us about his son’s MMR.