Brian Deer: Conflicted “Journalist", Industry Toady or Modern-Day Madame Defarge??
On February 25, 2004, self-styled “journalist” Brian Deer initiated the Complaint with the GMC that led to the hearing presently underway against Dr. Wakefield, and Professors Murch and Walker-Smith by “lay[ing] before” the GMC what he, Brian Deer, concluded was evidence of serious professional misconduct. Documentary evidence produced during discovery and now presented at the hearing demonstrates that the key charges (unethical research, undisclosed participation in MMR litigation, and unauthorized recommendation of the monovalent components of the MMR as a temporary precaution until safety issues could be resolved) are completely without merit. Key witnesses during the investigation knew the allegations lacked merit. What, then, propelled the allegations by Deer into a full-blown fitness to practice hearing with possible risk to their medical licenses? Deere has most recently taken credit for defeating the “test case” claims in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding.
Who is Brian Deer, and why were his allegations, easily proven either false or irrelevant, taken so seriously? Who funds his daily vigil at the GMC hearing, now in its 125th day?
Last week, Dr. Wakefield filed a Complaint (HERE) with the self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission in the UK against Brian Deer over his most recent specious allegations in the Sunday Times, Deer’s desperate attempt to breathe some life into his dying obsession. David Kirby wrote it up HERE. Now, Dr. Wakefield has filed an addendum (HERE) to that Complaint, alleging that Deer has an undisclosed conflict of interest as both “neutral” reporter and behind-the-scenes provocateur. The label put on his role, whether complainant or informant, is irrelevant. What is crucial is that Deer played a pivotal and personal role in furthering his personal agenda against Wakefield, i.e. his conclusions, now shown by testimony before the GMC to be false, while, at the same time, continuing to report on the GMC hearing as a “neutral” and “independent” member of the press. His failure to disclose this dual role, and his direct and personal participation, misled the public who were lead to believe that Deer was simply a reporter of the underlying story. Once he became a player in making the news, he (and his editors) were obliged to stop reporting and assign that responsibility to someone else. This undisclosed conflict of interest is extremely harmful to public confidence in independent journalism. This harm became starkly apparent in Deer’s most recent reporting where he made baseless charges in an effort to save the faltering case that he, himself, initiated. His continued reporting on the GMC proceeding is contaminated with bias and lack of objectivity.
He failed to disclose his conflict in
material that he has published on this
matter. He has sought to mislead the public
by: changing previous statements that he
made on his website about his role in making
the complaint, frankly denying that he laid
the initial complaint against Wakefield,
calling into question the ruling of a High
Court Judge, presumably made based upon his
Mr. Deer’s own evidence, and apparently (and
most alarmingly), colluding with the GMC and
its representatives to change his nominal if
not his practical status from ‘complainant’
to ‘informant’ (for stated reasons which are
at the very least ambiguous), thereby
attempting to create the perception that he
is entitled to continue reporting on a case
which is, in large part, one of his own
instigation. Deer cannot continue to report
on this matter even with a role recast as
informant, as his neutrality remains
compromised once he became invested in the
In addition to Deer trying to recast his role as mere informant, GMC has a separate motive, which also calls for investigation by a truly independent press, i.e. not Deer. As a self-regulatory body, it is GMC’s primary role to protect patients from doctors who violate Good Medical Practice guidelines. In the absence of patient complaints here, even after the revelations by Deer in the Sunday Times, the GMC proceeding was fatally adrift from the outset. Where is, after all, the victim of the alleged professional misconduct? Who speaks for the patients? Certainly not Brian Deer. Absent a “true” bona fide complainant, therefore, why did the GMC investigation go forward? Perhaps in pursuit of interests different from, and even contrary to, the best interests of the patients.
This serious misstep by the GMC, at a cost of millions to taxpayers, is another example of a matter that requires the investigation by neutral journalism, not Brian Deer. So long as Deer is allowed to remain at the center of the GMC investigation and hearing, as lead provocateur, the obligation of journalism to serve the public interest will remain unfulfilled. The unfounded attack on Wakefield and colleagues, launched by Deer and in which GMC has been badly used, is an attack on kids in desperate need of science and medicine. There are many truths hidden here, ones that must be investigated and uncovered by real journalists.