Wakefield GMC Hearing 2007
By Martin Walker MA
January 31, 2010
The expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer
of the Survival of the Most Corrupt
is more accurate, and is sometimes
With apologies to Darwin and Mr Herbert Spencer
And so it came to be that Dr Kumar, the Chairman of the GMC Fitness to Practice Panel trying Dr Andrew Wakefield, Professor Simon Murch and Professor Walker-Smith sat without the flicker of a smile on his face, leaning on the long plastic topped table and read out the verdicts to the many charges. The Panel found that; most of the children in the Lancet paper had been experimented upon outside the inclusion dates of research ethical committee approval 172/96. That a number of the children had been subjected to aggressive procedures not sanctioned by any research ethics committee. That in most cases parental approval had not been lodged in the case files and that Dr Wakefield had "treated children with a 'callous disregard' for the distress and pain that he knew or ought to have known the children involved might suffer. This latter aside, although repeated by the media incessantly throughout Thursday night, actually referred to the taking of a small quantity of blood by a trained professional from 5 healthy children, whose parents were friends of the Wakefield's; a control sample for a study. This had nothing to do with the experimental procedures that were supposedly carried out by Dr Wakefield on the 12 children reviewed in the Lancet paper.
As the recitation of the crimes of Dr Wakefield came to an end, it appeared as if Dr Wakefield, had in the mid nineties, been some kind of inhuman Nazi experimenter practicing on children in the heart of England; an overlooked human vivisector who stalked a large North London hospital committing serious crimes with the two other criminals in his firm, invisible to his colleagues and unseen by the hospital administration.
Kumar didn't have an easy read of the verdict. Feelings ran high. The GMC were unable to keep order. Muttering began as Kumar's message became clear while he dodged through the verdict; the microphones working with loud clarity for the first time in two and a half years. Suddenly one parent exploded in a clutter of bags and clothing, a scarf and a jacket, she stood up, twisted round a blur of mustard, shouting as she made her way out of the hearing room. She evaded the GMC security as they tried to manhandling her. After a short quiet with Kumar continuing, another parent, dressed attractively in purples, fury on her face, raged against him, repeating 'the children' over and again. GMC security did catch up with this diminutive parent and held her bruisingly in the lift on the way to expelling her from the premises.
The public gallery began to empty. Then after another five minutes of Kumar's sucrose voice, a freewheeling free-for-all pushed its way to the door. It was headed by a straighter than straight parent, one who usually appeared unable to be aggressive, he remonstrated with the Hearing, like a radical haranguing a rabble, every word in place, beautifully composed. He informed the panel that they were the only ones who had behaved unethically, not the doctors who had tried to care for their children.
Outside again, the parents drew together and began chanting their message or catching up with reporters, trying to squeeze the last juice from the media. Jim Moody, Dr Wakefield's friend and a lawyer a frequent visitor from the US during the hearing had that day delivered to the GMC an indictment of the prosecution's central witnesses in the hearing. I thought as I listened to him, he was far too articulate for a media able only to understand cacophony. Nevertheless they pretended to listen intently, pointing 57 varieties of recording technology in his direction. That night I could find not even rubble of his speech in the broadcast media.
At the end of the afternoon, in the gathering dusk of the Euston Road, a real treat, the presence of Andy and Carmel, this time completely in control, without the press snapping at their heals, walking fast like an escaping Bonny and Clyde but standing calmly saying exactly what needed to be said but answering no questions. Of course the media had their own way of portraying even this. Dr Wakefield became 'an unrepentant doctor', a man who wouldn't take his medicine! I personally was so pleased that neither Dr Wakefield or Professor Walker-Smith graced the hearing room with their presence showed proper contempt for the hearing.
* * *
It is 10.30 am on the morning of Thursday 28th January, I'm sitting in the student canteen inside the University of London on Gower Street. This University is now and has been for the last hundred years, the hub of science research. The body of Jeremy Bentham, resides sitting in a glass and wood exhibition box. The library of the Wellcome Institute is just round the corner and because of its closeness to the Wellcome Trust, the University has been the recipient of funds from that body and its original pharmaceutical counterpart, The Wellcome Foundation, for a century. The university was used for the filming of Silent Witnesses one of the most popular forensic science detective programmes on British TV. The University College London, has centuries of science ground into it's very bricks; it was here that Francis Crick studied on the way to discovering the double helix of DNA.
Ten minutesí walk up the Euston Road stands the big glass building of the GMC where later in the day, the panel in the Wakefield, Murch and Walker-Smith case will announce its verdicts or 'findings on fact' as they fancifully call them. Here in the glass panelled hearing room, a different kind of science has been practiced for the last two and a half years; the science of deception.
We already know, and some of us have known for a long time, that all the defendants will be found guilty on almost all the charges. Although the hearing does not begin until 2.00pm, the cameras are already there in the early morning, like vultures on rocks. The camera men and reporters, hands stuffed in windcheaters talking in low voices, with constant nods of the head and shuffling of the feet, looking determinedly at the pavement. It's very cold in London and especially so on this part of the Euston Road that is like a canyon down which the wind whistles.
I was the first of Dr Wakefield's contingent to arrive. I got to the GMC building early because I always have a need to sink into the situation to feel that I can get the measure of atmosphere, to mull it over, long before the proceedings begin. I am here after following Dr Wakefield's case over five years and attending the hearing at every sitting over the last two and a half years.
Today I know will be one of those times that signify a dark night of the soul, for defendants, parents and campaigners alike. This afternoon the defendants will be knocked from their horses by rib smashing lance blows, on the ground they will lie dazed and have to figure whether it is right or even possible to remount and continue the battle. Parents will contemplate the bleak landscape of their children's illness without any treatment and with open skepticism from medical practitioners from whom they seek help. Activists and campaigners like myself will have to face the melancholic prospect of either continuing the campaign or slipping away to support apparently more equitable battles.
This particular battle is a post-modern struggle, one in which the most powerful forces, multinational companies, reshape the world hand in hand with governments. This is a struggle from which parents and citizens have been expunged. A blind struggle, in an age where all the ties between governments and citizens have been severed, where it is no longer possible for citizens to have any real effect on either the processes of industrial science or of national politics. At the same time that Dr Kumar is pulling his verdict out of the hat this afternoon, a quarter of a mile away near Parliament Square ex-prime minister Tony Blair will be excusing his role in the killing of 100,000 civilians in Iraq. Huge and the little crimes are spoken away with 'the people' unable even to dent the facade of apparent fairness.
Today at the GMC we all will have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous and organised fortune, the defendant will have to bend with the wind like trees on the beach cliffs and smart from the ignorance of the news media. Parents will have to pretend that they can cope, make themselves strong and hope that help will come from somewhere for their children; the prospect of no further clinical help is impossible to contemplate. Activists, scientists, politicos and campaigners - supporters of truth and science will have to steel themselves to the phlegm spat from the PCs of snakes like Brian Deer, stand still and take the belittling mountain of toxic words that he and his blancmange brained associates will heap belittlingly upon us.
Before I become too maudlin, however, I have to say that about one thing we can rest assured, history will prove us right, will turn in our favour. In fact this is a rule cast in iron, scorned as our truths are now, they will undoubtedly be recognised in the future; when the science is resurrected, and when the politics go through sea changes.
* * *
It's now Friday morning and I have just gathered enough strength to begin my post for Age of Autism. Sometimes it's hard to write in the face of such an emotional maelstrom. Yesterday, the Chairman of the GMC Fitness to Practice Panel, Dr Kumar, a man who during the hearing refused to answer questions about his shareholding in GlaxoSmithKline, pronounced on behalf of the multinational drug companies and the British government that there was no such thing as vaccine damage and that any parents who claimed that their children had suffered such, would be treated with scorn and contempt.
Dr Kumar had been selected as Fitness to Practice Panel Chairman following the outing by campaigners of the GMC first choice, Professor Dennis McDevitt who had been a member of the original adverse reactions sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunology (JCVI) that had manipulated and disguised the reported adverse reactions of the unsafe MMR. In 1988, McDevitt had declared funding for a Research fellowship from Glaxo and Smith Kline and French (as the present day vaccine manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline were then named).
Dr Kumar, also, thought obviously not in so many words, proclaimed the complete confidence of the GMC in the medical authority of Brian Deer, the only man in the world to make a formal complaint against three of Europe's leading gastroenterologists. Brian Deer has carried out his campaign against Dr Wakefield from the pages of the Sunday Times, a paper managed and owned by James Murdoch a man who sits on the board of GlaxoSmithKline. Deer researched his case with the help of Medico-Legal Investigations a private enquiry company funded solely by The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.
The panel gave their verdict after two and a half years partial scrutiny of the case, after legal aid for the parents claims to be heard in a real court, against vaccine manufacturers, was denied by High Court judge Sir Nigel Davis, whose brother, an executive board member of Elsevier the publishers, was on the Board of GlaxoSmithKline. During the hearing, some of the apparently most authoritative evidence, not about science, but about conflict of interest, was given by Dr Richard Horton the editor of the Lancet one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world. The Lancet is owned by Elsevier and Sir Crispin Davis is Dr Horton's line manager.
Since the beginning of this GMC charade, I have though that anyone who even entertained a verdict other than one of guilty for the three defendants, was setting themselves up for a fall.
* * *
From 2.00 o'clock onwards, right into the late media evening, the last two and a half years of conflict over the MMR combined vaccine, was reduced to simplicity itself. So simple did it all become that I found it almost impossible to believe that I was hearing about the same hearing in which the prosecution had produced two and a half years of evidence.
In his announcement of the verdict Kumar, reduced the whole of the panel's verdict to an assessment on Wakefield's 'care' for the twelve children written up in the 1998 case review study published in the Lancet. In order to introduce this paper and the resultant verdict to you in this post, I have to simplify the hearing and the evidence given during its two and a half years, I ask your forgiveness for this.
In 2004, six years after the Lancet paper was published and nine years after the children cited in the paper had been seen by clinicians, Brian Deer, the British government, the GMC and all their drug industry connected supporters made this case:
Dr Wakefield and colleagues had applied to the research ethics committee at the Royal Free Hospital to carry out research programme 172/96, this programme was to study children who had inflammatory bowel disease. Dr Wakefield had also agreed to a Legal Aid Board funded study of two groups of five children. Dr Wakefield had published the results of his research into 12 autistic children, under programme 172/96, in the Lancet in 1998. The paper showed clearly that Dr Wakefield and his colleagues had included children in this research for whom they did not have ethical committee approval. That children were given aggressive procedures for which the doctors did not have ethical committee approval. That experimental research had been carried out on these 'autistic' but otherwise healthy children, that did not have bowel disease, without ethical committee approval, nor even in some cases parental consent. The prosecution frequently tried to show that children who attended at the RFH, had been garnered by Dr Wakefield in an illicit manner. Taken the children to the RFH had, the prosecution said, been a way of parents hoping to rid themselves of the guilt at having autistic children. The objective of the 'research' upon which the paper was based, was to show that the MMR vaccination had created 'regressive' autism and the motive of Dr Wakefield who had engineered the paper and the involvement of the other 11 authors, was to aid the claim of the parents against the three pharmaceutical companies being sued.
Finally, the prosecution had said that Dr Wakefield played a part in the clinical treatment of the children despite the fact that his contract as a researcher forbade him to do so. Further the prosecution claimed that while Legal Aid Board money had been used to fund Dr Wakefield's work he had made no declaration of this conflict of interest in the publication of the study.
It was in light of this prosecution evidence that the panel made its findings on Thursday. The verdict re-iterated the charges originally framed by Brian Deer in the Sunday Times as if no defence evidence had been presented, in fact, as if neither the defendants nor their counsel had never been involved in the case.
The defence case had been straightforward and unlike the prosecution case, had seemed more or less unarguable. Around 1994, various parents whose children suffered from terrible bowel problems, and regressive autism, sometimes immediately after their MMR vaccination, began to approach the Royal Free Hospital, wishing the countryís gastrointestinal experts to examine them and give a diagnostic opinion. Throughout 1994 to 2002, such parents were always passed by Dr Wakefield to Professor Walker-Smith who involved Dr Simon Murch, in clinically reviewing these cases. Dr Wakefield's involvement in these cases had deepened when it began to become evident that many of the children were suffering from a new, or novel bowel illness. Dr Wakefield was, after all, the head of the Experimental Gastrointestinal Unit at the Royal Free Hospital.
In 1997, before any formal research trials were begun or carried out, Dr Wakefield with a number of other colleagues, began to assemble Ďa case review paper', which involved recording the cases of 12 children who had arrived at the Royal Free consecutively in the preceding few years. Such a paper serves two purposes, it advertises the work of the department and can be used to argue for new funding, and it gives an early warning to other clinicians who might well come across similar cases. The resultant paper, was not the report of 'a trial' or 'a research project' of any kind, it was simply an account of the presentation of twelve children. Although Professor Walker-Smith did have ethical committee approval for the extraction of histological samples from child patients, research ethical committee approval is not needed for such a paper unless the children have been examined with such a paper in mind. No money was used or received from outside the National Health Service, for either the clinically necessary evaluation of the children or for the case review study. All twelve children were examined by clinicians and not Dr Wakefield who had nothing at all to do with their clinical examination, review, or agreed treatment. Most importantly, no research of any kind was carried out on the condition of these children prior to their clinical review by clinicians at the Royal Free Hospital. All the children were examined on the understanding that it was the clinicians duty to find a cause and to understand the painful and exceptional bowel trauma experienced by these children.
Claims by the prosecution that the clinical care of the children had been in the hands of Dr Wakefield, proved to be so 'off the wall', that the prosecution had to change the wording of some charges to read, 'Dr Wakefield caused procedures to take place'. How one causes a colonoscopy, as if it were an act of God, remains a mystery to me.
This case review paper, made absolutely no attempt to prove that vaccination caused autism. MMR vaccination was mentioned at one point in the paper, when the authors made it clear that some parents had drawn attention to the coincidence of MMR and their child's illness. The authors suggested that more research might be useful in this area. Nor was there any mention that MMR or any other vaccination caused autism, rather the paper described a possible link between Inflammatory Bowel Disease possibly affected by an unidentified environmental trigger and regressive autism in some children.
It became clear part way through the hearing that the prosecution had got everything wrong. They had rested their case entirely upon a study, for which ethical approval had been sought but which by the time of the publication of the Lancet case review study, had not actually taken place. Clearly, the GMC prosecution and the panel did not want to hear or admit to this huge error, contained originally in Brian Deer's toxic writing for the Sunday Times. Unable to concede to clarity of the defence case, the prosecution continued head-banging as if it were a national sport. The false description of a research trial paid for by the Legal Aid Board that proved MMR created autism continued to be used to stir up great clouds of dust, misapprehension and confusion.
* * *
It is perhaps important that we understand what really happened on Thursday, that we understand the language that was used and it's meaning. Following the verdict, most of the lay public will be thinking that the professional behaviour of the three doctors had been seriously scrutinised at great length and considerable cost, using significant analytical, intellectual energy.
However, this is not true description of what had happened. A truthful reflection on yesterday would go as follows. Towards the middle of the 1990s Dr Andrew Wakefield wrote to the Senior Medical functionaries in the National Health Service, warning that a public health crisis might occur if the government continued with it's MMR triple vaccine programme. This communication came roughly two years after the UK Chief Medical officer had withdrawn two MMR vaccines which contained Urabe mumps strain. Over the previous decade, in various countries this vaccine had been found to create serious adverse reactions in children. With the British government left holding only one brand of 'safe' MMR and having caused already perhaps thousands of diverse adverse reactions in the children who had received the vaccine, the government and the pharmaceutical industry was not about to listen to Dr Wakefield or anyone else who mentioned the words adverse reaction.
In 1998, Dr Wakefield along with eleven other authors published 'a case
review' paper in the Lancet. The paper charted the details of 12 children who
had sequentially arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in search of clinical
treatment for serious bowel conditions. Dr Richard Horton of the Lancet, even
today, maintains that the science of this paper was beyond reproach, although he
gave evidence to the hearing that Dr Wakefield's non-declaration a conflict of
interest in the journal of which he is editor was unforgivable.
From 1998 onwards, the government and the pharmaceutical companies organised a merciless campaign against Dr Wakefield. Brian Deer wrote a number of stories in the Sunday Times with the intention of discrediting expert witnesses in previous vaccine damage cases in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2003, legal aid was withdrawn from the claim being prepared by parents against three vaccine manufacturers. In 2004 the appeal on behalf of the parents was turned down. Immediately after this, Brian Deer published in the Sunday Times his first major attack on Dr Wakefield, a complete character assassination written with the help of the private enquiry agency Medico-legal Investigations, solely funded by The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries. With the help of various people including the then Secretary of State for Health John Reid, Deer tendered his paperwork upon which he had based his skittish article, to the GMC and from then on it formed the basis of the developing Fitness to Practice Hearing against Dr Wakefield, Professor Murch and Professor Walker-Smith.
In 2007, the GMC began their trial of the three doctors that has continued over two and a half years and is yet to finish with the sentencing of the doctor in the period between April and July of this year. In the time between Brian Deer lodging his complaint with the GMC in 2004 and the verdict on fact on Thursday, a period of six years, the government has continued to introduce new and unsafe vaccinations damaging hundreds if not thousands of young people and children. This programme has culminated with the International fraud over swine flue vaccination, with which major pharmaceutical companies conned governments out of billions of pounds.
So, yesterday's verdict was not what it might appear, a reasonable judgement of a wise and considered tribunal. Rather the verdict was what the pharmaceutical companies hope would be a death blow, an end to the battle with a troublesome doctor. When Big Pharma and the corrupt New Labour government asked the question 'Who will rid me of this troublesome doctor', the GMC was the first to put its hand in the air.
* * *
Itís11.30 pm on Thursday night, I have watched a number of news broadcasts, I think in the believe that sense would prevail on one channel and the truth would break through the screen. It didn't happen. Watching the news was a little like taking a bath in Walt Disney animations. Relentlessly, Wakefield was portrayed as a scaremonger, and worse as a criminal, a man who carried out damaging experiments on autistic children.
Even the parents tended to come across in news extracts as a confused entity because the media does not have time to explain that these people are parents of vaccine damaged children who have supported Dr Wakefield and his colleagues in their attempt to find a diagnosis for their children's illness. The media simplifies and distorts everything making it eminently clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys yet brings you no evidence as to how they arrived at these opinions.
There is a peculiar sense in which all messages are broken, or twisted; nothing is continuous, deep or simply expressed; all statements are based on false premises.
* * *
It seems important to say something about the media in Britain - at least as far as medicine is concerned, though it could easily be stretched to the invasion of Iraq - in the throws of corporate totalitarianism.
Having sat through the two and a half years of the hearing, I know that the media generally have only been ghosts in the machine, never present, never making a clear or analytical record of the proceedings. Turning up as they did like cattle on the day of the verdict what could they report apart from the panel's corrupt verdict? But, inevitably the situation is far worse than this lapse in concentration as the headlines last night and this mornings papers testified.
Yesterday, early outside the GMC, I watched Brian Deer being interviewed by Sky News, he said things about the hearing which seemed to me to be a product of his own fevered imagination, things that bore not the slightest relation to any reality I had observed. After the interview was over, I approached the Sky journalist who had carried out the interview and asked him politely whether or not, when the interview was run that evening, an announcement would be made of the place of James Murdoch, one of the family owners of Sky, on the board of GlaxoSmith Kline the vaccine manufacturer.
'No', the journalist said, already turning away from me. 'We give a balanced account and there is no need for that kind of declaration'.
Obviously I had expected nothing more than this, but even so, I couldn't help but be astounded again, at how crooked the contemporary world is and at what shysters these people who call themselves journalists are.
I think that it is time that we turned 'secret ties to industry', from conflict of interest into corporate crime and made it a clearly defined criminal offence for any person to hold a position of authority or to be quoted on any material matter without citing either personal or organisational, contemporary or historical, links with corporations involved in the area under discussion.
I will end this report with a clear example of the criminal misinformation indulged in by the British press. Not having lived in the US, I have no idea of how the media deals with the matter of vaccines, but I fear that most North Americans can have no understanding of the unmitigated rottenness of the British Media, and without such an understanding they might find it hard to grasp how this tidal wave has crashed down upon Dr Wakefield.
A report appeared this morning in the Mirror newspaper, a vaguely Labour leading tabloid, quoting Dr Miriam Stoppard who is a septuagenarian columnist in the paper. Stoppard has campaigned against alternative medicine, in favour of Hormone Replacement Therapy and in favour of MMR, in everything from the most immature teen girl's magazines to the Mirror newspaper.
On Friday morning, previous writing of hers was repeated in the Mirror newspaper. Stoppard is just one of the many medical hacks that keep the wheels of vested interest turning inside the UK pharma-soaked media, but I think for reader world wide a brief look at the inanity on the morrow of the verdict against Andrew Wakefield, Professor Murch and Professor Walker-Smith might help readers outside the UK understand how the GMC is presently getting away with its lamentable corruption.
Miriam Stoppard writes an agony aunt column for the Daily Mirror Newspaper. She has a company, Miriam Stoppard Lifetime through which she sells her books and health products. After training as a doctor she began working for the drug company Syntex and eventually becoming one of the companies a managing directors. In 1997, she married Sir Christopher Hogg, who until 2004 had been Chairman of GlaxoSmith Kline, the vaccine manufacturer.
Here are Miriam Stoppard's remarks on Dr Wakefield's work, read on Friday
morning by thousands of Mirror readers.
Knowing the MMR was probably one of the most highly tested vaccinations ever, I was shocked by Andrew Wakefield's words in 1998. I looked at his paper and I found it was very badly researched with lots of holes. It certainly didn't constitute any kind of cause or relationship between the MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism. I was astonished it was even published. Shortly after, I wrote a big piece for the Mirror about how it was flawed and irresponsible. I tried to reassure parents it didn't show a connection between MMR and autism, the jab was safe and they should vaccinate their kids. However, a lot of the media came out and emphasised the autism connection and my attempts at reassurance were ineffective. Parents were driven towards single vaccines. But single vaccinations aren't licensed in this country so we don't even know if they're safe or effective. And while you're giving children single vaccinations, they're not protected against the other illnesses. So there is absolutely no reason, science or logic in using them. And the argument that the MMR overloads a baby's immune system is rubbish. It can take more than 10,000 doses of the MMR vaccination and not turn a hair. Wakefield and his bad research have an awful lot to answer for'.
Although it is hardly necessary, here is a brief rebuttal
MMR was probably one of the most highly tested vaccinations ever - not true.
I was shocked by Andrew Wakefield's words in 1998 - which words?
I looked at his paper and I found it was very badly researched with lots of holes - evidence?
It certainly didn't constitute any kind of cause or relationship between the
MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism - the paper didn't claim
to show any causal link between MMR and autism - how did you read it and miss
I was astonished it was even published - Thank God you're not the editor of a medical journal.
Shortly after, I wrote a big piece for the Mirror about how it was flawed and irresponsible - How much were you paid for this article. Did you declare any conflict of interest?
I tried to reassure parents it didn't show a connection between MMR and autism, the jab was safe and they should vaccinate their kids - The paper didn't claim to show any connection between MMR and autism, however to assure parents without any evidence to the contrary is a disgusting abdication of medical responsibility, do you still have your doctors practice certificate?
Single vaccinations aren't licensed in this country, so we don't even know if they're safe or effective. And while you're giving children single vaccinations, they're not protected against the other illnesses. So there is absolutely no reason, science or logic in using them - How is possible to pack so many mistakes into 3 sentences? Single vaccines were licensed at the time of the publication of the Lancet paper. We do know that they are safe and effective because in the case of measles they were used from 1976 onwards. In the case of mumps, the NHS advised against vaccination and in the case of Rubella, vaccination was suggested only for women likely to become pregnant. Interesting that you say that we shouldn't be using single vaccines. Is this the case for say, malaria, I mean if it doesn't also protect people against measles I think you must clearly be right!
* * *
At the end of the day, we have to keep the parents at the forefront of our mind and we have to consider that everything that can be done, should be done to find some kind of safe haven for them. All our battles, whether they be political, scientific or cultural have to be directed towards getting diagnosis and treatment for the children, while at the same time mercilessly pursuing the criminals within the pharmaceutical industry and the government who now profess the new creed of vaccine damage denial.