I, as a parent of two children in the Lancet study, have had to speak out about the vicious attacks on Dr. Andrew Wakefield by his own government, the US government and the media blaming him for the measles outbreak in Wales. The Lancet study was not paid for by the Legal Services Commission and our children were referred to the Royal Free Hospital because they were very sick and would still have had investigations done even if they were not part of the Lancet research as many more children have done after the Lancet study by other consultants at the Royal Free and other hospitals in London.
Dr. Andrew Wakefield listened to the concerns of many parents about their sick children suffering with bowel conditions and a form of Autism, a bowel condition and brain damage that was ignored by other professionals. These parents were demonstrably ‘black listed’ for saying their children became ill after the MMR vaccine.
Parents were speaking about this situation years before Dr. Wakefield came on the scene and our government also knew about these concerns years before the Lancet study yet they did nothing to investigate, leaving hundreds of other children at risk of side effects. Our government did not listen to parents but accused them of making the symptoms up and threatening to take their children away if they did not stop making a connection with MMR vaccine. As a result, these children and young adults live in a great deal of pain to this day (one doctor saying to my son ‘we believe you believe you are in pain’).
There is much more I could say about the experience of my family and others but I want to make it clear that the children’s claims in relation to MMR were supported by many other experts in several disciplines all of whom provided reports for the court. I attach a list of them. These experts would all have given evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice on behalf of hundreds of children we claim were damaged by the MMR vaccine had the cases been allowed to continue. In addition the solicitors representing the claimants were in touch with and drawing on the expertise from many more than these, but many did not want to be formal experts. I don’t know how much the experts listed were paid, but they were all paid fees just as Dr. Wakefield was in the normal way that experts are paid in litigation cases (and probably much less than the defendants’ experts were paid!).
MMR Claimant Experts (who produced reports that were served):
Professor M B Abou- Donia, professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology and a professor of Neurobiology Duke University medical centre Pharmacology and neurobiology
Dr Kenneth Aitken, K. Aitken Consultancy, Independent Consultant Child Clinical Neuropsychologist
Professor William Banks, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology, both departments at Saint Louis University School of Medicine Pharmacology and physiology
Dr. Edward Bilsky, Associate Professor of Pharmacology University of New England College of Medicine Pharmacology
James Jeffrey Bradstreet, MD, Fellow, AAFP International Child Development Resource Center Adjunct Professor of Neurosciences Department of Psychology Stetson University Celebration, Florida Child development
Vera S. Byers, M.D., Ph.D, President of Immunology, Inc Immunologist
Professor Neal Castagnoli, Jr., Peters Professor of Chemistry Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA Chemistry
Dr A Peter Fletcher MB BS PhD FFPM (Dist) Former regulator Industry expert
Professor Noam Harpaz, Associate Attending Pathologist, The Mount Sinai Hospital, Director, Division of Gastrointestinal Pathology, The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Associate Professor of Pathology, The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Pathologist New York.
Professor Ronald C. Kennedy, Ph.D Professor and Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center located in Lubbock, Texas Immunologist
Marcel Kinsbourne, D.M. (OXON), M.R.C.P. (LOND). Research Professor of Cognitive Studies at Tufts University and Professor of Psychology at the New School University in New York Neurologist
Arthur Krigsman MD, New York University Hospital Pediatric Gastroenterologist
Dr John March, Head of Mycoplasmology at the Moredun Research Institute (MRI), Edinburgh Vaccine development; molecular biologist
Professor John J Marchalonis, Professor and Chairman Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Arizona, College of Medicine Tucson, Arizona Microbiologist and immunologist
Professor Johnjoe McFadden, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the School of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford Genetics
John H. Menkes, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Neurology and Pediatrics University of California, Los Angeles Director Emeritus of Pediatric Neurology Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Neurologist
Dr Scott M Montgomery, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden Epidemiologist
Professor John J. O’Leary, MD, DPhil, MSc, BSc, FRCPath, FFPathRCPI Professor of Pathology at Trinity College Dublin and Consultant Histopathologist, St. James’s Hospital Dublin and the Coombe Women’s Hospital Pathologist
Professor Samuel Shapiro, MB, FRCP(E). Visiting Professor of Epidemiology. Mailman School of School of Public Health. Columbia University. Emeritus Director. Slone Epidemiology Center. Boston University School of Public Health. Epidemiologist
Dr Orla Sheils, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pathology University of Dublin, Trinity College (TCD). Molecular pathologist
Dr Fiona Scott, BSc (Hons) PhD C.Psychol Chartered Psychologist University of Cambridge
Dr Carol Stott, BSc (Hons) PhD (CANTAB) C.Psychol Chartered Psychologist University of Cambridge
Professor SAMY SUISSA, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics McGill University and Royal Victoria Hospital Montreal, Canada Statistician
Professor Richard Tedder, Head of the Joint Department of Virology, University College London. Also Clinical Lead for the UCLH NHS Trust Department of Virology and Clinical Head of Microbiology Services UCLH NHS Trust Virologist
Professor Edward J Thompson, Doctor of Medicine (MD, FRCP,FRCPath) and a Doctor of Science (DSc,PhD) Head of the Department of Neuroimmunology at the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery Neuroimmunologist
Professor John Walker- Smith, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Gastroenterology in the University of London Paediatric gastroenterologist
Dr. Troy D. Wood, Associate Professor in Chemistry and Adjunct Faculty in Structural Biology at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA Chemistry and structural biology
The court case was not heard and parents did not lose. Legal Aid decided to pull their funds for the sick children at the last minute. Legal Aid is government run and the government took out an indemnity to protect the drug companies from parents suing and we as parents had no idea that the litigation case was set up to fail right from the start. The government could not afford for the children to win and thus they could not afford for the statements from the experts to be read out in court. I have these reports and am told they are sealed and I am not allowed to produce them here, however tempted. Below is a summing up by Justice Keith when a few of us parents tried to continue the case without the support of Legal Aid and spoke in front of a room full of drug company representatives about our sick children. At the Royal Courts of Justice. I was very proud to be part of that group.
“It is important for the claimants’ litigation friends to understand why their children’s claims are not being allowed to proceed. It is not because the court thinks that the claims have no merit. Although this litigation has been going on for very many years, the question whether the claims have merit has never been addressed by the court. The reason why the claims have not been allowed to proceed is because everyone has realistically recognised for some time that it is just not practicable for the claims to proceed without public funding. With no realistic prospect of public funding being restored for any of the claims save for the two which are now to proceed as unitary actions, the dissolution of the litigation became inevitable.
Before leaving the litigation, I wish to express my thanks to the defendants’ legal teams for the assistance they have given the court. Although at all times advancing the interests of their clients as is to be expected in adversarial litigation, they recognised the needs of the claimants’ litigation friends, and provided them with all the information they needed, as well as affording them the occasional indulgence. The assembly of the various bundles of documents, and the preparation of the skeleton arguments, were of an exceptionally high order. But my final words must go to the claimants’ litigation friends. As I said in an earlier judgement, no-one can fail to have enormous sympathy for the parents of the children to whom this litigation has related. They have spoken eloquently and with great feeling of the tragedies which befell them when their children became ill. They blame the vaccines produced by the defendants for damaging their children, and they are bitter over their inability to proceed with their claims. But when they came to court, they always expressed themselves in a measured and moderate tone, despite their disenchantment with the Legal Services Commission which they believe has let them down, and at all times they treated the court with courtesy and respect. They made my difficult task less wearing that it might otherwise have been. I am grateful to them for that.” Justice Keith.
Dr Andrew Wakefield made front page news over the last few days in some of the national papers prompting an immediate reaction that it is lunacy to give him space, and that what he says is “balderdash”. What is highly questionable (and vindictive) is to blame him for all the ills of MMR vaccine because he published a paper in the Lancet 15 years ago (which has neither been “discredited” nor did it claim that MMR causes autism) and because he suggested that children should be given the single measles vaccine.
The association between autism and MMR was never assessed by the UK courts because of the withdrawal of legal aid. In the USA and Italy the courts have awarded compensation for MMR vaccine damage. The USA also has an expert committee for assessing claims of vaccine damage and they have compensated other parents for damage caused by MMR which did not then need to go through the full legal process.
How long does it take the UK government to learn that cover-up is invariably a more serious matter than the original crime or mistake? It’s time the spotlight was turned on Professor David Salisbury, who had little or no background in immunisation and had only been in post a short time when he reassured his committee that they did not need to worry about the adverse effects of Pluserix despite its withdrawal in Canada and serious reports from Japan. It’s time to turn the spotlight on the process by which I believe Brian Deer was recruited by the Department of Health to help rescue their MMR programme. It is, of course, easy to conjecture and it needs a full enquiry which must come sooner or later, the results of which demand full media attention.
I am aware that in 1992 two of the three brands of MMR were withdrawn overnight on the safety ground that they caused viral meningitis and that when MMR was first introduced the Department of Health stated that the single vaccine would continue to be available. For their own reasons they changed their minds later. Had they not done so, those who had concerns could have continued to protect their children from measles and this present outbreak would not be happening.
I know that it is officially denied that there is any link between the vaccine and any form of autism (even though American and Italian courts appear to have accepted the link). What is not denied is that the rate of autism had increased substantially since the 1990s (from about one in 2500 to as many as one in 50). Instead of blaming Andrew Wakefield every time there is a measles outbreak why does the Government not put funding into finding the cause of this distressing condition? If it can be shown that the cause of the increase in autism has absolutely nothing to do with vaccines, then that will remove the suspicion that it does and you can all forget that Andrew Wakefield ever existed.
Governments should be putting huge resources into finding out what is causing this disabling condition which is putting an immense strain on families and draining the welfare resources of the UK and other countries, not attacking doctors and accusing parents of telling lies. By not listening to the Experts, families and more importantly to the children then this in my opinion has to come into the category of “child abuse”.
Professor John Walker Smith, who was part of the Lancet team, was exonerated in March 2012 in the Autism MMR GMC Case. The GMC issued the following statement following the judgement:
Mr Justice Mitting has made a number of criticisms about the inadequacy of the reasons given by the panel for the decisions they made on the charges facing Professor Walker-Smith. The panel of medical and non-medical members, having heard all the evidence, were required to set out very clearly why they reached the decisions they did. They failed to do that in relation to key questions, including whether Professor Walker-Smith’s actions were undertaken for the purpose of medical practice or medical research and whether procedures performed on the children were clinically necessary. These were important points that needed to be addressed by the panel in the determination and the failure to do so was the major cause of Mr Justice Mitting allowing the appeal. (Extract of official GMC Statement.)
In my opinion, this also stands for Dr. Wakefield who did not have the funds to challenge the GMC as Professor Walker Smith did.
Mother of two boys who were part of the Lancet study.
(The preceeding statement has been published with Isabella Thomas’ kind permission.)