In deciding to sue Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee, and the BMJ for Brian Deer’s BMJ article about his scientific fraud a year ago, Andrew Wakefield was clearly grabbing for publicity, seeking to fire up his supporters (which he’s largely succeeded in doing), and trying to make himself relevent again after the allegations published in the BMJ a year ago led to his further decline. Regarding making himself relevant again, I might caution Andy to be careful: He might just get what he wished for, just not in the way he wished it. After all, right before his lawsuit became public, Wakefield had already been listed by Medscape as the worst doctor of 2011 for his research fraud. What could come next?

How about being listed among the Great Science Frauds of all time by TIME Magazine, along with Woo Suk Huang and Charles Dawson (the latter of whom is particularly amusing, givne how Brian Deer referred to Andrew Wakefield’s work as “Piltdown medicine” in his expose for the BMJ)? Check it out:

Do vaccines cause autism? Medical experts say no, but we can thank Wakefield for introducing the doubt that won’t die in many parents’ minds. In 1998, the gastroenterologist at Royal Free Hospital in London published a study describing a connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, after he found evidence of these viruses, presumably from the shot, in the guts of a dozen autistic children, eight of whom developed autism-like symptoms days after receiving their vaccination.

Other scientists could not replicate Wakefield’s findings, nor verify a link between the vaccine and autism. In 2010, the journal that published his paper retracted it, and its editors noted that “it was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false.” Later that year, the General Medical Council in the U.K. revoked Wakefield’s medical license, citing ethical concerns over how he recruited the patients in the study as well as his failure to disclose that he was a paid consultant to attorneys representing parents who believed their children had been harmed by vaccines.

The final shoe dropped a year later, when another prestigious medical journal concluded that his research was also fraudulent, after evidence that some of the timelines of the children’s symptoms were misrepresented.

Great going, Andy! Keep it up, and maybe you can be on more lists like this in 2012!

In the meantime, we are reminded of the power of vaccination by this story, which points out that it’s been a year since the last case of polio was recorded in India. Although it has been delayed by antivaccine sentiments based on religion and paranoid conspiracy theories, the eradication of polio is now–finally!–potentially achievable. Just as smallpox was eradicated. Compare and contrast: Thousands of cases of measles in the U.K. and Europe, largely thanks to the fear of the MMR stoked largely by Wakefield’s fraudulent research. No matter how much Wakefield’s antivaccine fans try to spin it otherwise, that is how Wakefield will be remembered by history, and, in my opinion, rightly so.

Comments

  1. #1 Narad
    February 11, 2012

    I’d bet it’s the same with much of the Natural Hygiene stuff too; that is, for simple self-limited things, it works for those who are committed to change.

    Weight Watchers is pretty much a calorie-counting system with a marketing department grafted on. This runs counter to Natural Hygiene; Shelton only grudgingly admitted restrictive toxin-eliminating diets over fasts, in that any halfway privation was doomed as a vehicle to the truth (although perhaps an adequate intermediate step) in its encouraging craving, which is the hallmark of a stimulant, which drains nerve energy. You’re really just supposed to sip water in a pastoral environment if something ails you.*

    * Not to be taken to suggest the existence of “disease,” or “cures,” or “treatments.”

  2. #2 Krebiozen
    February 11, 2012

    Emily may have gone, but others who may be interested in a very recent article about the possible benefits of periodic fasting on cardiovascular health and metabolic disorders.
    http://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/fca.11.50
    A few relevant quotes:

    Some diet gurus have taken fasting to potentially unhealthy extremes while the scientific data lag behind those programs…
    In summary, the evidence that fasting reduces cardiovascular risk and improves heart health is limited. The data that are available, however, are very intriguing and suggest that fasting is worthy of further study as a possible preventive treatment for chronic metabolic disease and atherosclerosis…
    Certainly it appears that fasting is not a ‘quick fix’ method for restoring health, but one that requires periodic and repeated practice over a considerable time to provide noticeable clinical benefits.

    Interesting, but I don’t think I’ll be adopting Natural Hygiene principles just yet. If this does live up to its promise the next problem is persuading unmotivated, overweight, depressed people to fast regularly.

  3. #3 lilady
    February 11, 2012

    Has anyone ever linked to this negligence case?

    http://openjurist.org/722/f2d/203/moore-carlton-v-m-shelton-v

    This negligence case sought damages for the widow and survivors of William Carlton who starved to death while under the care of Dr. Virginia Vetrano who “cared” for William Carlton during his stay at the Shelton Health School.

    Reading through the case, we see that Mr. Carlton placed himself under Dr. Vetrano’s care for treatment of a bowel problem. Dr. Vetrano didn’t “monitor” Mr. Carlton for days on end (up to four days between “monitoring”) while he was starving and while he was permitted only two cups of distilled water each day.

    Of particular note is the Medical Examiner’s Report and the finding of gross negligence in Mr. Carlton’s death and the death of three other patients, while under Dr. Vetrano’s “care”.

    Dr. Vetrano is still practicing as a “hygienist”.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    February 11, 2012

    @ flip:

    Getting meds right can take trial and error; the problem is that some people without meds suffer needlessly and wind up wasting years of their lives just trying to keep their heads above water. I have no idea what category you fall into- thus depression is a frustrating conditions for doctors as well. Here are a few anecdotes ( non-clients):

    J had bouts of bulumia was diagnosed as bi-polar took lithium and gained a great deal of weight. She later found a doctor who said that she was mis-diagnosed- she was truly depressed -which fit the family profile: new meds and weight loss.
    A person was given very mild amitripyline with a tranquiliser for ‘anxious depression’ to spectacular results.
    A guy with severe depression felt “snowed under” by the standard meds but was greatly helped by a benzodiazapine. However, he also liked expensive hootch- which can be a problem- but I ask myself how much of this would be self-medicating and how much is actually that he just liked liquor- he always worked, no real problems, got less depressed with age.
    Another fellow found a sideline career after retirement never took any meds for depression.

    While my examples are in no way representative- they’re anecdotes, people I know – they’re diverse. I don’t know what the solution is for you: I suppose it depends on *how* badly you feel. I would suggest that you do wide reading across the lit about meds and reactions as well as CBT. Your intelligence will guide you but realise that sometimes things can get beyond our personal control and you might *someday*- altho’ I hope never- need outside help.

  5. #5 OccamsLaser
    February 11, 2012

    Flip –

    I think she’s referring to your ‘stooping’ in regards to her identity. On the whole though I agree with the sentiments of your comment.

    You may be correct. I would point out to Emily that her suspicious failure to be forthcoming and honest about her financial interest in the therapies she was pushing were what motivated me to try to fill in that glaring hole in her presentation here. If she had simply said something like, “I have a degree in nutrition, and I have been running a Natural Hygiene and fasting clinic for many years, and we give seminars, and I would like to share with you the principles I have used and the observations I have made as to the efficacy of our approach,” there would not have been the lingering questions about her affiliation, background, and financial interests.

    I would further note that I have not revealed Emily’s identity or any other identifying information, and when another poster thought she had identified Emily’s place of employ, I took care to communicate that I thought she was mistaken in a manner that did not expose Emily in any way. I will mention, however, that the likely reasons behind Emily’s evasiveness on her position on certain topics are made clear by the knowledge of her situation. I will leave it to her to elaborate if she so chooses.

    I do have something I’d like to add to the list of matters I would urge Emily to think about. She has written the following statements:

    Our bodies are intelligently designed

    Regarding evolution, I have no strong opinion on it.

    Emily, if you do not have an opinion on whether our bodies have developed all these wonderful systems in which you have so much faith via the mechanism of evolution…

    …who, then, was the “intelligent designer” of our bodies?

  6. #6 Calli Arcale
    February 11, 2012

    Emily,

    Good luck with your health, Calli.

    Thank you. I do believe you say that with the best of spirits, and I accept it that way. Good luck with yours as well; may you live a long and fruitful life.

    I am sorry you feel so threatened; I don’t think many hear agree with “outing” you or contacting your employer. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think you need to be afraid of anyone here, particularly OccasmLaser. He may have worked out who you are, but I think the important message in that is that it’s easier than people realize to pierce layers of anonymity, and so we shouldn’t put much stock in it. I’m taking you at face value; I’m not going to go and try to find out whether your various personal claims are accurate. It’s not important; as far as I’m concerned, we may as well be speaking entirely in hypotheticals. That’s freeing in a sense, because it allows us to judge claims entirely on their merits.

    I wonder, is that why you are now leaving? I gave a considerable amount of personal information above; enough to greatly assist anyone wanting to “out” me, certainly. The hope was to find out how you use that sort of information. At this point, it seems rather as if you don’t actually care about that information. You zeroed in on the diet even though there were plenty of useful clues to my condition in the rest of it. Hydration has a relationship to UTIs; diet generally does not unless it’s secondary to bladder stones or something like that. More important are gender, personal hygiene, bathroom habits, and, in my case, anatomy. You could also have inquired about sexual practices, though I would probably not have shared much there; that’s between me and my husband. 😉 You did not explore any of those, and your response to my diet consisted of what could only have been a rhetorical question to whether the other commenters approved of it. I am forced to conclude, as others have, that you do not actually care about the details. You collect the details so you appear to be working hard, but in the end, give only vague recommendations that are too nonspecific to have any relationship to the data collected. You have given no reason to think you do any real followup; you may see the patient again, but you’re not tracking the specific condition. You have given no reason to think you perform any real diagnostics; you may have “piloted” hundreds of women who believed they had UTIs, but you have no way of knowing whether they actually did; consequently, your anecdotal data about curing UTIs by natural hygeine is worthless even to you, and you do not realize it. You have no way of knowing if it even works, yet you keep doing it, encouraging others to do it, and profiting off of this. You are, in short, no better than Burzynski or the dubious practitioners who have followed in Wakefield’s footsteps. You may be better than Wakefield; I am not convinced you’re intentionally defrauding anyone. I think you really believe what you’re saying. You are exactly like the bloodletters 200 years ago; you see no evidence it’s not working, and you see no reason to look further, valiantly soldiering on while people die around you. Seriously; they were actually killing people with their treatments, and they were completely unaware. They weren’t stupid, but they were arrogant enough to trust in their own intuition.

    Open your mind sometime, Emily. The experience will be rewarding, though perhaps a bit painful at first.

  7. #7 flip
    February 12, 2012

    @799 Narad

    Not to mention Weight Watchers doesn’t mind if you eat melons with nuts…

    @802 Denice

    I agree with you; my point was that one can get frustrated easily and without any knowledge of medicine can quickly fall into the path of CAM concepts. Which wastes even more time.

    As for me: one of the reasons why I am not particularly enthused with my experiences with mental health treatment was the lack of assistance. Basically the only psychiatry I met with was in hospital (for mental health problems), and the doctor on call was patronising to the point of dismissive. No official diagnosis was made – perhaps ‘social anxiety’, but as I say, it was dismissive – and meds was offered but very little done to explain how it worked/side effects/risks, and was pushed far more than counselling was. Although blood tests were recommended (for what I can’t recall now) they were never done. Suffice to say that I didn’t appreciate the minimal assistance I received. I understand the lack of support mental health gets, as well as the overall problems facing what amounts to emergency psychiatry, but it didn’t impress on me the feeling that anyone cared or thought I was more depressed than your average shy person.

    One of the reasons why I’ve been reluctant to seek help from someone else is the problem of finding someone who I feel comfortable with and who won’t patronise me. I know I should probably do something proper about it, but with so many other things to worry about I just put it off. Financially speaking, I can’t afford to go and ‘interview’ a bunch of doctors to find one I’m happy with.

    As I previously mentioned, some of my depression is ‘situational’, and so working to improve finances or other such things does actually reduce the impact of my illness and makes things easier to manage anyway. Having said that, my illness is by no means a mild one, and I do seek help when I do need it (the above trip to the hospital was voluntary and at my request; although I was out of it enough to require assistance walking, and though I had no obvious signs of it, I did try to kill myself). I do think I probably need more support – family and friends not really doing much to help – but as I say there are other things that make me reluctant to do so. Frankly if I were able to reveal my identity, I could speak more on the other issues that make this reluctance so strong.

    … This also harps back to my point that if Emily thinks I’m in love with SBM to the point of being blinded to its faults, she’s an idiot. And the reason why I got so annoyed at the victim blaming aspect, as even with trained professionals in mental health I have had to struggle for them to take the depth of my problem seriously.

    Furthermore, instead of complaining about the above problems with mental health care as Emily does about SBM, I got involved: when a study from a local university occured on issues in current mental health care settings, I volunteered, told them everything, and hoped that it would impact on future improvements.

    PS. I’d like to say a big thanks for talking about this stuff with me. I generally keep it all to my chest, at least where specifics are concerned, and this is one of the few times I’ve openly talked about it online. I feel comfortable to do so, and it’s quite relieving to do it. Very few people know the details, though if this is what ends up revealing my identity, I think I’m ok with that: improving information and understanding towards mental health is a good cause to lose it to.

  8. #8 Denice Walter
    February 12, 2012

    @ flip:

    First of all about pseudonyms: I’d retain anonymity – even if I had another project- a film, an article, a blog, a newsletter- under my own name, I’d try to keep it separate: I do; so do our esteemed host and his “friend”, that surgeon guy. There’s too much harassment and legal shenanigans engendered by ‘net feuds.

    On self-help: we’re all *works in progress*- humans have the capacity to work on themselves. We can use (inner) speech to self-regulate our lives and feelings and internalise help from others et al. We can rehearse -while alone- what we’ll say to others: writing is a form of rehearsal as well as communication. You can learn how to be at ease with others- s-l-o-w-ly – step by step ( Why not?) figure out how to speak, act, carry yourself with more *aplomb* ( I like that word!) Wm James wrote about acting ‘as if’ you were fine ( even if you weren’t)- sometimes you will actually feel better**. And others will often then re-act to *that* image. My father always said that we both were rewarded for how we looked, spoke, and behaved *not* necessarily because of how we *were*. I’m not saying to be false.
    Having good verbal skills and an ability for abstraction has more than half the battle won. Although self-image can be manipulated, social skills can be more finely honed, voices can be developed: the cognitive always rests upon a substrate of biology- we can’t escape that.

    ** talk about depressive families, Wm and Henry!

  9. #9 flip
    February 12, 2012

    I’d like to talk about the issue of anonymity further, but actually I realised what I want to say would give a bit of it away 😉
    But yes, keeping them separate is what I plan on doing.

    Although I have a little social anxiety, it’s nothing I couldn’t deal with: which was why I got pissed off at the doctor. Suggesting social anxiety classes and temporary meds came along with the distinct attitude that I was over-reacting to the seriousness of the situation. Given that this was basically *the* cry for help after receiving none for 10 years, I find the idea that I just need to “get out into the world more” a bit rude. Particularly, as I said, I’m proactive and had a life where I did spend a lot of time amongst other people.

    Anyway, I get what you’re saying and wish that the majority of those sorts of things worked for me: being occupied in something I enjoy works the best.

  10. #10 Bill
    February 24, 2012

    Mr Wakefield is at it again. At the European parliament in Brussels http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_czhdiEfgUw

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