Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jabberwocky of the Day : Medical Establishment Shielding Wakefield

According to blog entry written by Brian Deer for The Guardian, the "medical establishment" have "closed ranks" behind Wakefield to shield him from fraud claims.  No, I am not making this up, go read the article for yourself.

I think my favorite part of the story is this one -
But a Philadelphia-based commentator was not impressed by the BMJ's intervention. "It doesn't matter that [Wakefield] was fraudulent," Dr Paul Offit, a vaccine inventor and author in Pennsylvania, was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer the next day as saying. "It only matters that he was wrong."
I wasn't surprised. From his establishment vantage-point, this was the third time Dr Offit had popped up to opine on the issue. Twice previously he'd been quoted as saying that my findings were "irrelevant" (although he'd been happy enough to use them in his books). Science had spoken, his argument went. There was no link between the vaccine and autism. It was experts like him who should rule on this matter, he seemed to imply, not some oik reporter nailing the guilty men.
Uhm, well, err, yes....

Dr. Offit is clearly trying to shield Wakefield from fraud claims.  In other news, pigs were seen flying in Philadelphia earlier today.

Deer's solution to the problem of doctors defending doctors and relying on science?
So, what's my point? I think these comments reveal a striking pattern: doctors default to defending other doctors. In fact, until recently there was a GMC regulation that banned them from bad-mouthing colleagues.
But in the specifics of their stance there seemed the idea that scholarly debate, epidemiology and suchlike, should arbitrate. Truth would emerge from the "scientific method", not from "we can reveal" media muck-raking.
Let battle commence, I say. Let doctors expose each other. Let journals compete to get the truth out first. Because 13 years passed before I slayed the MMR monster. And although a single, severed hand may yet come crawling across the floor, for science and public safety 13 years is still too long.
I think Deer nailed it. Journalism like his is clearly the best way to deal with the complex medical issues raised by Wakefield's research.  Who needs actual evidence to refute the claims?  We should throw out the scientific method and let the media tell us what is what.

Or even better,  lets take it one step further and create a new reality TV show - Doctor vs Doctor.  We can lock MDs with different options in a house for a week and film the whole thing and let the public vote on who they like better.  Whichever doctor has the most votes at the end of the week is right.

Who needs little things like data and the scientific method when we could just let people shout it out?

But seriously, this was written by the same person who is making fraud allegations against Wakefield.  Since none of us have access to the same records that Deer does, we have to rely on what he tells us they say.  We have to be able to trust him.

Given rants like this and other incidents in the past, I don't find him to be particularly believable or trustworthy.  Wakefield is certainly not a saint but I don't think that Deer is any better.

But, like always, make up your own mind.


  1. When pigs fly indeed. Deer's rant doesn't pass the giggle test.

  2. Problem is, for Pharma/Offit et. al., they can't really make it about the science, all the science and nothing but the science. Because when that happens, vaccines are no longer completely safe and super effective and necessary for all... even the 200 or so vaccine in the pipeline that they need everyone to put in themselves and their children, no questions asked. When that happens, the debate on how much of which vaccines are too many for which people begins in earnest, inside the scientific realm, and the industry will decline a bit and then meet its natural level. Only new markets will be for the real killers HIV and malaria.

    And RotaTeq will be a very poor seller in non third world countries.

    So they have worked very hard to move the discussion out of the actual scientific arena into the media, where they thought they could control the message. But the problem there is that in the media you run in to opportunists (with some grandiosity issues) like Deer, who believes the hype and does not know when to quit. He has gotten this far with his stories because it served the medical establishment, and they allowed him to visit, "the walled city".

    But he has just gone too far and his message just stopped serving the status quo that Offit Co. is working so hard to maintain.

    So if he doesn't learn his place in their business plan real fast, I am guessing his key to the walled city is going to be yanked.

    But where will Pharma find another useful idiot like Deer?

    Stay tuned.

  3. I think an even better format would be to have an episode about them on South Park, some sort of dual or match, the winner would be the one who is most likely right. Much more entertaining at least.