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Lots of Law but Little Justice

Lots of Law but Little Justice: The Acquittal of Professor John Walker-Smith & the case of Dr Andrew Wakefield

The panel's overall conclusion that Professor Walker-Smith was guilty of serious professional misconduct was flawed,in two respects: inadequate and superficial reasoning and, in a number of instances, a wrong conclusion.The end result is that the finding of serious professional misconduct and the sanction of erasure are both quashed. Judgment of Mr Justice Mitting 1


There is now no respectable body of opinion which supports his (Wakefield’s) hypothesis, that MMR vaccine and autism/enterocolitis are causally linked. Judgment of Mr Justice Mitting


This essay places the acquittal at Appeal of Professor John Walker-Smith in the context of the conspiracy against the three doctors, Dr Andrew Wakefield, Dr Simon Murch and Professor Walker-Smith, who were tried in a General Medical Council(GMC) Fitness to Practice Hearing in London between 2007 and 2010. The hearing was the longest in GMC history and one of the longest quasi judicial hearings ever to take place in Britain.


The essay asks two questions specifically, ‘Can justice ever be served in this case if Dr Andrew Wakefield, the principle victim of the conspiracy is denied an independent appeal?’ and ‘In the event of a professional tribunal such as the GMC acting with malice and intimacy of corruption, who might bring such powerful wrong doers to justice?’


The essay utilizes my experience in observing every day bar one or two of the GMC hearing over three years and my involvement in the campaign for the parents ofvaccine damaged children and Dr Andrew Wakefield between 2005 and 2010. The second half of the essay, which examples two acts of chicanery by the GMC prosecution, relies upon material that I wrote at the end of the hearing on the announcement of the final verdicts. 2


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Off the specifically ‘legal’ track, the beginnings of the Wakefield affair, it’s social,cultural, and indeed medical context, goes back to the introduction of the first three brands of MMR in 1988.By 1992 two of these brands, containing the Urabe mumps viral strain had been found to have serious adverse effects on children and were withdrawn, in the UK some time after being withdrawn in Canada3 and at roughly the same time as being withdrawn in Japan. The British government was forced following this withdrawal to fall back on one MMR vaccine, manufactured in the US and containing the apparently safer Jeryl Lynn mumps viral strain.In 1993, Dr Andrew Wakefield who had been head hunted to lead research atthe new Royal Free Hospital (RFH) experimental gastrointestinal unit, had begun to be approached by parents whose children had suddenly developed inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).4 Concerned about these cases, Wakefield both wrote to and telephoned Professor David Salisbury, then head of vaccination and immunizationat the Department of Health, asking for a meeting to discuss them. It would be six years before Wakefield got this meeting.


The conspiracy against Dr Wakefield ‘the whistle-blower’, took over a decade for the pharmaceutical companies, the government and the General Medical Council to structure. It began quietly with Brian Deer, a consumer affairs journalist who free-lanced for the Sunday Times, writing a long article demeaning expert witnesses who had appeared previously on behalf of claimants whose children hadbeen damaged twenty years earlier by the Whooping Cough vaccine.5


In 1998, Andrew Wakefield was the lead author in a ‘case review’ paper published in the Lancet. This paper described the presenting symptoms of 12 children who had attended the RFH. The paper had 12 authors, all of whom had played some part in reviewing the children’s cases from a diagnostic perspective.What the doctors wanted to know was what trigger had led to the sudden onset of IBD in the children, without this information it was not possible to treat them.The paper itself included a sentence, necessary for record purposes, which said that a number of parents had suggested their children’s illness had occurred after their MMR vaccination; other than this the paper said nothing about MMR, nor did it speculate about the cause of regressive autism present in some of the children. This paper was written to aid on going clinical work and was not ‘research’as it is broadly defined.6 As Wakefield entered his conflict with David Salisbury, a civil claims lawyer,Richard Barr was separately assembling what would become over 1,000 parents to pursue a legal case on behalf of their vaccine damaged children against three vaccine manufacturers of MMR. Barr asked Wakefield to be an expert witness for the cohort of claimants whose children suffered from IBD.


Although the GMC was later to make out that the Lancet ‘case review paper’was actually a part of Wakefield’s research in support of his role as an expert witness, the results intended to damage the case of the three defendant pharmaceutical companies, the parent claimants were actually divided into groups claiming for a variety of adverse reactions, the majority of which had nothing to dowith IBD or autism spectrum disorders.7,8  On the publication of the Lancet case review paper, a press briefing was organised by the University linked to the Royal Free Hospital (RFH) and the Dean Medical School, Professor Ary Zuckerman encouraged Wakefield to tell the press that the triple MMR vaccine could be unsafe, while single vaccines had proved over time to have relatively few side effects.9

As the conflict developed between Wakefield, the pharmaceutical cartels, the government and medical scientists, the idea that it had always been recognised thatthere were serious dangers in combined vaccines, faded. Although Wakefield wasaccused of being responsible for a rise in measles cases, when he spoke in favour ofsingle vaccines, on the evidence, he could only realistically be accused of raising issues about combined vaccines which had already failed massively in the case of the Urabe containing combinations. Wakefield promoted the single measles vaccines,even though in the long run he did have concerns about it.





END NOTES for this short piece


1. In the high court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division: Before: Mr Justice Mitting Between: Professor John Walker-Smith, the Appellant, and the General Medical Council, for the respondent, Mr Stephen Miller QC and Ms AndreaLindsay-Strugo (instructed by Eastwoods solicitors). For the Appellant Miss Joanna Glynn QC and Mr Christopher Mellor (instructed by Field Fisher Waterhouse) for the Respondent. Hearing dates: 13th. 14th, 15th, 16th & 17thFebruary 2012.


2. Essays that I wrote during the ‘Wakefield campaign’ and the hearing, can still be obtained from and a full report by me of every day of the hearing can be found here

3. The Urabe strain mumps vaccine was withdrawn in Canada even before it was introduced in Britain but regulatory bodies in the Department of Health discussed and dismissed the information of deaths and adverse reactions that the Canadian government had acted upon.

4. Hear the Silence, written by Tim Prager, screened UK, Monday, 15 December 9pm, Channel Five.


5. Brian Deer, The Vanishing Victims, The Sunday Times Magazine, November 1 1998. Deer’s article gives a distorted picture of Dr John Wilson, an expert witness in the parents’ case against whooping cough vaccine. In October, 1973,Dr John Wilson, paediatric neurologist, announced work very similar to Dr Wakefield’s almost 30 years later. Deer traduces him as an egoist and untrustworthy researcher and physician.

6. In Walker-Smith’s appeal Justice Mitting goes into some detail on this matter, deciding quite rightly in my opinion,that diagnostically based research did not constitute research in the broader sense.


7. Although it has been more recently claimed that Wakefield hogged the limelight with his IBD cases, it seems almostcertain that had other groups found their experts these would have been attacked as Wakefield was.8 By concentrating on this section of claimants, those whose children had IBD and regressive autism, by choosing toproceed with a ‘difficult’ to prove aetiology, which was to be sabotaged so massively, when legal aid was withdrawnfrom the case, it transpired that parents whose children had been affected by other adverse reactions to the MMRvaccine were denied their day in court.9 While the corporate pharmaceutical lobby groups were consistent in their labelling of Wakefield and his parent supporters as ‘antivaxers’, this couldn’t have been further from the truth, not only had the Wakefield children received their childhood vaccinations, as, obviously, had the parents who were now complaining of adverse reactions, but Wakefield himself promoted the single vaccines for mumps, measles and rubella. Ary Zuckerman, the head of department, was to get very heated at the GMC hearing when he was called as a prosecution witness and denied, despite written proof that he had ever agreed with Wakefield.

Lots of Law but Little Justice

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