Anti-vax deception
Updated 9 March 2015

Age of Autism's Dan Olmsted

lies for research fraud doctor


Investigative reporter Brian Deer (left) reveals how a profiteering website operator Dan Olmsted seeks to cheat parents over the Andrew Wakefield MMR research fraud

As the sun sets on British research cheat Andrew Wakefield, who in a 1998 paper in The Lancet systematically faked the appearance of a putative link between the MMR vaccine and autism, activists still profiting from the scare he manufactured have followed him further into the cesspit.

Most desperate to assist a man who was only barely more than a freelance charlatan has long been a crank website called Age of Autism. This is largely funded by anti-vaccine profiteers and is operated by an undistinguished former journalist, Daniel Olmsted.

Dumped some years ago from his post as a copy editor for a news agency owned by the Rev Sun Myung Moon - himself convicted of fraud - Olmsted has since sought a livelihood from his website, misleading parents of children with autism.

In his latest deception - published on 7 March 2015 - Olmsted directly tricks his readers, suggesting that the father of one of the children in Wakefield's research had attacked my peer-reviewed January 2011 series in the British Medical Journal.

The father in question was the parent of child 11 in Wakefield's now-retracted 12-child Lancet case series, who Wakefield claimed showed the "first behavioural symptom" of autism "1 week" after MMR.

My BMJ reports - expanding on my award-winning investigation for The Sunday Times and my Channel 4 network film - summarised what the journal's editors described as the "elaborate fraud" behind Wakefield's research. As the journal said in an editorial in January 2011:

"Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross."

In his latest intervention, Olmsted offers himself as a mouthpiece for the cheat, and throws a mass of false allegations against me. Although his text is evasive on numerous matters, Olmsted's false accusation is that I lied in my BMJ stories.

"No one could check what that father said, or so it seemed," Olmsted asserts, falsely claiming that the father had criticised my conduct. "I imagine Deer was counting on that."

In fact, they could check, if Olmsted was an honest man. And now, because I am, they can. Today, I publish a letter dated 20 March 2011, sent by the father to Olmsted, in which he endorses my case against Wakefield.

The father states in the letter:

"The Lancet article is a clear misrepresentation of my son's history"


"If my son really is Patient 11, then the Lancet article is simply an outright fabrication"


"The bottom line is that, if my son is indeed Patient 11, then the Lancet article made a false assertion that his symptoms set in immediately after the MMR; in service of some attorneys' efforts to prove 'causation' that, unbeknownst to me, apparently drove his research."

Olmsted, however, withholds all of this information - including the express complaint of "fabrication" - in favour of rooting around in a confusion by the father. Despite two face-to-face meetings with me, plus numerous emails and phone conversations for my Sunday Times and BMJ reports, he didn't tell me of a letter he wrote in 1997 giving one of two competing versions of his son's history.

As the father - from California - explains to Olmsted (and me), he told Wakefield in 1997 that child 11's autism began 2.5 - 3 months after MMR - and not "1 week" as Wakefield reported in The Lancet. At the time, the now-disgraced former doctor was trying to create what is known in vaccine litigation as a "temporal link", and he gave a bogus time-frame for this child.

But the other competing version was the one that I reported, based on documents in my possession at that time. Two medical records, which I obtained - including an official Royal Free discharge summary (given to me by the father) and a research pro-forma (forced out of Wakefield's lawyers during UK litigation) - are of exceptional probative value. And these report the boy's problems beginning before his MMR shot - which was also true for other children in the series.

Which is true for child 11? Who can say, years later? The father says one thing, the medical records another. Nobody can time-travel back to the 1990s. And in lawsuits, it is the records that usually count. But, whichever version is right, Wakefield's story was not. Neither can be reconciled with The Lancet.

Written to support a lawsuit, in which Wakefield was receiving huge secret payments - The Lancet paper claimed that in eight of the 12 children (including child 11) - autism came on within 14 days of vaccination: an outright, on the nose, fraud.

No wonder that the father comments in his letter to Olmsted, supporting one of the results of my journalism:

"I am very thankful that the Lancet article has been withdrawn and the 'research study' discredited."

Of course, my reports did not hinge on child 11, or on any individual case. As explained in the most detailed account of Wakefield's grotesque misconduct, it rested on the findings (as the BMJ noted) that Wakefield concealed and manipulated the terms of the research study, secretly conducted for a lawsuit, and that not one of the children was reported upon truthfully. Wakefield lied and lied again.

Dan Olmsted deceives parents again

Following the posting of the above response to Dan Olmsted's frank deception of his readers, the former Moonie copy editor bizarrely denounced the documents I obtained which suggest that child 11's developmental issues began before his MMR. Despite their obviously profound probative consequence - eminently admissible in any litigation - Olmsted shrugs them off as merely "a couple of stray medical records".

In fact, they were:

(a) A three-page Royal Free Hospital discharge summary, dated 21 May 1997, addressed to a professor of medicine at the University of California, Irving, copied to Andrew Wakefield, and supplied to me by the father, setting out a history, test results and clinical findings for the child;

(b) A 15-page research pro-forma, outputted from the Royal Free medical school research database which underlay The Lancet paper (part of a series relied upon later in a book by Wakefield). This again set out the history, test results and clinical findings for child 11, supplied to me by Wakefield's own lawyers in UK litigation. In fact, this document expressly dates the child's behavioural normality only to 13 months - two months before his vaccination - and refers to a history giving this age.

In other words, Wakefield knew the information in these separate, cross-confirming, records at the time he prepared The Lancet paper. Despite fabricated claims by Olmsted to know of "thousands" of other documents, he indentifies none, while, despite a decade of litigation over such matters, the discharge summary and database output are uncontradicted by any other medical records produced.

Yet Wakefield still reported that the child was "previously normal" and claimed in the paper that autism came on "1 week" after MMR. And he did this while working for a lawyer attempting to prove precisely such a tight temporal link.

Amid much colour and lying (for example that the father told him that measles in MMR was the problem, when, as I revealed in The Sunday Times in 2009, the father was the first to show that it wasn't), Olmsted gives no explanation as to why his website never reported the father's condemnation of "outright fabrication" by Wakefield.

Nor does he explain Wakefield's claim in the Lancet that child 11's "first behavioural symptom" of autism occurred "1 week" after MMR - which is unsupported by anything anywhere, even in Wakefield's book.

Here is fraud. Here the father says is fraud. And in such places Andrew Wakefield is done.

Meanwhile, I take some comfort from an email to me from the father, 11 months after the BMJ report in question:

"Next time I'm in London, I will give you a call. I have learned quite a bit from you on quality investigative reporting. We need more of it here in USA !"

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Copyright, Brian Deer. All rights reserved. No portion of this article on Dan Olmsted and Age of Autism, may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author. Responses, information and other feedback are appreciated - via the contact page