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Observer review of Channel 4 film

The Observer

MMR, What they didn't tell you

Kathryn Flett
Sunday November 21, 2004

Channel 4's Dispatches returned on Thursday with reporter Brian Deer's skilfully crafted hatchet-job on Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who was the architect of the MMR scare. Wakefield has since decamped to Florida, where Deer attempted to catch up with him at his grandly titled International Child Development Resource Centre but on the way we were introduced to numerous people who made mincemeat of Wakefield's original controversial 'research' while at London's Royal Free Hospital.

There was some compelling testimony that Wakefield was not merely wrong in claiming a connection between MMR and, specifically, the measles virus, inflammation of the gut and the subsequent development of autistic spectrum disorders, but actually went out of his way to discount the evidence that there was no link - at least if one gave credence to one of his whistleblowing former researchers, Dr Nicholas Chadwick. And if this weren't bad enough, Wakefield had patented a bizarre-sounding autism 'cure' which called to mind a scene from C4's Crazy Rulers of the World.

'But what about the pregnant goat technology? Where does that come from?' mused Brian Deer as he morphed into Jon Ronson and went off to the US to interview a wheelchair-bound septuagenarian Professor Fedenberg who looked like Hunter S Thompson's dad and was described by Deer as 'the grandfather of the MMR scare'. Needless to say, Fedenberg's claim that children could be cured of autism by taking supplements containing his own bone-marrow didn't inspire confidence, nor did Deer's eventual confrontation with Wakefield at an autism conference in Indianapolis.

This film was designed to make anybody who has chosen single vaccines for their children feel like complete bloody fools (next thing we know they'll be force-feeding toddlers with EPA-rich marine fish oils in a bid to turn them into chess grandmasters. So I've, ahem, heard), but what it didn't do was attempt to explain why, given that Wakefield is obviously so wrong, there has been such a sharp rise in the diagnosis of autism. But I guess that wouldn't have been quite so much fun.

Review of Dispatches, November 2004
MMR: the scam exposed


This review appeared in The Observer newspaper in November 2004, reviewing Brian Deer's Dispatches film for Channel 4 Television: MMR, what they didn't tell you. Responses, information and other feedback are appreciated