| briandeer.com | THREE PRESS REPORTS


DOCTOR IN MMR CONTROVERSY DROPS
CHANNEL 4 LIBEL ACTION

The Guardian (London) January 6 2007

Clare Dyer, legal editor

The doctor who sparked the controversy over the safety of the MMR vaccine has dropped a two-year libel action against Channel 4, a fortnight after a high court judge ordered the disclosure of confidential documents to his opponents.

Andrew Wakefield sued Channel 4, 20-20 Productions, and reporter Brian Deer over a November 2004 Dispatches programme MMR: What They Didn't Tell You.

Lawyers estimate that the Medical Protection Society, the doctors' defence body which funded the libel claim, faces a legal bill of more than 500,000 for its own and the other side's costs of the case, which was due to go to trial next October.

Dr Wakefield, a gastroenterologist, ignited a huge scare over the triple vaccine when, at a press conference in 1998 to publicise his research on links between the measles virus, autism and bowel disease, he called for the combined vaccine to be replaced by single vaccines.

Mr Deer discovered that some of the children who took part in the research were also the subject of another study funded by legal aid to find out whether they had a possible compensation claim against the vaccine manufacturers. Dr Wakefield failed to disclose to the Lancet the 55,000 he received from legal aid for that study. Dr Wakefield denied a conflict of interest at the time and said the money had gone to his hospital, the Royal Free in north London, not to him personally.

It emerged last month that Dr Wakefield also received hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal aid fees for his work as an expert witness on the compensation case, which was abandoned. He said in a statement that the work had been done over nine years and had been used to set up a centre for treating autistic children in the US, where he now works.

The film also alleged that he knew of results from his own lab that contradicted his theory about the link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

Dr Wakefield is facing a disciplinary hearing before the General Medical Council, due to start in July. Last month Mr Justice Eady ordered that documents supplied to the GMC and the body which administers legal aid, should be disclosed to Channel 4 for the hearing.

RadcliffesLeBrasseur the Medical Protection Society's solicitors, said: "The GMC hearing is scheduled to start on 9 July 2007 and run until October 2007. The libel trial was expected to start after this. Consecutive hearings would have compromised Dr Wakefield's preparation for both hearings and would have placed an intolerable burden on him.

"He remains confident that he will be vindicated. "

Kevin Sutcliffe, editor of Dispatches, said: "Dr Wakefield's decision to discontinue the libel proceedings is a complete vindication for both the Dispatches' investigation and Brian Deer's dogged journalism."


MMR DOCTOR DROPS LIBEL ACTION

The Times (London) January 6 2007

Dr Andrew Wakefield, who sparked the controversy over the safety of the MMR vaccine, has dropped a two-year libel action against Channel 4 two weeks after a High Court judge ordered the disclosure of confidential documents. The gastroenterologist caused a scare over the triple vaccine when he publicised research on links between the measles virus, autism and bowel disease. He called for single vaccines to replace the MMR vaccine, which led to a drop in its uptake. Solicitors for the Medical Protection Society, which funded his libel claim, said that preparing for the case and a forthcoming GMC hearing would have placed an “intolerable burden” on him.


MMR CRITIC DROPS LAWSUIT

The Sunday Times (London) January 7 2007

Andrew Wakefield, the former surgeon campaigning to link the MMR vaccine with autism, has dropped a libel action against Channel 4. The Medical Protection Society, which funded the suit, could face a legal bill of more than 500,000 for the costs of Channel 4, 20-20 Productions and Sunday Times reporter Brian Deer, the makers of MMR: What They Didn’t Tell You.


Go to MMR part I: The Lancet scandal Go to part II: The Wakefield factor