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Ask the experts: amazing Who's Who of lawyers' recruits for vaccine attack

This page is material from the award-winning investigation by Brian Deer for The Sunday Times of London, the UK’s Channel 4 TV network and BMJ, the British Medical Journal, which exposed vaccine research fraudster Andrew Wakefield | Investigation summary

In December 2006, the UK's Legal Services Commission (formerly the Legal Aid Board), which funds some litigation, released to Deer details of money paid to witnesses retained by a solicitor, Richard Barr, to support a now-abandoned legal attack on MMR, led by Wakefield. Lots of doctors and scientists act as paid witnesses, and they have an overriding duty to assist the court. But during the anti-MMR campaign, many of those below were portrayed in media as independent experts who endorsed Wakefield


  Andrew Wakefield: failed to reveal that MMR attack was UK lawyer's bidding

A former gut surgeon who, while working for the British solicitor
Richard Barr, launched a worldwide panic over the safety of MMR, alleging a link with autism. Until Brian Deer's investigation, the public had no idea that in 1996, while presenting himself as an independent researcher at the Royal Free medical school, London, Wakefield was hired by Barr, at lucrative rates, to help sue vaccine makers. Two years later, Wakefield published his now-discredited paper in the Lancet, in which he claimed to have found a possible MMR-autism link. Also unknown to the public, at the time of publication, the parents of ten of the 12 children in the paper were litigants, with six holding legal aid certificates applied for in 1996. Amazingly, the parents of all 12 children, whose anonymised details appeared in the Lancet, would eventually blame MMR.

Wakefield had also previously filed for extraordinary patents, including for his own
single vaccine, remedies for autism, and for diagnostic kits to be sold off the back of the litigation that he'd promoted. He now runs a business in Austin, Texas, called Thoughtful House. After the scandal broke, Wakefield acknowledged in an article that he and Carol Stott [see below] "have acted as experts to the Court in MMR-related litigation". But this wasn't true. Although they had a duty to the court, they were working for Barr and the claimants. It's understood that he billed for some $100,000 more than he got. Permanently banned from medicine in 2010. LSC reports fees: 435,643. Plus expenses: 3,910.

Kenneth Aitken: Scottish hands filled with "extraneous factors" following pornography resignation

Independent consultant child clinical neuropsychologist. Aitken resigned in 1998 from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, after pornography was found in his office. Reported to be an "advisor to the board" of the Edinburgh-based "Autism Treatment Trust", formerly "Action Against Autism", which sells a range of purported treatments for autistic children. In March 2004, Aitken was "severely reprimanded" by the British Psychological Society concerning his handling of an autistic child's case. The society's conduct committee said that he "allowed his professional responsibilities or standards of practice to be diminished by considerations of extraneous factors". When contacted by Brian Deer in December 2006, Aitken denied that he received all of the money indicated by the LSC figures, and denied that his past difficulties undermined his credibility as an expert. LSC reports fees: 212,697. Plus expenses: 19,325.

  Carol Stott: Wakefield aide brags "try me shithead" in hate email barrage

Chartered psychologist. Credited in 2006 in a fringe magazine as "Hon Senior Research Associate to Dr Wakefield". Carol Stott is increasingly the person in whose name Wakefield's journal and website articles attacking MMR are jointly written. His business,
Thoughtful House, in Texas, bestowed upon her the title of "visiting professor". Stott is a former junior research associate at the Cambridge autism research institute, where her temporary post was funded by a trust. She was suspended, and in 2005 censured by the British Psychological Society, for sending obscene, threatening emails. Launched her own consultancy business off the back of the MMR lawsuit, for which she was hired by Barr in September 2002. At the time, she was a local health service information manager. LSC reports fees: 94,916. Plus expenses: 5,198.

Peter Fletcher: referee for Wakefield "glass darkly" review which misrepresented vaccine literature

Retired. Wrote a credulous appraisal of a
damaging 2001 Wakefield review, "Through a glass darkly", published jointly with Scott Montgomery [see below], receiving huge publicity. Fletcher described the review as "of considerable importance" and claimed that "the granting of a product license" for MMR "was premature". The Wakefield review purported to expertly evaluate existing vaccine safety findings, but checks against source material reveal it to be consistently false and misleading, including in its pivotal first table, which was wrong on every line. Fletcher, who in the 1970s was briefly a principal medical officer at the department of health, is often cited, in the Mail on Sunday and elsewhere, as offering dramatic support for Wakefield. Also signed a joint "open letter" with Wakefield and other anti-MMR campaigners in June 2006, attacking public health officials. In response to an email from Brian Deer, in November 2006, Fletcher said, among other things: "I do not in any way regard myself as an expert on MMR". He didn't answer any questions concerning his endorsement of the Wakefield review, and when sought for comment on the almost 40,000 he was reported to have been paid, he declined to come to the phone. LSC reports fees: 39,960.

  Arthur Krigsman: Wakefield employee "on board for the ride", charging $400 an hour

Private practice gastroenterologist, mostly based in New York. Worked for Wakefield at the Thoughtful House
business in Texas. The business advertised his medical consultation rates as $415 an hour, or $390 an hour to talk with him on the phone. Anti-MMR publicity in some British newspapers claims that Krigsman had confirmed Wakefield's "research", without stating that he worked for Wakefield. Krigsman is also retained in US vaccine litigation. At an event organised by Wakefield in April 2005, Krigsman said: "Andy and I met about three years ago, and very soon after we met each other, I told him that I was on board for the ride, and that he can count on me for my participation, my contributions. And initially we wanted to begin this in the state of Florida... We ended up here in Austin." In December 2004, he left Lenox Hill hospital, New York,after a lawsuit, which was followed by an ethics inquiry. In August 2005, he was fined $5,000 by the Texas Medical Board. LSC reports fees: 16,986.

John Walker-Smith: Wakefield's senior co-author of discredited MMR finding published in Lancet

Retired. Former professor of paediatric gastroenterology at the Royal Free. He was the final author, and the senior clinician, responsible for the discredited Wakefield paper in the
Lancet of February 1998. Faces charges - which he denies - laid by the General Medical Council over an alleged fishing expedition into children with developmental disorders between 1996 and 2001. Claimed in a 1996 letter to the Royal Free's ethics committee that children to be researched upon by the Wakefield group had a "hopeless prognosis". In his self-published autobiography, Enduring Memories, published in 2003, he described Wakefield thus: "He is tall, handsome, fluent, charismatic and above all a man of conviction. He is a man of utter sincerity and honesty." Walker-Smith said in a 2004 interview with Brian Deer [audio] that he didn't know Wakefield had a legal contract to find fault with MMR. In March 2004, however, following the first stories in The Sunday Times investigation, he signed a retraction of the Lancet paper's claim to have discovered a possible link between MMR and autism. LSC reports fees: 23,131.

  Jeffrey Bradstreet: snapped up Wakefield as Good News Doc's "director of research"

Family doctor. Founder of what he has named the International Child Development Resource Center Good News Doctor Foundation in Melbourne, Florida. Appointed Wakefield as his "director of research" when Wakefield was ejected from the Royal Free medical school in 2001. Bradstreet's business sells "genetic testing kits", quack remedies and a range of unproven treatments, including Secretin, as well as expensive products of his own devising, such as
Sea Buddies. Bradstreet became embroiled in controversy in 2002 when US marshals, acting for the Food and Drug Administration, seized stocks of a "dietary supplement" containing Taurine, being sold by an Oregon company, with Bradstreet's recommendation. Writes articles with Wakefield for fringe journals such as the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, published by a far-right doctor's group. Wakefield and Bradstreet also attend numerous meetings together, and sit on various committees. Bradstreet says he blames MMR for his own child's autism. LSC reports fees: 21,600.

Scott Montgomery: ex-Wakefield sidekick co-authored untrue allegations in UK medical journals

Epidemiologist. Wakefield's Royal Free medical school sidekick during much of his attack on MMR, and was reported in the accounts of Wakefield's Visceral organisation as receiving 53,000 in grants over a three-year period. Montgomery was co-author of several false and misleading Wakefield publications purporting to expertly review vaccine research, including the notorious "Through a glass darkly" in January 2001. Although becoming deeply involved with Wakefield in medical scientific issues, Montgomery's Ph.D was on the topic of "health and health behaviour in young unemployed men". Asked to comment in November 2006, Montgomery ignored questions about the January 2001 article, but appeared to repudiate his previous attacks on the vaccine. He said: "I have always stated privately and publicly that there is no convincing epidemiological evidence that measles-containing vaccines increase the risk of IBD (or autistic spectrum disorders), reflecting my independent and sceptical approach to the hypotheses." LSC reports fees: 83,358. Plus expenses: 4,899.

  John O'Leary: former Wakefield partner facing calls to disclose test gene sequences

Microbiologist. Former business partner of Wakefield's in two enterprises. Unigenetics Ltd, to which the figures below refer (and may include other staff), was set up to attempt to prove that measles virus in MMR persisted in children's guts, and went on to cause autism. They failed. Immunospecifics Ltd, or Carmel Healthcare (named after Wakefield's wife), was established to sell diagnostic kits to the parents of autistic kids, off the back of the litigation. It failed. O'Leary appeared in a February 2002 BBC
Panorama programme, reported by the chair of Wakefield's organisation Visceral's sister-in-law, which damaged confidence in MMR. The reliability and substance of O'Leary's work was challenged in pre-trial hearings for the aborted lawsuit. In scientific circles, controversy surrounds O'Leary's failure to make available the gene sequences of samples he says tested positive in his lab for measles virus. He denies misconduct, and now appears to distance himself from Wakefield. Based at the Coombe Women's hospital, Dublin. LSC reports fees [to Unigenetics]: 165,403. Plus expenses: 773,317.

Marcel Kinsbourne: veteran US-based "professional witness" from campaign against DTP vaccine

Retired neurologist. ln recent decades, Kinsbourne has come to be regarded by critics as a professional witness, during his many court appearances, particularly in the United States, alleging evidence of neurological injury from vaccines. Most notably his allegations have concerned the triple diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP), which authoritative research has shown not to cause the injuries Kinsbourne alleges. LSC reports fees: 434,003. Plus expenses: 3,073.

  Paul Shattock: Wakefield warm-up and purveyor of unverified children's urine tests

Retired pharmacology lecturer.
Described by the LSC as "Professor Shattock", he frequently appears at conferences in the United States and Britain as a warm-up act for Wakefield, with whom he has collaborated for many years. Claims to find evidence of possible vaccine damage in urine samples, but, according to London GP and MMR author Mike FitzPatrick in the online political magazine Spiked: "It is impossible to evaluate Mr Shattock's findings because they have not been published in any form." Fitzpatrick adds: "There is now a flourishing network of private laboratories offering urine and blood tests of the sort carried out by Mr Shattock - all of no recognised diagnostic value. There is a substantial business sector selling dietary supplements, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and all manner of special dietary products - all of no proven therapeutic value. The common feature of both tests and supplements is their exorbitant cost." LSC reports fees: 8,218.

Right Royal Free: Wakefield's former colleagues at the hospital, from which he was departed in 2001

Andrew Anthony: Histopathologist. Co-author with Wakefield of the retracted claims in the Lancet journal of February 28 1998 which set off MMR scare: 57,499.
Peter Harvey: Adult neurologist. Co-author of 1998 Lancet paper, who continues to support Wakefield, including in letters, and refused to sign retraction: 10,272.
Paul Ashwood: Immunologist. Now based in California. Among Wakefield's closest longsterm allies, also funded through Wakefield's organisation Visceral: 8,373.

  Mark Geier: career court witness and US champion of "thimerosal-autism" allegations

Qualified as a geneticist. After campaigning in the 1980s over the DTP vaccine - where he made a reputation for an extraordinary
error in evidence - Geier pounced on the issue of the mercury preservative thimerosal, which federal agencies resolved to remove from vaccines. Had research retracted, following an investigation by Kathleen Seidel into apparent plagiarism of a paper written by a US public health service doctor; of setting up his own ethics committee; and of making unsubstantiated claims about benefits of a potentially dangerous drug, Lupron, the use of which he'd applied to patent. In October 2003, he was severly criticised by a judge regarding his qualifications to give testimony and his record of accumulating criticism from judges. One said: "His testimony is merely subjective belief and unsupported speculation". Mark Geier is based in Maryland, and works in partnership with his son David Geier, who has no relevant qualifications. LSC reports fees: 7,052.

On the circuit: familiar names crop up in UK legal aid payments, from fund aimed at helping poor

John Menkes: Retired. As with Marcel Kinsbourne, prominent in court case claims, particularly in the 1980s, that the DTP vaccine causes brain damage: 58,527.
Samy Suissa: Epidemiologist. Regularly cited by Wakefield supporters as an independent voice on autism statistics, generally criticising public doctors: 21,987.
Walter Spitzer: Epidemiologist. As with Samy Suissa, regularly cited by Wakefield supporters in the MMR campaign as if he is independent of interests: 17,647.
Richard Halvorsen: London family doctor. Runs a private single jabs clinic, and regularly appears in media backing Wakefield, who called for single jabs: 6,078.
Fiona Scott: Psychologist. Former Cambridge business partner of hate emailer
Carol Stott, although not paid nearly as much money for her expertise: 27,815.


Notes: It's obviously impossible for Brian Deer to independently verify specific receipts into the accounts of each of these individuals. However, the Legal Services Commission, a British government agency, spent three months and a considerable investment of staff time to provide the most accurate information, gleaned from what it said was an 800-page legal bill. The commission said it had done so because of the "public interest" in this matter. To check the figures, it consulted the firms of lawyers responsible for making the payments. Not all of the above were eventually to submit reports as experts in the MMR litigation.

In a letter to Brian, the commission makes it clear that the sums stated are for the generic case - common work carried out for all claiments. This implies that substantial further payments may have been made to some of the above for individual reports on children alleged to have been injured by MMR.

Go to the Legal Services Commission release