18 Nov 2004, 9pm, Channel 4
Brian Deer's film on Andrew Wakefield

Brian Deer's 2004 TV investigation of now-disgraced British former medical researcher Andrew Wakefield

Dispatches: MMR - What they didn't tell you

Brian Deer's investigation into claims made at a London medical school that the three-in-one measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) caused autism and bowel disease in children evolved into the most extensive media inquiry into medicine in a generation.

Stretching over eight years from late 2003, Deer's inquiries were supported by resources from The Sunday Times, BMJ: the British Medical Journal, and the UK's national Channel 4 television network, which broadcast this film: MMR - What they didn't tell you.

The programme was broadcast in peak time in the UK on 18 November 2004, and excerpts were later shown on NBC's Dateline programme. Reviews were outstanding.

"Detective of the week... Deer went for Wakefield like a bull pup with a taste for trousers," said Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian. "If this was hounding, and it was, Dr Wakefield had only himself to blame for running away."

"If you didn't see this programme, find someone who taped it," wrote Dr Abi Berger in the BMJ. "Not only will you learn something about the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) health scare, but it will also give you the opportunity to watch one of the most exciting examples of investigative television journalism you will ever see."

"Needless to say, Fudenberg'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," wrote Kathryn Flett in The Observer.

The Channel 4 investigation complemented Brian Deer's award-winning Sunday Times investigation, which, in May 2010 saw Wakefield banned from medical practice and his fraudulent research retracted by The Lancet, which had published it in February 1998.

In 2005, Wakefield vexatiously sued Channel 4, the producers Twenty Twenty Television, and Deer over the film. He also sued Deer personally over this website, and The Sunday Times. But after two years of immensely costly proceedings, which a High Court judge described as having been brought by Wakefield for "public relations purposes", the charlatan doctor abandoned all of his legal actions within days of Deer revealing enormous secret payments behind the attack on MMR.

Sunday Times report of Brian Deer's press award

Best of the year: How The Sunday Times reported Brian Deer's press award, on page 2, 10 April 2011

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