Vaccine Controversy Hits the Courts: Wakefield Sues BMJ for Defamation

The man who in 1998 launched the vaccine-autism scare wants his day in court.

Medscape reports,

The lead author of a controversial 1998 study linking a childhood vaccine to a “new type” of autism and which was published in the Lancet is suing the British Medical Journal (BMJ), its editor-in-chief, and a journalist for defamation.

Andrew Wakefield filed the lawsuit in Texas on January 3, claiming he has been deliberately defamed by the BMJ for a series of 3 critical articles and accompanying editorials it published in early 2011 about his study, which linked the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to a “new type” of regressive autism and bowel disease described as autistic enterocolitis (AE).

The Lancet ultimately retracted the study in 2010. However, the research, which received wide media attention at the time, was blamed for plummeting MMR vaccination rates.

In early 2011, the BMJ published the series of 3 articles and editorials charging that Wakefield’s study was “an elaborate fraud” and that he intended to “make a vast profit” from marketing a diagnostic testing kit.

According to the court filing, the BMJ, its editor-in-chief, Fiona Godlee, MD, and investigative journalist Brian Deer published the articles “with actual malice…intended to cause damage to Dr. Wakefield’s reputation and work as a researcher, academic and physician and to permanently impair his reputation and livelihood.”

Wakefield also claims the articles “contained unfair, incorrect, inaccurate, and unjust criticisms of findings” reported by Wakefield and his 12 coauthors.

The court filing also claims the defendants engaged in a “mass propaganda campaign” soon after the articles were published, noting that the BMJ did not disclose that it had received “significant revenue” from vaccine manufacturers, signaling a possible conflict of interest, until 2 months later…

Wakefield lawsuitClick for Wakefield’s complaint.

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