Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, Litigious Bully

You remember Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, don’t you? He’s the British physician who conducted a case review of autistic children and, despite what his “study” had to say on the matter, he told the world that it was his gut feeling that the MMR vaccine caused autism. Here we are, more than 15 years later after that case series was published, still having an argument about vaccines and autism. This in spite of the fact that there have been no credible, repeatable, peer-reviewed studies confirming Wakefield’s findings, or the conspiracy theories of others about thimerosal in vaccines leading to autism. (The MMR never had thimerosal in it, nor did any of the live-virus vaccines.) If anything, the science is moving more and more toward confirming the theory that autism is a manifestation of our neurobiology. That is, we’re all normal, and autistics are on one end of the spectrum of normal. Or, better stated, we’re all autistic, and those of us who don’t exhibit autistic behaviors are on one end of the spectrum of autism.

Despite years and years and years of research and spent resources on trying to confirm Andrew Wakefield’s study, there has been nothing moving the theory that vaccines cause autism. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Then along came Brian Deer, an investigative journalist who uncovered fraud in the Wakefield study. “Fraud”… That’s such a strong word. What does it mean? According to the dictionary, “Fraud is a deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain (adjectival form fraudulent; to defraud is the verb).” What was Wakefield’s gain in stating that the MMR vaccine caused autism? (And, let me be absolutely clear, he did say it, no matter how much anti-vaccine activists say he didn’t.) For starters, he was hired by a law firm in Britain that was attempting to bring suit against vaccine manufacturers. And he was also trying to patent his own measles vaccine. (Read all about it here.)

When all that went to hell in a hand basket for Wakefield, he moved to the United States. While here, in this great land of ours, he’s tried to sue Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal for defamation. He’s doing it from all the way in Texas. Why Texas? Why not? That’s where a lot of his most ardent supporters are located, and the Texas courts give him plenty of latitude, even allowing him to appeal the suit after it was dismissed. This, as well as his public statements and YouTube videos have made Andrew Jeremy Wakefield a topic of many blogs and news reports about his activities. As we all try to bury the “vaccine causes autism” myth, he keeps invoking several spells to try and resurrect it. He even poses in front of a half-naked autistic boy to deliver a message to his own supporters. Here’s a screen capture of the video:

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 10.03.04 AM

The young, shirtless man in the picture is Alex Spourdalakis, an autistic young man who was (allegedly, though there is a confession) horribly killed by his mother and caretaker. Why was he killed? Because, allegedly, they couldn’t take care of him, and they were afraid of what social services would do (or wouldn’t do) for him. In the video mentioned above, Andrew Wakefield pleads for cash to send Alex to a psychiatric institution. This begging for money is sickening for several reasons that I will touch on in a minute or two.

When this whole thing with Alex happened, as science writers/bloggers/reporters had done before, Andrew Wakefield was taken to task. One of those taking him to task was Dr. Emily Willingham. On her Forbes blog, she wrote an entry titled “If A Parent Murders An Autistic Child, Who Is To Blame?” In it, she wrote this:

“Instead of ensuring that Alex received the support and medical help he needed, some autism-related sites, while he was alive, disseminated pictures and video of the boy that showed him strapped to beds, naked, with only a towel covering his genitals wearing only an adult diaper, and other degrading images, making claims about how the medical establishment was treating him that are, at best, unconfirmed. Regardless, making these images public was a violation of that child’s humanity and dignity as a prelude to the ultimate violation of his being murdered.”

In another post, Dr. Willingham wrote about Wakefield’s involvement in the MMR scare and what it has meant for the current measles resurgence:

“Several news outlets today are reviewing the measles outbreak in Wales, citing public health experts who lay the blame for the burst in cases squarely at the feet of Andrew Wakefield’s bogus MMR vaccine scare in 1998 and the subsequent media coverage.”

But neither of those blog posts got Wakefield all riled up and transformed into a litigious bully like this post did. The post talks about how gastroenterologists are missing diagnoses because they went with what Wakefield said:

Another thing for which to thank Andrew Wakefield, a self-described “academic gastroenterologist.” Someone with that specialization would have been the perfect person to make this connection between anxiety in autistic people and gut discomfort. One more among so many opportunities for understanding and intervention missed, even as public health in general and the health of autistic children specifically continue to suffer.”

How riled up did he get? As riled up as Brian Deer’s uncovering of the fraud, apparently.

In a letter published by Age of Autism, Andrew Wakefield goes after Dr. Willingham in a way that would be comical if he wasn’t so goddam creepy:

“There has been a substantial amount of inaccurate and misleading reporting regarding me and my work in multiple publications. Some of the most egregious statements that have been made about me appeared in the British Medical Journal and in publications by Mr. Brian Deer. As you should be aware, I am suing the British Medical Journal, its editor Dr. Fiona Godlee, and Brian Deer for defamation in state District Court in Travis County, Texas. The case is Cause No. D-1-GN-12-000003, Dr. Andrew J Wakefield v. The British Medical Journal, et.al. The case is currently on jurisdictional appeal, a matter that is irrelevant to either the factual merits of the case or to the prosecution of defendants such as you, based, as you are, in the United States.”

In other words, “I can and will go after people who offend me, but don’t pay no attention to the fact that I’m trying to sue someone in Britain from Texas, where I live in this big, huge house.” At least that’s how I read it. Oh, because Andrew wakefield does live in a big, huge house. At the top of that letter to Dr. Willingham, Andrew Wakefield lists his address as 802 Crystal Creek Drive, Austin, Texas, 78746. Look it up and you’ll find this YouTube video giving an inside view to the house. It’s a huge place. If he doesn’t own it, the rent alone could have been more than enough to pay for Alex’s care, couldn’t it? (“Won’t you think of the children?!”)

His threats continue:

“You are also advised that I live and work in Austin, Texas where my business is headquartered, and that my work is conducted throughout the US. Your defamatory statements about me will undoubtedly cause me to suffer significant personal and financial damage. My lawyers are currently dealing with Deer and his co-defendants. They will be turning their attention to you well within the statute of limitations for filing a case against you and Forbes.”

You know what I read? I read: “Never mind the discredited paper I wrote, all the inaccurate things I’ve said about the MMR and other vaccines, the vilification of people I see as monsters under my bed, and the company I keep… It’s your blog posts that are going to cause me ‘significant’ personal and financial damage.”

Really, Andrew? Really? Dr. Willingham has not been the only one to call your work fraudulent. I’ve called your work fradulent. It is my opinion that you are a fraud. And we’re not the only ones:

CNN: “Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud’
The New York Times: “Study linking vaccines to autism is called fraud
WebMD: “Autism/MMR Vaccine Study Faked: FAQ

And so on, and so forth. We’re doing nothing more than to report and restate the facts of the findings of the British Medical Journal and, even more damming, the investigation into Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study by the British General Medical Council. In other words, these are the facts, man. Just the facts. But, true to the behavior of all known, irrational anti-vaccine types, Andrew Wakefield is trying litigious bullying to silence a critic.

Someone should tell this Brit about the Streisand Effect. Because I can assure you that any “personal and financial” damage he will incur will come more from his fraudulent study, his inane statements about vaccines, and his litigious bullying from all the way in his mansion in Texas… A mansion he must fear he’ll lose the minute a critical mass of people learn that he’s not “Nelson Mandela and Jesus rolled into one.”

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33 thoughts on “Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, Litigious Bully

  1. Pingback: How many times can you fit “whore” into a blog post and claim you’re not trying to insult anyone? | The Poxes Blog

  2. I’d like to cite from this blog, but couldn’t find author identification or contact information. Could you please write and tell me how your preferences for attribution?

    • My name is Reuben Gaines. No contact information. Though, if you’re tenacious enough, you can figure out that info.

  3. The reason he filed in Texas is that, although in the UK a petitioner has vastly more chance of winning (because there are no first amendment protections), the UK operates a loser pays system, which means that Mr Wakefield would be exposed to the journal’s costs if he lost.

    There is no possibility that Wakefield would win in a US jurisdiction, but he can prevent the other side from taking everything he has while using the ‘I am suing’ gambit with his supporters.

    No question: if Wakefield had a case, it would have sued in the UK. Anybody would, and any defamation attorney would tell you this.

    • Incorrect – Texas has a very robust Anti-SLAPP statute, which means that if he is found to have filed a frivolous claim, with the express purpose of silencing legitimate criticism, he can be heavily sanctioned.

      • Sadly, that’s not quite right. The Texas anti-Slapp is not well drafted, and Wakefield’s case is that out-of-state respondents filing special appearances (denying jurisdiction) may not avail themselves of it. This is essentially what is on appeal.

        • The Texas anti-Slapp is not well drafted

          Are there any specific flaws that you have in mind?

          and Wakefield’s case is that out-of-state respondents filing special appearances (denying jurisdiction) may not avail themselves of it. This is essentially what is on appeal.

          The appeal has nothing to do with the anti-SLAPP motion (which hasn’t been reached) aside from the assertion that invoking it was a claim for affirmative relief, thus conveying jurisdiction.

            • Whoa there, a discussion on the internet that is interlaced with facts and reliable sources?
              I’d be astounded, but for the location of the discussion. ;)

              You should see the discussion on a firearms related blog that had an entry about the DoD destroying excess weapons of uncertain age/reliability.
              It rapidly devolved into an Oath Keeper decrying some fantasy Nazi leader, who is of Jewish descent and was in diapers in Hungary during WWII, an abominable lack of knowledge of US history and abysmal understanding of what our Constitution says and authorizes Congress and the POTUS to do.
              Why, I’ve “learned” that Truman wasn’t allowed to declare war on Japan, then that Theodore (misspelled at that) Roosevelt was POTUS for the beginning of WWII.
              Yes, I corrected them, giving Theodore his due of being in office from 1901 to 1909 and FDR holding office from 1933 through 1945, dying of a stroke while in office, with Truman assuming the presidency.

              Merciful heavens, the lack of knowledge of US history amongst the citizenry is astonishing! What have they been teaching in our schools since I graduated in 1980?

          • Lack of appeal provision. If you read the briefs you will see that Wakefield’s essential case is that, by filing an anti-slapp, BMJ recognized the court.

            • Lack of appeal provision.

              For what? The anti-SLAPP hasn’t even been reached. If you’re referring to what would happen were it to be dismissed, I recommend Ken White’s discussion here.

              If you read the briefs you will see that Wakefield’s essential case is that, by filing an anti-slapp, BMJ recognized the court.

              That’s what I said to start with, except that that’s nowhere near being the “essential” case.

      • Texas has a very robust Anti-SLAPP statute

        The problem is that it hasn’t really been tested much, so to some extent, that remains to be seen.

  4. If he doesn’t own it, the rent alone could have been more than enough to pay for Alex’s care, couldn’t it?

    He transferred ownership to the “Wakefield Family Living Trust” some time ago, BTW. Judgment-proofing.

      • What does that mean?

        Probably nothing, in retrospect. It looks like a living trust isn’t a good way to shield assets, unlike an irrevocable trust. At 2.24 acres, the property is shielded by the Texas homestead law in any event.

  5. They can’t win on the data. Intimidating the opposition is all they have.

    • Corporations retain a legal staff, so it is difficult to intimidate them. Individuals may feel intimidated by the threat of legal action, but a merit-less legal action itself can be actionable in a counter-action to recover losses experienced in defending against that frivolous action.

      • Corporations retain a legal staff, so it is difficult to intimidate them.

        There’s a significant possibility that Willingham would be on the hook for her own legal fees. Cf. Mark Steyn.

        • I’m not so sure. Texas has an anti-SLAPP statute. That alone could serve to protect her reporting on what is essentially news.
          To add injury to his case, he failed to litigate any such libel when he was in the UK, which is also a part of a defense.
          Meanwhile, a counter-suit could be registered to recover damages for the malicious legal action that is threatened.

          BTW, did he ever acquire US citizenship?

          • BTW, did he ever acquire US citizenship?

            He’s a permanent resident (i.e., has a Green Card).

          • I’m not so sure. Texas has an anti-SLAPP statute. That alone could serve to protect her reporting on what is essentially news.

            It doesn’t protect her from having to pay for representation in the meantime.

            To add injury to his case, he failed to litigate any such libel when he was in the UK, which is also a part of a defense.

            Not here.

            Meanwhile, a counter-suit could be registered to recover damages for the malicious legal action that is threatened.

            A threatened action? Not a chance; that’s not malicious use of process.

            • The anti-SLAPP statute won’t protect her from paying for now, but we will see how to help her in other ways.

              • BTW, as to intimidation, I did not say Dr. Willingham is intimidated; I don’t think she scares easy. Just that that’s the intent of the suit.

                • Notice that he says that he will “litigate when the suit in Texas is over.” Which could be, oh, a couple of years still (of course, if the freakin’ Appellate Court would just rule already!)…..so this is merely a threat at this point, and a very transparent one at that to rally the troops.

                  • The last person to threaten me with legal action was discouraged when I told them that I’d await the process server and see them in court.
                    I also assured them that my counter action would seek damages above that which they sought.

                    It is easy to threaten litigation, the cost is mere words. Setting litigation in motion costs money and time.

                    Meanwhile, a resident aliens is involved in some rather dubious people who have some rather interesting activities. One ponders what the NSA may have picked up…
                    Nah, wouldn’t happen. Sources and means would have to be protected. But, a parallel construction might be of interest to some federal authorities. Perhaps it might be suggested…

                  • Which could be, oh, a couple of years still

                    The statute of limitations for defamation in Texas is one year. (He took 363 days to file the BMJ suit.)

  6. Let’s do a synopsis of this in shorter terms.
    A physician had his license revoked for fraud and ethical violations is suing the one who uncovered his fraud because his credibility was damaged by his fraud.
    One further ponders his “business”, as he has no medical license in the US.
    Oh yeah, disinformation, promotion of quackery and frivolous litigation.
    So, let’s look at his litigation. He’s suing someone in a foreign nation and a corporation in a foreign nation for claimed injuries sustained while he was licensed in that foreign nation. Let’s see, lack of jurisdiction comes to mind. One can even use anti-slap statutes to dismiss his nonsense.

    One ponders his next move, for when he’s finally unwelcome in Texas.
    Probably a small clinic in Mexico.

  7. Interesting he’d choose TX as a jurisdiction. Given the bat shit crazy libel laws here in the UK (no freedom if speech defence etc) he’d have far more chance of getting an action away here, even one with zero merit.
    Sounds like all sound and fury that signifies nothing.
    Not sure how familiar you are with English slang but there’s an excellent word that applies perfectly to Wakefield:
    ‘Wanker’.
    Just sharin’…
    (He hasn’t sued me yet either, by the way!)

    • Seanderrig, I do believe that Wakefield (and I do refer to him as “Wankfield” often) was told by UK cousel that he would have to post a high bond if he filed his BMJ/Brian Deer/Fiona Godlee suit there which was why he opted for Texas.

      Reuben, I have adopted your style of referring to Wankfield in a blogpost as Andrew Jeremy Wakefield. I’m not sure why but I like it.

      • Well, for those truly worried about litigation, they could refer to him as Andy Wankfield, a man known of an infamously miniscule member, who…*

        *Common referred to as the short penis rule. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_penis_rule

        Sorry, but one must lift the burdens of life with the absurd at times, lest one be crushed by the burden of lunacy present in this world.

        • Hadn’t heard of the small penis rule! Brilliant! And perhaps ‘Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’ seems right because it sounds like someone is about to pass sentence on him?
          (UK pop culture ref “Norman Stanley Fletcher…”)

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