Andrew Wakefield Sues BMJ For Discrediting Autism/MMR Study

Kim LaCapria

If you're in any way familiar with the controversy surrounding vaccines and autism, you probably know the name Andrew Wakefield.

Wakefield is the doctor that brought the controversial link between autism and the MMR vaccine into the mainstream- a link that has, in the past decade, been labeled an "elaborate fraud" by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and has been widely discredited on the basis of several flaws in the original study.

In the intervening years, Wakefield's original study has continued to come under scrutiny by his peers, journalists and medical journals, including the BMJ- which published a scathing editorial in January of 2011 in which editor Fiona Godlee alleged the doctor had “Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome; how his institution, the Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London, supported him as he sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain; and how key players failed to investigate thoroughly in the public interest when Deer first raised his concerns.”

Wakefield filed the suit in his current hometown of Austin, Texas, as the doctor has been stripped of his ability to practice in his native Britain. The suit alleges that the BMJ and investigative journalist Brian Deer- who has spearheaded many of the sanctions against Wakefield since the controversy began- made allegations that "were and are false and written and published with actual malice and intended to cause damage to Dr. Wakefield's reputation and work ... and to permanently impair his reputation and livelihood."

In a statement, the BMJ said:

"The BMJ is on notice that Andrew Wakefield has issued defamation proceedings, not in London as might be ordinarily expected as concerns a predominately English publication, but in Texas, USA, where he now lives. Following the findings of the British General Medical Council's Fitness to Practice Panel and Mr Wakefield's history of pursuing unfounded litigation, any action brought against the BMJ and Mr Deer in London would have been immediately vulnerable to being struck out as an abuse of process."