- Grading sheets were distorted and deconstructed into “fake evidence”; accusations of institutional research misconduct were extended to all the co-authors, the Lancet editor, and the Royal Free Hospital
Dr. Dhillon’s grading sheets that were submitted by Dr. Lewis with his manuscript as supporting documentation for publication, were twisted and forged into ammunition. On November 9, 2011, Dr. Godlee assumed the self-appointed role of prosecutor, judge and jury, issuing defamatory judgements against all 12 co-authors of the Lancet article whom she accused of misrepresenting normal children as having inflammatory bowel disease:
“Previously unpublished histopathology grading sheets… remove any remaining credibility from the claim that the Royal Free doctors had discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease associated with MMR… it is impossible to reconcile them with what was published in the Lancet. How could two consultant histopathologists have reported healthy biopsies and then put their names to such a text?”
What’s more, the editor-in-chief expanded her dragnet, accusing the hospital, and the medical school of Institutional Research Misconduct.
“The articles, by investigative journalist Brian Deer, also showed that the conflicts of interest were not confined to Wakefield. They drew in his then employer, the Royal Free hospital and medical school. Now part of University College London, the Royal Free issued public statements of support for national immunisation policy while privately holding business meetings with Wakefield over purported diagnostic kits, single vaccines, and autism products meant to be sold on the back of the vaccine crisis.”
Furthermore, Dr. Godlee dispatched a letter to House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, calling for a Parliamentary investigation: “MMR fraud needs parliamentary inquiry as new information puts spotlight on Wakefield’s co-authors.”
In her press release, Dr. Godlee declared:
“Institutional misconduct is too important to be left to the institutions themselves…the MMR scare, and the enormous harm it has caused to public health, it would compound the scandal not to heed the warnings from this catastrophic example of wrongdoing.”
She called upon UCL to “immediately initiate an externally-led review of its role in the vaccine scare.”
Editor Godlee disregarded entirely Dr. Davies’ GMC testimony149and Dr. Dhillon’s cogent statement in which he explained clearly, and in detail, how the BMJ mischaracterized the significance of his grading sheets, pointing out that they “represent an incomplete record of my observations.”
“In 1998 the series of cases in the Lancet paper was unusual, if not unique, and it was one of the aims of the study to explore the significance or otherwise of the subtle histological changes in autistic children with gastrointestinal symptoms. Prejudgment of the significance or otherwise of the histological changes in isolation in the 1998 study cases would have been inappropriate previously, and remains so now.”160
Dr. Dhillon criticized the authors of the BMJ articles and editorial for their “lack of understanding of the essential difference between the systematic documentation of specific microscopical features in a grading sheet” and the “overall integration of clinical information with diverse lines of investigation” that go into the final diagnosis.
“There [was] a joint review by clinicians and pathologists to evaluate the significance of the microscopic observations in light of additional clinical, endoscopic, radiologic, and laboratory data that has been obtained after the ‘diagnostic’ biopsy has been reported. –It is not unusual for the clinical significance of microscopic observations to be reinterpreted and altered by this process, and it could be that the histological diagnostic interpretation subsequently has to be corrected.
-It is a mistake to apply uncritically adult gastrointestinal biopsy histopathological thresholds of normality vs abnormality to children. –The expert gastrointestinal pathologist and gastroenterologist commentators have tried to assess the diagnostic implications of data represented in histopathological grading sheets alone. –This is a fundamental mistake: the significance of the histopathological component of any diagnostic equation depends on consideration of the histopathology within the complete clinical context
…the final diagnostic assignment of colitis has to be made in the light of full clinical/endoscopic/ radiologic/ laboratory data; and response to treatment. Bowel disease is not diagnosed by gut mucosal histopathology in isolation…the changes were not severe in any of the slides, but it is not unusual for gut mucosal biopsies to show little abnormality even in clinically well defined cases of gastrointestinal disease, particularly in children…in the context of a comprehensive clinicopathological review by trusted clinical colleagues, the designated diagnosis of colitis seemed to me to be plausible.”160
It is noteworthy that Justice Mitting. in his unbiased probing evaluation of the evidence, fully grasped the complexity involved, in rendering a diagnosis, when the abnormalities in children’s intestinal tissues, are subtle and small, but are clinically significant, signaling a previously undiagnosed disease in children. He understood, what the GMC panel, and editor-in-chief of a prestigious medical journal, refused to accept. That is, to recognize that disagreements among experts are to be expected, especially when a new syndrome is introduced.
Indeed, the British Society of Gastroenterology Guidelines (July 1997) confirmed that: “It is not unusual for pathologists to disagree about the degrees of mild to moderate inflammation shown in a biopsy, nor to disagree about their clinical significance.”  However, when a jury is rigged and its verdict predetermined to find the defendant guilty of “misconduct” – as was the GMC panel – such jurors will not be persuaded or dissuaded by evidence.
To bolster the Deer-BMJ “interpretation” of fraud, and to counteract Dr. Lewis’ critique, Dr. Godlee commissioned the opinion of Dr. Ingvar Bjarnason, a gastroenterologist at King’s College Hospital. He stated “in my opinion, and that of those to whom I spoke, there is no justification whatsoever for calling this an enterocolitis.” However, when asked by a reporter from the journal Nature whether the BMJ charge of fraud was justified, he stated:
“The forms don’t clearly support charges that Wakefield deliberately misinterpreted the records. The data are subjective. It’s different to say it’s deliberate falsification.“ (Nature, Nov. 2011) When confronted with Dr. Bjarnason’s statement expressing doubt about “deliberate falsification”, both Deer and Dr. Godlee modified their stance when responding to the journal Nature:
“Deer notes that he never accused Wakefield of fraud over his interpretation of pathology records. But he says that records read to him from the Royal Free pathology service clearly stated that the children’s gut biopsies were within normal limits, even though they were reported in the Lancet paper as having enterocolitis.”
“Fiona Godlee, the editor of the BMJ, says that the journal’s conclusion of fraud was not based on the pathology but on a number of discrepancies between the children’s records and the claims in the Lancet paper.”
However, they did not retreat from their stance in the BMJ. Dr. Lewis’ Rapid Response was further truncated by the editor. She eliminated any reference to evidence that undermined the BMJ-Deer allegations of fraud. [Appendix 7 contains the full version of Dr. Lewis’ response.] When Dr. Lewis posted his unexpurgated commentary on the website of the National Whistleblowers Association (NWA), on whose board of director he serves, Deer sent a flurry of threatening letters to the executive director of the organization, in which he maliciously disparaged Dr. Lewis’ professional credentials. His interaction with the BMJ editor-in-chief led Dr. Lewis to conclude that the BMJ narrative regarding the Wakefield MMR- autism controversy was “more tabloid than science.”
In January 2012, he filed a reportwith the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) and the University College of London (UCL) [the parent institution of the Royal Free Hospital], documenting Apparent Egregious Ethical Misconduct by BMJ and Deer:
“There is no doubt that BMJ’s editors and Brian Deer appear to be deeply involved in creating an elaborate deception…To support their new fraud theory, Godlee, Deer, and the BMJ’s lawyers engaged in the most reprehensible conduct I have ever witnessed involving any scientific journal.”
Dr. Godlee had stated that the GMC rulings served as “the core data“ upon which she based her infamous declaration, “the MMR Study was an Elaborate Fraud,” and her assertion that there is “clear evidence of falsification of data.” However, as has been demonstrated, when the evidence was subjected to a genuine forensic judicial review, the fatal flaws of the GMC case against the three doctors were exposed, and the charges and guilty verdicts were deemed to be untenable by the High Court for lack of any evidence to substantiate the charges.
The GMC had declared the three doctors guilty of “serious professional misconduct” for the following:
“the children were admitted for research purposes under Project 172-96; the purpose of the project was to investigate the postulated new syndrome following vaccination; subjected the children to invasive tests that were not clinically indicated and were contrary to their clinical interest…repeatedly breached the fundamental principles of research and clinical medicine.”
And the panel concluded that the description of the referral process as “consecutively referred” was “inaccurate,” “dishonest” “intentional” “irresponsible,” and “misleading.” [As quoted in High Court Decision, Par. 149, 153]
Professor Walker-Smith was able to appeal the GMC guilty verdicts to the High Court (the cost defrayed by his insurance). Justice John Mitting conducted a thorough forensic examination of all the testimonies and documented evidence that had been presented at the GMC hearings – but the evidence was ignored by that panel. Justice Mitting determined that there was no evidence to substantiate the GMC findings of “professional misconduct”. Indeed, the evidence refuted the guilty verdicts. The High Court decision unequivocally overturned all of the verdicts against Professor Walker-Smith. [Read Appendix 1] Those charges apply to all three doctors. Thus, the High Court decision effectively rendered the BMJ accusations of “fraud” implausible and indefensible.