Reflections on investigating WakefieldBMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c672 (Published 02 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c672
- Brian Deer, journalist, London
It was the longest General Medical Council fitness to practise hearing ever: three gastroenterologists hit with a Chinese menu of charges.
The highlights, I suppose, were the panel’s conclusions last week and the Lancet’s retraction five days later of the controversial paper. Andrew Wakefield, the “MMR research doctor,” stood exposed, in disgrace, and the paper that caused the mischief is no more.
“The allegations against me and my colleagues are both unfounded and unjust,” he declared to the cameras on 28 January. “I repeat: unfounded and unjust.”
As the journalist whose investigations led to the charges and the retraction, I sometimes wondered whether we would ever see a result from the GMC. This was the Jarndyce versus Jarndyce of medical proceedings. The five member panel sat for 197 days.
For me the story started with a lunch. So many do. “I need something big,” said a Sunday Times section editor. “About what?” I replied. Him: “MMR?”
But I didn’t fancy that one at all.
This was September 2003, and litigation was …