Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Reviews Book

MMR: Science and Fiction. Exploring the Vaccine Crisis; MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 28 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1049

Rapid Response:

Re: Re: Re: trolling or obfuscation


As must be clear already from my last response to Midgley, I am not
interested in what the judge/s decided, having read the transcripts of the
summaries of case and appeal courts from which my opinions were formed for
my last response to Midgley, I am interested in the evidence Midgley can
provide to support his statement

"if someone holding themselves out as an expert witness says that a
paper supports a conclusion, then the judge does not expect on reading it
to find that it in fact supports the opposite conclusion. This is the
situation the judge remarked on, adversely, and which has resulted in
further investigation".

The only reference Midgley gives, contrary to his submission that 2
out of 3 references 'contain the information I need to decide what the
judge objected to', that might come close to supporting his statement is
36 but that leaves much to be says that

"Dr Donegan's report was based on no independent research, and most
of the published papers cited by her in support of her views turned out to
either support the contrary position or at least to give no support to her

It does not state "supports the opposite conclusion" - it speaks of
position, not conclusions, which is a situation or circumstance one
arrives at after assessing all facts available (if necessary despite any
conclusions an author may reach).

Midgley accuses Dr Donegan of stating that a paper supports a
conclusion that it does not. Nowhere can I find that accusation being made
of Dr Donegan by the court in the references Midgley cites.

So I ask again

What evidence does Midgley have that any paper cited by Dr Donegan
"supported a conclusion that the judge, on reading it, found that it in
fact supported the opposite conclusion"?

I can only read into 36 that she reached positions from particular
papers that were not reached by either the authors or the judge/s who read
those papers. She was an expert witness, employed for opinion born of
experience, not a regurgitator of scientific papers which are on their own
notoriously inadequate if one wishes to form an opinion on a complex
subject. Presumably the judge/s did not have sufficient scientific
expertise in those areas, unlike Dr Donegan, to be capable of reading into
those papers anything other than the positions adopted by the authors?

I note that in Andrews et al 2004, the paper on Thimerosal in DTP/DT
recently published, the authors cite several times that there is an
apparent protective effect of thimerosal against certain neurological
problems in children - the authors reached that 'position'. I questioned
them on Pediatrics Journal Rapid Responses on that position, and received
a reply from Andrews saying they do not 'conclude' that thimerosal has a
protective effect against certain neurological problems on children.
Someone less versed in science might accept the 5 references in Andrews et
al to the 'apparent protective effect of thimerosal' as a position which
could be seen as a conclusion - according to the authors it is not.

I note how Midgley 'damns' Dr Donegan with "As to Jayne Donegan, the
judgement (1)is damning, but polite, and that isn't censorship either"
and, together with his assertion (yet to be justified by him with
references and fact) that she said that papers supported conclusions when
they did not. I think a retraction is in order from Midgley.


John H

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 November 2004
John P Heptonstall
Director of the Morley Acupuncture Clinic
Leeds LS27 8EG