Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 15 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1678

Rapid Response:

Double-standards and the BMJ

Professor Sir Michael Rutter FRS of the Institute of Psychiatry in London gave expert evidence for the prosecution at the trial of Andrew Wakefield before the GMC in 2007. Sir Michael, an expert in conflicts disclosure, was of the opinion that even in 1997 when the Lancet paper was written, a researcher had an objective duty to disclose conflicting interests, both actual, and even those that might possibly be perceived as conflicts by a casual reader. [1] Professor Sir Michael's reason for the disclosure obligation, in 2007 and a decade earlier, was so that

... "the reader of the published research could judge for himself whether the quality of the reported science outweighs the potential for the conflict to bias the interpretation." [2]

However, the casual BMJ reader in January 2011 was not given the opportunity to judge the potential for the BMJ's conflicting interests to bias the editorial interpretation of Brian Deer's published research. Where are the competing interest corrections to the editorial, editor's choices and the published Deer research? "The BMJ should have declared competing interests in relation to this editorial by Fiona Godlee and colleagues (BMJ 2011;342:c7452, doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452)." But even the online reader is still unlikely to have the opportunity to honestly weigh up the potential for editorial bias in the interpretation of Deer's research.

[1] 'Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines - the truth behind a tragedy' by Andrew Wakefield 2010. Chapter Eleven: Disclosure.

[2] GMC vs Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch. Tr. 37-55D

Competing interests: None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

28 March 2011
Mark Struthers
Bedfordshire, UK