Journalist Brian Deer’s Sunday Times feature alleging that Dr Andrew Wakefield fixed data for a study into autism has received six Press Complaints Commission complaints.
The Sunday Times’s front page story, published in February, told readers that medical documents and patients’ data had been manipulated for the study that looked at twelve children who were autistic and suffering bowel disease.
The article headlined: ‘MMR Doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism’, is now being scrutinised by the Press Complaints Commission.
The PCC has received complaints from Wakefield, from a parent whose child was part of the original study and from four other unknown sources.
Deer accused Wakefield of falsifying data to make it look as though the MMR vaccine had links to autism.
“The clear implication is that this was intended to create the appearance of a possible link between MMR vaccination and autism and that I did it for money,” Wakefield says in the complaint.
In his 58-page complaint Wakefield states: “The articles presented as fact, allegations that I committed scientific fraud by changing results for my research.
“The clear implication that this was intended to create the appearance of a possible link between MMR vaccination and autism and that I did it for money. These allegations are false and misleading.”
The original Wakefield study, which was published in The Lancet in 1998, raised concerns over MMR and its links to bowel disease and autism. It became hugely controversial as confidence in the MMR vaccine fell, leading to drop in take up of it.
Deer’s subsequent investigation resulted in a series of newspaper features and a Dispatches documentary for Channel 4.
He wrote to the General Medical Council informing them of his findings. The GMC subsequently accused Wakefield and two colleagues of serious professional misconduct. The hearing began in July 2007 and is still ongoing.
Wakefield had issued libel actions against Dispatches and The Sunday Times but has since abandoned them.
Wakefield said: “My lawyers advised me against trying to fight both the GMC case and the libel action, so I was forced to abandon the libel action.”
The GMC case against Wakefield is now in its final stages and a verdict is expected in August.
Deer says of Dr Wakefield’s PCC case: “The complaint is baseless.”