British Medical Journal asks court to dismiss Andrew Wakefield's libel suit|
LONDON, UK: The editor of the British Medical Journal and the writer of a critical article about Andrew Wakefield of Austin are asking a Travis County district court to dismiss Wakefield's libel suit against them and require him to cover their court costs.
In their motion filed on March 9, the journal’s editor-in-chief, Dr Fiona Godlee, and British reporter Brian Deer call Wakefield's libel suit frivolous. The motion argues that Wakefield had no basis to sue over the January 2011 British Medical Journal article.
Wakefield, who is British, founded an autism centre in Texas, at which he no longer works, but he continues to live in Austin. Deer and Godlee are in England.
Dee’'s series, “Secrets of the MMR Scare,” describes research Wakefield led in 1998 in which he suggested a possible link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR, and a new form of autism in children, prompting a worldwide vaccine scare. It was published in The Lancet, another British journal.
The motion by Deer and Godlee says their journal articles were accurate, written without malice and expressed opinions, which are protected speech.
Deer wrote that Wakefield had doctored his research to fit his theory, behaved dishonestly and was out to make money, including by participating in a lawsuit against the makers of MMR.
The General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the UnitedKingdom, examined similar allegations and revoked Wakefield’s medical licence in 2010, as well as the licence of one of Wakefield’s co-authors, John Walker-Smith. Walker-Smith appealed the case in England and won last week.
That ruling is significant for Wakefield, too, because he was tried by the same panel, said Wakefiel’'s lawyer, Bill Parrish of Austin. Wakefield, who has maintained that he did not nothing wrong or unethical, declined to comment, saying Parrish would speak for him.
“All he wants is his day in court, and they are going to extremes to prevent him from having that,” Parrish said of Deer and Godlee.
Wakefield, who has been a hero to some parents of autistic children, said in his suit: “The Defamatory Statements were, and are, false and written and published with actual malice and intended to cause damage to Dr Wakefield’s reputation and to permanently impair his reputation and livelihood.”
Deer and Godlee counter that Wakefield’s suit was intended to silence his critics by burdening them with litigation. They accused him of travelling around the world to raise money for his lawsuit, seeking contributions of up to $50,000 for membership in the “The Dr Wakefield Justice Fund.”
(Source: American-Statesman, March 12, 2012)