I remember the day I met Dr. Andrew Wakefield. It was September 12, 1997 and he had just flown into Dulles Airport from London the night before to speak at the First International Public Conference on Vaccination sponsored by the National Vaccine Information Center. The title of his talk was “Measles Virus & Measles Vaccine: Lessons to be Learned.”
It was five months before he and 11 other physician colleagues from the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine would publish a study in The Lancet 1 calling for more research into a possible association between inflammatory bowel disease, MMR vaccine and developmental delays in some children.
I met Dr. Wakefield that day in 1997 in the auditorium where our conference was to take place as he was trying to decide what to do with a slide that identified him as being employed by the Royal Free Hospital. You see, he had received a telephone threat from London in the middle of the night warning him that if he spoke at our conference, he might not have a job when he returned to Britain. He then described to me the intense pressure he had been under from senior health officials in Britain to withdraw from our conference.
This was five months before he and his colleagues published the first article in the medical literature suggesting there might be an association between vaccine induced chronic inflammation in the body and developmental delays in some children.
In September 1997, Andrew Wakefield was a young British gastroenterologist, a rising star in the world of experimental medicine. He had received awards and scholarships for original research into the pathogenesis and etiology of inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. He had a bright future ahead of him until he examined children suffering with both inflammatory bowel disease and autism and decided to investigate the reports by parents that their once normal children regressed into autism after getting an MMR shot.
So, as Andrew Wakefield and I were standing in the conference auditorium five months before The Lancet article was published, I told him that he did not have to speak at our conference. I told him it was not worth losing his job. I told him that I could look back and count the doctors lying on the road, who had lost their careers because they dared to conduct research into or speak about vaccine risks. I told him his own colleagues would hang him for challenging the status quo.
Despite the fact he had been threatened by senior doctors in positions of authority demanding that he withdraw from our conference, Andrew Wakefield refused my offer to stand down. He said that if he did not speak at our conference, he would always be afraid and he was not going to live in fear for the rest of his life.
And then we sat down and had a long talk about freedom of thought, conscience and scientific inquiry. We talked about fear and courage, about risking it all to do what is right. We talked about events leading up to World War II in Europe and how good people did nothing when they had the chance to act; how instead they turned away from the suffering of minorities targeted for destruction. We talked about government health policies that devalue individual life and write off some as acceptable losses in service to the rest. We talked about the suffering of vaccine injured children and their families.
And I knew then, that despite my warnings to Andrew Wakefield that he could lose everything if he tried to investigate or speak out about vaccine risks, this man was not going to stand down.
He was going to risk it all.
It was a moment I will never forget because I knew the price he would pay for standing up to colleagues ordering him to salute smartly and remain silent.
Today, doctors in positions of authority in Britain, who have sought to punish Andrew Wakefield even before the February 1998 Lancet article was published, have declared through the General Medical Council that he and two other brave doctors, who refused to recant the conclusions of The Lancet article, are guilty on all counts of professional misconduct. The General Medical Council is not a legal court of law empowered to hand out prison sentences but is rather a medical court of opinion, where doctors can sanction other doctors and, in effect, hang their own.
I learned early on in my 28 years of work to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and defend the informed consent ethic in medicine, that it does not matter whether you are a doctor with a conscience or a parent of a once healthy child, who regressed into chronic poor health after vaccination. If you question the quality of vaccine science or policy, you will be demonized, harassed, and sanctioned for being an unbeliever and questioning the wisdom of doctors and scientists in positions of authority.
The General Medical Council inquisition was never about the three doctors they put on the rack and found guilty on all counts. It was always about declaring vaccine science and policy innocent on all counts. And creating a horrible warning to any young doctor, who even thinks about investigating or talking about vaccine risks, to think again, shut up and salute smartly.
Today, I join millions of parents of vaccine injured children around the world, and thank Drs. Andrew Wakefield, Simon Murch and John Walker-Smith for having the intellectual honesty, conscience and courage to stand up for truth and freedom in science. You are honored and loved by many for what you have done to try to help ease the suffering of the growing numbers of vaccine injured children and prevent more children from joining their ranks.
Like you, we will not stand down and we will not be silent. We will stand up and defend truth and freedom for as long as it takes to bring back both.
1 Wakefield AJ, Murch SH et al. The Lancet. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. February 28, 1998. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673697110960/abstract
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