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Part 2

May 22, 2010

Very sad news (22/5/2010)

I have just heard that Martin Gardner has died. Martin was one of the few people that I treated as a hero, and he was on my very short list of those I wanted meet some day. Now I will never have that chance, but I will still have the collection of excellent books that he wrote over the years, books which have guided my thinking and challenged me to think for myself and question what I see and hear.

Fads & FallaciesI had a sort of epiphany once in a coffee shop in Glebe Point Road in Sydney. I had gone out for lunch and spent some time in a book shop where I found a copy of Martin's book, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, which I had wanted to read for some time. I stopped for a coffee on the way back to work, and I didn’t get up from the table until I had finished the book. The tragedy of this book is that it was written almost sixty years ago, but it reads like it was written yesterday. It told me that there is a permanent need for people to educate the public about mad, bad and just plain weird thinking.

Martin liked to call himself a "philosophical theist", a claim which put him at odds with many of his atheist fans. What he meant was that he chose to believe in the existence of a god with no other justification than it made him feel more comfortable about things like where we go when we die. He now has the answer to that question, and if he was right I can imagine that he is wishing he could write just one more column for a skeptical magazine saying "See, I was right - you should always keep an open mind".

The skeptical and rationalist movement has few heroes, and now we have one fewer, but Martin will live on in the minds and on the bookshelves of the countless people he has influenced over the last six decades.

I won't dare to print this! (22/5/2010)
Won't I just? I love it when supporters of quackery issue a challenge. Here's someone who knows that a charlatan who has been stealing people's money by selling them cyanide to "cure" cancer is really a good person who just accidentally tells lies. You can read about Darryl Jones's battles with the authorities here. Maybe this email to me is part of Darryl's campaign to intimidate his critics. It didn't work.

From: "Alan Kirby"
Subject: Darryl Jones:DARE YOU TO PRINT THIS
Date: Wed, 19 May 2010 10:18:50 +1000

Dear Sir,

Darryl Jones may have been naive and misguided on administration counts.
The people who stripped Canhelp Australia Wide from him, I believe, did so out of personality conflict and spite.

No, they did it because he was selling cyanide to cure cancer, something which has been tested and found to not work.

My husband nearly died from the infection he caught in Day Surgery, just to have that injurious and inhuman biopsy.

Did the biopsy detect cancer? If not, then Darryl cured nothing (except you having too much money and him having less than he wanted).

There are other less invasive ways to detect male cancer. The Blood tests, B22 for men is similar to the C125 for women. An ultrasound can detect a foetus, why not a swollen prostate and whats inside it. None of these methods are promalgated and yet they are common sense.

Possibly because a foetus is larger than a prostate and in a more accessible position in the body? Also, detecting what's "inside" a cancerous prostate is something that ultrasound is not designed to do. When you say "B22" are you talking about the HLA-B22 test for HIV? Do you suspect that your husband might have HIV?

The gentleman Otto Warburg,who scientifically proved that Cancer thrives on 'sugar' i.e. glucose won not only ONE but TWO Nobel Prizes for his work in this field.

Did Darryl tell you that? Otto Warburg won one (1) Nobel Prize (in 1931) and his work that earned the prize had nothing to do with cancer. As evidence of that, his Nobel lecture did not contain the word "cancer" even once. I don't know how many times I have heard this lie about Otto Warburg but it doesn't get any truer just because people keep saying it.


As there is no possibility that Johns Hopkins University Hospital would ever had been stupid enough to say that chemotherapy was the only treatment for cancer in 2007 or any other year, I suspect that this is is something else you heard from Darryl. Of course there is always the possibility that some place called John (sic) Hopkins did say something like this, but that would not be a reputable place like Johns Hopkins.

By the way, you might like to go here to see where Johns Hopkins says:

Information falsely attributed to Johns Hopkins called, "CANCER UPDATE FROM JOHN HOPKINS" describes properties of cancer cells and suggests ways of preventing cancer. Johns Hopkins did not publish the information, which often is an email attachment, nor do we endorse its contents. The email also contains an incorrect spelling of our institution as "John" Hopkins; whereas, the correct spelling is "Johns" Hopkins. For more information about cancer, please read the information on our web site or visit the National Cancer Institute's web site at Please help combat the spread of this hoax by letting others know of this statement.

It is two years since that first episode in hospital for my husband. He is alive, active and very well and FOLLOWING THE INDIVIDUAL PROGRAM DESIGNED FOR HIM BY DARRYL JONES. I am very grateful that he was able to attend the Nambour premises, follow the Weston A. Price Food Program, and not being a gymnasium person has EMBRACED THE SPECIFIC FOR HIM EXERCISE PROGRAM, WITH DILLIGENCE AND COURAGE.

He delights to encourage anyone whom he hears is in dire straits or the initial stages of cancer. DO THEY LISTEN? NOOOOOO! - They DIE following THEIR SPECIALIST. THEIR ONCOLOGIST. THEIR DOCTOR because we have been brainwashed I believe to blindly take their advice and  NOT CHECK IT OUT FOR THEMSELVES AND THEY DIE.

I'm really glad that my mother didn't check it out for herself and go to see Darryl Jones. Instead she chose to take the advice of her specialist, her oncologist and her doctor, giving her many more years to spend with her children and grandchildren. She is one of the reasons that I despise quacks like Darryl Jones.

And regretfully, so it is.

Yours sincerely Pauline Kirby

MLM theft averted, maybe (22/5/2010)
It's always a good week when a pyramid scheme is disrupted by the authorities. The latest of these scams to rise to the surface of the swamp is TVI Express, which offers tens of thousands of dollars a week income by not selling memberships in a travel club. That's right - there is no selling, so just where the money comes form is a mystery. What is not a mystery is where the money goes - into the pockets of the scheme promoters. Interestingly, it seems that the top pins in this particular fraud live in Cyprus and India, well out of the reach of regulatory authorities in the places where they do business.

The trap for these scamsters is that someone has to go somewhere to run the meetings to attract victims, and the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission managed to get in first when the crooks came to Australia. You can see the media release from the ACCC here, and this is what it says:

ACCC obtains restraining orders against operators of alleged pyramid selling scheme 'TVI Express'

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has acted quickly to obtain orders restraining three individuals from promoting an alleged pyramid selling scheme called TVI Express.

On Friday 14 May 2010, in the Federal Court, Sydney, the ACCC obtained ex-parte injunctions restraining Laulhati Jutsen (also known as Teddi Jutsen), Tina Aroha Brownlee and David Graeme Scanlon from promoting the alleged pyramid selling scheme.

Pyramid selling schemes are deliberate scams designed to benefit the originators while taking advantage of later recruits. They operate on the basis that members receive commissions for recruiting new members. However, they inevitably collapse leaving most participants out of pocket.

The TVI Express scheme is promoted by the respondents through various websites including the site and the TVI Express Oz group on the site People who wish to participate in the scheme are required to pay a membership fee of $330. Once an individual has paid the $330, they receive a 'travel voucher' and the opportunity to receive commission payments for recruiting other people into the scheme.

The ACCC understands that Ms Jutsen, Ms Brownlee and Mr Scanlon had planned to hold presentations across Australia and New Zealand this week to promote the scheme. The orders obtained by the ACCC will prevent these presentations from going ahead. If the individuals ignore these orders, they risk being in contempt of court.

The court orders also restrain the individuals from knowingly accepting payments from, or making payments to other participants in the scheme. The individuals are also required to place notices on various websites alerting members of the public to the ACCC's court action.

The ACCC will now prepare the matter for final hearing. The ACCC will be seeking orders declaring that the individuals engaged in contraventions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and injunctions restraining them from engaging in similar conduct in the future. The ACCC will also be seeking civil pecuniary penalties against the individuals.

Release # NR 104/10
Issued: 17th May 2010

It seems that the scam promoters are taking the normal approach used by pyramid scheme operators and treating the law as if it doesn't apply to them. Checking the web site of the local operation and the head office at shows that it is business as usual. As I am a public spirited individual, I submitted the following comment through the ACCC web site:

A media release from the ACCC dated May 17 says "The court orders also restrain the individuals from knowingly accepting payments from, or making payments to other participants in the scheme. The individuals are also required to place notices on various websites alerting members of the public to the ACCC's court action".

A check of the websites and on May 22 shows that neither site is displaying any notice about the court action and both are still soliciting payments for participation in the scheme.

I would hope and assume that further action for contempt of court will be initiated against the individuals and companies concerned.

The TVI Express web site is a model of MLM correctness. There are the testimonials from fictitious millionaires that have sold, sorry not sold, lots of memberships. There are testimonials from Warren Buffett, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton about how they wish they'd thought of MLM instead of making their money honestly. There is at least one picture of an expensive car. There is the fine print that says that if you don't actually make millions of dollars it's not their fault, it's yours. In other words, there are all the usual lies told by the crooks that invent and run these scams.

Speaking of Facebook ... (22/5/2010)

See more from Matt Bors here.


See more of xkcd here

Doing science right (22/5/2010)
MyYahoo!7 latest column for Yahoo!7 is about getting science right before it gets published. While peer review is an excellent way of minimising errors and bad information getting out to the world, it isn't perfect. We are all humans and humans make mistakes. The problem is not the mistakes as much as not correcting them or even repeating them. We are rightly skeptical of scientific claims made without evidence, but we need to be aware that when evidence is presented it is valid, reliable and useful. You can read the article here, and there is a link on that page to the Yahoo!7 site to see comments from readers.

See more of Cectic here

Court supports the Null hypothesis (22/5/2010)
The Null Hypothesis in alternative medicine is that there is no difference between Gary Null and an idiot. Evidence supporting the hypothesis is widespread and more can be found on almost a daily basis. A recent example was Null's court case against the FDA last year, where he tried to sue the agency because health care workers might be forced to take their jobs seriously and be vaccinated against swine flu. In a remarkable example of judicial alacrity, the court threw the case out exactly one month after it was filed.

This is just another example of how quacks resort to the courts when they don't have any science. You can read some more about this deceptive and cowardly practice here.

Something very unlikely to be seen in church

May 24, 2010

Ex-Dr Wakefield - Tijuana is looking good (24/5/2010)
The UK General Medical Council has announced its final ruling on the status of fraudulent researcher and money-driven anti-vaccination liar Dr Andrew Wakefield. He won't be practising medicine in the UK any more now that his licence has been cancelled and he has been struck off the medical register. That probably means that he can't play doctor in Australia, the US or any other place where the qualifications and ethics of doctors are taken somewhat seriously.

All is not lost for Wakefield, however. As I have pointed out before, there is a huge hole in the Mexican quackery business since the death of Hulda Clark. Her pink palace is sitting there in Tijuana just waiting for someone with the morals of Andrew Wakefield to take up her mantle. She had a rather nice house just across the border from Tijuana and that is probably vacant as well, so after Wakefield finishes speaking at anti-vaccination liar demonstrations in New York this week he can hop a plane to San Diego and be back in business next week.

Here is the statement from the GMC.

This case is being considered by a Fitness to Practise Panel applying the General Medical Council’s Preliminary Proceedings Committee and Professional Conduct Committee (Procedure) Rules 1988

Date: 24 May 2010

Dr Andrew Jeremy WAKEFIELD

Determination on Serious Professional Misconduct (SPM) and sanction:

The Panel has already given its findings on the facts and its reasons for determining that the facts as found proved could amount to serious professional misconduct.

It then went on to consider and determine whether, under Rule 29(1) of the General Medical Council Preliminary Proceedings Committee and Professional Conduct Committee (Procedure) Rules Order of Council 1988, the facts as admitted or found proved do amount to serious professional misconduct and if so, what, if any sanction it should impose. It has accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice in full as to the approach to be taken in this case, and has looked at each doctors’ case separately but, when considering whether Dr Wakefield is guilty of serious professional misconduct, has looked at the heads of charge found proved against him as a whole. It has not confined its consideration to the heads of charge; it has also had regard to the evidence that has been adduced and the submissions made by Ms Smith on behalf of the General Medical Council. On behalf of Dr Wakefield, no evidence has been adduced and no arguments or pleas in mitigation have been addressed to the Panel at this stage of the proceedings. In fact Mr Coonan specifically submitted:

     "......we call no evidence and we make no substantive submissions on behalf of Dr Wakefield at this stage." "...I am instructed to make no further observations in this case".

 Nevertheless, the Panel considered the totality of the evidence in Dr Wakefield’s case including the reference dated 27 October 1995, from Professor Leon Fine, the then Head of the Department of Medicine at the Royal Free Hospital, when reaching its decision at this stage, having been asked to consider that as part of Mr Coonan’s submissions at Stage 1.   

Serious professional misconduct has no specific definition but in Roylance v General Medical Council [1999] Lloyd’s Rep. Med. 139 at 149 Lord Clyde, in giving the reasons of the Privy Council, said:

     "Misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required by a medical practitioner in the particular circumstances…"

Lord Clyde went on to say:

     "The misconduct is qualified in two respects. First, it is qualified by the word ‘professional’ which links the misconduct to the profession of medicine. Secondly, the misconduct is qualified by the word ‘serious’. It is not any professional misconduct which will qualify. The professional misconduct must be serious."

The Panel has acted as an independent and impartial tribunal and exercised its own judgement on these matters. It has borne in mind the relevant GMC guidance at the time, namely the 1995 Good Medical Practice and, in so far as the findings relate to events after 1998, the 1998 Good Medical Practice. It has considered what has been adduced and submitted on behalf of the doctors about the standards and procedures which were prevalent at that time.

In considering Dr Wakefield’s case, the Panel has also taken into account the passage of time before these matters were brought before it and the length of time this case has taken. It noted that the multiple sittings were for a variety of reasons including professional commitments of the Panel and requests from Counsel for reasons such as illnesses, accidents, unavailability of witnesses and preparation time.

The Panel has noted Dr Wakefield’s previous good character and taken into account everything it has heard including his qualifications, experience and standing within the profession, with patients and the parents of patients.

The Panel considered the conduct of Dr Wakefield whilst he was registered as a medical practitioner and employed by the Royal Free Hospital Medical School in 1996 and 1997, initially as a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Medicine and Histopathology. Later, from 1 May 1997 he was a Reader in Experimental Gastroenterology and an Honorary Consultant in Experimental Gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital.

The Panel has already found proved that Dr Wakefield’s Honorary Consultant appointment was subject to a stipulation that he would not have any involvement in the clinical management of patients. On five occasions (child 2, 4, 5, 12 and 7) he ordered investigations on children, when he had no paediatric qualifications, and in contravention of the limitations on his appointment.  The Panel considered this alone constituted a breach of trust of patients and employers alike.           

In February 1996 Dr Wakefield agreed to act as an expert in respect of MMR litigation. In relation to the Legal Aid Board (LAB), the Panel found that Dr Wakefield accepted monies totalling £50,000 procured through Mr Barr, the Claimants’ solicitor to pursue research. A costing proposal had been submitted by Mr Barr to the LAB containing detailed information provided by Dr Wakefield, and Dr Wakefield ought to have realised that Mr Barr would submit it to the LAB.

The costing proposal set out costs in respect of the investigation of five children. It covered each child’s four-night stay in hospital with colonoscopy, MRI and evoked potential studies. Dr Wakefield admitted that the funding subsequently provided by the Legal Aid Board had not been needed for these items because these costs were borne by the National Health Service as the patients were being admitted as NHS patients.

The Panel found that Dr Wakefield had a duty to disclose this information to the Legal Aid Board via Mr Barr. It was dishonest and misleading of him not to have done so. The Panel concluded that his intention to mislead the Legal Aid Board was sufficient on its own to amount to serious professional misconduct.

The Panel also found that in respect of £25,000 of LAB monies, Dr Wakefield caused or permitted it to be used for purposes other than those for which he said it was needed and for which it had been granted. In doing so he was in breach of his duties in relation to the managing of, and accounting for, funds.

In September 1996 Dr Wakefield made an application to the Ethical Practices Sub-Committee of the Royal Free Hospital (Ethics Committee) seeking approval for a research project involving 25 children. This was approved by the sub-Committee as Project 172-96. He named himself as one of the three Responsible Consultants, thereby taking on the shared responsibility for the information given in support of his application; for ensuring that only children meeting the inclusion criteria would be admitted to the study; that conditions attached to the Ethics Committee approval would be complied with; and that children would be treated in accordance with the terms of the approval given.

In respect of Research and Ethics Committee approval, the Panel had regard to the particular ethical guiding principles with regard to conducting research on children. It rejected Dr Wakefield’s overall contention that Project 172-96 was never undertaken; that all the investigations carried out on the children were clinically indicated and that the research elements of the project were covered by another Ethics Committee approval.

The Panel concluded that the programme of investigations that these children were subjected to was part of Project 172-96. It further determined that the conditions for approval and the inclusion criteria for that project were not complied with. The Ethics Committee’s reliance on the probity of Dr Wakefield as a Responsible Consultant was not met.

With regard to nine of the eleven children (2,1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 5,12 and 8) considered by the Panel, it determined that Dr Wakefield caused research to be undertaken on them without Ethics Committee approval and thus without the ethical constraints that safeguard research. Ethical constraints are there for the protection both of research subjects and for the reassurance of the public and are crucial to public trust in research medicine. It was in the context of this research project that the Panel found that Dr Wakefield caused three of these young and vulnerable children, (nos. 3, 9 and 12) to undergo the invasive procedure of lumbar puncture when such investigation was for research purposes and was not clinically indicated. This action was contrary to his representation to the Ethics Committee that all the procedures were clinically indicated. In nine of the eleven children (2,1, 3, 4, 9, 5,12, 8 and 7) the Panel has found that Dr Wakefield acted contrary to the clinical interests of each child. The Panel is profoundly concerned that Dr Wakefield repeatedly breached fundamental principles of research medicine. It concluded that his actions in this area alone were sufficient to amount to serious professional misconduct.

The results of the research project were written up as an early report in the Lancet in February 1998. Dr Wakefield as a senior author undertook the drafting of the Lancet paper and wrote its final version. The reporting in that paper of a temporal link between gastrointestinal disease, developmental regression and the MMR vaccination had major public health implications and Dr Wakefield admitted that he knew it would attract intense public and media interest. The potential implications were therefore clear to him, as demonstrated in his correspondence with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and reports which had already appeared in the medical press. In the circumstances, Dr Wakefield had a clear and compelling duty to ensure that the factual information contained in the paper was true and accurate and he failed in this duty.

The children described in the Lancet paper were admitted for research purposes under a programme of investigations for Project 172-96 and the purpose of the project was to investigate the postulated new syndrome following vaccination. In the paper, Dr Wakefield failed to state that this was the case and the Panel concluded that this was dishonest, in that his failure was intentional and that it was irresponsible. His conduct resulted in a misleading description of the patient population. This was a matter which was fundamental to the understanding of the study and the terms under which it was conducted.

In addition to the failure to state that the children were part of a project to investigate the new syndrome, the Lancet paper also stated that the children had been consecutively referred to the Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology with a history of a pervasive developmental disorder and intestinal symptoms. This description implied that the children had been referred to the gastroenterology department with gastrointestinal symptoms and that the investigators had played no active part in that referral process. In fact, the Panel has found that some of the children were not routine referrals to the gastroenterology department in that either they lacked a reported history of gastrointestinal symptoms and/or that Dr Wakefield had been actively involved in the process of referral. In those circumstances the Panel concluded that the description of the referral process was irresponsible, misleading and in breach of Dr Wakefield’s duty as a senior author.

The statement in the Lancet paper that investigations reported in it were approved by the Royal Free Hospital Ethics Committee when they were not, was irresponsible.

Subsequent to the paper’s publication, Dr Wakefield had two occasions on which he could have corrected the content of the Lancet paper yet both times he compounded his misconduct.

First, in a published letter in response to correspondents who had suggested that there had been biased selection of the Lancet children, Dr Wakefield stated that the children had been referred through the normal channels, a response which was dishonest and irresponsible. He provided an inaccurate statement which omitted relevant information when he knew that the description of the population in the study was being questioned by the scientific community.

Second, at a meeting of the Medical Research Council, the Chair, Professor Sir John Pattison referred to the seriousness and importance of the implications of Dr Wakefield’s research and its major public health implications. At that meeting and on the issue of bias in generating the series of cases, Dr Wakefield stated that the children had come by "the standard route", a response which was dishonest and irresponsible.

Regarding the issues of conflicts of interest, Dr Wakefield did not disclose matters which could legitimately give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest. He failed to disclose to the Ethics Committee and to the Editor of the Lancet his involvement in the MMR litigation and his receipt of funding from the Legal Aid Board. He also failed to disclose to the Editor of the Lancet his involvement as the inventor of a patent relating to a new vaccine for the elimination of the measles virus (Transfer Factor) which he also claimed in the patent application, would be a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Even before the publication of the Lancet Paper, eminent professionals had expressed concerns about the LAB funding to Dr Wakefield and potential conflicts of interest. Dr Wakefield rejected these views. With regard to non-disclosure to the Ethics Committee, Dr Wakefield did in evidence accept that the Legal Aid Board funding should have been disclosed, but said that his involvement in the litigation need not, especially because of his interpretation of the questions in the application form. He said no question was asked which related to that matter and therefore felt no need to disclose. In evidence to the panel he stated:

 "The form is set out expecting certain answers to specific questions and no such question exists. Therefore, since it was not asked, it was not answered."

However, given the importance of an Ethics Committee’s reliance on the probity of an applicant, the Panel determined that this was a failure by Dr Wakefield and his actions amounted to serious professional misconduct.

With regard to the non-disclosure to the Lancet the Panel accepted evidence from the Editor of the Lancet, as to the importance of this issue. The Lancet published clear guidance in relation to the conflict of interest test that the applicant should apply and the need to discuss any issues arising from it with the Editor. The Lancet test was: "Is there anything that would embarrass you if it were to emerge after publication and you had not declared it?" Dr Wakefield chose not to declare or discuss any conflict of interest with the Editor. He stated that he was able to reconcile his position, was not embarrassed by it, and was quite proud of the position he had taken on behalf of the Lancet children.

Dr Wakefield was insistent that his involvement with the new patent had not given rise to any prior need to disclose. Despite the clear terms of the patent, he did not accept that the invention was envisaged as an alternative vaccine to MMR. He acknowledged that he had envisaged the use of transfer factor for at least a proportion of the population and that he had a financial and career interest in its success, but he said that it did not cross his mind to disclose it, and even with hindsight he insisted that there was a reasonable argument, as he put it, for non-disclosure. The Panel considered that his actions and his persistent lack of insight as to the gravity of his conduct amounted to serious professional misconduct.

In relation to the administration of Transfer Factor to Child 10, the Panel noted the admitted background of Dr Wakefield’s involvement in a company set up with Child 10’s father as Managing Director, to produce and sell Transfer Factor. Around the same time, Dr Wakefield inappropriately caused Child 10 to be administered transfer factor. The Panel accepted that information as to its safety had been obtained and that the approval to administer Transfer Factor to one child was granted in the form of "Chairman’s approval", "on a named patient basis" in a letter from Dr Geoffrey Lloyd, Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee at the Royal Free Hospital. Nonetheless the Panel found that Dr Wakefield was at fault because the substance was given for experimental reasons, he did not cause the details to be recorded in the child’s records, or cause the general practitioner to be informed, and he did not have the requisite paediatric qualifications.

 Dr Wakefield’s actions were contrary to the clinical interests of Child 10 and an abuse of his position of trust as a medical practitioner. The Panel considered these to be serious departures from the standards of a registered medical practitioner and concluded that these amounted individually and collectively to serious professional misconduct.

Dr Wakefield caused blood to be taken from a group of children for research purposes at a birthday party, which the Panel found to be an inappropriate social setting. He behaved unethically in failing to seek Ethics Committee approval; he showed callous disregard for any distress or pain the children might suffer, and he paid the children £5 reward for giving their blood. He then described the episode in humorous terms at a public presentation and expressed an intention to repeat his conduct. When giving evidence to the Panel, Dr Wakefield expressed some regret regarding his remarks. The Panel was concerned at Dr Wakefield’s apparent lack of serious consideration to the relevant ethical issues and the abuse of his position of trust as a medical practitioner with regard to his conduct in causing the blood to be taken. The Panel concluded that his conduct brought the medical profession into disrepute.

Dr Wakefield defended the ethical basis for the taking of blood at a birthday party contrary to the experts who gave evidence to the Panel and who strongly condemned this action. The Panel determined that his conduct fell seriously short of the standards expected of a doctor and was a breach of the trust which the public is entitled to have in members of the medical profession. It concluded that this behaviour amounted to serious professional misconduct.

The Panel has borne in mind the principles guiding a doctor as set out in the relevant paragraphs of 1995 Good Medical Practice which relate to providing a good standard of practice and care, good clinical care, keeping up-to-date, abuse of professional position, probity in professional practice, financial and commercial dealings, and the general principles of conflict of interest, followed by particular provisions as to the way in which research must be conducted. The 1998 Good Medical Practice, relevant to Dr Wakefield’s conduct at the birthday party, lists the duties of a doctor in providing a good standard of practice and care, keeping up-to-date and the issue of research and the absolute duty to conduct all research with honesty and integrity.

In all the circumstances and taking into account the standard which might be expected of a doctor practising in the same field of medicine in similar circumstances in or around 1996-1998, the Panel concluded that Dr Wakefield’s misconduct not only collectively amounts to serious professional misconduct, over a timeframe from 1996 to 1999, but also, when considered individually, constitutes multiple separate instances of serious professional misconduct.

Accordingly the Panel finds Dr Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct.

In considering what, if any, sanction to apply, the Panel was mindful at all times of the need for proportionality and the public interest which includes not only the protection of patients and the public at large, but also setting and maintaining standards within the medical profession, as well as safeguarding its reputation and maintaining public confidence in the profession. It bore in mind that the purpose of sanctions is not punitive, although that might be their effect.

The Panel noted the submissions of GMC Counsel that the appropriate and proportionate sanction would be erasure in light of his serious and wide-ranging misconduct. However the Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that this was only a submission on behalf of the GMC and it was for the Panel to make up its own mind. Dr Wakefield’s counsel did not make any substantive submissions on his behalf.

The Panel went on to consider whether it should, pursuant to Rule 30(1), postpone the case. It received no submissions in this regard and so went on to determine whether it was sufficient to conclude the case without making a direction or with an admonition.

The Panel made findings of transgressions in many aspects of Dr Wakefield’s research. It made findings of dishonesty in regard to his writing of a scientific paper that had major implications for public health, and with regard to his subsequent representations to a scientific body and to colleagues. He was dishonest in respect of the LAB funds secured for research as well as being misleading. Furthermore he was in breach of his duty to manage finances as well as to account for funds that he did not need to the donor of those funds. In causing blood samples to be taken from children at a birthday party, he callously disregarded the pain and distress young children might suffer and behaved in a way which brought the profession into disrepute.

In view of the nature, number and seriousness of the findings the Panel concluded it would be wholly inappropriate to conclude the case without making a direction or with a reprimand.

It next considered under rule 31 whether it was sufficient to direct that the registration of Dr Wakefield be conditional on his compliance during a period not exceeding three years with such requirements as the (Panel) may think fit to impose for the protection of members of the public or in his interests. Conditions have to be practicable, workable, measurable and verifiable and directed at the particular shortcomings identified. The Panel concluded that Dr Wakefield’s shortcomings and the aggravating factors in this case including in broad terms the wide-ranging transgressions relating to every aspect of his research; his disregard for the clinical interests of vulnerable patients; his failure to heed the warnings he received in relation to the potential conflicts of interest associated with his Legal Aid Board funding; his failure to disclose the patent; his dishonesty and the compounding of that dishonesty in relation to the drafting of the Lancet paper; and his subsequent representations about it, all played out against a background of research involving such major public health implications, could not be addressed by any conditions on his registration. In addition, the Panel considered that his actions relating to the taking of blood at the party exemplifies a fundamental failure in the ethical standards expected of a medical practitioner. It concluded that conditional registration would not mark the seriousness of such fundamental failings in his duty as a doctor.

The Panel next went on to consider whether it would be sufficient to suspend Dr Wakefield’s registration for a period not exceeding twelve months. Dr Wakefield has demonstrated a persistent lack of insight and has insisted in many instances on his ethical propriety: in the context of the referral process and the treatment of the children in the research project in which he was engaged; in the context of the funding of the project; with regard to the terminology of the Lancet paper; with regard to his non-declaration of interests; with regard to not acting in the best clinical interests of the Lancet children and with regard to obtaining blood from children at a birthday party.

The Panel noted that the sanction of suspension may be appropriate for conduct that falls short of being fundamentally incompatible with continued registration; where there is no evidence of harmful deep-seated or attitudinal problems; and where there is insight and no significant risk of repeating behaviour. Although these points have been set out in the GMC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance which was published subsequent to these events, the Panel considered that the guidance outlines the type of sanction appropriate to the gravity of misconduct and that the same principles are applicable to Dr Wakefield’s actions at the material times. The Panel considers that Dr Wakefield’s conduct in relation to the facts found falls seriously short of the relevant standards and that suspension would not be sufficient or appropriate against a background of several aggravating factors and in the absence of any mitigating submissions made on his behalf. Dr Wakefield’s continued lack of insight as to his misconduct serve only to satisfy the Panel that suspension is not sufficient and that his actions are incompatible with his continued registration as a medical practitioner.

Accordingly the Panel has determined that Dr Wakefield’s name should be erased from the medical register. The Panel concluded that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession and is proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.

The effect of the foregoing direction is that, unless Dr Wakefield exercises his right of appeal, his name will be erased from the Medical Register 28 days from when formal notice has been deemed to be served upon him by letter to his registered address.

Dr Wakefield is presently not subject to any interim order on his registration. The Panel will hear submissions on whether an immediate order of suspension should be imposed upon him pending the outcome of any appeal, first from Ms Smith on behalf of the General Medical Council and then from Mr Coonan on behalf of the doctor but will do that at the conclusion of the reading of all three determinations.

Jason Day
Communications Executive
Media Team
Regent's Place
350 Euston Road

You can see where I have been following Wakefield's deceit since 2002 here.

May 29, 2010

We told you woo was dangerous (29/5/2010)
There is an idea called "nominative determinism" which says that some people are driven into certain occupations because of their names. There could be no better example than that of Doctor Woo who, as reported on my local television news, used herbs and acupuncture on his patients. Unfortunately the way he used herbs and acupuncture wasn't the most ethical form of medical practice. Here is the story:

Doctor banned for bizarre patient sex exams

A Victorian doctor has had his medical licence revoked after performing bizarre sexual examinations on naked patients.

Grant Woo, a Chinese medicine specialist in South Yarra, has admitted to convincing a woman he needed to examine her internally to reach a pressure point affecting her hormone imbalance, the Herald Sun reports.

Dr Woo also inserted some Chinese Herbal powder into another female patient's vagina to treat her digestive problems.

He stroked a third patient's nipples "to stimulate her hormones".

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Dr Woo guilty of unprofessional conduct and cancelled his medical registration after the Chinese Medicine Registration Board took action against him.

During a VCAT hearing, Dr Woo admitted to performing unnecessary internal examinations that were medically inappropriate.

According to expert witnesses who gave evidence at the hearing, there are no acupuncture points in the vagina.

The VCAT ruled the internal examinations were clinically unjustified but were carried out by Dr Woo "for his own sexual gratification".

He has been banned from re-applying for his medical registration for two years.

It's not clear from the story whether he was a real doctor who just happened to practise woowoo on his patients or a pretend doctor who liked the title and trappings of real medicine, but in either case he doesn't have to worry too much. For the next two years he can practice naturopathy, homeopathy, reiki or any number of other ludicrous forms of quackery while he waits for his registration ban to expire.

One thing that is clear is that the VCAT was too polite and friendly towards this pervert. If "Dr" Woo had been a real, live, actually-qualified brain surgeon and he had fondled a patient's breasts and placed his fingers in her vagina he would have been struck off without question and no experts would have been called to testify that there are no parts of the brain in nipples or the vagina. He would probably have been charged with criminal offences, assault at a minimum and possibly even rape. It was completely irrelevant that there were no acupuncture points where Woo was touching the patients, because even if such things as acupuncture points existed anywhere on the body "Dr" Woo had no business putting his fingers there.

I looked up "vagina" and "acupuncture" in the traditional Chinese "medicine" literature and I found that there are legitimate reasons for examining the vagina in acupuncture, even if there are no meridians and points inside. (Problems with female internal organs are not treated by going anywhere near the problem organs, as can be seen from the "Uterus" and "Pelvic cavity" points on the ear in the picture.) It seems that a vaginal discharge can indicate the following problems (with the proper needling points listed below each complaint):

So now you know what to do if you have damp and heat in your low Jiao. Perhaps Dr Woo should have stuck to traditional acupuncture instead of experimenting at the leading edge of research. If he had done that the experts would have fully supported him.

See more Freethunk here

Danger! Liefest ahead. (29/5/2010)
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Australian Vaccination Network had been planning to hold a seminar in Perth to lie to some parents but the venue owners, the Uniting Church, decided that such an event was "not in line with the ethos and values of the Uniting Church in Australia" and told the AVN to look elsewhere. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the AVN, and the announcement was made that the seminar will now be held at the State Library of Western Australia. My fingers flew to the keyboard and I sent a message to the Librarian:

Dear Mrs Allen,

I know I'm not the only one to write to you to express my dismay at the facilities of a place of learning, the State Library of WA, being used to spread untruths and fearmongering.

Despite claims to the contrary, the Australian Vaccination Network is not interested in a fair debate about vaccination or in presenting anything that might be in the least bit favourable to vaccination. They, and their representative Meryl Dorey, are implacably opposed to the use of any vaccines at any time against any disease administered to any person of any age.

Their opposition to vaccination is supposedly based on science, but real science is totally rejected in favour of nonsense, pseudoscience and outright fabrication.

An example of the honesty shown by these people can be found in Ms Dorey's promotional material for the seminar, in which she says "This talk examines the risk of flu to children, the effectiveness of the vaccine and the additional risks to children's health of adding another vaccine to the childhood schedule. A schedule which now includes 12 vaccines before 12 months of age". Not only can I confidently guarantee that the risks of influenza will be trivialised (it only causes 1.2% of deaths in Australia) but the dangers of the vaccine will be exaggerated, lies will be told about how the vaccine is not tested, and further lies will be told about the ingredients in the vaccine.

If you think I might be prejudging the AVN, consider the last sentence I quoted from their promotion of the seminar: "A schedule which now includes 12 vaccines before 12 months of age". There are six vaccines recommended in the current schedule for children under 12 months, not 12, and this fact can be easily and quickly established from publicly available government sources. If someone is prepared to tell so transparent an untruth when the facts are easily discovered, one can only guess at what will be said when the facts are harder to find.

I have tried not to let the fact that Ms Dorey is an AIDS denier colour my opposition to the AVN exploiting the Library as a means of gaining credibility, and mentioning her recent media release which put forward the argument that the swine flu vaccine was part of a world plot to microchip the population as the first stage of culling 90% of the world's population would just be gilding the lily.

I doubt that the Library would be seen as a suitable venue for holocaust deniers or AIDS deniers or 9/11 "truthers" to spread their demented ideas. I see no reason why vaccine deniers should be treated any differently. Please tell them to peddle their nonsense elsewhere.

Thank you.

I wasn't the only person to write, and we all received a form letter in reply saying that the seminar was going ahead. This is very disappointing, as I think that it is even more offensive to have a lie-telling competition in a library than it is in a church hall. Apparently the State Library of WA really does think that freedom of speech extends to shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre.

Oh, and if you think that the AVN doesn't tell lies, remember "This talk examines the risk of flu to children, the effectiveness of the vaccine and the additional risks to children's health of adding another vaccine to the childhood schedule. A schedule which now includes 12 vaccines before 12 months of age", words from one of the speakers (who is undertaking a PhD researching vaccine dangers, although contrary to normal procedure, in this case the thesis writing is being done before the research). Here is the list of vaccines given to Australian children before the age of 12 months (from the National Immunisation Program Schedule - Note: The schedule has changed slightly since 2010. You can see the latest schedule (2013) here.):

  1. Hepatitis B (hepB)
  2. Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (acellular pertussis) (DTPa)
  3. Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  4. Polio (inactivated poliomyelitis IPV)
  5. Pneumococcal conjugate (7vPCV)
  6. Rotavirus

12 vaccines? Is this PhD student so stupid that they can't tell the difference between a vaccine and an injection of a vaccine? Or is any lie good enough if they think that nobody will check?

Speaking of the flu ... (29/5/2010)
I would like to congratulate my employer for offering free flu vaccinations to all employees. (I am talking about TAFE who employ me as a casual teacher. It is probably redundant to say that my other employer, a company that I own myself, is all in favour of its employees being fully vaccinated.) No doubt there will be complaints about this, but I only have two problems. One is that it isn't mandatory for all teaching staff to be vaccinated and the other is to do with the bureaucratic decision which puts the nearest campus providing the shots 80km away from where I teach and at a time when I am supposed to be standing in front of a class. Still, the intentions are good.

All staff have been provided with some good information about the flu and the vaccine (you can see it here and here), although the inevitable consent form will probably worry people who have taken too much notice of deceitful campaigns by anti-vaccination liars.

My lack of abilities in either time travel or teleportation will mean that I can't take up TAFE's kind offer, but I'm sure my other employer won't mind if I take a break to nip up to the doctor for a shot. I'm the boss there and I wouldn't want me to get sick.

Walker-Smith joins Wakefield (29/5/2010)
After the UK General Medical Council finished excoriating the now deregistered Dr Andrew Wakefield for his part in the publication of fraudulent research designed to "prove" a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, with the secondary objective of enriching Wakefield, attention turned to two other authors of the now-retracted 1998 Lancet paper. (There were originally 13 authors, but ten of them withdrew their names when Wakefield's deceit became public knowledge. They didn't like being lied to by a colleague or being associated with extreme claims not backed up by the research.)

The GMC has now issued rulings on the conduct of the two doctors who stood by Wakefield and therefore could be considered parties to Wakefield's fabrication of test results and other forms of unethical behaviour. Here are the relevant paragraphs of the three GMC rulings.

Professor Simon Burch (see the full ruling here)

Taking all of the above into account, the Panel concluded that Professor Murch demonstrated errors of judgement but had acted in good faith and that any professional misconduct on his part, such as his failing in duties of research governance and performing colonoscopies that were not clinically indicated, could not reach the threshold of serious professional misconduct because of the circumstances in which he found himself.

Accordingly the Panel found that Professor Murch is not guilty of serious professional misconduct.

In these circumstances it was therefore not necessary to consider a sanction and Professor Murch is free to continue unrestricted medical practice.

Professor John Walker-Smith (see the full ruling here)

In deciding what weight should be given to this considerable mitigation, the Panel considered whether the serious transgressions, which arose in respect of Professor Walker-Smith’s failings, amounted to conduct being fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be a registered doctor. This is not an isolated case where a doctor departed from the proper standards. Rather, the breaches of duty relate to research and clinical areas of medical practice involving a number of children over a period of time. The nature of and background to the Panel’s findings and the public interest in particular with regard to the maintenance of public confidence in research and clinical medicine was highly relevant to the Panel’s consideration at this stage. The Panel concluded that Professor Walker-Smith’s extensive failures in relation to the clinical care of particularly vulnerable children, his non-compliance with ethical research requirements, and the irresponsible and misleading reporting of research findings potentially having such major implications for public health, did amount to conduct being fundamentally incompatible with his remaining a registered medical practitioner.

The Panel therefore concluded that suspension was not sufficient to mark the extent of Professor Walker-Smith’s serious and repeated departures from good medical practice. Therefore, with regret, the Panel determined that erasure was the only proportionate sanction appropriate in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession.

Accordingly the Panel has determined that Professor Walker-Smith’s name should be erased from the medical register.

Dr Andrew Wakefield (see the full ruling here)

The Panel noted that the sanction of suspension may be appropriate for conduct that falls short of being fundamentally incompatible with continued registration; where there is no evidence of harmful deep-seated or attitudinal problems; and where there is insight and no significant risk of repeating behaviour. Although these points have been set out in the GMC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance which was published subsequent to these events, the Panel considered that the guidance outlines the type of sanction appropriate to the gravity of misconduct and that the same principles are applicable to Dr Wakefield’s actions at the material times. The Panel considers that Dr Wakefield’s conduct in relation to the facts found falls seriously short of the relevant standards and that suspension would not be sufficient or appropriate against a background of several aggravating factors and in the absence of any mitigating submissions made on his behalf. Dr Wakefield’s continued lack of insight as to his misconduct serve only to satisfy the Panel that suspension is not sufficient and that his actions are incompatible with his continued registration as a medical practitioner.

Accordingly the Panel has determined that Dr Wakefield’s name should be erased from the medical register. The Panel concluded that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession and is proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.

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