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Rated: E · Critique · Research · #2284013
Brian Deer's book The Doctor Who Fooled The World: Andrew Wakefield's war on vaccine

Summer Reading- Evaluate Multiple Perspectives

Tsz Hin "Mason" Wong


The Sunday Times investigative Journalist Brian Deer wrote the book The Doctor Who Fooled The World: Andrew Wakefield's War on Vaccines in 2020 (Google Books). The book was about a story of a doctor named. Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor who wrote the paper that first introduced the hypothesis of vaccines causing autism (Rao and Andrade 95); (Deer 4,144); (Bruce); (Godlee et al. 7452); (Robbins and Weintraub); (Deer 70-71). 1 More specifically, the book focuses on Dr. Wakefield's paper in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, and its effects afterward (Deer 4-9, 379). The main argument in Mr. Deer's book is that Dr. Wakefield did his project for profit, and Dr. Wakefield's work eventually led to an outbreak of diseases like measles. This essay aims to analyze the argument made in the book, the lenses, the stakeholders, and the effectiveness of Mr. Deer's argument. The analysis's purpose is to evaluate the validity of Mr. Deer's core argument and evidence and to identify the stakeholders and lenses presented in the book.

Stakeholders and Secret Stakeholders

The book has four different perspectives. The first perspective is that of the mainstream scientific community and media. The mainstream media and scientific community's perspective is that Dr. Wakefield was an atrocious doctor and researcher and that his work was a scam. Mr. Deer wrote right at the start of the book, "For this was Andrew Wakefield, a disgraced former doctor who'd been booted from his profession on charges of fraud, dishonesty, and a "callous disregard" for children's suffering" (Deer 2). Mr. Deer continued to write, citing multiple new sources; for instance, "The New York Times described Wakefield as "one of the most reviled doctors of his generation." Time Magazine listed him among history's "great science frauds." And the Daily News spat that he'd been "shamed before the world," under the headline : Hippocrates would puke" (Deer 2). Mr. Deer's citations all exhibit that Dr. Wakefield had a lousy reputation in mainstream culture. Mr. Deer himself wrote, "No chance of that. This man reveled in infamy. His nature and predicament required it. Not since the 1990s and the arrest of one Harold Shipman-who serially murdered two hundred of his patients-- has a British medical practitioner been so scorned" (Deer 2). The mainstream view of Dr. Wakefield is generally highly negative. Mr. Deer further supported this perspective by writing, "I met with Godlee many times over those months. And one afternoon, she uttered an F-word I suspect was rarely heard at the journal. "It's fraud," she said. "You need to say that clearly" (Deer 298). Mr. Deer's quote shows how the medical community believes that Dr. Wakefield's work is fraud, as the editor of a prestigious medical journal specifically stated. Ms. Godlee specifically published an editorial in BMJ, in which she wrote, "Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children's cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross" (Godlee et al. 7452); (Deer 299). The Chief editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal specifically stated Dr. Wakefield's work was fraud, that is a major indicator of the medical community's view on Dr. Wakefield's work (Gorski "What the heck happened to the BMJ"). Anderson cooper, a reporter at CNN, an influential press agency in the United States, said "Just hours ago,... the British Medical Journal, BMJ, did something extremely rare for a scientific journal. It accused a researcher, Andrew Wakefield, of outright fraud." (Deer 299). The piece of evidence is an accurate read of the mainstream media's opinion on Dr. Wakefield's work, as a popular U.S. media directly reported how Dr. Wakefield's work has been classified as fraud. In summary, the mainstream media and medical community have a negative view of Dr. Wakefield, and his work. (Gorski "Piltdown medicine" and Andrew Wakefield's MMR vaccine fraud." ); (Gorski "What the heck happened to The BMJ?"); (Godlee et al. 7452).

Another perspective presented in the book is that of Dr. Wakefield and the people who support his work. They believe that Dr. Wakefield did nothing unethical, that all allegations against Dr. Wakefield are false and a conspiracy to stop him from speaking up, that Dr. Wakefield's theory was correct, and that Dr. Wakefield is a hero. Mr. Deer described how one of Dr. Wakefield's supporters equated Dr. Wakefield with Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ (Deer 7). Mr. Deer also described how Dr. Wakefield's supporters compare Dr. Wakefield to Galileo (Deer 7), Mr. Deer also cited Dr. Wakefield's support saying, "One of the last honest doctors in the western world ... a genius ... a beacon of scientific integrity ... a brilliant clinical scientist of high moral character ... incredible courage, integrity and humility" (Deer 7). Mr. Deer also cited Dr. Wakefield's own words,

"The way he told it, he'd done nothing wrong. Every complaint leveled against him was a lie. Rather, he'd fallen foul of a hideous plot---by governments, drug companies, and especially by me--covering up horrific injuries to kids. "It was a strategy," he declared of the revelations that ruined him. "A deliberate strategy. A public relations strategy to say, 'we discredit this man, we isolate him from his colleagues, we destroy his career, and we say to other physicians who might dare to get involved in this: this is what will happen to you" (Deer 7). Mr. Deer also cited an anti-vaccine protest during the General Medical Council's medical conduct hearing for Dr. Wakefield, the protests held signs stating, "We're With Wakefield. Dr. Wakefield Cares. Stop Hiding Vaccine Damage" (Deer 283). Deer also cited letters from Dr. Wakefield's supporters who wrote, "I believe one day soon the truth will come out regarding dr Wakefield and his research. You know what you have done and it's possibly on par with hitler. Evil beyond Belief! You are one of the most evil, lying awful men that has ever lived. So many children are sick or have died because of you. You will answer to God one day. You are pure scum. You ruined a persons life" (Deer 307-308). Dr. Wakefield then said in an event, "I want to assure you that I have never been involved in scientific fraud..." "What happened to me is what happens to doctors who threaten the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies, and who threaten government policy, in the interests of their patients" (Deer 363). These statements show that Dr. Wakefield and his supporters believed that Dr. Wakefield did not do wrong. Instead, all allegations against Dr. Wakefield were false and were created to discredit Dr. Wakefield and eliminate Dr. Wakefield's ideology. The letters from Dr. Wakefield's supporters and their statements also show how they look up to Dr. Wakefield and believe everything he says; it also shows that they genuinely support Dr. Wakefield and have faith in his data. The evidence shows that Dr. Wakefield's supporters honestly believe that Dr. Wakefield did nothing wrong and that he is a hero. The statements support that conclusion, as that is the direct meaning of the statements; that is what exactly Dr. Wakefield's supporters said or wrote. The perspective of Dr. Wakefield and his supporters is entirely different from that of the mainstream media and the medical or scientific community. Mr. Deer will later show that these statements are all untrue, as Dr. Wakefield did many despicable things to orchestrate an event of scientific fraud.

Another perspective Mr. Deer presented in the book is that of parents with young children. The parents' ideas are that vaccines will cause autism in their child, leading to fear of science and regret among parents who have vaccinated their children. Mr. Deer wrote, "Across Britian, no surprise, young families were petrified. Immunization rates plummeted. Killer diseases returned. And countless parents of children with developmental issues, who'd followed doctors' orders and vaccinated their kids, endured the horror of blaming themselves. It has made me so bitter and twisted. I feel so guilty. Eight years ago I made a tragic mistake as a parent. We'd convinced ourselves it was nothing we had done. Now we knew it was our fault" (Deer 4). Mr. Deer also wrote, "It was dreadful," she told me, of what happened with her son... "I had taken him while he was vaccinated, and so there was a major guilt side that I should have done all this research before the vaccine was given" (Deer 368). Mr. Deer lastly wrote, "No matter who I interview," said Wakefield's business partner Polly Tommey, for instance, summarizing what she'd heard on the black bus tour. "They can't sleep at night. They are racked with guilt." And, "along with the guilt," she added, they were "rocking in grief," grabbing "anything they can to numb the pain." Her painkiller was Wakefield, whom she wanted to share with the world" (Deer 368). The first two quotes represents how many parents got scared, and refused to vaccinate their children due to Dr. Wakefield's research. This connects to the text, as it helps support Mr. Deer's argument that Dr. Wakefield "brought us fear, guilty, and disease" (Deer 8, 367). As the vaccination rate dropped, it caused an outbreak of meseales (National Institutes of Health); (Paules et al. 2186); (Shute). Dr. Wakefield caused the fear of the parents, which means he caused the decline in vaccination rates, and the ultimate outbreak (Deer 4, 8). The quotes also represents how many parents regret vaccinating their children due to Dr. Wakefield's research, and how much pain they felt. The third quote connects to the text because the quote help show why the parents and supporters of Dr. Wakefield look up to Dr. Wakefield as a hero. The parents and Dr. Wakefield's supporters are using Dr. Wakefield as a source of hope and relief for their pain, they just all trust Dr. Wakefield so much; all of them think Dr. Wakefield "was a wonderful" physician: so caring, professional, and wronged" (Deer 369). As Mr. Deer explained,

"But for mothers and fathers of kids with no-quibble autism, its first symtops often hearlded a desperate quest through a labyrinth of hope and fear. If you aven't this experience, just pause to imagine it. The most precious thing in life, born so perfect, now with first words and steps. And hen, sometimes subtly or sometimes so suddenly, there's a difference. There's something wrong. A son or daughter won't speak, doesn't want to be held, or obsessively watches their fingers. Maybe they have seizures, which seem to come out of nowhere. Possibly, they have a profound disability. Then along comes a hero, with what sounds like solutions to riddles that others can't solve" (Deer 6-7). The parents and Dr. Wakefield's supporters' trust toward Dr. Wakefield also help demonstrate Dr. Wakefield's charming personality and confidence (Deer 2). The evidence again connects with how the view of the parents and supporters of Dr. Wakefield is the complete opposite of the mainstream media, medical and sciencetific community, as this essay previously stated.

The book does represent the perspective of one secret stakeholder. The stakeholder is the current COVID-19 anti-vaxxers. Many of the arguments and perspective of COVID-19 anti-vaxxers is the same as the original anti-vaxxers that Wakefield started (Omer 668); (Gorski "Everything old is new again"); (Gorski "New school" COVID-19 antivaxxers are becoming less and less distinguishable from "old school" antivaxxers"); (Howard "Is it "Natural and Healthy" When Children Get Sick With COVID").2 Dr. Wakefield's works have an enormous impact on the COVID-19 pandemic as it influenced a bunch of people to refuse to vaccinate themselves with the COVID-19 vaccine. That eventually lead to over three hundred thousands of unnecessary deaths (Howard "Vaccines Don't Save Lives). Despite, Mr. Deer not explicitly mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Wakefield's definitely had a significant impact on the COVID-19 pandemic as it lead a new wave of anti-vaccine activism.

Arguments and Themes

There are two arguments in Mr. Deer's book. The first main argument is, "He'd always been making a case. And the case he made-- which was rarely not for profit--was that his big ideas must prevail. No matter his betters, no matter the truth, no matter the outbreaks of fear, guilt, and disease, nothing would obstruct his path. The way I saw it, it was never about the science, the children or the mothers. It had always been about himself (Deer 371). The second main argument is that Dr. Wakefield caused an outbreak of diseases, pain, and fear (Deer 367). In the following few paragraphs, the essay will analzye all of Mr. Deer's arguments and the evidence he provides. However, before moving on to discuss Mr. Deer's argument and evidence, the essay will first discuss how did Mr. Deer get his evidence. Mr. Deer got all of his evidence through laws that allow journalists to receive documents, interview of multiple sources, court documents, and the transcript of Dr. Wakefield's medical hearing in front of the General Medical Council for medical misconduct (Deer 380). Mr. Deer's book does not have a bibliography, which hurts the book's credibility (Colomb et al. 78). This will be further discussed in the essay.

Mr. Deer first argued that Dr. Wakefield did his research only for his selfish desires, did not care about anyone except himself, and did not let anything stand in his way (Deer 370-371). Mr. Deer cited professor Ian Booth, a professor in pediatric gastroenterology, professor Booth wrote, "In six cases (3,4,8,9,10 and 12), the colonic histology id reported as normal or virtually normal, but is presented as a colitis in the Lancet publication," he wrote,in a document I obtain from Wakefield associate. "In two cases (2 and 5), there are minor histological abnormalities reported in the clinical pathology but presented in a more exaggerated, unqualified form" (Deer 259). Mr. Deer also cited a hospital pathologist finding on Child four in Dr. Wakefield's paper, the pathologist wrote in the pathology report, "Comment: Large bowel series with terminal ileum, with no histopathhological abnormality" (Deer 259). In table one of his paper, Dr. Wakefield wrote that child 2, 3, 8, have "Acute and chronic non-specific colitis: receive ileal lymphoid hyperplasia" (Wakefield et al. 638). Dr. Wakefield also described child 4,5,8,9,10 and 12 as having "chronic non-specific colitis: reactive ileal lymphoid hyperplasia" (Wakefield et al. 638). Dr. Wakefield's description of the children he are studying are entirely false. Both professor Ian Booth and the hospital pathologist confirmed that fact. The evidence helps show how Dr. Wakefield does not let anything stand in his way, as Dr. Wakefield changes the description of the children he is studying to get the conclusion he wants, he does not even let fact stand in his way.

Mr. Deer continued to provide evidence in order to support his first argument. Mr. Deer cited how Dr. Wakefield came up with his idea. Mr. Deer also cited Dr. Wakefield's mother's description of Dr. Wakefield; Dr. Wakefield's mom said, "And she made reference to Edward Matthews, he of Sex, Love and Society, when explaining her second son's character. "He's very like my father," she said. "If he believed in something, he would have gone to the ends of the earth to go on believing" (Deer 370). Mr. Deer lastly cited The General Medical Council's finding after the conclusion of Dr. Wakefield's hearing. Mr. Deer wrote,

"The lists of offenses found proven--against a criminal standard of sureness--just went on and on. Among much else, Wakefield was found to have carried out research without ethical approval or safeguards; caused kids who'd had no reported history of bowel symptoms to undergo invasive procedures; and to have dishonestly misled the Legal Aid Board... by diverting money from the purpose for which he'd gotten it. "The panel is profoundly concerned that Dr. Wakefield repeatedly breached fundamental principles of research medicine," Kumar read from the five members[' determination. "It concluded that his actions in his area alone were sufficient to amount to serious professional misconduct." But that wasn't the end of it. He'd failed to ensure that the Lancet paper was "true and accurate." He'd dishonestly published "a misleading description of the patient population," dishonestly claimed that children came throught the "normal channels," dishonestly failed to disclose the conflict of interest in his funding through Richard Barr, and didn't reveal his measles shot patents. The panel, Kumar said, had made "findings of dishonesty in regard to his writing of a scientific paper that had major implications for public health." And it agreed that his "continued lack of insight" meant that his medical registration must end" (Deer 293-294). The first evidence supports Mr. Deer's argument that Dr. Wakefield does not care about facts when he is deeply committed to an idea. The evidence supports the part of Mr. Deer's argument as it supports Mr. Deer's argument that Dr. Wakefield does not let anything stand in his way. The second piece of evidence supports Mr. Deer's argument that Dr. Wakefield did not care about anything except himself and his selfish desire. The evidence shows how Dr. Wakefield did a bunch of unnecessary tests to produce the results he wanted, and how he lied to get the results he wanted. If Dr. Wakefield did care about anyone else or even his own morals, he would not have committed any of the conduct that the General Medical Council found him to have committed.

Lastly, Mr. Deer argued that Dr. Wakefield "brought us fear, guilt, and disease" (Deer 367). In addition to the evidence Mr. Deer cited that this essay used in its analysis during the stakeholders section, Mr. Deer provided more evidence in his book's timeline section. Mr. Deer wrote that one person died from the measles outbreak in April 2006; Dr. Wakefield's compaign followed by an outbreak of measles (Deer 376). Mr. Deer also wrote, "November 2018: The World Health Organization warns of a global resurgence of measles. Two months later, "vaccine hesitancy" is named as one of the top ten threats to human health (Deer 377). Mr. Deer also write, "As parents became alarmed, vaccination rates slumped. On one measure, notifications of whooping cough jumped from 8,500 to 25,000 a year. And, in just one of many outbreaks, near the end of the 1970s, three dozen kids coughed themselves to death, with another seventeen left brain damaged" (Deer 77). All the evidence seen here helps support Mr. Deer's argument that Dr. Wakefield "brought us fear, guilt, and disease", as it presents how many parents fell to Dr. Wakefield's work, causing fear and guilit, and parents who did not vaccinate their children eventually lead to an outbreak. If Dr. Wakefield has not created the work, more children would be vaccinated, and there would be no outbreak, and children will not suffer from the diseases the vaccination was supposed to prevent (Deer 367); (Novella "Whooping Cough Epidemic); (Gorski "Measles outbreaks, 2011"); (Novella "The Return of Polio"); (Novella "Pertussis Epidemic 2010"); (Gorski "Echoes of measles outbreaks in 2019: Antivaxxers are targeting Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn with COVID-19 misinformation).


Mr. Deer looks at his arguments through four different lenses, scienctific, ethical, futurstic, and historical. Mr. Deer looks throgh a scienctific lenses, as Mr. Deer analyze the undering science of Dr. Wakefield's work, and explains how it is wrong, and how he committed scientific fraud as seen in the argument and theme section of this essay. Second, Mr. Deer examines through the ethical lenses as he explained how Dr. Wakefield did a research without ethical approval, and how put children through unessecary medical procedures in order to get the results he wanted; this is again seen in the argument and theme section of this essay when the essay use a quote of Mr. Deer citing the finding of the General Medical Council. Finally, Mr. Deer also examines it through a historical lens as he looks at Dr. Wakefield's works years after publication (Deer 374, 380).

Effectiveness of the argument

Mr. Deer's arguments are all credible and well-reasoned. Mr. Deer always support his arguments with a plethora of evidence, as seen in the essay's analysis of Mr. Deer's arguments. Furthermore, Mr. Deer always explain where he gets the information. For example, before quoting Dr. Wakefield's associates, Mr. Deer stated the quote from The New York Times (Deer 7). Mr. Deer's arguments are also convincing due to the same reasons. However, one fact hurts the credibility of Mr. Deer's arguments. The fact is that Mr. Deer's book does not have a bibliography. According to the authors of the book, The Craft of Research, Fourth Edition, the reader should scrutinize a book's credibility if it does not have a bibliography (Colomb et al. 79). The reason is that a reader cannot check if the author's source supports the author's argument without an explicit source cited in either the notes or the bibliography (Colomb et al. 79). Therefore, Mr. Deer including a bibliography would help increase his credibility.

Works Cited

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1 Later studies also show that there is no association between autism and vaccines at all (B. Taylor et al. 3623); (Madsen et al. 1477); (Honda et al. 572); (L. Taylor et al. 3623); (Hviid et al. 513); (DeStefano and Thomspon 115); (Doja and Roberts 341); (DeStefano et al. 561); (Uno et al. 2511); (Jain et al. 1534); (Pietrantonj et al. 2); (Stratton et al. 145-153); (Budzyn et al. 397); (Fombonne and Chakrabarti 58); (Hornig et al. 3140); (D'Souza et al. 1664); (Kaye et al. 460); (Fombonne et al. 139); (Uchiyama et al. 210); (Richler et al. 299); (Klein and Diehl 1297); (Smeeth et al. 963); (Committee 151); (Lingam et al. 666); (Makela et al. 957); (Black et al. 419); (Dales et al. 1183); (Immunization Action Coalition); (Black et al. 419); (Patja et al. 1127); (Farrington et al. 3632).

2 For more example, see: (Gorski "COVID-19 vaccines and the Nuremberg Code"); (Gorski "Christian Elliot's "18 Reasons I Won't Be Getting a Covid Vaccine": Viral antivaccine misinformation"); (Gorski "Coronaphobia": How antivaxxers and pandemic minimizers pathologize fear of disease"); (Gorski "The "spiritual child of the Great Barrington Declaration" promotes antivaccine misinformation"); (Levinovitz et al.); (Gorski "Echoes of measles outbreaks in 2019: Antivaxxers are targeting Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn with COVID-19 misinformation"); (Kasprak).

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