John Walker-Smith Verdict and Sentence overturned

Last week, a court found that the finding of gross medical misconduct against Professor John Walker-Smith was incorrect. The verdict is here.
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield had a “case study” published in The Lancet, a magazine for Medical Professionals. In it, he claimed to have found evidence of a new disease which he named “autistic enterocolitis”. There were 12 other authors on the paper. One was John Walker-Smith.
In February 2004, a journalist named Brian Deer revealed that Wakefield had been hired by a solicitor named Richard Barr to find problems with the MMR triple vaccination. Shortly thereafter, 10 of the co-authors retracted their authorship. John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch didn’t.
In 2007 the General Medical Council, the body responsible for overseeing Medical Practitioners in the UK, convened a fitness to practise hearing into the conduct of Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch. On the 28th January 2010, the findings were announced. All three had charges proven against them. The hearing ruled that Wakefield and Walker-Smith had both committed Gross Misconduct, and sentenced them to be struck off the Medical Register. Murch was ruled not to have committed Gross Misconduct, and received a lesser penalty.
Walker-Smith appealed to the courts. The judge ruled that the hearing had given too much weight to other experts and not enough to Walker-Smith’s testimony, and that the panel had gone beyond the facts. He therefore struck down both the verdict of Gross Misconduct and the sentence. The GMC has decided neither to appeal nor to hold a new hearing, as Walker-Smith has already retired.
Some antivaccination sites have been gloating about this news, saying that the Wakefield verdict, and thus the discrediting of the MMR Causation hypothesis, have to be reconsidered. They are very wrong.
Firstly, Wakefield has not mounted an appeal against his striking off. No matter how the anti-vaxxers cut it, that looks suspicious, particularly as Walker-Smith appealed successfully.
Secondly, Walker-Smith’s attorney declared the Vaccine Causation Hypothesis of Autism as discredited after the overturning was announced.
Thirdly, Walker-Smith’s defence in his appeal was basically “I was duped by Wakefield”. The children in the study were subjected to Lumbar Punctures, Colonoscopies and Barium Meals. Because of their nature, it is illegal to use these tests unless there is a clear medical indication. It is also illegal to conduct research without Ethics Board approval. Walker-Smith claimed that he didn’t know that Wakefield was conducting research. In other words, Walker-Smith has thrown Wakefield under a bus.
Even though John Walker-Smith’s verdict and sentence have been overturned, this doesn’t change a thing for Wakefield.

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I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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1 Response to John Walker-Smith Verdict and Sentence overturned

  1. Hi Julian,

    As I often do, I have made a roundup of posts about both the UK high court’s ruling on Professor Walker-Smith and Brian Deer’s anti-SLAPP suit. I’ve included this post in the list, both at Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism (where the list will be static) “What the UK High Court’s Ruling on John Walker-Smith Means and Doesn’t Mean”,

    and at my own blog, I Speak of Dreams “UK High Court Quashed Rulings Against John Walker-Smith; Means NOTHING about Andrew Wakefield”

    I’ll continue to update the latter post daily.

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