A couple of weeks ago Lucy Johnson wrote an excellent article in the Sunday Express on the Cervarix vaccine entitled HPV vaccine ‘As deadly as the cancer’
In her article she wrote ‘The cervical cancer vaccine may be riskier and more deadly than the cancer it is designed to prevent, a leading expert who developed the drug has warned’ she preceeded to give the views of expert Diane Harper, who had been ,she wrote,’involved in the clinical trials of the controversial drug Cervarix’, Dr Harper had said according the Express, ‘the jab was being “over-marketed” and parents should be properly warned about the potential side effects.
A few days later Ben Goldacre, a GP and journalist for the Guardian attacked her well written piece on his blog Bad Science and in a Guardian article.
In his blog he not only criticised the piece heavily but made a cutting rather unnecessary comment, in my opinion,of Ms Johnson’s previous work, which I felt undermined her journalistic capabilities and also her professionalism.
Lucy Johnson is an excellent and well liked journalist in the UK. She is currently the health editor of the Sunday Express having previously worked for the Observer and The Big Issue which she helped launch. She has won an impressive array of awards for her humanistic and sensitive but frank journalism skills and yet Ben Goldacre took it upon himself to publicly humiliate her.
Sadly, her piece has been removed from the Sunday Express site and the Sunday Express was forced to make an apology Diane Harper has since stated that the journalist misinterpreted her comments. Maybe it was simply that Dr Harper never expected her to report fully on what she had said, after all Dr Harper has been reported to say similar elsewhere. It has been said that Ms Johnson still stands by what she wrote.
If this had been the first time that Goldacre had done this to an outstanding and talented journalist he may have been forgiven, after all everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, back in 2005 he did the same to another outstanding British journalist Melanie Phillips. This time he heavily criticised an article she wrote in the Daily Mail, on the MMR and Dr Andrew Wakefield.
In her piece Smear and Evasion Melanie Phillips wrote the following, in reply to his attack. First however,she explains what she had written in a very clear and concise manner, then she followed the by writing:-
“When I pointed this out in the Daily Mail last week, I was attacked in these pages by Dr Ben Goldacre, who said I did not understand how science worked. On the contrary, it is Goldacre who is ignoring the evidence, and his errors go to the essence of the MMR controversy. Like the government, Goldacre believes clinical findings are trumped by epidemiology, which he says is “evidence-based” medicine. But the attempt to refute Wakefield by epidemiology is a category confusion. Epidemiology looks at patterns of disease in a population. It cannot prove or disprove cause and effect in individual patients. A paper published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons says epidemiology “cannot establish a causal association unless other biological evidence backs it up”, and does not meet a scientific standard of proof since it is prone to bias – the very criticism that the Cochrane report made of the epidemiological studies of MMR and autism.
Having accused me of misunderstanding “real” science, Goldacre then claims that I have fallen for pseudoscience by believing evidence that has never been peer-reviewed. Bizarrely, he asserts that I have relied upon research that has been published only in the “in-house magazine of a rightwing US pressure group well known for polemics on homosexuality, abortion and vaccines” What on earth is he talking about? The devastating finding of measles virus in the cerebro-spinal fluid of some autistic children who had been given the MMR vaccine has been peer-reviewed in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.
He claims that Wakefield’s term “autistic enterocolitis” has appeared in no other studies that have endorsed it. But Wakefield’s core finding of a unique gut-brain disease has been replicated in peer-reviewed papers in the Journal of Paediatric Neurology, Neuropsychobiology, the Journal of Paediatrics, the Journal of Clinical Immunology and the American Journal of Gastroenterology.”
“Goldacre’s case boils down to evasiveness, ignorance, misrepresentation and smear. Are these really the attributes of a scientific vocabulary? Is this really “evidence-based medicine”? Of course, it is important to vaccinate children against dangerous diseases. But if even a small subsection of children is badly affected – which is all that is being claimed over MMR – the balance of risk dramatically changes.”
Another British journalist who likes to attack those who have views on vaccines is Jonathan Gornall. Lisa Blakemore-Brown is a professional with very strong views and opinions on vaccines, Autism and the links she has seen to false allegations of child abuse. She to, has been known to write in professional journals on the subject. She is not a journalist but is the author of the book ‘Reweaving the Autistic Tapestry’, a renowned and highly respected professional and expert in Autism. Her book made references to Autism being linked to the vaccine preservative Thimerosal and once was a best seller then became strangely extinct in 2001 a year after it’s launch. Lisa tells of her fascinating story of the missing book in Interesting Story About a Vaccine/Autism Book in 2001
She has been attacked frequently by Jonathan Gornall ever since.
Alarmist and Misleading shows a few of these attacks.