Court Rejects Wakefield Lawsuit
Andrew Wakefield, who was stripped of his British medical license in 2010 after his autism research had been discredited, cannot sue a British magazine, editor and reporter for defamation in Texas, a state appeals court ruled late last week.
The articles in the British Medical Journal — raising substantial questions about the accuracy of Wakefield’s 1998 study that indicated a possible link between autism and vaccines — did not have strong enough ties to Texas to give Wakefield access to the District Courts in Austin, where he lives, the 3rd Court of Appeals said.
State courts lack jurisdiction over the British journal because its 2011 articles did not concern Texas or activities that occurred in Texas, nor were they aimed at Texans, said the opinion, written by Justice Scott Field.
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“The publications concerned Wakefield’s conduct and activities that occurred in England, and Texas is never mentioned in any of the articles,” Field wrote.
The court upheld District Judge Amy Clark Meachum’s decision to toss out Wakefield’s lawsuit because Texas courts lacked jurisdiction over the defendants, including reporter Brian Deer and editor Fiona Godlee.
Wakefield’s 1998 study, published in the medical journal the Lancet with 11 co-authors, helped fuel worldwide concern over the safety of vaccines. Other researchers have been unable to duplicate his results, finding no link between autism and vaccines. Ten of Wakefield’s co-authors later disavowed part of his findings, and the Lancet has since retracted the article, citing inaccuracies.
In addition, the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct, citing dishonest, irresponsible research; actions contrary to the interests of children; conflicts of interest regarding his involvement in a lawsuit against a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine; and failure to disclose his involvement in seeking a patent for a rival vaccine.
Bill Parrish of Austin, Wakefield’s lawyer, said evidence and medical records filed with his client’s lawsuit support the study’s original findings.
“We disagree with this decision, which denies Dr. Wakefield his day in court,” Parrish said. “It is important to note that this decision is on procedural and jurisdictional issues and in no way addresses the merits of Dr. Wakefield’s claims.
“We’re still evaluating whether or not to appeal,” he said.
Parrish did not specify what Wakefield has been doing since losing his medical license, saying his client “is still trying to help those with autism, still trying to get to the truth behind potential causes of autism for some children.”