Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brian Deer on Econtalk

Nigel and his lady (America's power couple) are away this week for a well deserved holiday. If Nigel's Facebook is to be believed, they're in sunny Florida and trolling Canadian tourists. Yes. Nigel Facebooks while on holiday.

Anyway, I'm filling in for Nigel for a few. A real must listen to podcast is EconTalk. It's not one of the podcasts Nigel covers but it's a weekly staple for me. I've covered it previously. Host Russ Roberts interviews a different guest each week regarding an economic topic. Russ is kind of a proto-skeptic. He brings a lot of skepticism to the field of Economics (which is his field given he's an Econ professor). He has a great way of playing devil's advocate regardless of his guest's position. This weeks ep, Russ lands an interview with Brian Deer. Deer has spent the greater part of the decade smoking out the lies and fabrications of Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield published a series of 12 case reports in the UK's top medical journal, claiming the MMR vaccine causes a hitherto unknown bowel disease which then triggers autism.

It's a pretty remarkable interview. Content wise, Deer goes into great detail about how he came be the one to smoke out Wakefield. Wakefield's arrogance was his undoing. More Wakefield tried to get Deer fired or financially ruined from one of those Ye Olde English lawsuits, deeper Deer dug. One wonders why the British Chiros didn't take the Deer lawsuit from a few years back as a template. If the journalist is right and has the evidence and you have no evidence, you're not going to win. Idiots. (Actually, in Deer's case, Wakefield seems to have launched a face saving lawsuit but then put it into some kind of legal hibernation mode so he could go around claiming he was suing Deer without ever having to risk a judgment in Deer's favor. A judgment in Deer's favor would mean Wakefield would have to pay Deer's legal costs. Deer knew he had the goods on Wakefield and got his lawyers to get the suit before a judge. This meant Deer got to review medical files to prepare his defense. Wakefield knew this would mean Deer would discover his fraud and Wakefield withdrew the lawsuit... but his timing, as always, was poor and the suit was withdrawn after Deer got to learn the extent of Wakefield's misrepresentations.)

It's also remarkable because the two dozen podcasts I follow, EconTalk is the only podcast I know of that has scored an interview with Deer. Now, EconTalk does dabble in the intersection of health and economics but this ep of EconTalk is pure Quackcast (without Dr. Crislip and Dr. C's Hitchhiker's Guide references). I really applaud Russ Roberts for landing Deer and getting this story into the podverse.

This might well be the first and only interview with Deer on this topic. I get the sense Deer is ready to get on his eleven boat for the Grey Havens and do something, anything, else besides having to deal with the crazed anti-vaxxer movement.

Follow the link to the show's page and read the comments. As one would expect, the anti-vaxxers have shown up. Roberts handles their goal post shifting and hand waving whining with aplomb.

One small quibble, I think Deer claimed Wakefield is no longer a doctor. He still has his MD and I don't believe that can ever be taken away from him. What is true he certainly can't practice medicine in the UK anymore. If I can make my Randi $1 million psychic prediction: There's a cruise ship sick bay job in Wakefield's future. Or maybe a "clinic" in Mexico.

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