Wakefield fails in defamation bid against BMJ

Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register for professional conduct over allegations that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism, has failed in a bid to sue the British Medical Journal (BMJ) for defamation.

Wakefield, who now lives in Austin, Texas, tried to sue the prestigious journal, its editor-in-chief, Fiona Godlee, and investigative journalist Brian Deer over a series of three articles and a commentary which appeared in the BMJ in 2011.

The stories declared that the scare over MMR - a vaccine intended to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella - was "an elaborate fraud".

The General Medical Council struck Wakefield off the medical register in 2010, after finding him guilty of serious professional misconduct, including dishonesty and unethical behaviour.

Wakefield launched his libel case in the 201st District Court in Travis County, Texas.

But in a decision on Friday, Judge Amy Clark Meachum dismissed the case, saying that the Texas court had no jurisdiction over the BMJ, Dr Godlee or Deer.

Defence attorney Marc Fuller, of Dallas law firm Vinson and Elkins, told the American-Statesman newspaper and website in Austin: "We're very pleased with the court's decision.

"We stood behind the reporting in the case, and from our perspective, it's over."

Wakefield told the newspaper he intended to appeal.

It is understood that had the court not accepted the lack of jurisdiction point, the BMJ, Dr Godlee and Deer would have argued that the case should be struck out under Texas's so-called anti-Slapp - Strategic lawsuit against public participation - legislation, which is intended to curb meritless defamation claims aimed at silencing critics or preventing other freedoms of speech.

Dr Godlee said of the court's decision: "We have always had full confidence in what we published in the BMJ. We look forward to putting this litigation behind us."

Wakefield's 1998 Lancet paper, which he suggested raised a possible link between autism and MMR, was retracted by the Lancet in 2010 and described by the journal's editor as "utterly false."

At the start of 2007 Wakefield dropped a libel case against Channel 4, Twenty Twenty Productions and Mr Deer over a programme in the Dispatches series entitled "MMR [What They Didn't Tell You]" which was broadcast on November 18, 2004.

Earlier he had applied unsuccessfully for a stay in the proceedings, arguing that case should be held in abeyance until the conclusion of proceedings before the General Medical Council.

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