By Alyson Fixter
A psychologist who targeted a Sunday Times journalist with crank
emails, calling him a “twathead” for writing an exposÃ© of the
MMR-autism health scare, has been rapped by senior doctors following an
Dr Carol Stott, a former researcher at Cambridge University, sent
journalist Brian Deer a string of abusive emails after he revealed a
conflict of interest that undermined the credibility of research into
links between autism and the MMR jab. Deer had spent four months
investigating Dr Andrew Wakefield, the controversial medic who
published the first study about possible links back in 1998.
a colleague of Wakefield, had been paid to advise on a legal case being
prepared by the parents of autistic children against drug companies
that supplied MMR vaccines.
After the piece was published in
February last year, Stott spent the night sending Deer emails from her
Cambridge University email account, which included comments such as:
“Go fuck yourself” and “Try me, shithead”.
When Deer called Stott
to confront her about the emails, she denied all knowledge of them,
then later accused him of “unjustified, sustained and venomous attacks”
on people who were helping the families of autistic children.
a complaint from Deer, the British Psychological Society this month
issued a ruling calling Stott’s behaviour “unacceptable”, and saying it
would put a black mark on her record.
It said: “The Committee has
now advised Dr Stott that… [her] behaviour was unacceptable and that
professionals must act appropriately at all times and not act in a
manner likely to bring the profession into disrepute.”
Deer said: “I think the adjudication was proportionate to what happened. I
wasn’t expecting them to hang, draw and quarter her, but the ruling did
make it clear that journalists are entitled to go about their work
without being harassed in this way.”
In his Sunday Times story,
Deer, who is freelance, revealed that while Dr Wakefield was carrying
out his original study into the MMR jab, he was also being paid to
investigate whether parents of autistic children might have a legal
case against the drug companies.
Stott told Press Gazette that
she accepted the BPS’s decision and that the matter was closed. She was
suspended from her research post at Cambridge University, and is now
working with Dr Wakefield at a centre for autistic children in Texas,