Paging Dr. Wakefield: One Of Your Critics Quoted By CBS and FOX Was Named As A Defendant In A Wrongful Death, Fraud Case With $33 Million Conflict Of Interest

I was going to call it a day, when a piece of particularly distressing Associated Press anti-“Vaxxed” (the movie) propaganda caught my eye–on Fox (Health) News Online  and CBS News online.

 

The headline was: Medical Community Is Fighting A New Germ: Celebrities.

 

It managed to be all at once offensive, (actually in a WW2 Holocaust* sense,) self-victimizing, and the kind of yuk-yuk “clever” only the truly humorless could ever embrace.  (*Historian Daniel Glass, in Life Unworthy of Life, delineates how the Nazis saw Jews as infectious matter, first, which began the dehumanization.)

The Fox News article featured a photo of Jenny McCarthy, while CBS News used a photo of Robert De Niro.

Propaganda has countless depressant features; One is that all hope of novelty or ingenuity is lost before you even read it. It’s always a sucker punch. Take that. In this case, we the aggrieved nerds at the CDC who resent that anybody in the Western World should begrudge us a fatally corrupted study MMR/Autism that supplied the bedrock of “vaccines-don’t-cause-autism” are here to flog famous people who have “disappointed” us. We all know how Jenny McCarthy was crucified for speaking out on behalf of her vaccine damaged (by her own telling) son, despite the fact that she managed to improve his condition tremendously by way of multiple healing modalities, chiefly gut restoration and diet change.

Despite the fact that the gaspers here are politically correct down to their last atom, they see no reason to hold back on mocking and flogging McCarthy for her beauty. You get the sense they would like to literally stone her if they could. The condescending and wholly unoriginal insult they trot out again and again asks with heavy eye roll who parents would “rather” get pediatric advice from–a medical doctor, or a Playboy Bunny. As if any parent alive ever stood before these two choices. The worst thing is, nobody ever tells these people how banal they are.

My eye caught the other sucker punch quote that has been, insanely, pollinating in the raft of articles hysterically denouncing the explosive documentary nobody has seen yet: Vaxxed: From Coverup to Catastrophe, produced by Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, and Polly Tommey. Robert DeNiro, who has seen it, backed it passionately, until suddenly, he pulled the plug, this past Saturday, removing it from Tribeca Film Festival’s schedule.

De Niro therefore is getting mostly praised, but inside the praise, psychosis bristles. This brings me to the second sucker-punch, opening with that favorite pod phrasing about what “no one would question:”

[This is an author-less article, written by The Associated Press, and syndicated.]

From CBS News:

 

“No one would question that the issue is personal to De Niro. But the Tribeca Film Festival, which opens its 15th edition on April 13, is an extremely public event. When news of the documentary’s scheduled screening spread, disease experts were distressed that the festival would lend its megaphone to a film by a disgraced doctor. Michael Specter, the New Yorker staff writer and medical expert, called it “a disgrace” for the festival, and compared Wakefield’s film to “Leni Riefenstahl making a movie about the Third Reich.” ”

Hell’s Bells. “Disease experts,” distressed? We can’t have that. Let’s instead make sure that millions of parents of brain damaged children are tortured to no end, by the mass media, who bludgeon any and all who think its “journalism” to allow their voices to be heard. Then let’s make a clumsy Nazi/Reich/Propaganda/Riefenstahl metaphor, for good measure, even though the analogy does not even make sense. Vaxxed is an expose documentary about the CDC whistleblower–not a propaganda film for the CDC. Maybe The New Yorker and Salon, and Forbes, should make that one.

[In an interview with The Truth Barrier, not yet published, distributor Philippe Diaz, of Cinema Libre, called Specter’s quotes, “insane,” and wondered, “what is he smoking?”]

I knew what was coming next–one always does with these “period pieces.” The lament. The lament that despite the CDC’s best efforts at totalitarian control of the press, and the film industry–a few rogue celebrities still manage to go off script.

This despite their creepy foundations like “Hollywood, Health, and Society–” which is run by a former CDC employee, funded by the CDC, The Gates Foundation, and countless more corporate giants, which “consults” on scripts for hundreds of TV shows, movies, and even documentaries, spreading “important messages about public health.”

They are so narcissistically deranged they actually believe and expect that all celebrities should do their ideological bidding every time they open their mouths. And many do.

So here came the self-victimizing lament, quoted as gospel:

“Celebrities have had an out-of-proportion impact on the public’s understanding of vaccine risk,” says Arthur L. Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University. “I don’t want to overplay it; most people vaccinate. It’s not like hordes of people are listening to Jenny McCarthy and saying, ‘Forget the American Association of Pediatrics, I’m going with the former Playboy Bunny.'”

The name Arthur L. Caplan came back to me, from an assignment I had from TALK magazine in 2000, to write about “gene therapy.” I wondered why they would want to lend their megaphone to such a controversial, to say the least, doctor of ethics.

Gene Therapy was a field that ground to a screeching halt after an 18 year old boy named Jesse Gelsinger died in an extremely dangerous “gene therapy” trial at Penn. That was where I remembered Caplan’s name from. I interviewed Jesse Gelsinger’s  grief-stricken father, at the time. TALK, for its part, killed the article, because it wasn’t enthusiastic enough about “gene therapy.” (Actually no, they asked me to revise it to become more positive–and I killed it.)

I remember vividly what the PR man at Penn said to me when I entered his office for an interview. He slumped down in his chair, and sighed.

“We killed an 18 year old kid.”

The interview was pretty much over, after that. This was before the days when everything was reversed–back then, a child’s death was called a death, and heads rolled, and ill-conceived, greedy “research” programs using human guinea pigs were halted. End of story. Turned out they had failed to inform Jesse or his family that two other people had nearly died in similar experiments, and that research monkeys had died. In addition, Jesse’s levels of ammonia were way too high for this to be remotely safe for him. I remember his father telling me that before his organs shut down, Jesse’s blood had turned to the consistency of jello.

Jesse Gelsinger

Jesse Gelsinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I typed into Google: “Jesse Gelsinger and Arthur Caplan.”

 

Well what do you know?

 

First item, worth quoting in its entirety:

 

Gelsinger wrongful death lawsuit names bioethicist Caplan

Genetic Crossroads
October 16th, 2000

 

The family of Jesse Gelsinger, the 18-year-old who died last September
in a gene therapy experiment at the University of Pennsylvania, has
filed suit against the researchers and institutions involved in running
the experiment: the university, two medical facilities, and Genovo Inc.,
the biotech company founded by lead scientist James Wilson that had a
stake in the successful outcome of the experiment. The lawsuit accuses
the defendants of negligent, reckless, or fraudulent acts.

Gelsinger’s death was followed by revelations of serious regulatory
violations and financial conflicts of interest in the Penn trial,
as well as in hundreds of gene therapy experiments nationwide. (See
Issues 7 and 10 of this newsletter.)

Media coverage of the lawsuit focused on its inclusion of well-known
bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who advised the researchers on the design
of the experiment. Caplan argued that the parents of sick infants are
too desperate to provide true informed consent, and that the experiment
should therefore be conducted on relatively healthy adults. For more
on Caplan’s role, and on bioethicists’ growing influence and financial
conflicts, see Arthur Allen, “Bioethics comes of age,”
<http://www.salon.com/health/feature/2000/09/28/caplan/index.html>.

In venues unrelated to the Gelsinger case, Caplan has often argued
that human germline engineering is “inevitable.” In December 1999 he
wrote, “Before the next century is out, fetuses will no longer need
their mother’s womb for nourishment and growth. We will see many
children made by the artificial creation of embryos. . .This prediction
is 100 percent certain. . ..There will be strong social pressure to use
eugenics to improve children in order to minimize the social cost of
disease and chronic disability. The rush to use eugenics will be
amazing, with parents competing to give their kids the `best’ start
in life.” See <http://www.msnbc.com/news/352113.asp>

 

[By the way, Salon has removed its 2000 article on Caplan.]

Here’s more, on the legal case.

 

It opens with this:

Ten years ago, Jesse Gelsinger died while participating in a human gene- therapy trial at the University of Pennsylvania (“Penn”). His death came to signify the corrosive influence of financial interests in human subjects research. After Jesse’s death, the media reported that one researcher, Dr. James Wilson, held shares in a biotech company, Genovo, which stood to gain from the research’s outcome-shares that The Wall Street Journal later valued at $13.5 million, although Wilson maintains he did not make nearly this much.’ At the time Penn authorized Wilson’s deal, internal Penn documents implicitly valued Wilson’s stake in Genovo at approximately $28.5 to $33 million. 

Jesse’s death sparked two separate lawsuits: one by the family, who sued in tort, and one by the federal government, which framed alleged errors in the research trial as a civil False Claims Act violation. Both suits settled, with no public apologies or acknowledgement of wrongdoing in either case.’ The government refused to make public the documents it collected, despite requests from the family.’ Thus, in what is arguably the most famous conflict- of-interest case in medicine, we have known for a decade almost nothing about the nature of the financial stakes that Wilson, and Penn, had in the research’s outcome, or why Penn authorized a researcher to hold such a substantial stake in that research’s outcome. How this web of financial ties came to enmesh Jesse’s trial is a subject worthy of exploration because it provides an important lens for evaluating two divergent visions about the role of money in research.

Another illuminating outtake:

B. A CASE OF FIRSTS

Jesse’s death was a case of firsts. Jesse was the first person to die in a human gene-therapy trial.3 ‘ His family’s lawsuit was also the first high-profile suit in which a family of a participant sued in tort to recover under a variety of new and creative claims.3 2 That suit was also the first to name a bioethicist, the world famous Arthur Caplan, director of Penn’s Center for Bioethics, as a defendant based on the advice he gave the researchers regarding study design-which essentially urged testing the protocol on relatively healthy adults rather than dying infants.

3. The family’s lawsuit was also the first to spotlight a financial conflict of interest by a researcher, Wilson.3 4

Jesse’s trial was also the first to trigger a lawsuit by the government in which it framed errors in a human subjects research trial as a civil False Claims Act violation, bringing to bear the crushing power of the penalties under that act.35

 

Now let’s go back to the CBS News article, and a phrase you will have read in countless articles these past few days, as well as over the past decade, since Murdoch, Brian Deer, GlaxoSmithKline, the BMJ, and all their attack dogs in the press dropped what Hunter S. Thompson once dubbed “the million pound shithammer” on Andrew Wakefield. The phrase is: “…an elaborate fraud.

To wit:

“The film, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” is directed by Andrew Wakefield, a former British gastroenterologist who was stripped of his medical license in 2010. The British medical journal BMJ called Wakefield’s study connecting autism and vaccines — which was retracted by the medical journal The Lancet — an “elaborate fraud.” ”

Having supposedly been involved in a legal case and having various potential vested financial interests in MMR lawsuits is the better part of why Wakefield is repeatedly drubbed as “an elaborate fraud.”

Here’s how the sane and uncontroversial men of medicine speak, by contrast to Wakefield who speaks mostly of ways to improve bowel diseases that exacerbate autism.

Whereas look what excites Dr. Caplan–let’s have that quote again:

 

“Before the next century is out, fetuses will no longer need
their mother’s womb for nourishment and growth. We will see many
children made by the artificial creation of embryos. . .This prediction
is 100 percent certain. . ..There will be strong social pressure to use
eugenics to improve children in order to minimize the social cost of
disease and chronic disability. The rush to use eugenics will be
amazing, with parents competing to give their kids the `best’ start
in life.”

 

I could stop here, but you know what? It gets worse. There’s more.

Here is a comprehensive timeline of events from an online journal called Guinea Pig Zero, It contains this passage, about Caplan:

 

“Now, let’s explore the reasons why this young fellow, in relatively good health, was ever strapped into a table, fitted through the groin with arterial catheters, and infused with an experimental gene-vector, in spite of the blood-ammonia reading that should have disqualified him from the procedure. Before we can do that, we must ask, who are these people at the University of Pennsylvania?

Arthur L. Caplan is the director of the university’s Center for Bioethics, and has become the most quoted person in his field in recent years. He is peculiar in that he is far more visible and Media-friendly than any of his peers. Some say he’s right in popularizing important discussions, while others say he’s just another media whore. In either case, Caplan is a team player, and he does not publicly criticize any researcher who practices under the same roof as he does himself. In Guinea Pig Zero #6, I pointed out his odd silence on the subject of the dermatologist Albert Kligman, who used prisoners at Philadelphia’s Holmesburg prison as human guinea pigs from the 1950’s through the early ’70’s. In exchange for small cash payments, Kligman tested LSD, dioxin, radioactive isotopes, Agent Orange, and poison ivy on the inmates. He became very rich (he invented Retin-A), and the prisoners became scarred, insane, chronically ill for unknown reasons, and underwent excruciating pain. When prisoner-experiments came under public scrutiny and Kligman was investigated, he destroyed all his original patient records. This is why I do not say that he killed any prisoners. There were questions about dead inmates, but Kligman destroyed the answers. For all that, Art Caplan has no opinion as to whether the surviving inmate guinea pigs should be compensated or otherwise relieved by the university that tortured them. Since the release of Acres of Skin in 1998, a book documenting Kligman’s research, most everyone else in the city does.

I saw Caplan at a conference on science and religion last spring. The distinguished professor remarked in passing about how those gentlemen outside on the sidewalk (Holmesburg veterans, chanting with picket signs) had reached their conclusions by some logical method as opposed to another. No one would understand what he meant, unless they’d had special training, but he saved face by giving them a nod. But what he said did not in any way reflect upon Kligman’s past behavior and the university’s refusal to take responsibility for the harm suffered by his living victims.

In the case of Jesse Gelsinger, the bioethics poster-boy was the one who made the experiment possible by persuading the researchers and government overseers that asymptomatic adult patients, as opposed to infants with fatal cases, should serve as the human subjects. The reasoning was that the parents would be coerced by the sickness of their babies. Caplan’s letter of Feb. 4th fiercely defended why adult OTC deficient persons like Jesse should be put at risk when they were not the intended beneficiaries of the treatment. He ridiculed a reporter who had taken this up as an issue. The letter’s effect was to draw the reader’s attention away from the more disturbing facts of the case.

Caplan’s name occurs also back in September, when he argued for an immediate announcement about the nature of Jesse’s death. After that, there’s been not a word on the glaring conflict of interest on the part of Dr. James M. Wilson, both co-author of the experiment’s protocol and one who stood to make many millions if the vector proved marketable. It is obvious that Caplan knows which side his ethical bread is buttered on.

When Arthur Caplan, an ethics expert, remains silent on alarming ethical crises, in cases where the players are his own colleagues and when his salary and professional future are controlled by the institution that’s directly vested in the matter, he services as the university’s spin doctor. To be sure, he did not directly praise them. But, of all people, Caplan is the one whose position should be the clearest and loudest when there is an ethical conflict. We should keep in mind, above all, that he participated in planning the clinical trial that took Gelsinger’s life, almost as directly as the researchers themselves.”

And CBS News, which dubbed Wakefield “…an elaborate fraud,” described Caplan, who was named as a defendant in a lawsuit over the death of a child in a very unethical experiment, how?

By his title, of course. And what is his title?

He, unlike Wakefield, was never “stripped” of it. It is, astonishingly:

 

Head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University.

 

–Celia Farber

 

 

The documentary dropped by Tribeca Film Festival, Vaxxeed: From Coverup to Catastrophe, debuts tonight at Angelika Film Center.

 

Comments

  1. Alan Davis says:

    I’d like to just read the facts about whomever this felonious jackass is. But your writing style, exploring every loosely related cul de sac in the known universe has made that impossible for me. I will attempt again tomorrow, with a fresh mind that will enable me to skim.

    • R. A. Davis says:

      Just for clarification, since I post frequent comments on this website, I want to assure
      Celia Farber that I do not know the person who made the above comment, and he in no way represents my point of view.

  2. nhokkanen says:

    “Arthur Caplan, the director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, counsels doctors against accepting gifts from the drug industry. “The more you yield to economics,” Caplan said last January, “the more you’re falling to a business model that undercuts arguments for professionalism.”

    Yet Caplan himself consults for the drug and biotech industries, recently coauthored an article with scientists for Advanced Cell Technology, and heads a bioethics center supported by Monsanto, de Code Genetics, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Geron Corporation, Pfizer, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Human Genome Sciences, and the Schering-Plough Corporation.”

    By bioethicist Dr. Carl Elliott, “Pharma Buys a Conscience” 9/24/01
    http://www.mindfully.org/GE/GE3/Pharma-Buys-Conscience.htm

  3. Stephen Ericson says:

    “No one would question that the issue is personal to De Niro. But the Tribeca Film Festival, which opens its 15th edition on April 13, is an extremely public event.”

    So, let’s make believe that my home had been damaged during hurricane Katrina. Would that fact preclude me from making a documentary film about how terrible FEMA, The Bush administration, Ray Nagin, etc. reacted to the emergency and then showing it to the public?

    There are a lot of parents that share DeNiro’s personal involvement in the topic who feel marginalized.

    In fact, that’s kind of the point. They act as if because it’s personal to him, he must be completely insane. I feel for him. I’ve had time to acclimate myself to that charge over time, while it wasn’t even two weeks ago that he was one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood history. Now he’s not even a harmless microbe, but a germ. That’s a fall from a great height for someone who won’t even sign off on being ‘anti vax’.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “No one would question that the issue is personal to De Niro. But the Tribeca Film Festival, which opens its 15th edition on April 13, is an extremely public event.”

    So, let’s make believe that my home had been damaged during hurricane Katrina. Would that fact preclude me from making a documentary film about how terrible FEMA, The Bush administration, Ray Nagin, etc. reacted to the emergency and then showing it to the public?

    There are a lot of parents that share DeNiro’s personal involvement in the topic who feel marginalized.

    In fact, that’s kind of the point. They act as if because it’s personal to him, he must be completely insane. I feel for him. I’ve had time to acclimate myself to that charge over time, while it wasn’t even two weeks ago that he was one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood history. Now he’s not even a harmless microbe, but a germ. That’s a fall from a great height for someone who won’t even sign off on being ‘anti vax’.

    • Stephen Ericson says:

      I apologize for posting 2x. The first time I did sans signing my name to it, and I wanted people to know it was me so I posted again.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Posted April 5, 2016 I was going to call it a day, when a piece of particularly distressing Associated Press anti-“Vaxxed” (the movie) propaganda caught my eye–on Fox (Health) News Online  and CBS News online.  The headline was: Medical Community Is Fighting A New Germ: Celebrities.  Read more.  […]

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