What should amaze the reader of Deer’s book, however, is the weakness, venality, vanity and slowness to action of the medical establishment and its publications and institutions in the face of a rogue doctor. Most of the things that Deer did should have been done by the profession itself. Had he not so assiduously turned every one of Wakefield’s stones over, the man would probably still be licensed to practise here. So victory, then? Since Deer closed the Wakefield case, anti-vaxxing has become a cause for populists of right and left, in Italy, Greece, France, Brazil, the Philippines and the United States. In recent demonstrations against the lockdown in various countries a component of the grievances expressed is always anti-vaccination.
This aspect of the affair is especially pungent, given that Wakefield’s supporters contrast his self-proclaimed morality-driven approach with the financial motivations of “big pharma”. And they disgracefully attack Deer as a toady for the latter (in fact one of his Sunday Times scoops was an investigation into the dire side-effects of Vioxx, a painkiller marketed by the pharmaceutical giant Merck).
So the struck-off Wakefield — now in a relationship with the model Elle Macpherson — somehow continues to prosper as a sort of medical undead. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that Deer describes himself as the “Abraham Van Helsing to our subject’s Count Dracula”.