Whom to sue?

Heh. (I know, I'm stealing blatantly from Instapundit, but, then, don't many bloggers at one time or another?)

Now that the MMR has been cleared of having anything to do with causing autism, Nick Cohen is wondering whom he can sue (scroll to the last section) for the extra expense all those parents took to take individual vaccinations, rather than the combined MMR:
Last week's news that the MMR vaccine has nothing to do with autism is testing my self-restraint.

Ever since Andrew Wakefield published his Lancet paper in 1998, parents have been in a dreadful position. Even those of us who guessed that a large section of the supposedly adult population of the country was in the grip of a raving panic, couldn't help asking: what if Wakefield is right?

On the remote chance that he was, we paid for courses of single jabs - at £140-a-go in my case. Now it turns out the Department of Health was telling the truth all along, I'm wondering who I can sue to get my money back.

Obviously, there's Wakefield, but I doubt if he could afford to meet the damages from a class action on behalf of hundreds of thousands of parents.

The editor of the Lancet is a more tempting target. Wakefield's original research was based on a sample of just 12 children, which was too small to be meaningful, as the Lancet ought to have known. Medical journals are not the richest of institutions, however, and it would probably take only a couple of thousand single jab bills to close the Lancet down.

By contrast, the Daily Mail and Private Eye, which fed the passing frenzy with all kinds of mumbo jumbo, are loaded. I had a very pleasant lunch at the Eye recently, so I'd say we're quits. That is no reason why you shouldn't copy your bills to Ian Hislop, its editor, or Paul Dacre, the editor of the Mail, and demand prompt payment or a free lunch of your own.

I think I'll sue Channel 5 which in 2003 showed one of the most shamelessly propagandistic dramas to appear on British television. Hear the Silence took it as read that MMR caused autism and that Big Government and Big Pharma were conspiring to hide the truth.
I wonder if anyone will be able to sue RFK, Jr. Boyd Haley, or the Geiers when (as is most likely) epidemiological evidence finally conclusively shows that thimerosol in infant vaccines doesn't cause autism either. After all, the Geiers make a lot of their money representing parents in front of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Board or wanting to sue vaccine manufacturers. Turnabout would be fair play. Unfortunately, it would probably be too difficult to be practical to demonstrate specific damages for generating a general anti-vaccination hysteria based on dubious science and selective data mining.


  1. Small correction: the Bad Science column is written by Dr. Ben Goldacre, not Nick Cohen.

  2. That's not who's listed in the byline of the article, but maybe I'm mixing up columns.

  3. That was not a Bad Science article, but a commentary The Observer. The MMR part appears as a second part of a longer rant, the byline from the link Orac provided:
    [start quote]
    When Harriet met Hizb

    What does an MP do when members of a totalitarian sect drop into her surgery?

    Nick Cohen
    Sunday October 23, 2005
    The Observer
    [end quote]

  4. Nick Cohen also has a blog where his commentaries are posted, and where this particular one is being commented on... especially from the owner of "Black Triangle" (look to the left for this blog):

    Not to be confused with the Bad Science blog: http://www.badscience.net/



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