Shame Can Sometimes Be A Badge Of Honor
By TLB Science Advisor: Dr. David Lewis
According to Professor Robert Kuehn of the University of Alabama, false allegations of research misconduct are used to silence scientists who question certain government policies and industry practices. In his article in the American Journal of Law & Medicine, he mentions my case as one of many where big corporations are trying to discredit researchers who report adverse effects their products are having on public health and the environment.
The best case I know is that of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who documented the onset of the autism following severe reactions to MMR vaccine in The Lancet in 1998. A freelance reporter, Brian Deer, won two British Press Awards after accusing Dr. Wakefield of faking the link. Deer worked for the Sunday Times of London and British Medical Journal, which is sponsored by manufacturers of MMR vaccines. To quell public concerns, the CDC published studies dismissing any connection between vaccines and autism.
In 2012, the High Court of England ruled that Deer’s allegations, which led to Dr. Wakefield losing his medical license, were false. Recently, one author of the CDC studies also admitted that he and his coauthors had deleted data showing that MMR vaccine is linked to autism. Still, the scientific community and news media always associate Dr. Wakefield, not Brian Deer or the CDC, with fraud. Professor Kuehn noted that scientists targeted with false allegations seldom recover their reputations.
During a recent business trip to Austin, TX, my wife Kathy and I joined Dr. Wakefield and his wife for dinner. I handed him a copy of my article in the Oconee Enterprise about the CDC whistleblower and other evidence of CDC fraud surrounding vaccine safety. I mentioned to him that my article, which focused on the CDC’s misconduct, did not address Deer’s false allegations against him. He remarked: “This is not about me.”
My situation, in which I documented adverse health effects linked to EPA’s biosolids program, is very similar to Dr. Wakefield’s. EPA headquarters and Synagro Corporation, the largest company in the biosolids business, distributed false allegations of research misconduct against me. It took me years of litigation against EPA and Synagro to get EPA to admit that Synagro’s allegations were false, and for Synagro to withdraw them.
In the meantime, Synagro distributed its allegations to the National Academy of Sciences, which had referenced my research papers in a report. I was pretty upset when the academy later informed me that all of these references had been removed. Looking back, however, I see things differently. Dr. Wakefield is right. This isn’t about me. It’s about public health. I’m proud that my work had enough impact that the federal government and big industry went to such lengths to try to discredit me. So far as I’m concerned, any shame they may have brought to my name is my badge of honor.
This article was originally published in THE OCONEE ENTERPRISE, June 29, 2016 and is republished here with the authors permission.
About the Author: David Lewis, Ph.D. Is a former U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist. David Lewis is an internationally recognized research microbiologist whose work on public health and environmental issues, as a senior-level Research Microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research & Development and member of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia, has been reported in numerous news articles and documentaries from TIME magazine and Reader’s Digest to National Geographic … read more.