From: john on
Part 3 Professor Zuckerman Forgets [Zuckerman]
[Transcript] Interestingly, the Dean of the medical school, Prof Ari
Zuckerman, world renowned virologist, expert in Hepatitis B, worked very
closely with the WHO, was deeply involved with hepatitis B vaccination, a
great advocate of hepatitis B vaccination, different story, but nonetheless,
there he was in the general apparatchik of the vaccine advocates. And he
said to me that he had been contacted by the Department of Health and a
certain members of the Royal College of Child Health who had made him aware
of this funding, and I said yes, this is a grantw e got from them and
perfectly respectable, and we are conducting the science, and he said there
was a conflict of interest, a clear conflict of interest, and I couldn't
understand it, why?

Why was there a conflict of interest? I had no conflict of interest, I was
asked to take this grant to conduct a piece of science and give an answer.
That wasn't a conflict of interest. The funding would be disclosed in the
paper that wrote up the science, the funding came from the Legal Aid Board,
but beyond that where was the conflict? Anyway, I wrote back to him and
said your suggestion that there is a conflict of interest has exercised my
mind greatly over the last several months and I cannot see where it lies,
and i laid out for him the context of my discussions with the lawyers and
the work that was to be done, and he wrote back to me and couldn't precisely
define what the conflict was, but talked about if a legal action was
anticipated, and preliminary discussions had already taken place then there
was a conflict, and it didn't really make a lot of sense to me.

I wrote back to him again and reiterated thatw e ahd been asked to do a
piece of science that wasn't seeking a particular answer. I wouldn't have
got involved in the first place if there was any effort of coercion or
demanding that......we own the data, the lawyers didn't own it. We would do
what we felt was scientifically appropriate, and I had every faith in the
lawyers, they seemed very concerned, genuinely concerned about these
children, they weren't in any way ambulance chasers but nonetheless there
was some clear problem for the Dean in this, and he ultimately refused to
take the money, and I said send it back, we don't want it, if you are not
going to let us do this, we won't do it.

Anyway, one of my colleagues said we will put it into an account at the
hospital, a charitable account...and see if that is OK. So we did, now,
interestingly the Dean has just appeared as a witness on behalf of the
prosecution at the GMC. Professor Ari Zuckerman, now 7 years retired and
clearly deeply frustrated that he should be dragged out of retirement to
have to give his evidence in thsi case, but nonetheless his first foray was
to say, yes, when this money was transferred by the accountant of the Royal
Free Medical School it was too late, I didn't know about it, it had already
happened, I couldn't stop it.

It is interesting that he actually signed the cheque for the transfer.
Surprising that, given the fact that it had already happened by the time he
knew about it, nonetheless an interval of 11 years can cloud ones mind,
memory of things. There we are. But that was the first error he made.

Part 4 Dr Armstrong and the BMA
[Transcript] What he disclosed, interestingly, to me during that period was
that he had written to the ethics committee of the British Medial
Association (BMA), to take their advice, how to deal with this perplexing
issue that was causing him concern about conflicts of interest that has was
really unable to articulate to me. So he wrote to Dr Armstrong at the BMA
ethics committee to ask their opinion, and in it unbeknown to me at the
time, he had said he had been contacted by the Department of Health who said
to him that the government stood to be sued by the parents of children
affected by MMR or apparently affected by MMR vaccine, and that this to him
was a conflict of interest. That government was going to be sued.

Do you understand, I came into this with the lawyers believing the case was
against the vaccine manufacturers, the government didn't even come into it,
but he was clearly under the impression that the government were going to be
sued. He also said that this may be embarrassing for the medical school.
Now, we were never party to the ultimate response of Dr Armstrong of the
BMA. We were never told about it. All we did when he wrote back to me is
to say you will know that I have taken advice on this matter from the BMA
and leave it that, as though the BMA had ruled completely against it.
When in fact we got the documents, as we did do as part of the disclosure
for the GMC, there it was, the letter from Dr Armstrong, not only endorsing
the fact this study could and should be done because it was morally and
ethically proper that it should be done, but that not to do it because it
was embarrassing to an institute or because it meant the government might be
sued was not a sound moral argument. His words.

So in other words the BMA ethics committee said this is fine. It said
actions of this kind or research of this kind is often funded by a group
with a particular interest. Of course they are, the Multiple Sclerosis
Society funds research for MS in the hope that it can make patients better.
So here we have another group of people with a vested interest funding a
piece of research. As long as it is ethical, and as long as it is conducted
in a way that it is published, whether it is positive or negative, then that
is fine.

Nonetheless Prof Zuckerman did not get the answer he wanted. he never
disclosed that to us, he just kept beating us over the head with the certain
knowledge that he had contacted the BMA and they had given him an opinion.