The libel action filed in Texas by the disgraced British doctor Andrew Wakefield against the BMJ, its editor-in chief and an investigative journalist has been thrown out before it reached first base.
Travis Country district judge Amy Clark Meachum ruled that the case could not go ahead because the Texas courts had no jurisdiction over the three British defendants.
Wakefield sparked a worldwide scare over the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine when he published research which he suggested could link the vaccine with autism. As a result uptake of the MMR vaccine suffered a major decline particularly in the UK and western Europe resulting in a resurgence of measles and mumps and a rise in fatalities related to these infections.
Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper, in which he raised a possible link between autism and MMR, was later retracted by the Lancet in 2010 and described by its editor as “utterly false.”
He was struck off the UK medical register in 2010 by the General Medical Council for serious professional misconduct, including dishonesty and unethical behaviour.
Now living in Austin, Texas, he sued the BMJ, its editor in chief Fiona Godlee and journalist Brian Deer over articles and editorial commentary published in January 2011, which he said accused him of “intentionally and knowingly manipulating or falsifying data and diagnoses”.
Had the case not been thrown out for lack of jurisdiction, the BMJ’s said that its lawyers were preparing to argue that it should be dismissed under recent legislation in Texas designed to curb meritless libel lawsuits.
Fiona Godlee said: “We have always had full confidence in what we published in the BMJ. We look forward to putting this litigation behind us.”
Wakefield told the Austin newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, that he planned to appeal.