I had expected that I should have been writing a ‘Court of Protection’ story this morning, I spent the week-end bashing my head against possibly the most complex decision to ever emanate from the Court; however, the more I read, the more it turned into a learned and devastating deconstruction of a False Allegation.
For those of you who want to understand how the court deals with welfare matters concerning a diagnosis of Autism, or the continuing conflict between mainstream medicine and what might be termed ‘fringe medicine’ – then I heartily commend you to the actual case file. Even conspiracy theorists will find something to interest them in there. It is the Judgment that will carry on ‘giving’. The court papers filled some 35 lever arch files.
I became fascinated by the damning deconstruction of a false allegation – and since that is my interest, other aspects of the case will be truncated. Another time.
I shall call her Edith, Mrs ‘E’ in the case – and I loathe alphabet soup. Edith appeared as litigant in person – and gave evidence for 20 days…she proposed to call 139 witnesses, including a High Court Judge and an MP.
Edith had a baby girl in 1987. Two years later, she gave birth to a son. I shall call him Matt. Normal pregnancies, nothing untoward to report. Perfectly normal childhood ailments, a chest infection, inoculations, were all recorded in his medical notes.
When Matt was two and a half, Edith took him to Guy’s hospital, telling the paediatrician that Matt had difficulty breathing, and ‘lacked control over his mouth’. The paediatrician noted that Matt possibly had ‘autistic learning difficulties’ that might require further investigation. In that year there were eight further visits to the GP noted in M’s medical records in which he was reported as suffering from a variety of infections. There is no record of any developmental delay in these notes.
Edith and her husband were, by all accounts, devoted parents; they had no need – or wish – for Local Authority involvement in the care of their children. However, another 16 years passed, and Edith contacted the Local Authority looking for assistance in finding a residential placement for Matt, now 18. From this point on – two worlds violently collided.
Edith had great faith in what is termed ‘complimentary medicine’ – homeopathy, cranial osteopathy, reflexology, naturopathy and light and sound therapy. Matt had regular treatment for a variety of ‘self-reported’ (by Edith) ailments. By the time the Local Authority became aware of Matt, he was taking a daily dose of a probiotic, six vitamin supplements, four mineral supplements, five trace elements, fatty acids, amino acids, enzymes and a range of homeopathic remedies and Edith believed that M was suffering from an adverse effect to electromagnetic energies and was wrapping electronic items in his bedroom in tin foil to protect him.
Something else that the Local Authority was unaware of; when Matt was 9, Dr Andrew Wakefield published his paper in the Lancet claiming that there was a link between Autism and the type of MMR vaccine that Matt had been given at nine months old. A paper that has since been discredited, and Dr Wakefield struck off the medical register. The argument over that link still rages, and I do not propose to get into it here – Please! – what matters for the purpose of this post is that Edith, a devoted Mother with a severely disabled son, believed it absolutely.
No longer did she torture herself wondering ‘why’ her son had developed in the way that he had – she now knew, not only was it not her fault, but there was a named body whose fault it was. GlaxoSmithKline Inc. There was a community of parents who equally believed the same thesis – and a Guru who offered them help – not to mention several high flying lawyers promising compensation. In a sense, these Mothers are the forgotten victims of the MMR scare – theirs to daily care for severely disabled children, offered a solution – is it any wonder that they cling to that solution with tenacity?
Edith became a devoted follower of Dr Wakefield; she campaigned, vociferously. She wrote to the Lord Chancellor, and the Home Secretary; when legal aid was refused for the parents to sue she became convinced that the Judge involved was possibly corrupt. She was involved in protracted arguments with the Local Authority over Matt’s care.
At the same time, Edith was lovingly supported by other parents of children with autism. She wrote of how Matt’s development had been ‘normal until he received MMR. Then he lost speech, eye contact and play. He became quite distressed, with fever, his eyes were fixed and his pupils dilated and was not well for days’. The other Mothers cheered her on – for had not that been precisely the response they had reported to Dr Wakefield?
Amongst the conspiracies that Edith claimed to have met along her path to justice for her son, was the case of the ‘missing medical notes’. She would brandish her son’s medical notes and – There! See for yourself! – were not the notes of the nine year period following his vaccination missing? Indeed they were. Other concerned parents could but agree that this was indeed prima facie evidence that the authorities were determined to conceal the truth about the vaccine.
Edith was becoming a star amongst other concerned parents. She was no longer alone at home caring for a disabled son – she was consulted, deferred to, sympathised with, respected – MPs and famous journalists sought audience with her. She was someone who had been dealt a mighty blow by a powerful body, and the damage was plain to see.
By the time she came in front of The Honourable Mr Justice Baker, she was a seasoned campaigner. She had fought court battles all across the country.
She gave Mr Justice Baker many thousands of pages to read, detailing the injustices she had faced. He read them.
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t get to be a senior High Court Judge merely because you shoot Grouse in the right company – attention to detail, an inquiring mind, and legal precision help too.
He requested a few more pages for good measure. From the NHS. Her son’s medical notes. Surprisingly, they turned up intact. No missing pages.
There he read that the account of Matt’s breathing difficulties when he had three times ‘nearly stopped breathing, turned blue, and from then had difficulties swallowing’ – had actually occurred eight months before he had the vaccine! Further, for the next nine years there had been no mention of the vaccine in connection with his developmental difficulties – which only appeared as an issue in records from as late as September 2000.
Around the time that Edith read Dr Wakefield’s account of how his ‘sample’ of autistic children had reacted to the MMR vaccine and when Edith filed for compensation in the ‘class action’ against GlaxoSmithKline.
From 2000 onwards M’s parents, and in particular his mother, have given increasingly vivid accounts of an extreme reaction to the injection experienced by M. There are descriptions of M screaming after having the injection, followed by six hours of convulsions, screaming and projectile vomiting.” In one note, recorded in an “auditory processing assessment report” dated 31st October 2002, E alleged that, following MMR, M had remained in “a persistent vegetative state for six months.”
Along the road that led to this court case, those who disbelieved Wakefield’s thesis were described as ‘Pharma trolls’, supporters of government brutality towards children; £26 million of taxpayers money was spent on opposing armies of lawyers before the legal aid commission pulled the plug; and mother’s such as Edith were encouraged to believe that ‘they would be believed’.
Any action or statement which did not further their cause was further evidence of a vast conspiracy of those in the higher echelons of the political, legal and local authority world. In the eyes of the devoted Wakefield supporters, there was an MMR conspiracy, through which thousands of doctors and scientists and the media concealed horrific alleged injuries to children. There was a legal conspiracy, through which judges denied fairness. And there was a local government conspiracy, by which hard-pressed social workers wanted to remove autistic children from their parents. So many vested interests had a dog in this fight.
Mr Justice Baker disagreed:
His parents’ account of an adverse reaction to that vaccination is fabricated. The mother has also given many other false accounts about M’s health. He has never had meningitis, autistic enterocolitis, leaky gut syndrome, sensitivity to gluten or casein, disorder of the blood brain barrier, heavy metal poisoning, autonomic dysautonomia (which, in any event, is not recognised in any classification of medical conditions), rheumatoid arthritis or Lyme disease. As a result of E maintaining that he had these and other conditions, she has subjected M to numerous unnecessary tests and interventions. He did have a dental abscess for which E failed to obtain proper treatment and caused him 14 months of unnecessary pain and suffering. E has also insisted that M be subjected to a wholly unnecessary diet and regime of supplements. Through her abuse of her responsibility entrusted to her as M’s deputy, she has controlled all aspects of his life, restricted access to him by a number of professionals and proved herself incapable of working with the local authority social workers and many members of the care staff at the various residential homes where M has lived.
This behaviour amounts to factitious disorder imposed on another. In addition, E has a combination of personality disorders – a narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and elements of an emotional unstable personality disorder.
‘Factitious disorder’ is what we now call Münchausen syndrome. I wasn’t aware until I started reading for this post that it includes the belief that one is suffering from ‘psychological trauma’. As are so many of those who have come forth to make claims regarding historic sex abuse.
It is a damning assessment of Edith and her false allegations – but is it an assessment of a ‘liar’?
Or is the case a detailed deconstruction of how a genuine ‘wrong’, in this case her son’s autism, can be manipulated by lawyers, medics, the media, well meaning campaigners – and the hysterics – until a vulnerable and emotionally unstable woman, barely coping with the trials life has strewn in her path, begins to believe the tales she has ‘adjusted’ to fit the dominant narrative in order to belong to, and receive the approval of, what seems to be a supportive community?