The Pathological Optimist – vaccine fraud Andrew Wakefield documentary

I was having a peaceful evening. I fired up my Apple TV to watch the Trailers app to see upcoming movies that I might watch. Unfortunately, right at the top row, I see Andrew Wakefield’s face on the trailer for a new documentary about him, “The Pathological Optimist“.

Why would anyone want to see another documentary about this man? Well, it’s horror film season, and Wakefield is one scary man.

In 2016, we got his self-serving fraudumentary, “Vaxxed,” a film that invented a conspiracy about the so called CDC Whistleblower, a thoroughly debunked myth. However, “The Pathological Optimist” was not produced by Wakefield himself, it was developed and produced independently. However, the film ended up putting him in a favorable, and complicated, light.

Let’s take a look at the movie, but I want to remind everyone that Andrew Wakefield is not a favorable character in any play about vaccines. He committed a demonstrable fraud which has harmed children across the world. He might be “The Pathological Optimist,” but there is a lot of evidence that he is a pathological something.

“The Pathological Optimist” – the director/producer

The documentary was produced and directed by Miranda Bailey, a producer, director, actress and writer. She’s probably not at the top of your list of Hollywood personalities, and don’t confuse her with Miranda Bailey, a fictional character on a medical TV show.

Bailey, the producer, has expressed anti-vaccine sentiments in the past, so it’s kind of hard to take her seriously with respect to her bias towards Wakefield. Here are screenshots of several of her tweets about vaccines:

the pathological optimist

Bailey is quoting some of the canards of the anti-vaccine crackpots. Like attacking SB277, which has increased the vaccination rate for California’s children. And we know the science is 100% behind the fact that vaccines save children’s lives. So SB277 seems like a great thing.

Many of Bailey’s other tweets indicate a high level of support for pseudoscience, junk medicine, and other unscientific beliefs. It’s difficult to believe that Bailey will present an unbiased view of Wakefield.

“The Pathological Optimist” – the film

Obviously, the subject of Miranda Bailey’s documentary is Andrew Wakefield who claimed, and continues to claim, that vaccines, particularly the MMR vaccine, cause autism. That claim is demonstrably untrue, and scientific research has shown over and over and over that vaccines are not linked to autism. This is settled science, and if you want to dispute it, then bring peer reviewed scientific evidence of similar quality and quantity, then we can talk. But neither Wakefield, Bailey, or any anti-vaccine radical can do this.

Bailey initially intended to focus exclusively on Wakefield’s various lawsuits against Brian Deer, a renowned journalist who uncovered Wakefield’s fraudulent claims about vaccines. For those of you unfamiliar with Deer, he wrote a series of articles about Wakefield’s despicable deceit in the BMJ, once known as the British Medical Journal. You can read those articles herehere, and here.

Wakefield moved to Texas from the UK, partially because Texas defamation laws are favorable to the plaintiff. However, he has not won a single lawsuit against Deer or BMJ.

As a result of Wakefield’s miserable failure to show that Brian Deer was wrong,  Bailey slightly changed directions in her film to do a character exposition of Wakefield in the third act. What we get is Wakefield’s ego-driven science denialism, where he continues to insist that he is right and the rest of the world is wrong.

“The Pathological Optimist” clearly shows Wakefield is more interested in his own survival and legacy, rather than lifting a finger to actually provide scientific evidence that he right and we are wrong. Not one tiny bit of evidence. He seems more focused on his cult of personality than demonstrating whether he has had robust evidence in support of his beliefs.

His pathological narcissism is beyond anything I’ve read outside of Donald Trump. He says,

People say to me, ‘Listen, you can’t win this can you?’ I say, that’s not a reason not to fight. Mandela was in prison for 27 years in solitary confinement — how many people told him during that time that he couldn’t win?

Yes, he compared himself to Nelson Mandela. I just can’t respond to such nonsense.

His sycophants, like anti-vaccine activist JB Handley, push a narrative that supports Wakefield’s ego. There are anti-vaccine parents who follow him around like a rock star. Handley once said, “Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.” Oh geez, I’m an atheist and I find that comment disgusting.

One of Deer’s more damning reports about the fraudster is that Wakefield needed a “control group” of children who had not been diagnosed with autism. So he took blood samples from kids who were attending his son’s 10th birthday party. He did this without approval of the Institutional Review Board of his university (a necessary step to make sure clinical research is ethical), but he claims to have had the consent of the children’s parents. For their blood, they were given a goody bag. If you don’t know anything about medical research, I’ll try to explain – this is disgustingly unethical.

Nevertheless, Wakefield’s family, who were there of course, kind of dismiss Deer’s claims by seeming to imply that the whole episode was a typical birthday party. Apparently, according to them, kids were fighting to be first in line to get their blood drawn. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen lots of children getting their blood drawn – no kid (and most adults) are fighting to be first to get their blood drawn.

There’s so much more. Miranda Bailey did not include anyone with a point-of-view contradictory to Wakefield. Where was the Deer interview? I mean Brian Deer is the central character of the downfall of Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield is in Texas, almost assuredly because Deer had so destroyed Wakefield’s reputation in the UK, he had to escape.

I’m not a fan of Donald Trump’s immigration policies, but if he wants to deport Wakefield back to the UK, I’d be happy. But Trump and Wakefield are bros. Yeah, really.

But it’s more than just the missing Deer. Where are interviews of any noted scientist that might provide a viewpoint on the real science of vaccines? Bailey didn’t even attempt to show false balance, she showed no balance whatsoever. A good documentarian should at least give us a semblance of balance, if not describing the actual scientific consensus on vaccines. But Bailey seems to have been caught into Wakefield’s sphere of reality, where he is right, and everyone else is wrong.

Of course, if you want to read a “positive review” of “The Pathological Optimist”, they are all over the internet. But they’re mostly from anti-vaccine writers, or “journalists” who think that false balance is the best way to write a review. They think there is a controversy or debate surrounding vaccines – there isn’t. There’s one side that ignores evidence, and there’s the side that accepts the research of brilliant scientists who form a scientific consensus about the favorable safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Back to Andrew Wakefield

If I have any purpose in this article, it is to remind the reader about who Andrew Wakefield is. He is a fraud.

  • Wakefield’s original article in the Lancet claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was disowned by his coauthors and eventually retracted by the journal.
  • Brian Deer uncovered the massive fraud by Wakefield, which included things like working for attorneys who were suing MMR manufacturers, and trying to patent his own version of measles vaccine. Deer’s articles show, over and over, that Wakefield is a cunning fraud.
  • As a result of Deer’s investigation and the retraction of The Lancet article, Andrew Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. So call him Mr. Andrew Wakefield – he’s no longer a doctor.
  • Wakefield continues to litigate against BMJjust because, according to Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a legal scholar, he’s trying to make it appear that there is a legal debate about vaccines and autism – we’re on to him.
  • Vaccines are unrelated to autism. I know I wrote this above – there is absolutely no reliable scientific evidence that shows that any vaccine has any link to any part of the autism spectrum disorder. Honestly, the only reason that we have even spent one nanosecond thinking about this claim is because of Wakefield’s fraud.
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says, “Currently, there is no scientific evidence that vaccines or any material used to make or preserve vaccines causes or contributes to ASD. A great deal of research projects have come to the same conclusion, including those conducted independently and recently.”
  • Wakefield attempted to take advantage of the murder of Alex Spourdalakis as a result of the child’s autism.
  • With the advent of Wakefield’s claims, people believed that one of the safest vaccines that prevent some dangerous diseases was bad for their kids. And despite all of the science that has refuted the original lie, it’s always the original Big Lie that stands, and the truth, that the MMR vaccines does not cause autism, gets lost in the noise.
  • Because of Wakefield’s fraud, vaccinations against measles has dropped, and the incidence of measles has skyrocketed. Thanks Andy. Good job there harming children.
  • In 2014, there were 644 measles cases in 27 states. Thanks to Andy Wakefield, a disease that was nearly extinct is roaring back.

Miranda Bailey tries to make Andrew Wakefield appear to be some sad hero in her documentary, “The Pathological Optimist.” But every villain is a hero in his own mind. Andrew Wakefield is a villain to the children of the world who need vaccines to prevent diseases.

If you must see this film, try to do it with an open mind. That is, remind yourself that there is a vast mountain of evidence that says Wakefield is wrong. And that Wakefield, despite his tremendous ego, has done absolutely nothing to contradict that evidence. Don’t fall for false balance, thinking there is some controversy about whether vaccines cause autism – they don’t.

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!