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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Reviewers should be unbiased

6th March 2007

Academic journal editors have a responsibility for carefully selecting their contributors, says The Guardian’s Ben Goldacre.


In an article published last month, Mr Goldacre attacks the current issue of Lancet Neurology in which a vaccine activist and medical fringe doctor reviews a book on autism. The reviewer, American doctor Mark Geier, flatters the book which condones the views of the growing fringe autism movement on the speculative causes of autism, including immunisation programmes. Mr Goldacre argues that Dr Geier’s review cannot be impartial as he is an advocate of the view that vaccines are linked to autism.

Dr Mark Geier believes that mercury in vaccines causes autism and also that testosterone is implicated in the onset of the condition. He has carried out expensive and controversial treatments on children with autism, including "chelation" to remove the mercury from their systems and "chemical castration" using leuprorelin which blocks testosterone. Chelation therapy is believed to have caused the death of a child in 2005.

The journalist argues that there is no proven link between mercury in vaccines and autism and that therefore Dr Geier’s views are unreliable. He also points to the fact that in over ten of his legal cases Dr Geier’s testimony was either excluded,] or accorded little or no weight after it was found he was testifying beyond his expertise. He was further criticised by judges who called his testimony "intellectually dishonest" and said his work was not based on “scientific validity?.

Mr Goldacre admits that Dr Geier is entitled to his point of view but questions the wisdom of an editor who allows someone who is so subjective to review a book on such an emotive subject.


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