23 December 2009

Was Thomsen An C1=CAsC=C1?

The Times reports, "Libel gag on talk of 'medical hurricane'" and the blogosphere continues with, "GE Healthcare's Idiotic Libel Suit
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The reports both have a theme of big pharma tries to crush noble scientist and prevent him from telling the truth."

C1=CAsC=C1 ?

But here is a link to the particulars of the claim against Thomsen, along with his presentation.

GE claim that Thomsen was saying that they were guilty of knowingly exposing patients to a serious medical condition. Ultimately, as this case continues the court will decide whether or not this is true.

The more I think about the case and as I slowly digest these particulars of the claim, I wonder whether or not GE have a point.

Another two points, perhaps to be developed in another post, is why is only Thomsen being sued instead of both Thomsen and his employer? Surely, they are vicariously liable? And, why wasn't his presentation checked over by lawyers?

Update 10th January 2011. GE Healthcare Settles Libel Lawsuit Over Omniscan With Radiologist. I'm eleven months behind the times but nevertheless the story is still interesting.

"Neither party disclosed details of the settlement, but both [...], made conciliatory statements ...
Thomsen said. “It was not my intention to suggest on the basis of the evidence then available to me that GE Healthcare had marketed Omniscan knowing that it might cause NSF.”
GE officials also said their actions were misunderstood.

“It was not the intention of GE Healthcare by bringing proceedings for libel against Professor Thomsen to stifle academic debate,” said Dr. Lynne Gailey, executive vice-president of GE Healthcare communications. “GE Healthcare objected to statements made by Professor Thomsen which it interpreted as suggesting that it had known from the outset that Omniscan caused NSF. GE Healthcare accepts, however, that Professor Thomsen’s concerns were expressed in good faith. GE Healthcare regrets that these proceedings were necessary to reach the common understanding described in this statement.”

I still think that the fault in this episode lay with the employers of Professor Thomsen. I don't doubt that they supply legal advice and protection with everything else he does with regard to his work: why not with publishing?

They wouldn't let him unwittingly break employment law, health and safety laws, etc - why is defamation law such a blind spot?

I've just read Opinion: “The chill on scientific debate: could an old solution be re-heated?” Godwin Busuttil, particularly the comment by Alastair Mullis,

"Second, while I might have some confidence that some editors / peer reviewers of legal journals would at least have some knowledge of the law of libel and therefore read the article with this in mind, I would not be so confident that those from other disciplines would approach the task in the same way. Why should the fact that two scientists who have peer reviewed a journal submission and described it as scientifically sound mean that it is thereby protected under the law of libel? Would everything in the article be protected (assuming not malicious) or only those statements / imputations directly relevant to the scientific subject matter?"

The 'old solution' was that of providing a statutory privilege for articles written in scientific journals with the provision that, "all journals seeking to rely on it must be approved by and registered with an appropriate authority, " which sounds like a recipe for disaster.

The 'old solution' is what made me think of Professor Thomsen and his spat with GE.

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