Nov 17, 2011 `
me+ME: Hillary Johnson on Whittemore vs Mikovits
Here is a follow-up on
from two days ago by Hillary Johnson, on her site, with her title:
- A Bitter Divorce
Incidentally, there also appeared a piece in ScienceInsider, which is part of Science, by Jon Cohen, who earlier wrote for Science of XMRV and dr. Mikovits's (*) dismissal. Here is a link with its original title.
The last is from 14 november, and I linked it in here only for documentary purposes and will not quote from it.
I also won't quote much from Hillary Johnson, but I lift out a number of mostly paraphrased points:
1. The WPI lawsuit is
fourteen pages apart from exhibits.
I could remark several
things about the above ten points, but I will not, except for one
remark, and consider them as statements of provisional fact, that I
cannot prove nor disprove, and presumably will be relevant and if
necessary tested or contested in a US court.
Then as to dr. Mikovits's lawyer's letter. It clearly speaks in favour of dr. Mikovits, but - somewhat oddly, in my opinion - does so in terms which seem calculated to be consumed and believed by patients and supporters rather than by a judge. I will quote some parts that strike me as odd.
A. The first part of the letter is used to contradict the WPI's claims and to draw up a prima facie case that dr. Mikovits cannot have stolen the notebooks, computer, or flash drive, rather like patient Lily Meehan, to whose house dr. Mikovits moved after being dismissed, also tried to do on the website of dr. Deckoff-Jones, that seems to me to be based on a quite questionable and unstated premiss, namely that the things the WPI says are stolen were stolen on the day dr. Mikovits was dismissed.
B. The letter also sketched the disagreement between Mrs. Whittemore and dr. Mikovits about what the lawyer claims but does offer no proof of:
I see no proof why Mrs. Whittemore's demand was "unreasonable and unethical", especially not as Dr. Lombardi was dr. Mikovits's own colleague in WPI and her own co-author, and as Mrs. Whittemore was dr. Mikovits's employer. And I do see a possible reason why dr. Mikovits may not have wanted dr. Lombardi to see the cell lines: Maybe something was wrong with them that dr. Mikovits did not want to be known was wrong with them. But then I do not know whether this is true, and must guess.
C. The above quoted part then ends with this sentence:
I can't prove this happened in the way it was stated, but I do know that "(expletive deleted)" sounds like an intentional reference to Watergate and president Nixon's prose habits: Surely, this is for patients' consumption rather than a legal argument?
D. In effect, the lawyer turns the WPI's case or argument against Dr. Mikovits around:
I read this as saying or suggesting that (1) it is not dr. Mikovits who stole the said stuff from the WPI - it is the WPI that stole the same stuff from dr. Mikovits, and (2) dr. Mikovits cannot do as she promised many patients to do if she does not get that same stuff back.
As to (1): To my knowledge, the only person with a firm personal interest in either having the disappeared stuff herself or in making the stuff disappear is dr. Mikovits: And that namely for either putting pressure on the WPI or for making evidence disappear that Science may require to establish what must happen with the 2009 paper, and what did happen that misled their referees to approve it. Also, I can see no reason why anyone at WPI would want to see the stuff disappear, and good reasons why everyone working there (now) would want to see it not disappear.
As to (2): Dr. Mikovits certainly has made a number of mistakes of various kinds with regards to science and to communicating about science - see e.g. me+ME: It's quite a MEss! - and she also has made many promises to patients. The above can be read as making part of the evidence for the reasons for some of her mistakes disappear, and also as exonerating her from having to fulfill her promises.
E. Then there is this:
That there is "private medical information" .. "in the notebooks" is, to my knowledge, a mere claim, and also I fail to see why, if it was there, it was not encrypted.
Then again, if "there is important data that should be published to advance the field", why has this not been published before, "to advance the field"? (And also: Why did nobody have the elementary wit of making a backup?)
In any case, dr. Mikovit's lawyer does not deny "there is important data" on the stuff that disappeared, and agrees to that extent with the WPI - except that the lawyer, and presumably dr. Mikovits, again turn the case around: It is not dr. Mikovits that stole the stuff; it is the WPI that stole the stuff.
Again, I fail to see why anyone at the WPI would want to steal the stuff, but I can make a fair case, if not based on much evidence, why dr. Mikovits may be thought to have a reason to wish that the disappeared stuff is not inspected by other scientists.
F. Then the lawyer makes several statements that seem to me again directed only at patients who support dr. Mikovits and may be willing to contribute to her legal costs, and that also are biased or not true:
That is slanted and vainly grandstanding, at the most sympathetic, and sounds like ad-prose: It is not dr. Mikovits who did this, but she and her team; her co-workers at the WPI; many patients; quite a few doctors, scientists and advocates; some forums; the decision of Science to publish the paper of dr. Mikovits et al in 2009; and the activities of some journalists. Also, it is not as if there was no "recognition and awareness" without either dr. Mikovits or her co-workers or the WPI: There was, without them. What is true is that there was considerably more media-interest in ME/CFS after the publication in Science, but the credit of that must be - also - shared with the referees of Science, I'd say, who by this time probably either are sorry they passed it or have a lot of questions for dr. Mikovits and her colleagues - which dr. Mikovits et al may try to evade by saying "Sorry, can't answer: The WPI stole the notebooks!"
The lawyer continues the above with:
Again, this seems to me not to be written for a judge, but for patients and supporters, for it surreptitiously smuggles in the suggestion that WPI is making the future research of dr. Mikovits impossible: As far as I know, the WPI is legally correct, and dr. Mikovits and her lawyer legally incorrect, about being given the grants.
Apart from that, it seems very unlikely, in view of what became known the last months about the shortcomings of the 2009 paper in Science of dr. Mikovits et al, that dr. Mikovits has much of a chance of being hired by any institution: Her reputation, at least among her own retrovirologist colleagues, has been much dented, and there have been quite clear repeated suggestions she may have falsified, faked or tweaked the data in Science, or may not have been honest about how these data were in fact obtained.
The lawyer - a Ms Lois W. Hart - also writes:
Really now?! This is presented as if dr. Mikovits caused all this, whereas to my knowledge the research of the Norwegian doctors Fluge and Mella has been going on for several years, and has little to do with dr. Mikovits's contention that XMRV or some HGRV probably causes ME/CFS, and much with the research of the Norwegians, who hit on a result they had not expected, during a cancer study, and also has much to do with the political and medical situation in Norway, much rather than with what dr. Mikovits did or did not do or say.
Anyway... to me it does not seem a credible performance by either dr. Mikovits or by her lawyer. And I can see several albeit speculative reasons why dr. Mikovits would want to make her own notebook, lab book and data disappear, but not why anyone else at the WPI would want to do that.
What is certain is that this is going to be a protracted legal mess, and what seems very likely is that there will be no further research of any kind anywhere into the relation between XMRV and ME/CFS, or into the supposed dangers of HGRV:
According to the WPI, dr. Mikovits made the data disappear; according to dr. Mikovits the WPI made the data disappear; according to Science major mistakes were made or improprieties done in the Mikovits et al paper that was published in Science in 2009; dr. Mikovits's group was unable to identify blood with XMRV, when working with the BWG, that they could "identify" when not blinded, but not when blinded; and most retrovirologists - who do not have any positive reason to wish not to find XMRV, also - now believe, on the basis of what has been found out by the BWG and others since 2009, that the paper of dr. Mikovits's group was seriously flawed and that there is no serious danger in XMRV, since it is most probably a lab-contaminant, and is incapable of infecting humans. (**)
Some of the above paragraph in which I sum some things up may be partially mistaken, but most, at least, seems correct, and it does not bode well for dr. Mikovits's case. Then again, there are very few who believe in that case, and unfortunately - I'd say, for them - the believers are mostly patients ill with ME/CFS, who thought they had found a redeemer, and who do not understand much about science or how real scientists operate, and who have learned to distrust medical authorities, because many of them have been consistently maltreated by these, some for decades on end.
I am in fact one of the patients who is and has been ill for over three decades, but then I do have a good understanding and good knowledge of science, and I do think XMRV is dead, at least as a serious candidate for explaining ME/CFS, and upon the whole I think it is dead for rationally convincing reasons, that also have mostly nothing to do with the fracas between the WPI and dr. Mikovits, and have much to do with the work the BWG did, that showed that dr. Mikovits's group was unable to identify blood with XMRV, as they claimed they could, that also was a finding dr. Mikovits agreed to. (See e.g. me+ME: Two years of XMRV + recent personal e-mails).
Finally, as I have said before, and as a sort of incidental side-benefit: While I would much like to learn the real biomedical cause of my - presently - 33 years of pain and misery with ME/CFS, and while I am willing to accept any explanation with good evidence and good logic and good methodology, I am myself glad that the probable cause of ME/CFS is not a retrovirus, except possibly in a relatively small sub-group, that then is likely to have been misdiagnosed with ME/CFS. And my reason to be glad is simply common humanity: Retroviral illnesses are dangerous and, at the present state of medical knowledge/ignorance, hard to control or treat.
P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
Short descriptions of the above:
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
7. A space-
and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
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