I interviewed Dr Wilmshurst for the FT at around the same time. It was a shortish interview, discussing the reasons why he’d spoken out about the research he’d been involved with and the problems this had led to – notably being sued for libel. Unfortunately, by the time the article had been gone over by the legal team, it was several times the length and it was very difficult to see my original story in it. This wasn’t the lawyers fault – not at all. They were trying their best to ensure that I didn’t cause more legal problems – their job is to protect their writers from further libel claims. The only problem was that the interview was so laden with legaleze that it was very hard to work out what points were being made.
I gave up, to my shame. The point remains that current UK libel laws stifle scientific debate and, I think, even discussion of science, research and conflicts of interest in lay forums and the non scientific press. The bottom line is that this is bad for patients – if you don’t even know there is a debate, you may not ask the questions you need to.