A German court did not rule that the measles virus doesn’t exist

30 January 2024
What was claimed

The German Federal Supreme Court (BGH) confirmed in a recent ruling that the measles virus does not exist.

Our verdict

This is not true. Germany’s federal court did not rule on this. The case in the 2010s concerned whether proof of its existence had to be provided in a single publication to earn a reward.

An old myth that a German court ruled the measles virus does not exist has been spreading again on Facebook.

In particular, many posts have shared a screenshot of an article saying “the German Federal Supreme Court (BGH) confirmed in a recent ruling that measles virus do not exist” [sic].

This is not true, as other fact checkers have said before.

The article, which appears to originate on an activist website, concerns the case of Dr Stefan Lanka, who in 2011 offered a reward for proof that the measles virus existed.

Dr Lanka said (when translated by Google): “The prize money will be paid if a scientific publication is submitted in which the existence of the measles virus is not only claimed, but also proven and, among other things, its diameter is determined.”

In response, another doctor submitted six articles and claimed the reward, which a district court ruled that Dr Lanka had to pay.

However, a higher court overturned the ruling on appeal—not because it doubted the existence of the measles virus (which it called “the unanimous opinion in science”, according to a Google translation), but because “the plaintiff did not meet the criterion of the claim of providing proof of the existence of the measles virus through ‘a [single] scientific publication’”.

In other words, six articles providing proof between them would not meet the exact rules that Dr Lanka had set.

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) subsequently did not take up the case for a further appeal. German law reportedly requires such an appeal to be considered only “if the legal matter is of fundamental importance or if the further development of the law or ensuring uniform case law requires a decision by the appeal court” (Google translation).

We’ve published other fact checks about false claims that real diseases do not exist. False information about diseases and their causes can be harmful if people use it to make decisions about their health.

Image courtesy of CDC Global 

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