Skip to comments.Hearing may link autism to vaccines
Posted on 06/16/2007 8:36:33 PM PDT by Coleus
For more than a decade, families across the country have been warring with the medical establishment over their claims that routine childhood vaccines are responsible for the nation's apparent epidemic of autism. In an extraordinary proceeding that begins today, the battle will move from the ivory tower to the courts. Nearly 5,000 families will seek to convince a special "vaccine court" in Washington that the vaccines can cause healthy and outgoing children to withdraw into uncommunicative, autistic shells -- even though no link has been found by a large body of evidence and expert opinion. The court has never heard a case of such magnitude.
The shift from laboratory to courtroom means the outcome will hinge not on scientific standards of evidence but on a legal standard of plausibility -- what one lawyer for the families called "50 percent and a feather." That may make it easier for the plaintiffs to sway the panel of three "special masters," which is why the decision could not only change the lives of thousands of American families but also have a profound effect on the decisions of parents around the world about whether to vaccinate their children. A victory by the plaintiffs, public health officials say, could increase the number of children who are not given vaccines and fall sick or die from the diseases they prevent.
Economics and politics intersect in the case with questions of health and the deepening mystery of soaring autism rates. Advocates of the vaccine theory have argued that the increase in cases was triggered by a mercury-based preservative in vaccines that, they say, is toxic to children's brains. Under pressure from the advocates and to keep the issue from disrupting vaccination programs, U.S. officials began phasing out the additive, thimerosal, in children's vaccines around 1999 while maintaining that there was no hard evidence that it was dangerous. But thimerosal still is used in vaccines across much of the developing world. If the vaccine court decides that the preservative caused autism, parents of children in poor countries are likely to protest its inclusion, but removing it would make vaccines much more expensive and potentially put them out of reach for many.
Gary Golkiewicz, chief special master in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, where the case is to be heard, said he is aware of the larger ramifications. But the court's job, he said, is only to focus on whether plaintiffs show a plausible link between vaccines and autism. About 20 experts are expected to testify in the case, which will involve a staggering amount of complicated epidemiology and biochemistry. Golkiewicz said a ruling could be a year off. Experts for the government will argue that a range of epidemiological studies found no link between vaccines and autism, as the prestigious Institute of Medicine concluded in a 2004 report. The institute, part of the National Academies that was chartered by Congress to advise the government and the public on matters of science, dismissed the vaccine-autism theory, which is based mostly on biochemistry studies on the toxic effects of mercury.
Large international studies -- and preliminary evidence from the United States -- suggest that after thimerosal was removed from children's vaccines, autism rates continued to soar. The plaintiffs acknowledge that their case is far from airtight scientifically. But Kevin Conway, a Boston attorney representing the family of 12-year-old Michelle Cedillo of Yuma, Ariz., whose claim was designated the opening test case for more than 4,800 plaintiffs, said that even if the science is equivocal, he has a good legal argument, which is all he needs.
"There is a difference between scientific proof and legal proof," Conway said. "One is 95 percent certainty, and the other is ... 50 percent and a feather." Besides, Conway added, those who support the vaccine-autism theory did not put all their eggs in the thimerosal basket. They also argue that something else in vaccines may be making children sick. Scientific advocates for the vaccine-autism theory, such as the father-and-son team of Mark and David Geier of Silver Spring, Md., say fears about damaging public health programs have prompted scientists and the government to hide evidence of a problem. Many of the families believe that the medical establishment and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have conspired in a massive coverup.
Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and a biology professor at George Washington University, who has a 14-year-old autistic daughter, said the controversy has been a distraction from the real problem: finding services for rising numbers of autistic children and ramping up research to find a cure. "We are absolutely confident Rachel's vaccines have nothing to do with her autism," he said. But the family of severely autistic Michelle Cedillo, who arrived in Washington on Friday for the trial, disagrees.
Michelle was a healthy 15-month-old when she was given the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, said her mother, Theresa. The dozen or so words she had been able to speak -- including Mommy, Daddy, baby, kitty and juice -- vanished. She developed a high fever one week after the shot and went rapidly downhill. Today, she does not speak and is totally dependent on caregivers. She suffers from seizures, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease and is nearly blind. "I am not a scientist. I am not a doctor," her mother said in an interview. "We want to focus on Michelle and find out what happened and get the help for her that she needs."
“The shift from laboratory to courtroom means the outcome will hinge not on scientific standards of evidence but on a legal standard of plausibility — what one lawyer for the families called “50 percent and a feather.””
Uh-oh. That’s not even reasonable doubt. That’s the standard used in small claim court — preponderance of evidence.
Hang onto your medical pocketbook. The ambulance chasers are in ascendance.
These poor people looking for an answer to why their children got sick. I, personally, believe autism is caused by the use of commercial baby formula instead of breast milk. And there is also that stuff they use to make disposable diapers.
But then it goes on to say,
"There is a difference between scientific proof and legal proof," Conway said. "One is 95 percent certainty, and the other is ... 50 percent and a feather." Besides, Conway added, those who support the vaccine-autism theory did not put all their eggs in the thimerosal basket. They also argue that something else in vaccines may be making children sick." So are we supposed to believe, then, that even the parties to this lawsuit do not buy into its premise? That Conway sounds like a shyster who preys on people going through a family tragedy.
Friend of ours has a child who was destroyed by a vaccination. Her hair contained extraordinary levels of mercury post-vaccination. She was a fine beautiful child before the vaccination. She is autistic now. This should be a slam dunk. But it hasn’t been.
Lots of kids who are breast fed are autistic.
It also runs in families.
Preponderance of the evidence is the standard used for most issues in a civil trial - it’s not limited to small claims court and the like. Some issues in civil trials require “clear and convincing” evidence - which is somewhere between “beyond a reasonable doubt” (criminal standard) and “preponderance of the evidence.”
As for the link between mercury in vaccines and autism, it is not there.
If it runs in families, then how do the vaccines manage to cause it? I still think I’m on to something with the commercial formula. I would be willing to bet that the majority of the chidlren with autism were fed commercial formula (and used disposable diapers). Could be they need to look at the diet of the mothers who breast fed their children who became autistic. Another interesting theory I heard about this is that these rising numbers of austic children are being born to people whose parents used a lot of drugs.
I don’t know that they do.
I know of families where one of the kids was autistic so they didn’t give vaccines to the next kid. The next kid was still autistic.
Maybe in some kids autism is triggered by vaccines. I don’t think anyone really knows at this point.
I do think most people think there is a genetic component, but maybe something environmental triggers it.
Has anyone done a study to see if there is a link between former recreational drug use by a parent and autism in a child? As long as folks are throwing out theories without scientific proof, mine is as good as anyone’s.
Perhaps I should try to get a federal grant to do lifestyle history studies of parents of children with autism.
Hey, I can talk to dead babies,
accept the aborted ones. So back off!
Statistical studies have shown that mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists and engineers are over-represented among the parents of autistic children. Perhaps nerds should not marry other nerds.
Could be. Or perhaps the reason for the “soaring autism rate” is that the word “autistic” sounds so much more civilized than the phrase “a bit dim.”
Sounds to me like none of these keyboard experts have children that have been affected after being given the DPT shots. Jenny was very smart until she had these shots at about 3-3 1/2yo. After that she went downhill rapidly, and has remained at the 3-5yo level at age 30.
BTW we were not drug users, or rocket surgeons.
Most of these folks are talkin out their ass.
Feel free to share my thoughts with them.
Let’s see.... If autism typically sets in during a child’s early years, then it’s logical that its onset is going to be right around the time of one of the frequent sets of vaccinations recommended during those years.
Autism hasn’t anything to do with a person being “a bit dim.”
I agree. I also think they should break up the MMR into separate vaccines. There's enough anecdotal evidence suggesting that this triple vaccine could be a trigger.
Glad to see someone else has figured that out as well.
Methinks the good attorney is referring to the "nearest deep pocket in the neighborhood of a sympathetic client" and the "you can't prove a negative" standards of proof. Both tried-and-true mainstays of the lotto wing of the legal industry.
Well lets take the premise and run with it. If vaccines do in fact cause Autism then what ?
It seems to me that things like the eradication of smallpox, polio, and all those other things outweighs the harm in the other direction should it even exist.
Or would our kids be better off dead from disease so they don’t get autism ?
These folks are crackers.
I think caution is advised with vaccines. You need to see what the risk factors are and if your child has any of those risks.
Also, I think if I had autism in my family I would consider not getting all of the vaccines.
Splitting up vaccines is a good idea. After a child gets one vaccine, they can get a titre test to see if they have already built up immunity.
It’s called caution.
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