Repost – MMR and Autism: The OAP and the Court verdicts

This was originally posted at on June 27th, 2010.

In my last posting, I described how Edward Jenner invented vaccination, and the Vaccine Court. This posting will deal with the Omnibus Autism Proceedings before the Vaccine Court.

Taken in by the lies in Wakefield’s paper, numerous parents of autistic children filed suit with the Vaccine Court. The total number of claims eventually reached approximately 5000. To simplify things, the Special Masters ordered that all the autism claims be grouped together in a class-action lawsuit named the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP). A Petitioners’ Steering Committee (PSC) was set up to oversee the proceedings and to choose the suits with the best chance of success as Test Cases.

The use of Test Cases in Vaccine Court was a way of expediting proceedings. If the plaintiffs in the Test Cases won, the expert evidence in the Test Cases would then be applied to all the other OAP plaintiffs, who would then get a payout without their cases going to trial. If, however, the Test Case plaintiffs lost, the other cases could proceed to trial, but their chances of success would fall considerably.

There were three hypotheses of Vaccine-Autism causation in the OAP. The first was that the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Triple Jab in combination with thimerosal, a compound containing mercury that was used as a preservative in MMR, was the cause of the children’s autism. The second hypothesis was that the Measles component of MMR was the only cause. The third was that the thimerosal alone was the cause. The cases of Michelle Cedillo and Colten Snyder were the Test Cases for hypothesis one. The case of Yates Hazelhurst was originally intended to be the third Test Case for hypothesis one but was changed to the Test Case for hypothesis two. The cases of Colin Dwyer, Jordan King and William Mead were used as the Test Cases for hypothesis three.

In 2008, there was considerable excitement in the anti-vaccer world. The family of a girl named Hannah Poling had been compensated. According to the anti-vaccers, the Polings had been compensated because Hannah had been rendered autistic by a vaccination.

Actually, this was propaganda. Poling possessed an underlying mitochondrial disorder and the Vaccine Court ruled it was probable that a vaccination had aggravated the disorder. In fact, Hannah probably wasn’t autistic.

For the first time, the evidence behind the MMR-causes-Autism belief was carefully scrutinised in a court of law. Sadly, for the plaintiffs, it would be shown to be fundamentally incorrect. The government experts were able to completely dismantle the hypothesis. Patricia Rodier showed that the symptoms of mercury poisoning were totally different to autism. Toxicologist Jeffrey Brent tore the challenge test used to justify chelation to pieces. Dr. Catherine Lord (an expert on autism) destroyed the theory of ‘Regressive Autism’ advanced by the petitioners. Stephen Bustin demonstrated that the Unigenetics laboratory which had “found” Measles virus in the children’s tissue samples was riddled with quality control problems and its results could not be viewed as reliable. Immunosciences, another laboratory used by the petitioners, had had its license revoked for quality control problems years before the hearings. The petitioners withdrew four experts: James B Adams; Mark Robin Geier; Boyd E Haley; and Andrew J Wakefield. Seven more either withdrew or weren’t called: Harland Austin D. Sc.; David S Baskin MD; M. Eric Gershwin MD; Phillippe Grandjean, Ph.D.; Robert Hirsch PhD; Cathy A Lally, Master P.H.; and Mary Megson, MD.

In February 2009, the Special Masters ruled on Cedillo, Hazelhurst and Snyder. Each Special Master ruled on one of the cases. Link here.
George Hastings ruled on Cedillo (pdf here), Patricia Campbell-Smith ruled on Hazelhurst, Denise Vowell ruled on Snyder.
Comments from the rulings:
“After careful consideration of all of the evidence, it was abundantly clear that petitioners’ theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive…To conclude that Colten’s condition was the result of his MMR vaccine, an objective observer would have to emulate Lewis Carroll’s White Queen and be able to believe six impossible (or, at least, highly improbable) things before breakfast.” Plus…
“[T]he problems with the case presented by petitioners for general causation are overwhelming. The quality of the petitioners’ experts paled in comparison to the world-class experts proffered by respondent. The theories petitioners’ experts advanced lacked support in both logic and research…The weight of the scientific evidence is that the measles vaccine virus plays no role in the pathogenesis or triggering of autism. I thus conclude that petitioners have failed to demonstrate that the MMR vaccine can cause autism, even in the highly circumscribed subset of children with regressive ASD and gastrointestinal symptoms.”

George Hastings said that the Cedillos had “been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment.” Also: “This case, however, is not a close case. The overall weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ causation theories. The result of this case would be the same even if I totally ignored the epidemiologic evidence, declined to consider the video evidence, and/or excluded the testimony of Dr. Bustin. The result would be the same if I restricted my consideration to the evidence originally filed into the record of this Cedillo case, disregarding the general causation evidence from the Hazlehurst and Snyder cases. The petitioners’ evidence has been unpersuasive on many different points… The petitioners have failed to persuade me that there is validity to any of their general causation arguments, and have also failed to persuade me that there is any substantial likelihood that Michelle’s MMR vaccination contributed in any way to the causation of any of Michelle’s own disorders.”

All three rulings went against the plaintiffs. Yates Hazelhurst’s parents appealed the verdict to the Federal Circuit Court, and lost. They then appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and lost again. The parents of Michelle Cedillo also appealed to the Federal Circuit Court and lost. Their appeal before the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals began on the 10th June this year and is currently under way. I will report on the ruling when it arrives, but the Cedillos are almost certain to lose. The Snyders appealed and again, lost.
On March 12, 2010, shortly after Wakefield was found guilty of misconduct by the GMC, the Special Masters ruled on the three test cases for hypothesis three.
Denise Vowell ruled on Dwyer, George Hastings ruled on King, Patricia Campbell-Smith ruled on Mead. Again, all three rulings went against the plaintiffs. After this, parents in the OAP began requesting voluntary dismissal of their cases.
It was a sad ending to a class action suit that had turned out to be based on a pack of lies.
In my next post, I will blog about the GMC’s hearing into Wakefield for misconduct.

About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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