The Omnibus Autism Proceedings are officially over. The Petitioners’ Steering Committee, which was set up in 2002 to coordinate the activities of the Omnibus Autism Proceedings, has disbanded. Once the appeals in the Hazelhurst and Cedillo cases were unsuccessful, it was pretty much the end. According to the Office, “The remaining cases will be resolved on a firm-by-firm or individual basis, without PSC input or participation.”
Five firms between them represented around half the families in the OAP. “We expect to begin processing many case dismissals soon, along with payments of fees and costs, in cases filed by these five firms.” If a petitioner brought a case in good faith, that petitioner’s costs will be refunded by the Vaccine Court.
Six Test Cases for MMR-Vaccine causation were heard. Michelle Cedillo, William Yates Hazelhurst and Colten Snyder were the first three, and the rulings were issued in early 2009. All three cases lost, and all three were appealed to the Federal Court, which upheld the Special Masters’ verdicts. The parents of Yates Hazelhurst appealed to the Federal Cout of Appeals and lost. Michelle Cedillo’s parents did the same, and also lost. Colten Snyder’s parents chose not to. In 2010, the Special Masters ruled on the cases of Colin Dwyer, Jordan King and William Mead. Again, all three lost, but the cases weren’t appealed. According to the Office of Special Masters, “Petitioners remaining in the OAP must now decide either to pursue their case by submitting new evidence on causation, or take other action to exit the Program.” It is highly unlikely that any petitioners will be able to come up with a new causation hypothesis, let alone the necessary evidence to support it.
Some petitioners have decided to request voluntary dismissal. “[O]ur office is attempting to assist them in dismissing such claims in a manner which comports with the petitioners’ desires concerning judgments and future litigation outside the Vaccine Program…[A] number of cases have been dismissed for failure to respond…”
I have very mixed feelings about this.
On the one hand, I am very happy that the Vaccine-causes-Autism lie, which has consumed so much time and money, and diverted so much effort away from Autism Research, is coming to an end. On the other, some 5000 families who approached the Court in good faith, hoping for some funds that they could use to help their children, are going to leave empty handed. Even though the Court will compensate petitioners for reasonable expenses, many of the parents would have taken leave to appear at the Court for things like rulings, possibly even unpaid leave, and won’t be compensated for that, to name one example. This saddens me.