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Antivaccinationists brief Congressional staffers, and the misinformation flows

The other day, I pointed out that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was following in the footsteps of the former chair of the committee, likely the quackiest, most antivaccine Congressman who ever served in the House of Representatives. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN). I guess that since Burton retired at the end of the last Congress, someone has to step up to the plate when it comes to pushing the antivaccine agenda. Issa is doing that by holding a hearing a year ago on “autism” that was in reality a thinly disguised excuse to castigate scientists from the CDC about the vaccine schedule and why the question of whether vaccines cause autism isn’t a priority for the government.

This year, he’s doing it again in a hearing that was bought and paid for by the antivaccine movement in the form of the Canary Party to the tune of $40,000. Only this time, the Canary Party wants Issa to go to go after the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a no-fault program instituted in 1986 to streamline the compensation of legitimate vaccine injuries through the creation of a special court, known as the Vaccine Court, presided over by judges known as Special Masters, that makes it easier for parents by automatically compensating certain specific “table injuries” and reimbursing parents for legal expenses and expert witnesses, win or lose. Overall it’s a good deal compared to regular court, with far fewer hoops to jump through and a greater ease of finding attorneys because they know that, win or lose, they’ll get paid. The reason it was necessary was because a flood of lawsuits in the 1980s was endangering the U.S. vaccination program, as more and more companies threatened to stop making vaccines because of liability concerns. Ironically, the woman who is now the grande dame of the antivaccine movement, Barbara Loe Fisher, was heavily involved in the drafting of the original legislation that created the Vaccine Court but turned against the system she lobbied for and helped create when it became clear that spurious, non-science-based claims, such as claims that vaccines cause autism, weren’t being compensated. Indeed, antivaccinationists were shocked that the Vaccine Court actually tries to base its compensation decisions on science.

In any case, this year, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be holding another hearing, as I pointed out. However, in the leadup to the hearing on the Vaccine Court, there was a briefing yesterday by Mary Holland, antivaccine lawyer not-so-extraordinaire, and Rolf Hazlehurst, whose son was one of the test cases for the Autism Omnibus. Fortunately, my skeptical tendrils are long, and there were at least two people there who were not down with the antivaccine message being pushed. The first was Ed Beck, Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for Inquiry its Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC. The second, who provided me with notes, shall remain anonymous.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that Mary Holland was quoted by Ed as having said something that totally nails the attitude of the antivaccine movement, albeit unintentionally:

So is the correlation between organic food sales and autism. Indeed, it’s even more dramatic. We don’t claim that organic food causes autism, though. Of course, the antivaccine movement is all about confusing correlation and causation; so Holland just couldn’t help herself, I guess.

That little tidbit out of the way, let’s dig in, based on what I know. First, it was announced that the hearing itself will occur on December 4, 2013. So mark your calendars, people. Those of you who are in the DC area who are of a science-based attitude, try to make it if you can to counter the torrent of attacks on the NVICP that will no doubt flow fast and furious. At the very least, you can warn your Congressional Representative about it and try to educate him at the same time.

First up was Mary Holland, who, according to the notes, swore up and down a massive stack of Bibles (metaphorically speaking) that she is really, and truly not anti-vaccine. This is, of course, utter nonsense, as I have documented on multiple occasions right here on this very blog. Let’s just put it this way. If Mary Holland is not “anti-vaccine,” why is it that I can’t find anything she’s written that supports her claim that she “favors and strongly supports safe and effective vaccines”? Why is it that she co-wrote with Louise Kuo Habakus an antivaccine screed called Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children? (The very title is clearly antivaccine.) And then why does she launch into a mass of easily debunked antivaccine canards? For instance, she showed a video about Gardasil that repeated many of the tropes and lies that I’ve discussed about Gardasil on many occasions.

One wonders whether Holland could even define a “safe” vaccine. In fact, it would be very interesting to see her try. No medical intervention is absolutely 100% risk-free. So what level of risk is “safe enough” for a vaccine? By any measure, vaccines are incredibly safe, but Holland seems to think that they must be absolutely safe. I’ve often joked that being antivaccine is a bit like pornography. As Justice Potter Stewart once famously wrote of pornography, “…I know it when I see it,” and I know antivaccine tropes and views when I see them. However, unlike pornography, even though it’s quite true that what is anti-vaccine is in general easily identifiable to those of us who pay attention to such matters, it’s much more difficult to define in a way that those who don’t pay attention to the issue can recognize. This difficulty is complicated by the fact that there are a number of different flavors of anti-vaccine views ranging from the view that vaccines are a tool of Satan to depopulate the earth to views that blame them for autism and chronic disease, the latter of which Holland apparently stated in abundance. It’s also important to realize that most parents who buy into anti-vaccine views do so out of ignorance, because they have been misled, rather than due to stupidity, although I’m not so sure about Mary Holland. In any case, antivaccinationists can usually be identified by pressing them to identify vaccines whose use they support and that they consider “safe.” Mary Holland appears not to consider any vaccine adequately safe.

Next, Holland repeated a “classic” antivaccine trope, in which it is pointed out that mortality rates from various vaccine-preventable diseases were falling before the vaccines for these diseases were introduced. She then claims that vaccines affected incidence, not deaths. This is, of course, a trope so hoary that it has a name: the “vaccines didn’t save us” gambit. It’s intellectually dishonest in the extreme, because it ignores the fact that the reason that mortality from these diseases was decreasing was because of better medical care and that further decreasing mortality required decreasing the incidence of these diseases. That’s just what vaccines did. Of course, one wonders what on earth this has to do with the NVICP and whether it is a good system to compensate the vaccine injured. One might think that Holland is trying to denigrate the efficacy of vaccines in order to demonize them and make it easier for her to attack a system that doesn’t give her the desired result.

Add to that Holland’s parroting of more antivaccine misinformation and distortions, such as the claim that when it comes to vaccines children are getting “too many too soon.” Then, of course, there was the classic confusing of correlation with causation, in which Holland tried to link chronic conditions such as obesity learning disabilities, asthma, infant morality, and, of course, autism, with the increased number of vaccines and doses in the current vaccine schedule, calling it a “dramatic correlation,” as Ed described in his Tweet above.

But she’s not antivaccine. Oh, no. Not at all. She just thinks vaccines are dangerous, that they are responsible for autism and most chronic diseases in children. She just repeats the lie that Gardasil kills and that it causes premature ovarian failure and infertility. Oh, and she thinks that the U.S. has taken away informed consent for vaccines. One wonders when that happened. (It didn’t.) In reality, what Holland is unhappy about is that her version of misinformed consent isn’t what rules.

You know, just reading my mole’s notes, I’m really embarrassed for Holland. She is really clueless, so much so that she actually showed the Canary Party video, you know, the one narrated by Rob Schneider. It’s a video so chock full of pseudoscience, cherry picked information, and spin that it’s in danger of collapsing into a black whole of stupid. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to try to make a scientifically valid and persuasive case, that video is the last thing you want to do. Of course, making a scientifically valid case is not what this is about. Making an appeal to emotion is. That’s why Holland brought up even more of the antivaccine movement’s greatest hits, including:

And Holland claims she’s not antivaccine.

I’m not going to say much about Rolf Hazlehurst’s part of the talk, because it was even more vacuous, consisting of his misinformed opinion interspersed with rants about how unfairly treated he thought he was by the Vaccine Court, He accused the Vaccine Court of “willfully and intentionally” concealing “critical and material evidence” on how vaccines cause autism and representing that this evidence did not exist. The claim, of course, is utter nonsense, as the evidence presented was pure pseudoscience. As I discussed so long ago, the Vaccine Court bent over backwards to be deferential to him and the parents of the children who were the other test cases. As much as I want to sympathize with him for his travails taking care of a special needs child, from the notes I read the amount of misinformation he spouted was nearly as epic as Holland. One also notes that Mr. Hazlehurst and his wife subjected their son to all sorts of “autism biomed” treatments, up to and including chemical castration with Lupron, a particularly vile form of nonsensical medical treatment that I’ve blogged about multiple times before.

So what are Holland’s complaints about the NVICP? Here are some of them, with my comments after:

  • The NVICP forecloses access to other forums. No, it doesn’t. If a case fails in Vaccine Court, the parents can access the federal courts.
  • Now adversarial, contrary to original intent. It’s only seen as adversarial if you try to bring a case based on pseudoscience.
  • No judicial independence of special masters. Holland presents no evidence to support this contention.
  • 80% of cases lose. One wonders how many cases Holland believes to be an appropriate number? I’m guessing that anything less than 100% of cases winning would be too few for her.
  • Unequal playing field – HHS lawyers/families. I’m not sure how this is the case when the parents’ legal expenses are reimbursed.
  • Three year statutes of limitations. This seems more than reasonable for a true vaccine injury, unless Holland can tell us of a vaccine injury shown by science to become apparent longer than three years after being vaccinated.
  • Experts demeaned and reputations harmed. You mean like Mark Geier, the quack who used chemical castration to treat autism because he thought it would improve the efficacy of chelation therapy? Apparently to Holland “demean” means to dismiss quacks from being considered valid expert witnesses.
  • Conflicts of interest. Ah, yes. The all-purpose antivaccine bugaboo: Allege conflicts of interest without actually demonstrating a real conflict of interest.
  • Not transparent – people don’t know about it. That is not a reason to eliminate it.
  • Judicial forum for 90% – not design, no rules of evidence, no discovery, no jury.
  • Science lacking. Science is indeed lacking, but not in the Vaccine Court. The only science that is lacking is compelling science demonstrating a link between vaccines and autism and all the other chronic diseases that Holland blames on them.

Holland then lists policy options (again, my comments afterward):

  • Do nothing. I would actually be fine with this. What’s not broken doesn’t need fixing.
  • Tinker at edges. I would be OK with this; no system is perfect. However, it would depend on the specifics of the “tinkering.” If it’s “tinkering” that weakens the science used by the Vaccine Court, I would oppose that.
  • Make the NVICP optional. It already is, essentially, optional. If a finding goes against the parents, they can still access federal courts.
  • Give limited liability protection. Remove liability protection for vaccines since 1986. This would be an interesting development. If this were to happen, then there would be liability protection for the whole cell pertussis vaccine, but not the newer acellular pertussis vaccine. In any case, this is a dumb idea.
  • Repeal act. Give access to courts. Make manufacturers liable. Revert to state informed consent laws. Remember why the National Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 was passed? It was because of a flood of frivolous lawsuits threatening to drive manufacturers out of the business of manufacturing vaccines? Want to go back to those days? Want to risk losing the U.S. vaccine program? This is the way to go if that’s what you want.
  • Create a federal right of vaccine exemption. Oh, hell no!
  • Repeal act AND create federal vaccine exemption right. Double, oh, hell no!

As you can see, Mary Holland’s goal is nothing less than the dismantling of the NVICP and the Vaccine Court. She must not be allowed to succeed. If you want to know more about why, please read Dorit Reiss’ post on the issue, in which she explains from a legal perspective just how wrong (and wrong-headed) Mary Holland is and how, by every possible measure, for children with real vaccine injuries, the Vaccine Court is equivalent to or better than going through the civil courts. I’ll be keeping an eye on developments between now and December 4. I hope you will do the same and be sure to contact your legislators to educate them about Holland’s intent and to urge them to support the NVICP.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

280 replies on “Antivaccinationists brief Congressional staffers, and the misinformation flows”

In the current “do-nothing” Congress – how exactly do they think they’ll push forward anything so controversial?

True story, Lawrence, I was thinking the same thing. They can’t even keep themselves open!

I’m still writing my rep. Thanks for a play by play, Orac, so I can be more specific.

Given how rife with errors the claims and how ludicrous Holland’s “solutions” were and remained completely unchallenged by the staffers, the hearing ought to be quite the clown show.

I’ve also heard that the briefing was filmed, and that the video will be posted on Facebook soon.

Orac, did the notes mention anything about Holland making the “autism-like symptoms are the same as autism” nonsense that stemmed from her Pace article? If so, then I just have to say again that if autism-like symptoms are the same as autism, then I have polio.

You really have to wonder though about HHS and CDC. Why don’t they provide decent briefings themselves, to answer the canards? The last time Issa had a meeting, they sent a couple of people to talk about autism. Surely they must have known the thing was the usual farce. Why the hell didn’t they send people who knew about vaccine safety?

“If so, then I just have to say again that if autism-like symptoms are the same as autism, then I have polio.”

Well, then I have an awful case of tuberculosis. (I’ve been a little congested as the asthma flared up with the cold air coming in. Nothing albuterol and singulair can’t handle.)

Jeff @6: They may have been specifically not invited, or (especially with CDC, which is in Atlanta) may not have had the budget to send somebody (this is a feature, not a bug, of the sequester). Or they may have feared that Issa would turn his committee on them–he has been known to use his committee chairmanship for scoring political points against his enemies, real or perceived.

And as Orac notes in the original post, the purpose of this briefing was not scientific persuasion. The target audience was Congresscritters and staffers, most of whom have no scientific background (and several of the medical doctors in Congress have displayed a profound incomprehension of basic biology). Unfortunately, it is emotion rather than reason which tends to prevail in politics, which is why Issa et al. even have political careers in the first place.

@ Jeff

My understanding from reading Ed’s tweets yesterday was that no questions were allowed. I’m not sure how briefings work, but I think that is the cranks set it up/scheduled the agenda, true experts are SOL unless there’s room for questions. They may have been people there and they couldn’t say anything.

Also, the issue is pretty much dropped for the CDC, they system is sound, and they’ve provided the evidence for vaccine safety. If they preemptively held briefings to say “everything’s good guys, just want to remind you!,” it would 1) look weird, 2) be a waste of time, and 3) open up the floor for debate by an expert authority on a subject where debate isn’t appropriate. Unfortunately, they relegates them to responding to idiots, scrambling to get briefings in after the initial strike.

Well, somebody has his knickers/ panties/ shorts in a twist/knot /bunch**-

Jake ( @ AutismInvestigated) perseverates about Mark’s apparent move away from the mercury hypothesis. He includes e-mails from 2007 and carries on because the Canary Party promised Hooker that the next meeting would be about CDC cover-ups not vaccine court.

Blaxill,it seems, doesn’t scoff at data from the Danish fraudster “principal investigator” or more recent Caliifornia data that fail to show a decline in autism rates after the removal of the deadly nerve poison- and worst of all, he thinks that the problem of causation may be more complex .

Jake’s rant contains an ironic quote from Hooker – that he perhaps agrees with whole-heartedly:
“Mark Blaxill is not a scientist and should not think that he can represent the science around the issue. I’m frankly sick and tired of him playing “cowboy” scientist acting as if anyone can do what a lot of us trained so long and hard to do”

I would guess that neither is as happy as a little girl today.
Will Jake’s next post be”How Mary and Mark Stole Something or Other”?

** need to cover variants.

I guess I am just a tendril in Orac’s vast empire now.

We definitely appreciate your letting Ed know about this I hope Ed is still planning to write up his first-person account. He can also contact me and follow up regarding the actual hearing if he thinks it would be helpful. This was just the warm-up—unfortunately. Sadly, Darrell Issa is turning into this generation’s Dan Burton. We need CFI and JREF to help combat this.

Now report to Lord Draconis for your pharma shill reward, for we are all but sub-tendrils of an even larger being of which CFI and JREF are but tendrils. Or whatever. 🙂

@Tim Farley

I guess I am just a tendril in Orac’s vast empire now.

Umm…Ia! Ia! Orac fhtagn!…?

I located Kent Heckenlively’s coverage of the Hazelhurst Vaccine Court’s proceeding. The science teacher/attorney Heckenlively actually compares the respondents’ attorney and the Special Master to pimps:

http://www.ageofautism.com/2007/11/its-hard-out-he.html

“A few years back there was a song called “It’s Hard out here for a Pimp” which was nominated for an Academy Award. As I read through the first of four days in the second test case for the Autism Omnibus Proceeding, Hazlehurst v. the Secretary of Health and Human Services, all I could think was that there must be some days when it’s equally hard to be a government attorney defending the current vaccination program.”

According to Kent Heckenlively, the Hazelhursts embarked on biomedical treatments which included the castrating drug Lupron, prescribed by Mark Geier (who only charged the parents a few hundred dollars per treatment)…because their autistic child “had high testosterone levels”.

Is Rolf Hazelhurst, who is also an attorney, going to be their expert witness, testifying at the December 4th Hearing? Will Mrs. Hazelhurst, who gave up her job as a “Big Pharma Shill” (drug rep), to care for her autistic son, also testify?

The NVICP forecloses access to other forums. No, it doesn’t. If a case fails in Vaccine Court, the parents can access the federal courts.

No, as stated the complaint is accurate. In particular he was almost certainly referring to Bruesewitz v Wyeth. Yes there’s an appeals process after the Special Master rules, but that’s limited in scope. There is no right to file a new suit outside the program after losing in the vaccine court.

In fact, that’s the whole POINT of the law – limiting the liability of the vaccine manufacturers by barring lawsuits outside the program.

So while he’s wrong to consider this a bad thing, that is a true statement of the law’s effects.

@Beamup

Well, yes and no. (And hopefully Narad’s lessons have finally sunk into my brain by this point.) Other fora for design defect claims are precluded (though appeals of the SM’s decision are available, and work up the Federal court system to the SCOTUS), but manufacturing defect claims and labeling defect claims are still able to be pursued in civil court.

While the “can’t sue in civil court” thing has a kernel of truth to it, it’s not the whole truth and is misleading. What’s interesting is that the whole “manufacturers know that their vaccines cause autism, but they just cover it up” argument could be pursued, I think, in civil court under the labeling defect claim. It’s not likely to win, but they could try. It’s kind of surprising that they haven’t tried that yet.

@Todd – civil litigation can be hideously expensive (and lawyers are reluctant to take cases on retainer without a good chance at winning or at least getting a large settlement), so I’m not surprised that there haven’t been more attempts….although, with the current rules of Civil Procedures, Discovery can be quite a potent weapon, if the anti-vax people think they Pharma companies are hiding documents or data that could back of their claims of a link between vaccines & autism…..

Again, it is much easier to make lies out of whole cloth, than take the chance at going for real evidence…since there is a chance they would be proven wrong in public (and the anti-vax folks can’t let that happen).

@Lawrence

civil litigation can be hideously expensive

Indeed, which makes it all the more mind-boggling that they’re trying to get rid of the NCVIA and NVICP. Some complain that NVICP can be slow and drag on, but they forget that in civil court, the defendant, if sufficiently well-resourced, can file various motions to draw out the process even longer, at great cost to the parties involved.

But yeah, wrt the labeling defect/”they know!” claim, if they are certain of their convictions, really surprised they haven’t tried that yet. But, as you point out, it would open them up to being found out to be the liars they are.

@ Todd:

As I understand it, mainly from reading the Bruesewitz opinion, claims for manufacturing defect or mislabeling essentially must represent “this is not as approved by the FDA.” If it’s labeled with the FDA-approved language, there is no mislabeling. If the product produced is the formulation the FDA approved, there’s no manufacturing defect.

Claims of the form “this was manufactured and labeled as approved by the FDA, but caused this side effect anyway” are necessarily design defects and barred.

You’re right that “this lot was contaminated, and the contaminant caused harm” or “this instruction which was in the FDA-approved text was omitted from the insert due to a printing error, resulting in incorrect administration, which caused harm” could be pursued outside the program – but those aren’t the interesting claims.

I think you’d need to be a brave attorney to take many vaccine litigation clients outside the system.

Firstly, a huge number of the clients would be poorly educated people who have been drawn in, and would expect a contingency or reduced fees arrangement for the noble cause they’ve been told they are fighting.

Then there’s a situation where the plaintiff’s evidence would mostly be litigation-driven “research”, which judges are required to give lesser weight to.

Then there would be the plaintiff’s experts, who mostly have records of scathing denigration by special masters as professional witnesses outside their expertise.

Then you’ve got the issue that plaintiffs in product liability suits are notorious liars, who commonly make up any story about tripping on the sidewalk or being in constant pain after a rear-ending. ‘He was a bubbly nine-month old who walked, ate with a knife and fork, and had a vocabulary of 60 words, until [insert vaccine]…”

A horrendous situation compared with the guaranteed fees of vaccine court.

I will specifically quote the Bruesewitz ruling:

What the statute establishes as a complete defense must be unavoidability (given safe manufacture and warning) with respect to the particular design.

A vaccine’s license spells out the manufacturing method that must be followed and the directions and warnings that must accompany the product. Manufacturers ordinarily must obtain the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval before modifying either. Deviations from the license thus provide objective evidence of manufacturing defects or inadequate warnings.

So unless there was a deviation from the license, it’s barred.

I like to note that although no vaccine is 100% safe, neither is not getting vaccinated. Indeed, getting vaccinated is generally safer than not getting vaccinated. That’s kind of the point.

“… which makes it all the more mind-boggling that they’re trying to get rid of the NCVIA and NVICP”

Not mind boggling at all. The autism/vaccine team lost in vaccine court. It may be more expensive to go outside, but it would be a chance.

Go back and read Kent Heckenlively and Mary Holland’s reviews of the Omnibus. Holland tried to stick to what was actually happening. Heckenlively talked about how well things were going. At the time there wasn’t a feeling that these were contentious and rigged.

For example

The response by the government seemed to be weak. It’s defensive, and not offensive. To say that the IOM already ruled on it and we’re not going to go any further is not aggressive.

If I was the attorney on the other side, I’d say, we’re going to keep running this issue into the ground with our overwhelming research to show you that you’re wrong. They’re not doing that.

They’re playing defense, not offense. I think that’s the entire game plan of the government.

It doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me.

He even had his “dark tower” article:

In the dream I stood on a great, grassy plain, while off in the distance rose an enormous, ugly Dark Tower. I knew the Dark Tower concealed all the lies told about autism as well as the answers we so desperately seek. A voice whispered in my ear, “The Dark Tower will fall,” but I couldn’t believe it. The Dark Tower was too powerful.

But then a gigantic bolt of lighting struck the Dark Tower and I watched it crumble to the ground. The lies were seen for what they were, and we had the information we needed to start healing our children. I felt a joy well up within me which was almost beyond description.

They thought they were going to win. They thought that the proceedings were fair (at that time). There wasn’t a discussion of how unfair the proceedings supposedly were or how contentious.

“I like to note that although no vaccine is 100% safe, neither is not getting vaccinated.”

Exactly. Not vaccinating is an “unavoidably unsafe” action.

@Beamup

Don’t get me wrong. They would have a hell of a time with trying to come up with some claim that’s not design defect that would have even a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding, but they could try, which is why the whole “completely shielded from liability” or “can’t sue outside the VICP” arguments are dishonest.

@Matt Carey

I understand what their mindset is, but it still boggles my mind that they think that the civil court route would be easier or better. Their blinders keep them from seeing that their situation would be much more difficult outside NVICP.

Anyone want to make a scene? “Save our kids, protect vaccine access!” Sounds like fun to me.

What’s interesting is that the whole “manufacturers know that their vaccines cause autism, but they just cover it up” argument could be pursued, I think, in civil court under the labeling defect claim. It’s not likely to win, but they could try. It’s kind of surprising that they haven’t tried that yet.

If I recall correctly, this was part of the Sykes lawsuit. Lisa Sykes (the same one who partnered with the Geiers on some studies and whose kid was one of the first Lupron subjects) did bring a lawsuit. She used Cliff Shoemaker (who probably threw the vast majority of business at the Geiers from the court). As the case was closing down, Shoemaker misused his authority to subpoena Kathleen Siedel (Neurodiversity.com) claiming she was part of some grand conspiracy. The subpoena was quashed.

Consider this from the Sykes lawsuit

The Defendant continued to promote the use, sale and distribution of Thimerosal and/or Thimerosal-containing HypRho-D® despite growing concern in the scientific and medical professions for the association of neurodevelopmental disorders and mercury poisoning in children exposed to mercury containing products, knowing full well that their design was defective and could easily be changed to a product that contained no preservative or a safer preservative that is not a bioaccumulative neurotoxin.

Sykes argued design defect and breach of warranties

The Defendant, by and through the sale of the product in question, expressly and impliedly warranted to the public generally, and to the Plaintiffs and their providers specifically, that HypRho-D® was of merchantable quality and was safe and fit for the use for which it was intended.

Which sounds to this layman like a failure to warn argument.

@Todd – they’ve been sold a bill of goods by Trial Attorneys who think nothing more than the years (and decades) of fees they would be able to charge if they went to Civil Court…..

Knowing the Legal industry as I do, I can tell you, they don’t know how good they have it with the Vaccine Court…..

What surprises me is that there are not a lot more cases that win at vaccine court. I’m not offering stats, but I would think that the distribution of first symptoms of developmental disorders and the distribution of vaccine administrations would produce more coinicidences and hence table injury awards, even in the complete absence of any causal link, than we are seeing.

Putting up a case or two where table injury awards were made is a hopeless basis of convincing anyone of modest intellect and knowledge that vaccines cause autism.

It’s like saying an asshole struck by lightning proves there is a God.

they’ve been sold a bill of goods by Trial Attorneys who think nothing more than the years (and decades) of fees they would be able to charge if they went to Civil Court…..

The attorneys outspoken on this issue are parents of autistic kids–Holland, Hazelhurst, Krakow.

@ Matt Carey:

Thanks for your inclusion of Kent’s dream:
altho’ I don’t interpret dreams, I think it points out the degree of mythic significance they attribute to their righteous mission-
people who think of themselves primarily as heroes or as saviours make me extremely nervous.

At the end of the day, I don’t think this has anything to do with compensation, the court, ease, etc, or anything that their claiming this is for. The point of this is to reopen the “debate” on a public stage and ingnite fear. AGAIN. They’re running out of options and ways to do that.

My congressperson just got a two-page letter.

I wonder how much the earlier detection of autism might knock the wind out of the antivax sails?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24837462

Of course, it’s early days for that method so it might never come about. But if it did become a standard test, would the antivaxxers be forced to concentrate on vaccinations given in the first few months of life? How long before they’d be blaming all the vaccinations the mother had as a child?

How long before they’d be blaming all the vaccinations the mother had as a child?

They’ve already started. Read some of the comments sections on articles discussing it. The new goalpost will soon be Mommy’s childhood shots.

@Rich Woods

Oh, they already emphasize the earlier vaccines (e.g., HepB birth dose), and have used the mother’s vaccinations to explain autism in those children who are completely unvaccinated (e.g., Kim Stagliano’s youngest daughter). The earlier detection thing, if it pans out, would just be ignored or dismissed as unreliable. The true believers would still go right on blaming every vaccine under the sun. Just look at how they still clamor on about thimerosal or MMR.

It’s like saying an asshole struck by lightning proves there is a God.

In which case god’s name is obviously Zeus…

huge number of the clients would be poorly educated people

Unfortunately, an awful lot of these parents do appear to be well-educated. Just not very smart.

@ Todd:

I’m going to continue to disagree. The claims that they make are clearly design defect claims. A refusal to try and dress them up as something else to evade the law’s requirements, and instead trying to change the law to allow the claims they want to make, is IMO more honest.

Still misguided, of course.

@Todd W.

“I understand what their mindset is, but it still boggles my mind that they think that the civil court route would be easier or better. Their blinders keep them from seeing that their situation would be much more difficult outside NVICP.”

Maybe , maybe not. I suspect they believe they can win over the hearts and minds of a jury of their peers, science be damned.

@dingo199

Yeah, don’t get me started on polio eradication and how the combination of vaccine resistance and civil war are hampering that goal.

@ Rich Woods:

There have been other studies over the years that point to genetic, pre-natal and peri-natal causation as well as other very early indicators ( patterns of gaze, physiognomic indices- head size, intra-facial proportions, brain wave patterns, brain anatomy differences etc).

Still no dice.

In addtiion to what Todd W. mentions they also blame environmental factors like non-organic foods, meds, GMOs, toxins ad nauseum. It seems that anti-vaxxers like the Canary Party have expanded the model from * vaccines cause autism* to * vaccines plus other stuff cause autism plus other conditions*

I suspect they believe they can win over the hearts and minds of a jury of their peers, science be damned.

Indeed, that’s probably the thinking, and they might get lucky a few times. But what I think is more likely (IANAL) is that any plaintiffs’ lawyers in such cases (where the plaintiff does not have enough money to pay retainer fees, and few individual plaintiffs would) would have to be working on a contingency fee basis (because unlike the current Vaccine Court setup, regular civil court does not guarantee a payday for the plaintiff’s lawyer, particularly if the defendant prevails), and will therefore of necessity take only the cases they think are most likely to succeed. There is also a standard of scientific evidence admissible in court (I forget the name of the case which is attached to this rule), and I expect defense lawyers to challenge any alleged expert testimony presented by these plaintiffs. Finally, even when plaintiffs succeed at trial, defendants can appeal on errors of law, and will likely win a few of those appeals (since any adverse judgments would come out of their pockets rather than something that resembles a mutual insurance pool, defendants would have incentive to appeal).

TL;DR: The only people who are likely to benefit from replacing the Vaccine Court with regular civil trials are attorneys for vaccine manufacturers.

@ Eric Lund: “I forget the name of the case which is attached to this rule”

I think it’s called the “Daubert” standard.

Here’s another example of the logic they are using.

Rolf Hazelhurst discussed the Court at AutismOne.
http://www.autismone.org/sites/default/files/hazelhurst.pdf

He notes what Dr. Zimmerman wrote about Hannah Poling (why Mr. Hazelhurst quotes the version as leaked by David Kirby with “CHILD” is beyond me since he also posted documents naming Hannah Poling directly)

“the vaccinations CHILD received on July 19, 2000 significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive
encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder.”

He later in his presentation (2 slides later) states:

In 2002, William Yates Hazlehurst was a patient of Dr. Zimmerman. Dr. Zimmerman’s diagnosis of Yates Hazlehurst’s neurological condition was “regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder,” which is word for word the exact same neurological diagnosis of Hannah Poling by Dr. Zimmerman and the Government concession in the Poling Rule 4-­‐c report.

It’s only “word for word” if you neglect “the vaccinations CHILD received on July 19, 2000 significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as”

@ Matt, where does Hazlehurst’s claim that Yates was diagnosed by Dr. Zimmerman as having “regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder,” appear in the OAP transcripts?

Science Mom,

it doesn’t. Corbier testified for the family, not Zimmerman. And Corbier never made that statement.

The statement comes from Hazelhurst’s AutismOne presentation.

@ Matt, thanks that’s what I thought based on my readings of the Hazlehurst case. So it’s argument by assertion and his child was never actually diagnosed with that. Of course you can have the exact same diagnosis as a child who was compensated by the NVICP when you just make stuff up. I sure hope Issa does his homework on this cast of characters lest he wind up looking rather foolish. Although it may be too late for that given how much money he’s blithely taken from them and tying up taxpayer time and money on this dog and pony show.

In his AutismOne presentation Mr. Hazelhurst includes an “initial evaluation” from Kenedy Kreiger and Dr. Zimmerman.

“Yates” came with his parents and paternal grandmother for further evaluation of regressive encephalopathy (348.9) with features of autism spectrum disorder

Given that it is an initial evaluation and the language above, it sounds like the diagnosis was made by someone else and the family came to Dr. Zimmerman for additional information.

ICD code 348.9 is “Unspecified condition of brain” or “Brain condition NOS”

“Create a federal right of vaccine exemption”

ADULTS already have the right to refuse. What she wants is the right to impose stupidity on children.

@ Matt, and no one questions him do they? Many of them had to be in attendance at the OAP hearing and certainly can read the transcripts/decisions. I guess their “scepticism” applies to select issues only.

Orac, thanks for the priceless link at the top of the fifth paragraph, the one between autism and organic food sales. Not only is the graph great, the comments are even better – hint to readers, do not have anything (especially liquid) in your mouth when you start reading.

Somebody should really plot graphs that illustrate the increase in ASD diagnoses alongside:
the growth of social media – and
the increase in anti-vaccination groups.
It might look similarly ironic.

Another:
autism diagnoses with/ without thimerisol.
No wait, that might actually show something.

Kent Heckenlively’s theory of autism and vaccines (from the link given by lilady @14):
“If your client didn’t do it, they want to know who might have committed the crime. If you can’t throw suspicion on somebody else, they’re probably going to convict your guy.”
Proof, anyone?

Orac, you become more laughable every day. No reports of children having a physical reaction to organic foods then regressing into autism the next day are there?

DW covering the variants

Well, somebody has his knickers/ panties/ shorts in a twist/knot /bunch**

I would like to add gaunch in a Gordian to combine a Canadianism with Greek Mythology in order to sound more erudite.

With a little polishing Heckenlively’s “Dark Tower” dream could be an entry in the Bulwer-Lytton competition.

Sid Awful

No reports of children having a physical reaction to organic foods then regressing into autism the next day are there?

Reports of children regressing into autism the “next day” after vaccinations are on a par with reports of Alien anal probings and Sasquatch sightings.

Guess what Liz…my post (finally) got through on that blog.

Did anyone put out a call for a fire science expert who graduated from a fourth tier college, to post another of his inanities here?

No? You can go home now, Offal.

I guess there are no reports of children regressing the next day after organic foods because no journal has yet published fraudulent research claiming there were.

Hey, I’ve got an idea… Is there an organic food court?

[And don’t say at the mall]

Hey Sid/Shecter/Offal/bikiniWaxingmachine/etc-

Puzzle this one in that reptilian cortex of yours–I have over 5,000 patients in my pediatric practice. I’ve not seen one of them “regress” into autism “the next day”. Hmmm, so let’s see…for something that’s 1 in 88 (autism) and I have 0 in 5000 regressing after vaccination (and often vaccines at multiple well visits), well Sid, that pretty much says it wasn’t the vaccines.

Dan weighs in on the meeting ( @ AoA) – and its actors-
and a Laura Hayes has some questions for”vaccine bullies” including our own Dr Chris**. Woo hoo!
As Mr Bowie wrote, “Fame, fame, fame, fame, fame…”

-btw- anyone not familiar with Sid/ Robert should peruse his Vaccine Machine facebook page. Go ahead it won’t bite you.

** and Dorit Reiss and Emily Willingham. They left Orac’s minions out.

Two hilarious pieces on AoA this A.M.

The brave intrepid district attorney (Rolf Hazelhurst) who’s fighting for truth, justice and the American Way…and whose autistic child was not compensated for “vaccine injury”:

http://www.ageofautism.com/2013/11/standing-up-for-yates.html

And, yet another hit piece about Emily Willingham, Dorit Reiss and now, Christopher Hickie.

http://www.ageofautism.com/2013/11/dear-emily-willingham-dorit-reiss-christopher-hickie-and-other-vaccine-bullies.html

Congratulations Dr. Chris…You’ve “arrived”

Sadly, AoA almost never bothers to do hit pieces on me any more. They know such pieces don’t intimidate me any more. More importantly, they also know that I like them. They’re a badge of honor to me.

I also suppose it could have something to do with Jake Crosby’s self-immolation leading to his departure from AoA, too. 🙂

One minus of blogs like this is that you can’t “like” comments. I liked that last one even more than most comments here.

Jake is gathering his own little crew – it seems that the main focus of his invective is now the talented Mr Blaxill.
Gad, I’m starting to woder if perhaps MB, MBA isn’t all that bad…No wait. He’s awful. ANd he’s a leader of the awful.

HOWEVER Jake is really doing us minions service because he discusses the inner workings of the anti-vax movement and the clandestine rivalries and points of disagreement. They have to disagree- they don’t have any data to ground their egos to reality.

Thanks for the links, Lilady. Don’t they realize their rants are nothing but a paper trail highlighting their actual motives? We all know they aren’t concerned with making the system better for those who might truly be injured, but then they go and put it in writing for everyone to see! You put your expert witness/representative/wronged parent up, then they run back to the conspiracy group and brag about how well they represented the conspiracy group they’ve been in for years? Even if people don’t understand the science, they will catch on that if this were real, they wouldn’t keep having to recycle their own over and over.

Oh, congrats Dr. Chris. Wear this honor proudly.

I’m sure Laura Hayes isn’t actually expecting an answer (and I don’t plan to post there), but here are my answers to her question:
1. Yes
2. Maybe
3. Probably not
4. Yes
5. No
6. No
7. No
8. No
9. Probably not, and this question effectively repeats question 3.
10 Probably not, and this question effectively repeats question 3.
11. No
12. No, and I would seriously suggest such a parent reexamine his/her/its religious convictions.
13. No.
14. No
15. Don’t plan to read the account, so we’ll leave that as undecided.

Age of Autism…a never-ending source of unintentionally humorous material for Orac to blog about. The gift that keeps on giving.

Our Laura, has been quite busy, in between her devotion to caring for two “vaccine-injured” children. She was involved in one of the groups that fought against the passage of California AB 2109 and found the time to post this rant directed at a judge in Minnesota. Can you imagine…she wants researchers, doctors, nurses, science bloggers…and anyone who is pro vaccine and pro science, to face criminal charges:

http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/immrule/comments/comment44.pdf

“7. Criminal charges need to be brought against those who knew that vaccines were causing autism and other childhood disorders and diseases, but who then chose to manipulate data, cover up evidence, lie about it, refuse to investigate it, continue to approve and recommend vaccines, etc. Rationale: Evidence exists that data manipulation, lying, and cover-ups have occurred. Crimes against humanity have been committed. They can not go unpunished. Justice must be served in its most severe form against those who perpetrated these crimes and
against those who perpetuated the autism epidemic, not to mention other vaccine injuries.”

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