- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

A special court Thursday struck down key test cases that argued vaccine shots are responsible for autism, and in one case accused a family’s medical team of “gross medical misjudgment.”

Each individual claim filed by the families of Michelle Cedillo, Colten Snyder and Yates Hazlehurst against the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) was dismissed by special masters serving on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, who cited lack of evidence.

The families set out to prove that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can result after a young child is given certain vaccines such as the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR).

“Unfortunately, the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment,” Special Master George L. Hastings Jr., wrote in his decision in that case.

“I am convinced that the reports and advice given to the Cedillos by … physicians advising the Cedillos that there is a causal connection between Michelle’s MMR vaccination and her chronic conditions have been very wrong,” he wrote.

“Nevertheless, I can understand why the Cedillos found such reports and advice to be believable under the circumstances. I conclude that the Cedillos filed this program claim in good faith,” he wrote.

In her decision on the Snyder case, Special Master Denise K. Vowell wrote that “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.”

“The families of children with ASD and the court have waited in vain for adequate evidence to support the autism-MMR hypothesis,” Special Master Vowell wrote. “Although I have the deepest sympathy for families like Colten’s struggling emotionally and financially to find answers about ASD’s causes, and reliable therapies to treat ASD symptoms, I must decide Colten’s case based on the evidence before me.

“That evidence does not establish an adequate factual basis from which to conclude that Colten’s condition was caused by his vaccines,” she wrote.

The decisions are the first of two landmark rulings that could decide the fate of more than 5,300 claims that the MMR vaccine combined with thimerosal-containing vaccines causes autism. A second ruling by the board, dubbed the Autism Omnibus Proceeding, will determine whether thimerosal-containing vaccines alone cause autism.

“Having carefully and fully considered the evidence, the undersigned concludes that the combination of the thimerosal-containing vaccines and the MMR vaccine are not causal factors in the development of autism and therefore, could not have contributed to the development of Yates’ autism,” Special Master Patricia E. Campbell-Smith wrote in the Hazlehurst case.

The precedent-setting cases began in 2007 as claims for compensation through the federally established Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in which claims of death or other non-autism-related illnesses can net hundreds of thousands of dollars. The program contains $2.5 billion and is funded by a 75-cent tax on each vaccine shot.

“Hopefully, the determination by the special masters will help reassure parents that vaccines do not cause autism,” the HHS said after the decision.

Some autism-advocacy groups expressed disappointment in the ruling but praised the families in the first test case for their courage.

“Today we learned yet another government system has failed the families affected by autism,” the group Talk About Curing Autism said.

Jim Moody, director of SafeMinds, said it “only heightens the controversy.”

“Cases will continue through the process and out into civil court, which is not what Congress wanted,” he said. “Vaccination companies should be very worried that one day, hopefully not too soon, juries will get to review the evidence. This is a scientific work in progress.”

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