Falling Awake

Just Darts Since 2009

Lawyers doing science

Court to focus on vaccine-autism link

Since 1999, more than 4,800 families have filed claims with the government alleging their children developed autism as a result of routine vaccinations. Most contend that a preservative called thimerosal is to blame for the impaired social interaction typical of the disorder.

Previously, large scientific studies have found no association between autism and vaccines containing thimerosal.

But many parents say their children’s symptoms did not show up until after their children received the vaccines, required by many states for admission to school. If they prevail in the courts, the families are entitled to compensation from a multibillion-dollar trust fund.

How, exactly, will a court decide this case?  On the science?  On that score, there is no case.  Study after study shows that thimerosal is safe.  What other criteria are there?  Well, these families feel that there must be a connection.  After all, their children were diagnosed with autism after they received the vaccine.  Therefore, the vaccine is to blame: post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Remember silicone breast implants?  I was never a big fan of them, but if women want to indulge their vanity that’s okay by me.  Not one shred of evidence ever tied them to any of the vague illnesses their hosts complained of, and yet that didn’t stop the courts from bankrupting Dow Corning.

What’s the evidence in the case of the claim that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine causes autism?  Well, there’s not much there.  The concern is caused by the fact that thimerosal contains mercury.  But the mercury’s bound up in an organic compound that has been in use for over 70 years and has never been shown to be harmful.

 Here are the symptoms of an overdose of organic mercury:

[N]ausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, kidney failure, skin burns and irritation, respiratory distress, swollen gums and mouth sores, drooling, numbness and tingling in the lips, mouth, tongue, hands and feet, tremors and incoordination, vision and hearing loss, memory loss, personality changes and headache. Allergic reactions can also occur.

And autism?

Possible Indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age
  • Does not speak one word by 16 months
  • Does not combine two words by 2 years
  • Does not respond to name
  • Loses language or social skills

Some Other Indicators

  • Poor eye contact
  • Doesn’t seem to know how to play with toys
  • Excessively lines up toys or other objects
  • Is attached to one particular toy or object
  • Doesn’t smile
  • At times seems to be hearing impaired

There are also characteristic repetitive behaviors.  Now, do these sound like similar conditions?

Anyway, proponents of the vaccine-autism link have no explanation for the recent rise in autism diagnoses; instead they blame a preservative that has been in widespread use for many decades.  Why has autism become more common?

They changed the definition, from both ends of the spectrum.  Some children now correctly diagnosed as autistic were previously categorized as mentally retarded.  Also, children who are mildly autistic (or who have Asperger’s syndrome) are more likely to be identified.  (This trend happened to coincide with the push for increased school funding for disabled children.)

So what’s the worst that can happen?  Well, if the court decides that the MMR vaccine is to blame, the families–and their lawyers–get a lot of money from the fund set up by the federal government to protect vaccine providers from lawsuits.  (Remember the flu vaccine shortage?  That was caused by lawsuits.  This fund is an effort to prevent the same shortages with all vaccines.)

What would be much worse?  If the rich countries (USA and Europe) decided to ban thimerosal from vaccines.  After all, we could afford more expensive preservatives.  But what about third world countries?  We already refuse them DDT, the single most effective method of preventing malaria.  Millions die every year because we are afraid that DDT is harmful to the environment.  We don’t have any proof that it is, but why take a chance?  “There are too many people anyway,” we shrug.

And we’ll shrug again when their children start dying from the measles.


2 responses to “Lawyers doing science

  1. pickel June 13, 2007 at 10:09 pm


  2. Pingback: Discussing Autism » Blog Archive » Mercury Evidence?

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