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Parents of Autistic Children Lose Second Round of Test Cases in Autism-Vaccination Debate

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Three federal judges delivered a fatal blow last Friday to parents involved in the anti-vaccine movement. Specifically, the three judges ruled in three separate cases that thimerosal, an ingredient in vaccinations, does not cause autism.

The Omnibus Autism Proceeding began in 2002 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims after parents began filing petitions for compensation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in 2001. Those parents alleged that their children developed the neurodevelopmental disorder of autism because of childhood vaccinations. In particular, the parents alleged that the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccinations, thimerosal ingredient contained in vaccinations, or a combination of those two contributed to the onset of autism. Overall, 5,000 families with autistic children filed for compensation. However, the Injury Compensation Program was originally designed for families of children hurt by vaccines, particularly fatal allergic reactions. These families are paid from a 75-cent tax on each dose of vaccination, but are unable to sue the vaccine manufacturer. However, the fund has never accepted that vaccinations caused autism, so the omnibus proceedings were initiated with nine test cases based on three different theories to determine if there is a link between autism and vaccinations. So far, the anti-vaccination movement proponents lost the first three cases, which were decided in February 2009 by the same three judges that ruled on the current three test cases.

The current three test cases brought against the government were those of the parents of Jordan King, Colin R. Dwyer and William Mead. They were specifically chosen on the basis that they were the strongest of the thousands of cases brought against the government. However, after delivering their decision, the three judges used strong language in dismissing the expert evidence from the families’ lawyers, arguing that it was “extremely unlikely” that thimerosal is to blame for the children’s autism and that “many parents relied upon practitioners and researchers who peddled hope, not opinions grounded in science and medicine”, amongst other comments. Nevertheless, the families maintain that they will never receive a fair ruling from the omnibus arrangement and were devastated by the decision.