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Appeals Court Rules Vaccines Not to Blame for Autism

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision made last year by a special vaccine court that there is little if any evidence to support claims of a vaccine-autism link. The Associated Press is reporting that the ruling came on Friday in the case of Michelle Cedillo of Yuma, Arizona, whose parents say a measles vaccine given to her at the age of 15 months caused her to become disabled with autism, inflammatory bowel disease and other disorders. The Cedillo case is one of 4,900 claims combined into a single case in which plaintiffs are suing the government through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program which was established in 1988 to pay damages to those who have suffered as a result of vaccines. The court picked Michelle's claim as the first of a total of nine test cases from the 4,900. The court first heard testimony in the Cedillo case several years ago when Michelle's parents, Theresa and Mike Cedillo, testified that their child was a normal, healthy 15 month old toddler when she suddenly became sick after receiving a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Michelle reacted to the vaccine with a high fever, persistent vomiting and problems with her digestion. Even more concerning was when the child stopped speaking and no longer responded to her name. "I thought it was because she was so sick. I thought certainly she'll start talking again," Theresa told the court. "You think you're dealing with something that's going to come and go, and you're going to get your child back, and you don't." Michelle has since been diagnosed with autism, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and epilepsy. Her parents believe the MMR vaccine, combined with a mercury-containing preservative found in that and other vaccines at the time, drastically altered the course of their daughter's development. According to a report by CNN, Dr. Marcel Kinsbourne, a pediatric neurologist and professor at The New School in New York, testified during the hearing that he thought the measles vaccine was a "substantial factor" in causing Michelle's autism. He said traces of the measles virus were found in Michelle's gut, which led him to conclude that her immune system had not rejected the virus. Kinsbourne told the court the measles virus invaded cells in Michelle's brain, resulting in her autism. However, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and many studies have failed to find any connection between autism and the preservative thimerosal, which contains mercury, which was used in vaccines at the time. In an attempt to resolve the dispute, three special masters (attorneys) were appointed by the court to make findings in the case and to determine if a combination of the MMR and the mercury-containing thimerosal preservative in vaccines could cause autism; whether MMR vaccines alone could cause autism; and/or whether thimerosal alone could cause autism. In order to prove their case, families would need to show a plausible biological mechanism for vaccines to cause autism. As the AP reports, Special Master Denise Vowell wrote in a 2009 ruling that the evidence "is weak, contradictory and unpersuasive. Sadly, the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding" of autism. The appeals panel upheld this ruling on Friday, saying that "we have carefully reviewed the decision of the special master and we find that it is rationally supported by the evidence, well-articulated, and reasonable. We, therefore, affirm the denial of the Cedillos' petition for compensation." The Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA), which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of 23 civil society organizations, said they were "deeply disappointed" by the appeals panel decision. The EBCALA said the decision "highlights the overall failure of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)."  As Rebecca Estepp, one of the petitioners said, "These are government lawyers, representing a government agency, presenting government-funded science to government judges, with no jury and no normal rules of evidence.  Where's the justice in that?" According to the EBCALA, the government's behavior in the procedure raised serious questions about the fairness of the process. One example they cited was when the panel allowed admission of critical evidence by the government at the last minute, which did not allow the Cedillo's to challenge it. Friday's decision is not expected to end the debate over the link between vaccines and autism any time soon.   © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®