Medical Malpractice

Top Med Mag: No Vaccine-Autism Link

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Although thousands of cases are being pursued alleging a link between childhood vaccines and autism (see “No Longer Immune” in the July 2006 ABA Journal), it’s doubtful that causation can be proven.

In fact, a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes there is no causal connection established between autism and vaccines that include a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal. A Newsweek article offers a readable rundown of the study details.

Nonetheless, because of the large number of claims and the strong feelings underlying them, the causation issue isn’t likely to be finally resolved anytime soon, a law professor says in a perspective piece in the medical journal.

As Stephen Sugarman explains in the article, a multistep vaccine-claim adjudication process begins with the no-fault federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The legislative approach, which was enacted by Congress after several substantial jury awards based on dubious science, seeks to reduce litigation by offering an alternative option that makes it easier to prove a claim—but also limits damages, explains Sugarman, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

“If the petitioners lose in the VICP process, their quest for compensation does not necessarily end there,” he notes. “Although persons claiming vaccine-related injuries are supposed to seek a determination through the VICP process first, anyone who is dissatisfied with the result can bring a regular lawsuit alleging that a product is defective, and the named defendant can potentially be found liable. To win such a case, a claimant would have to persuade a jury that the vaccine not only harmed an individual child but also had a defective design or failed to carry adequate warnings.”

As discussed in an earlier post, litigation is under way to start determining causation in some 5,000 VICP claims. However, it isn’t expected to conclude for months.

ABC News (Mercury-Containing Vaccine Vindicated)

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