“Scientifically Unsupportable”

March 16, 2010 · 4 comments

Correlation is not causation

Last Friday, special masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims released their findings on the second phase of the Omnibus Autism Proceedings, and found no evidence of a causal link between autism and thimerosal in vaccines. (The first phase, decided last year, addressed the claim that the MMR vaccine caused autism. ) Test cases were filed by the Mead, King, and Dwyer families, each seeking financial compensation from a Federal program established to award damages in instances where injury or death was the direct result of a vaccination.

The final paragraphs of each (extremely lengthy) decision tell the story best:

Mead v. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Petitioners’ theory of vaccine-related causation is scientifically unsupportable. In the absence of a sound medical theory causally connecting William’s received vaccines to his autistic condition, the undersigned cannot find the proposed sequence of cause and effect to be logical or temporally appropriate. Having failed to satisfy their burden of proof under the articulated legal standard, petitioners cannot prevail on their claim of vaccine-related causation. Petitioners’ claim is dismissed, and the Clerk of the Court SHALL ENTER JUDGMENT accordingly.

Dwyer v. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Petitioners have not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Colin’s condition was either caused or significantly aggravated by his vaccinations. Thus, they have failed to establish entitlement to compensation and the petition for compensation is therefore DENIED. In the absence of a motion for review filed pursuant to RCFC, Appendix B, the clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

King v. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Nor do I doubt that Jordan’s parents are sincere in their belief that vaccines played a role in causing Jordan’s autism. Jordan’s parents have heard the opinions of physicians who profess to believe in a causal connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. After studying the extensive evidence in this case for many months, I am convinced that the opinions provided by the petitioners’ experts in this case, advising the King family that there is a causal connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and Jordan’s autism, have been quite wrong. Nevertheless, I can understand why Jordan’s parents found such opinions to be believable under the circumstances. I conclude that the Kings filed this Program claim in good faith.

Thus, I feel deep sympathy for the King family. Further, I find it unfortunate that my ruling in this case means that the Program will not be able to provide funds to assist this family, in caring for their child who suffers from a serious disorder. It is certainly my hope that our society will find ways to ensure that generous assistance is available to the families of all autistic children, regardless of the cause of their disorders. Such families must cope every day with tremendous challenges in caring for their autistic children, and all are deserving of sympathy and admiration. However, I must decide this case not on sentiment, but by analyzing the evidence. Congress designed the Program to compensate only the families of those individuals whose injuries or deaths can be linked causally, either by a Table Injury presumption or by a preponderance of “causation-in-fact” evidence, to a listed vaccine. In this case, the evidence advanced by the petitioners has fallen far short of demonstrating such a link. Accordingly, I conclude that the petitioners in this case are not entitled to a Program award on Jordan’s behalf.

You can’t get any clearer than that, but these decisions are not sufficient for the vaccine-deniers. According to CNN:

Rebecca Estepp, who attended the hearings and said her 12-year-old son, Eric, has been diagnosed with autism she blames on vaccine, described herself as “devastated” with the rulings, but not surprised.

“The deck is stacked against families in vaccine court,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Poway, California, about 20 miles north of San Diego. “You have government attorneys defending a government program using government-funded science before government judges. Where’s the justice in that?”

Yup, we’re back to conspiracy theories to explain why the conclusions are not to their liking.

The reasoning of the special masters is very thorough and detailed. If you have further interest in the cases, you can read an excellent summary here at Neurodiversity Weblog. You can also search the vaccine cases filed with the Court of Federal Claims.

Once again it has been shown that correlation is not causation. No amount of arguing will make it so.

4 comments

Chris March 17, 2010 at 1:50 am

Bu… Bu….. bbbbbut… But Jenny McCartney tells me otherwise!!

(feel free to delete this 🙂 )

micro March 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Damn! Chris beat me to the punch. 🙁

Ryan March 17, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I’m starting to get frustrated. Why do cold, hard facts lack the weight they used to?

David March 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Because we live in a “reality-based” universe, but many do not. It requires less mental effort to live in a world where The Secret is a best seller and wishing makes things happen.

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