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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vaccine Appeal

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling that vaccines are not to blame for autism.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision last year by a special vaccine court, which concluded there's little if any evidence to support claims of a vaccine-autism link.

Scientist years ago reached that conclusion, but more than 5,500 families sought compensation through the government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Friday's ruling came in the case of Michelle Cedillo of Yuma, Ariz., who is disabled with autism, inflammatory bowel disease and other disorders that her parents blame on a measles vaccine given at 15 months.

In the 2009 ruling Special Master Denise Vowell wrote 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.

In its ruling Friday the appeals panel said "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."

As we wrote in 2007, the case of Michelle Cedillo was like many that have resulted in vaccine claims, with healthy babies changing drastically after vaccines were administered. "Words alone cannot explain the trauma of watching your only child's health deteriorate to such a degree before your eyes," her mother Theresa told Legal Times before the court proceeding began.

Judge Timothy Dyk, writing for a three-judge federal circuit panel, said that "Michelle's development was indeed very abnormal," but not right after the vaccine was administered. Much of the ruling deals with the scientific evidence offered by both sides in the lengthy proceeding before the special master. Dyk said the government's failure to seek documentation of one expert's findings was "troubling," but "does not justify reversal."

Joined by Judges Pauline Newman and Richard Linn, Dyk concluded that the special master's report in the Cedillo case was "rationally supported by the evidence, well-articulated, and reasonable." In May, the federal circuit issued a similar ruling in another of the autism test cases, Hazlehurst v. HHS.