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Monday, October 4, 2010

Supreme Court & Vaccines

Jim Edwards writes at BNET:
On Oct. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, a case that threatens to flood the federal court system with about 5,000 largely meritless lawsuits that claim vaccines cause autism. There just isn’t any decent evidence showing that vaccines cause autism. Yet because of the Supremes’ ruling in a different, unrelated case (Wyeth v. Levine), there’s a possibility that the court could plunge the judicial system down a science-free rabbit hole in which non-specialist civil judges will be forced to hear each and every one of these cases even though the law was specifically written to prevent that happening. The case is a Trojan horse for autism activists, but the Supremes may side with them anyway.

The parents of Hannah Bruesewitz have come up with a clever argument as to why Wyeth’s diphtheria–pertussis–tetanus vaccine is to blame for her “autistic-like features.” They argue that because the specific batch that Hannah received was linked to two deaths and more than 60 adverse events, that it counts as evidence the vaccine was improperly made and thus not “preempted” by the 1986 law.

If this were a normal drug tort case it would have been laughed out of court. Unfortunately, the Supremes ruled in Wyeth v. Levine — a case about a migraine drug — that not all claims against drug companies are “preempted” just because the FDA has allowed them onto the market. People have a right to sue, if a drug caused injury because it was defective anyway. Following that logic, the Supremes could decide that vaccine cases are not preempted if they claim that the vaccine was defectively manufactured. In fact, that’s exactly what the autism activists are arguing in their amici brief.