Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Fizzle in the Autism Vaccine Litigation - Part 1

On June 19, 2002, an attorney in Florida filed our claim against the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ("VICP"). We hoped to have experts who would investigate whether the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) and, in particular, thimerosol, the preservative which was used in (and subsequently removed from) most vaccines when Joey received his shots at 14 months, was the direct cause of his autism.

Nine years later, we still do not know whether the vaccines caused or triggered Joey's autism.

Because the approximately 5,300 claims that were filed in the VICP were "tried" by three special masters appointed by the government, which in turn is paid vast sums of money by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, we will never know. Because all vaccine injury claims must be filed in VICP (in order to protect the health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and the doctors who administer the vaccines from frivolous claims and humongous jury awards), there is no trial, no judge, and no jury. The petitioners (us) are not given a chance to investigate the government's documents because the government decides what our attorneys are allowed to see and what they aren't. And then the special masters appointed by the government (remember, financed by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies - no conflict of interest there) decides whether there is a link.

As a concession to the "rights" of the victims of injury from vaccines, the government has allowed the petitioners' attorneys to file for legal fees, which means our lawyers were able to be paid for some of their work. Nine years after our case began and thousands of pages of medical records and documents filed later, our attorneys received just over $2,000. What an incentive to keep working, right?

They were greatly restricted in what they are allowed to see and what they were allowed to present. They were never allowed access to all of the documentation from the vaccine companies or the studies that were done regarding whether there is a link between vaccines and autism. Which means they were fighting our fight with both hands tied behind their backs.

The litigation limped along. In August of 2005, our attorney wrote to tell us that some decisions had been made as to discovery and the government had provided approximately 180,000 pages of documentation, most of which related to product license applications (completely irrelevant to our claim, but still had to be waded through). The attorneys continued to try to get study results and information on new research studies which were being conducted at George Washington University. They also were attempting to get "outcome" data relating to a 2003 study which had followed children who had been exposed to thimerosol, but the government continued to stonewall our attorneys' efforts and they never got a look at any of those documents.

In a letter dated August 9, 2005, we received a letter from our attorney which stated, in part,

" appears the government is playing "hide the ball" with the VSD (Vaccine Safety Datalink) data. The CDC no longer maintains the VSD, and instead pays millions of dollars per year to a third-party contractor to maintain the database; the VSD, therefore, is not longer in the "possession or control" of the CDC, and is not discoverable from the government...The VSD is now managed by "America's Health Insurance Plans," the national trade association for the HMOs! AHIP, in turn claims that it never "sees, touches, stores, or has anything to do with the actual data itself."

You can see why things were going slowly. Not to mention why nothing resembling real information ever had to be produced - the health insurance companies managed the database! The government had our attorneys chasing their tails.It had been three and a half years and we were no closer to an answer or a trial. Plus, we were still waiting on important scientific studies to be completed and published. It is my understanding that most of the children involved in this proceeding were around Joey's age. Of course, it would take years of following these children to determine scientifically whether there is or is not a link between the MMR vaccine, thimerosol, and autism. We waited, along with thousands of other desperate parents, to find out if our son had been damaged by the government mandated vaccine program.

Remember that we continued to seek treatment for Joey which was not covered by insurance while this suit limped through the government's kangaroo court. That was a whole other fight that was finally won (recently) and health insurance companies are now required by law to provide coverage for autism treatments. Unfortunately, Joey is now 13 and much too old for those particular treatments to work. Fortunately, we got treatment through the school system and out of our own pockets and Joey is now extremely high functioning, mainstreamed and on the honor roll. More about that later...

Stay tuned for part two of this story. It's way too long for me to do in one post.

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