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Autism Omnibus: Snyder appeal denied

Posted Aug 12 2009 10:22pm

The appeals for the MMR phase of the Omnibus are now concluded: all three were denied.

The Autism Omnibus Proceeding is the way the “Vaccine Court” has taken on the task of deciding the merit of the theory that autism is a vaccine injury. The petitioners had two basic theories: (a) the MMR vaccine can cause autism and (b) the vaccine preservative thimerosal can cause autism.

Three hearings were heard for each theory. In each hearing a single individual took the role of a “test case”. So, each hearing not only represented the case of a single child, but also presented “general causation” evidence as to whether MMR or thimerosal could cause autism.

The six test cases (three MMR and three thimerosal) have been heard. The MMR cases were ruled upon, and all three were denied. All three were appealed. And, now, all three appeals have been denied.

Here is the conclusion of the appeal for the last of the MMR test cases, that of Colten Snyder:

As the special master’s decision makes clear, Colten, and by extension, his family, have dealt with significant adversity for many years, and, like the special master, the court is very sympathetic to their circumstances. However, the court cannot be ruled by emotion and base its determination solely upon the adversity endured by petitioners’ family. Moreover, it is not the task of this court to determine whether vaccines cause autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. Rather, the court must decide whether the special master, considering the record as a whole, rendered a decision that was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. She did not. Her decision was entirely rational and fully supported by the record. Thus, the court DENIES petitioners’ motion for review. Pursuant to Vaccine Rule 30(a), the clerk is directed to enter judgment in accordance with this decision.

Very solid decision. The appeal was denied.

Looking back through the document one finds that the Judge noted that the case for MMR causing an injury was clearly not supported, and that the Special Master did not make an error in her decision:

The court finds no error in the special master’s findings. The special master’s conclusion that petitioners did not present a biologically plausible medical theory is clearly supported by the record. She found that the various aspects of petitioners’ theory were not scientifically sound and that the lynchpin of their theory was wholly unreliable. See id. at *87-93 (petitioners’ theory),
116-35 (Unigenetics’ reliability). Next, the special master’s conclusion that petitioners had not established a logical sequence of cause and effect is also supported by the record.

In a statement reminiscent of the Cedillo hearing (first MMR test case) the Judge noted that the medical records show that the “onset of symptoms” did not occur when the petitioners thought:

She [the special master] found that based on the medical records, the onset of Colten’s symptoms did not occur at the time suggested by petitioners.

It is worth reading or skimming the decision. It is a good summary of the case and the evidence presented. I don’t want to quote much more of the document here, with this exception.

Petitioners’ charge–that the special master feared a public backlash against vaccines if she ruled in their favor–is preposterous. There is not a shred of evidence to support petitioners’ claim;70 it rests solely on petitioners’ speculation. Merely because the special master found that petitioners did not carry their burden of proof does not diminish her integrity or render her decision unsupported. Claims of error by a losing party against a decision maker are hardly unusual, but should be grounded in reality.

One thing that bothered me greatly was the implication in the appeals that the Special Masters were acting improperly out of some hidden motive such as trying to protect the vaccine program or fear of public backlash. Sometimes it is difficult for a lay person like myself to understand whether such arguments are expected and “just part of the game” or whether they are attempts to impugn the integrity of the Special Master. I have read enough comments on other blogs to see that many readers are willing to accept that members of the judiciary could act to deny children due process.

I’m glad the Judge in this appeal took the time to respond to these false allegations.

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