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Forbes’ Willingham Wrong on Courts, Vaccine Injuries and Brain Damage

Posted Aug 01 2013 12:00am

Legals By Louis Conte

Emily Willingham’s missive on on 8/9/13, “ Court Rulings Don’t Confirm Autism-Vaccine Link ” was in response to a Whiteout Press article called “ Courts confirms vaccines cause autism. ” Willingham criticized the Italian courts for a decision last year where they ruled that an MMR vaccine caused a child’s autism. She criticized Italian Courts in general but sang the praises of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), for saving vaccine manufacturers millions because the United States is a “hyperletigious society” and life-saving vaccines need to be protected from the civil justice system. She incorrectly and selectively describes the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (she called them the “autism omnibus trial”), seizes the customary opportunity to criticize Dr. Andrew Wakefield and re-iterates the mainstream claim that the science against an autism-vaccine link is “overwhelming.” Willingham claims that the courts show that “vaccines don’t cause autism.”

Willingham’s perspective of the NVICP is shallow and naïve. A thoughtful review of the program reveals a justice venue that lacks compassion, abuses petitioners and their witnesses and has become a vassal of the pharmaceutical industry it protects. The truth is that the NVICP conceals the reality of vaccine injury by keeping vaccine injury victims out of the view of American citizens and juries.

The Omnibus Autism Proceedings ultimately denied justice to thousands of petitioners. The federal government’s Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation, which screens all the cases that enter the program, failed to disclose the fact that the program regularly compensated children for the vaccine induced brain damage who also had autism since its inception in 1988. These children were typically compensated for brain damage - the NVICP Table Injury called Encephalopathy - an acknowledged outcome of vaccine injury. Autism is a behavioral manifestation of brain damage in many of these cases. In the peer reviewed Unanswered Questions From the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury, (28 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 480 (2011) Available at: ) Holland, Krakow, Colin and I reported on 83 such cases after gaining access to a small percentage of the cases compensated over the past twenty years. Our two year investigation revealed that autism secondary to brain damage has long been understood within the NVICP. How clearly understood? Note this comment from a Special Master in the 2003 Kienan Freeman case:

 “It was noted at the hearing that Kienan's neurologic disorder has features that might cause it to be labeled as "atypical autism," a condition within the category of "autistic spectrum disorder." (Tr. 103-108.) I note, however, that even assuming that Kienan's disorder is correctly classified within the "atypical autism" category, that is essentially irrelevant to my ruling concerning the entitlement issue in this case. As Dr. Kinsbourne explained, Kienan's autistic-type features seem to be a result of the brain damage that caused his severe mental retardation. (Tr. 9, 21-22.) As Dr. Kinsbourne further explained, brain damage is one of the many possible causes of autism.”

The statement that the courts show that “vaccines don’t cause autism” is false. Many cases in the NVICP show that vaccine injury can result in brain damage and that autism is often a result.

The United States government compensated vaccine injured children with autism years BEFORE. Dr. Wakefield published his paper. It has become fashionable for many journalists to attack Dr. Wakefield, restate that his paper on twelve children with autism was retracted and blame him for the association between autism and vaccines. In contrast, few journalists report that the man behind much of the government’s “overwhelming” scientific evidence – Poul Thorsen - is presently a fugitive from justice ( ). He is charged with stealing over one million dollars from the Centers for Disease Control, the federal agency that funded his research. And Thorsen’s research – which is flawed in too many ways to list here - was cited over twenty times by Special Masters in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. This felon is presently evading extradition in Europe. Willingham begins many of her articles with the statement "I write about the science they're selling you." If so, she ought to be writing about Poul Thorsen.


One can imagine that the Whiteout Press article “going viral” upset the legion of vaccine industry supporters who dominate the public discourse on this controversy. Willingham admits that the staying power of this debate “baffles” her. Does she consider that what motivates many (including me) is the desire for children to be protected from drugs that may be injuring them and justice for those injured? I invite her to read any of the case decisions on vaccine injuries from the NVICP. These legal decisions often describe the pain and suffering of vaccine injury victims who may well be impaired for the rest of their lives. Many cases result in death.

Does one case “prove” that “vaccines cause autism”? No, but eighty-three cases - and more recent cases like Mojabi (SAEID B. MOJABI and PARIVASH VAHABI, as legal representatives of their minor son, RYAN B. MOJABI v. SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (06-227V)), show a clear pattern. Vaccine injury can lead to brain damage - and autism. It is time for serious, independent investigation of the health outcomes of those compensated for vaccines. --Louis Conte

Louis Conte is the father of triplet boys, age 12, two with autism. He has over 28 years of experience in law enforcement and the courts. Conte serves on the board of the Autism Action Network (AAN). He is a co-author of Unanswered Questions from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Posted by Age of Autism at August 13, 2013 at 5:43 AM in Vaccine Safety Permalink

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