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Sharyl Attkisson blogs the Hannah Poling settlement

Posted Sep 09 2010 4:04pm

I had forgotten Sharyl Attkisson. She is a reporter for CBS news who has covered vaccines in the past, but has been silent on the issue for the past year or more.

Her recent piece shows exactly the sort of reporting that frustrated me in the past: Family to Receive $1.5M in First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award

In that piece she links to her piece from 2008 on the Hannah Poling case: Vaccine Case: An Exception Or A Precedent?

Here’s a quote from that earlier piece:

While the Poling case is the first of its kind to become public, a CBS News investigation uncovered at least nine other cases as far back as 1990, where records show the court ordered the government compensated families whose children developed autism or autistic-like symptoms in children including toddlers who had been called “very smart” and “impressed” doctors with their “intelligence and curiosity” … until their vaccinations.

They were children just like Hannah Poling.

What’s still being debated is whether the Poling case is an exception … or a precedent.

So, which is it? Were there children “just like Hannah Poling” or is this the “First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award”?

Actually, it is neither. This isn’t the first vaccine court award involving autism, and the other cases are not “just like Hannah Poling”.

For real information on the other nine cases, read Kathleen Seidel’s piece on Few, professional or amateur, can compare the the thoroughness of Kathleen Seidel. For example, one case (the first I read involving autism from the vaccine court) is Suel v. HHS . Young David Suel had tuberous sclerosis, a condition known to be associated with autism and epilepsy . Epilepsy occurs in about 60 to 90% of individuals with TS. Autism occurs in about 25-50%. David Suel’s case was declared to be a “table injury” wherein the seizures began within a set period after his DPT vaccination. What is notable about that is the table for DPT was later changed—when it was shown that DPT was not responsible for inducing seizure disorders. In other words, had David Suel been vaccinated, or just filed, after the change in the table, he likely would not have been awarded damages.

“They were children just like Hannah Poling”? Is tuberous sclerosis just like mitochondrial disease? (answer: not even close).

Shall we go on? In her recent piece, Ms. Attkisson states:

In 2002, Hannah’s parents filed an autism claim in federal vaccine court. Five years later, the government settled the case before trial and had it sealed

Not accurate. The court did not “settle” the case in 2007. They conceded the case, and they were in the process of completing the settlement when someone leaked the information to the press. The government did not “seal” the case—it is standard procedure to keep this information confidential until the settlement is completed.

But that doesn’t make a good story, does it?

Ms. Attkisson goes on:

In acknowledging Hannah’s injuries, the government said vaccines aggravated an unknown mitochondrial disorder Hannah had which didn’t “cause” her autism, but “resulted” in it. It’s unknown how many other children have similar undiagnosed mitochondrial disorder. All other autism “test cases” have been defeated at trial. Approximately 4,800 are awaiting disposition in federal vaccine court.

Mito-autism was a big thing for a while there. David Kirby took the story and ran with it—making a lot of mistakes along the way and propagating a lot of misinformation. It is unknown how many other children have similar disorders—but the researchers who studied cases like Hannah Poling have stated that cases such as hers are “rare”.

“All other autism “test cases” have been defeated at trial”.

What is conspicuous about the other “test cases” is that in none of them was it argued that the children were like Hannah Poling—i.e. the attorneys did not argue that a mechanism of autism through mitochondrial dysfunction aggravated by vaccines existed. In fact, one child named as a test case was pulled from that slot in order to argue that mitochondrial based case . The expert report filed for that child (since pulled from the Omnibus website) did not argue mitochondrial disorder or dysfunction at that time. In other words, the idea of a mitochondrial disorder being linked to autism was so alien from the cases being made by the attorneys for the families in the Omnibus that this child had to argue the case separately.

It is often pointed out that many autistics may have mitochondrial dysfunction. This is based largely on studies out of Portugal . It is left implied, and it is often believed that mitochondrial dysfunction means vaccine injury in these cases. This was the impression that David Kirby put forth and it was clearly wrong. First, mitochondrial disorders are a very broad spectrum. The type that Hannah Poling has is not the same as those detected in most autistics. Second, most reports of mitochondrial disorders and autism, including the Portugal studies, do not involve regression . Third, even amongst those children reported by the groups that identified Hannah Poling, regression was often idiopathic or followed fever clearly independent of vaccination .

I do not expect Ms. Attkisson to present the following (quality) information, so I will repeat it here:

When asked, to respond to the position: ‘‘I view the risk of vaccination in known metabolic disease patients to generally be outweighed by the risk of the infectious diseases being vaccinated against”

63.2% strongly agreed
31.1% agreed
0.9% disagreed
and 0.9% strongly disagreed.

Asked about the opinion that the risk of vaccination in metabolic disease was ‘‘greater than the risk of the infectious diseases being vaccinated against”

52.9% strongly disagreed
40% disagreed
3.5% agreed
and none strongly agreed

  1. John Gilmore:
    Let's review: the US federal government just awarded $1.5 million to Hannah Poling's family for autism caused by vaccines. Spin it any way you want.
  2. ANB:
    Nice spin, John. Did you even read the article?
  3. Chris:
    John, does every child with autism have a mitochondrial disorder? Yes or no. And would a fever associated with yet another ear infection or a flu bug cause a similar reaction? Yes or no?
  4. Sullivan:
    John Gilmore, While people like Dan Olmsted dismiss such talk as Orwellian, it is very important to not spin it as you have just done. The government awarded $1.5M--plus an annuity which is likely to cost $10M or more--for a table MMR encephalopathy. Why is this important? Because the whole point of the Omnibus was to decide whether autism could be considered as a table injury. Hannah Poling does not set that precedent. Another way to put it is this--One can not say, "My kid had his/her first symptoms of autism within a month of a vaccine, therefore the autism is a vaccine injury". Had one of the Omnibus test cases made the general causation argument stick, something like that would be possible. Further, spin it as you might, even the most optimistic interpretation of this case does not give any credibility to vaccines being the cause of the increase in autism prevalence reported. Spin it as you want, but mitochondrial dysfunction alone is not the same thing as vaccine injury. People attempting to push that idea in court will fail. The precedent Hannah Poling sets is very different than how many will try to present it. And that difference is very important. She sets the precedent that vaccine injury awards can pay out for much more than just supplementing existing public programs. The award for Hannah Poling creates a system which will give her a life independent of those public programs. That is huge. It is my belief that credit for that likely belongs to Hannah's mother, who was an attorney, and the very unique circumstances of this case.
  5. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Sharyl Attkisson blogs the Hannah Poling settlement « Left Brain/Right Brain --
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