Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Federal court hears case of potential autism-vaccine link

Families who say that vaccinations lead to autism in their children were in federal court May 12 to determine if they can collect damages from the government, according to ABC News and The Associated Press.

The case revolves around two 10-year-old boys from Portland, Ore., William Mead and Jordan King, whose families claim that thimerosal-containing vaccines caused the boys' autism.

Lawyers for the families say the boys had normal development until they were exposed to vaccines containing thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury. After receiving these vaccinations, the attorneys say, the boys began to show symptoms of autism.

"The theory that thimerosal is singularly culpable in bringing about autism is only one of three upon which courts will decide," the news media report. "In 2007, hearings were conducted in three test cases intended to examine whether the combination of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines containing thimerosal cause autism. And later this year, attorneys will present four more test cases to determine whether MMR vaccines, regardless of whether or not they contain thimerosal, may bring about the condition."

The mainstream medical community has long contended that vaccines, whether they contain thimerosal or not, do not cause autism. A number of scientific studies support that stance. A 2004 panel convened by the Institute of Medicine reported that no credible evidence showed that the thimerosal in vaccines led to autism. But due to the concerns, thimerosal has been removed from most vaccines since 2001, except for certain influenza shots.

If the families' case is successful, they could receive compensation for past and future medical expenses, special education expenses and up to $250,000 for pain and suffering. The final court decision may take up to several months to decide and could be appealed by either the families or the federal government.