Autism Becomes A Political/Legal Football

17 Apr

In the most recent edition of the Schafer Mercury Report, editor Lenny Schafer has a fascinating response to a letter writer. Its not really necessary to reproduce the letter, but Schafer’s response is a gem:

Myself and other autism activists believe there is enough evidence to support a causative relationship between mercury and autism in a court of law, in front of a jury, where standards of evidence are different than that of the narrow focus of scientific findings. And if you can convince a jury, you can convince the public. Since public health by definition is political, legal standards are even more so appropriate. The profound conflicts of interest amongst those who order, perform and draw conclusions from most of the no-connection evidence as alibis for vaccines, renders such evidence as tampered and thus, less than useless. The defenders of mercurated vaccines are in trouble and attempt to hide their malfeasance behind lab standards.

I mean _wow!_

This is a de facto admission that the scientific evidence to support an autism/mercury connection is very weak:

…. where standards of evidence are different than that of the narrow focus of scientific findings.

By ‘different’ Schafer really means ‘lesser’. I mean call me naive here but I was under the impression that the debate with the mercury militia on one side and the AAP, CDC, UK Gvmt, NHS, and ourselves – autistic advocates – were having was a _scientific_ debate. How silly was I? According to Schafer:

Since public health by definition is political, legal standards are even more so appropriate

Public health is by definition political? Really? Only if you can only see one thing at a time maybe. Widen the lens a little bit and I think every medical research scientist, patient and doctor/nurse might see public health as something a little bit more than a simply political process.

This is a debate at its core about what it means to be autistic. What causes people to be autistic. How in God’s name can that be political beyond the kind of infantile number crunching the Generation ‘6000% increase’ Rescue go in for? The people who have politicised this debate are the ones who employ media manipulation specialists such as Fenton Communications.

But hey – lets not worry about that – lets not worry about the *fact* that learning more about autism is a core scientific responsibility. Turning it into a manipulated football to kick about at the whim of a lawyer is much more realistic.

Schafer is absolutely right that scientific standards are greater than legal ones. Stronger, more stringent, demanding of _actual_ evidence. Maybe Schafer could remind me: was it science or a jury that discovered electricity? Was it science or a jury that discovered penicillin? Science or a jury that took men to the moon? Science or a jury that discovered our place in the stars? Our place in nature? Our place in the future?

But then again:

…if you can convince a jury, you can convince the public…

Because y’know, science is _hard_ . Stick instead to trial lawyers so we can let the sort of people who got OJ Simpson cleared, or the Birmingham Six banged up to sort out the tricky concept of autism. Great idea.

_”The profound conflicts of interest amongst those who order, perform and draw conclusions from most of the no-connection evidence as alibis for vaccines, renders such evidence as tampered and thus, less than useless.”_

Yeah, its all a big conspiracy. Like the one that saw SafeMinds purchase the domain evidenceofharm.com or the one that saw Wendy Fournier of the NAA build Kirby a website, like the one that had Richard Deth listed as an expert witness without his knowledge, or the one that tried to smear Paul Shattuck, or the one that had the Chair of the NAA working for thiomersal lawyers Waters and Kraus, or the one that saw Andrew Wakefield allegedly filing a patent for a rival vaccine to MMR *before* he published his paper, or the one that had Kirby add on two years to his statement regarding when the thiomersal connection would be in trouble, or the one that saw RFK Jr talking about the results of a study from the Geiers several months before it was published, or the one where the Geiers started patenting Lupron therapy, or the one where Generation Rescue placed words in the mouths of scientists.

Its true that your scientific case is very weak Mr Schafer. Without that science, so is your legal one.

161 Responses to “Autism Becomes A Political/Legal Football”

  1. David H April 25, 2006 at 14:33 #

    “Seems it was nationally in such short supply that the director of SafeMinds had to go begging for people to search high and low for some.”

    Wow, imagine that the director of a 4 or 5 person organization couldn’t find DTaP vaccines with thimerosal. Have you confirmed with Sally that the message she posted is confirmation that thimerosal was out of vaccines in June of 2001? Call me crazy but I think the letter from drug manufacturers to Congressman Dave Weldon is just a tad more reliable.

  2. anonimouse April 25, 2006 at 15:15 #

    I know that because Dave Weldon made a document that he received from the drug manufacturers public. The reality is that we don’t know how much thimerosal was still in vaccines in California in 2002. So if you want to use that data to make a comparison the logical approach is to use a sampling when we’re confident that thimerosal has been removed from all vaccines (with the exception of flu & with the exception of “trace” amounts).

    I saw that letter. Basically, the LAST shipments of TCV’s (other than flu vaccine) went out no later than the latter half of 2001 with expiration dates in 2002. However, thimerosal-free formulations of those vaccines were already on the market, and as Kev’s letter states by the time Ms. Bernard was looking for thimerosal-containing DTaP it was pretty hard to find.

    I think one can safely assume that any child born in the latter half of 2001 or 2002 was unlikely to receive the same dose of TCV’s as children born a couple of years prior.

  3. Kev April 25, 2006 at 15:31 #

    _”Wow, imagine that the director of a 4 or 5 person organization couldn’t find DTaP vaccines with thimerosal.”_

    I know – odd isn’t it? Are you suggesting that the apparent rarity of thiomersal containing vaccines _isn’t_ indicative of there being less of them around?

    _”Have you confirmed with Sally that the message she posted is confirmation that thimerosal was out of vaccines in June of 2001?”_

    Did I try and claim it was? I was merely demonstrating that the levels of thiomersal containing vaccines were in vastly lower supply. I’m not saying there was none at all.

    _”Call me crazy but I think the letter from drug manufacturers to Congressman Dave Weldon is just a tad more reliable.”_

    Drug manufacturers are more reliable than Sallie Bernard? Interesting take on it David and not a position I’d have expected you to take.

    In addition to anonimouses’ point about expiration, I’d like to add that there’s a peer reviewed paper that demonstrates that thiomersal containing vaccines spent no longer than (IIRC) 6 – 9 months on the shelf on average.

    At some point David you’re going to have to start addressing all the missing data and internal inconsistencies that bedevil the autism/vaccine theory. You could start by addressing the points I made upthread and which you seem to be trying to ignore.

  4. David H April 25, 2006 at 16:46 #

    “Please link through to the papers where immune disorders are described as being symptomatic of a diagnosis of autism.”

    Here are links to the studies on immune disorders in autistics:

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6221

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6221

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=5665

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6251

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=5423

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6001

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=5650

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6361

    While I was at it, I figured I would note some other interesting studies from IMFAR

    Here are links to oxidative stress in autistics:

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6961

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=7081

    Spontaneous apoptosis study:

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6164

    Infections in the first 2 years of life & ASD:

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6368

    I know you’ve seen this one already but here is the Krigsman study:

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6821

    Interesting study on testosterone:

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6941

    Here are links to animal studies & environmental triggers (interestingly, Mady Hornig is not the only one studying mice and making observations about their behaviors):

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6151

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6964

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6963

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6588

    http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/IMFAR/abst.cfm?abstid=6511

    “In order for the thiomersal (or indeed any vaccine) theory to hold water you need several things:”

    “1) Documented proof of how autism and mercury (or lead, aluminium, whatever you want to blame it on this week) are the same. There is no such evidence.”

    If the argument is that vaccines cause autism, there is no requirement to prove that the symptoms of autism are the same as the symptoms of poisoning from a single vaccine ingredient. And yet when I list characteristics from my son, who is autistic, that match symptoms of mercury poisoning you dismiss them because those symptoms are not present in a behavioral oriented set of traits that completely ignores the biological basis of autism. Have you read Martha Herbert’s paper? http://www.usautism.org/PDF_files_newsletters/herbert_autism_brain_or_affecting_brain_final.pdf

    “2) A good working theory of how differing rates of thiomersal (or vaccine ingreidient of your choice) and similar rates of autism across the world could possibly happen. There is no such theory.”

    Again, you’re focusing on an ingredient. And what data are you relying on to state that there are similar rates of autism across the world?

    “3) Evidence of a large upswing in prevalence when thiomersal (or vaccine ingredient of your choice) useage also increased. There is no such evidence.”

    Well, the CDDS data shows a large upswing in prevalence after new vaccines were added to the schedule and the age where vaccines were given was decreased.

    “4) Evidence of a corresponding downswing now that thiomersal is mostly gone from US schedules and totally gone from UK schedules. There is no such evidence.”

    I’ve addressed this point numerous times already.

    “5) A working hypothesis as to how it could be that chelation apparently not only chelates but reverses the neuro-damage that you claim occurs. There is no such hypothesis.”

    And exactly why is this required to prove that vaccines cause autism? I’m still waiting to hear back from Ruth regarding a question on this topic. There is a study on chelation underway so hopefully we get some answers on this topic.

    DH: “Comorbidity is your description of these findings. “

    “No David, its not. This is simply how it is.”

    Not a single author described immune disorder, oxidative stress, inflammation or GI distress as a comorbidity.

    “If you believe I’m wrong please show me the paper that demonstrates how these ailments were used to make a diagnosis of autism.”

    That’s a fargin trick question! (excuse the quote from the very funny movie Johnny Dangerously). You know fully well that a diagnosis is made according to the DSM and the DSM is only a set of behaviors so it would be impossible for any of these ailments to be used to make a diagnosis.

    “Comorbidity is a condition secondary to the primary difference – epilepsy for example. For some people who are Down’s Syndrome, autism itself is a comorbidity.”

    I understand that. The argument is that these ailments are involved in the etiology of autism. Other than the DSM, do you have any other reason to insist that these biological conditions are comorbidities rather than a potential cause of the condition?

    DH: “The authors believe those conditions could be part of the cause.”

    “My Aunty believes in God. At age six my son believed in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Belief is a nice thing to have I guess. Me, I prefer facts.”

    But the point you’re missing is that the authors are scientists and their beliefs are based on science as opposed to the examples you are providing.

  5. David H April 25, 2006 at 16:51 #

    “Drug manufacturers are more reliable than Sallie Bernard? Interesting take on it David and not a position I’d have expected you to take.”

    If drug manufacturers are admitting that thimerosal was around longer than it should have been I have a hard time accepting that they are wrong about that. You’re twisting my words around as I did not make any general statements about drug manufacturers being reliable or Sallie Bernard being unreliable.

    “At some point David you’re going to have to start addressing all the missing data and internal inconsistencies that bedevil the autism/vaccine theory. You could start by addressing the points I made upthread and which you seem to be trying to ignore.”

    Not ignoring them Kevin – just took a little more time to address. I also have a full time job.

  6. Kev April 26, 2006 at 06:53 #

    _”Here are links to the studies on immune disorders in autistics:”_

    None of which describe immune disorders as symptomatic of a diagnosis of autism.

    _”While I was at it, I figured I would note some other interesting studies from IMFAR”_

    Which demonstrate….what?

    _”If the argument is that vaccines cause autism, there is no requirement to prove that the symptoms of autism are the same as the symptoms of poisoning from a single vaccine ingredient.”_

    Oh I _see_ so we’re moving on from thiomersal being the cause to a blanket statement of ‘vaccines’ in general? In this case your task is even more tricky. You now have to establish how _all_ vaccine ingredients inter-relate to cause autism.

    _”And yet when I list characteristics from my son, who is autistic”_

    How was he diagnosed? DSM?

    _”completely ignores the biological basis of autism.”_

    What biological basis? I’ve asked you to provide evidence of that – you continue to be unable to do so.

    _”Again, you’re focusing on an ingredient. And what data are you relying on to state that there are similar rates of autism across the world?”_

    Mark Blaxill notes that the UK and the US have near exact prevalence rates and yet we have vastly different thiomersal exposure.

    _”Well, the CDDS data shows a large upswing in prevalence after new vaccines were added to the schedule and the age where vaccines were given was decreased.”_

    Ah-ha. CDDS data. You know full well why you shouldn’t be citing this data.

    _”I’ve addressed this point numerous times already.”_

    Feel free to address it again. You cite CDDS data to support your beliefs but you know that CDDS data will refute them as well.

    _”And exactly why is this required to prove that vaccines cause autism?”_

    Because chelation has been touted as a de facto ‘cure’ when it is nothing of the sort. It certainly wouldn’t prove anything but its yet another inconsistency.

    _”There is a study on chelation underway so hopefully we get some answers on this topic.”_

    I wouldn’t hold out much hope on that one.

    _”Not a single author described immune disorder, oxidative stress, inflammation or GI distress as a comorbidity.”_

    And neither did they describe them as symptomatic.

    _” You know fully well that a diagnosis is made according to the DSM and the DSM is only a set of behaviors so it would be impossible for any of these ailments to be used to make a diagnosis.”_

    Exactly my point.

    _”I understand that. The argument is that these ailments are involved in the etiology of autism.”_

    The _argument_ maybe. Is it a _proven_ argument? No. Is it something that holds universal belief? No. Is it something that a lot of people give credence to? No. Does this mean its not possible? No, of course not. But we can’t deal in vagueries and ‘might be’s’.

    _”But the point you’re missing is that the authors are scientists and their beliefs are based on science as opposed to the examples you are providing.”_

    No. Belief is belief. If its studied, recorded and replicated – then its science.

  7. David H April 26, 2006 at 17:00 #

    “None of which describe immune disorders as symptomatic of a diagnosis of autism.”

    Kev, you’re just playing with words. I provided at least half a dozen studies that commonly found immune disorders in the autistics that they studied. Keep in mind I was only looking at IMFAR. There are more.

    DH: While I was at it, I figured I would note some other interesting studies from IMFAR”

    “Which demonstrate….what?”

    These are studies that are trying to determine the cause of autism. If we find the cause hopefully we’ll find a cure. Surely you can spare a few moments to stop criticizing DAN, SafeMinds, Generation Rescue, etc… and review some scientific studies regarding the potential etiologies of autism.

    “Oh I see so we’re moving on from thiomersal being the cause to a blanket statement of ‘vaccines’ in general? ”

    I thought I made that point clear earlier.

    “In this case your task is even more tricky. You now have to establish how all vaccine ingredients inter-relate to cause autism.”

    All I need is a study comparing a vaccinated population to an unvaccinated one. And if the Combatting Autism bill is passed there will be funds committed for testing vaccines as a cause of autism.

    “How was he diagnosed? DSM?”

    Yes

    “What biological basis? I’ve asked you to provide evidence of that – you continue to be unable to do so.”

    There are lots of studies pointing in that direction. I provided about a dozen for you earlier as well as Martha Herbert’s paper.

    “Ah-ha. CDDS data. You know full well why you shouldn’t be citing this data.”

    Actually, I don’t. Please explain why.

    “You cite CDDS data to support your beliefs but you know that CDDS data will refute them as well.”

    How so?

    “Mark Blaxill notes that the UK and the US have near exact prevalence rates and yet we have vastly different thiomersal exposure.”

    You said there were similar rates all over the world so I thought you were talking about many countries.

    DH: Not a single author described immune disorder, oxidative stress, inflammation or GI distress as a comorbidity.”

    “And neither did they describe them as symptomatic.”

    No, they decribed them as potentially being involved in the cause of autism.

    “The argument maybe. Is it a proven argument? No. Is it something that holds universal belief? No. Is it something that a lot of people give credence to? No. Does this mean its not possible? No, of course not. But we can’t deal in vagueries and ‘might be’s’.”

    I see. As opposed to everything else you discuss that is proven and specific. My humble apologies for taking time away from your universally believed, specific, scientifically proven discussions about how mercury doesn’t cause autism and how all DAN treatments are bad.

  8. Kev April 26, 2006 at 22:51 #

    _”Kev, you’re just playing with words. I provided at least half a dozen studies that commonly found immune disorders in the autistics that they studied. Keep in mind I was only looking at IMFAR. There are more.”_

    No, I am _not_ playing with words. Take a look at what you wrote: ‘commonly found’. Does that mean they stated that _every single_ case they studies had immune disorders? No.

    Do you know of any other disorder that is diagnosable by symptoms not in the diagnostic criteria for that condition?

    A simple test David: email all those authors and ask them a simlpe question: _are immune disorders symptomatic of autism? Yes or No?_

    _”These are studies that are trying to determine the cause of autism. If we find the cause hopefully we’ll find a cure. Surely you can spare a few moments to stop criticizing DAN, SafeMinds, Generation Rescue, etc… and review some scientific studies regarding the potential etiologies of autism.”_

    *The* cause? So one hand it might be immune disorders, on another it might be some unspecified and unexplained reaction to some or all of some or all vaccines, on yet _another_ it might be oxidative stress, or the Easter bunny, or just about anything….(except genetic of course) and yet you want to talk about *the* cause?

    _”I thought I made that point clear earlier.”_

    I thought you must be joking. I didn’t really believe anyone would really think that.

    _”All I need is a study comparing a vaccinated population to an unvaccinated one.”_

    I’m sure that’s all _you_ need. In fact, you don’t even need that – you’re already convinced, right? Unfortunaltey, in teh real world a study comparing a vaccinated population to an unvaccinated one proves only that the unvaccinated one don’t have autism (assuming it shows that at all – you know the ‘Amish anomoly’ has been refuted I assume?). Any otehr conclusion would entirely depend on the makeup of teh unvaccinated population.

    _”There are lots of studies pointing in that direction. I provided about a dozen for you earlier as well as Martha Herbert’s paper.”_

    No. You provided unpublished abstracts. Its never a good idea to reply on abstracts.

    _”Actually, I don’t. Please explain why.”_

    OK – first and foremost, California state that the data they provide should not be used for this purpose. Despite that, Rick Rollens and David Kirby continue to cite it. However, their interpretation is wrong. Kirby is aware of this and has admitted it. He has also been forced to backtrack his beliefs and has also lied about doing so. You can read the nuts and bolts here. I’d also recommend you search that site for the phrase ‘CDDS’ to reveal a few other posts.

    _”How so?”_

    As I explained to you before, the CDDS data that Rollens uses erroneously uses _all_ cases bundled together. What Rollens should be doing is isolating the key cohort of 3 – 5 year olds. David Kirby agree’s with this. When one does isolate this cohort (the vaccine recieving cohort if you like) then one can see that the CDDS ‘incidence’ is still rising, 4 years after the removal of thiomersal.

    _”You said there were similar rates all over the world so I thought you were talking about many countries.”_

    I don’t speculate about what I haven’t read.

    _”No, they decribed them as potentially being involved in the cause of autism.”_

    There you go again with that _the_ cause stuff. Do you really honestly believe that autism – all autism – stems from just one thing? I’m genuinely curious.

    _”I see. As opposed to everything else you discuss that is proven and specific.”_

    Exactly.

    _”My humble apologies for taking time away from your universally believed, specific, scientifically proven discussions about how mercury doesn’t cause autism and how all DAN treatments are bad.”_

    Now, now David, there’s no need to act like a drama queen and flounce off in a huff. However, you are going to have to face the reality which is that outside of a small circle of parents, an even smaller circle of scientists, a positively _tiny_ circle of politicians looking to jump on a bandwaggon and an increasing amount of lawyers and journalists looking for court fees and book deals, nobody really believes mercury causes autism.

  9. Dad Of Cameron April 27, 2006 at 07:00 #

    DH “There is a study on chelation underway so hopefully we get some answers on this topic.”

    Kev “I wouldn’t hold out much hope on that one.”

    Oh, you can have hope David. It’s very likely to tell you exactly what you want to hear. Look for publication in JAPandS near the end of the year. I asked Jim Adams if it would go to a real peer-reviewed journal. He stopped answering my e-mail after that. I wonder if the Autism Omnibus judge/jury is going to buy a big steaming load of creativity from JAPandS as ‘science’? You know why ASU booted the chelation study, and why this second one is at SCNM, right David? If you don’t, ask Jim Adams about it, and share his response with us. I might have more to add to the fairy tale you are currently placing a lot of faith in, if he leaves anything important out.

  10. clone3g April 27, 2006 at 16:11 #

    David H.,
    It seems to me that you would like to draw a correlation between the immune irregularities observed in some (not all and not a majority) children with autism and vaccination status. If I have that wrong please clarify.

    The problem is that these immune abnormalities are still poorly defined and impossible to include in diagnostic criteria without further research and replication.

    There may be a distinct subset of autism where specific immune parameters would help to define a syndrome associated with autistic behavior but, at this point in time, there is no such syndrome or subset.

    Take DiGeorge Syndrome (22q11.2 deletion) for example. (Clearly genetic by the way) where Thymic output can be diagnostic and immune abnormalities are a nearly universal feature of the disorder. Both Autism and Schizophrenia are more common in DiGeorge syndrome but T-cell function isn’t listed in the DSM for diagnosing autism in DiGeorge Syndrome patients, is it?

    Is DiGeorge syndrome also caused by unknown synergistic effects of vaccines?

    Name one immune parameter that is part of autism. Just one.

  11. María Luján April 28, 2006 at 01:03 #

    Hi clone
    The DSM criteria lists key autistic traits, therefore there is not one GENERAL immune parameter to be part of autism under this light.
    Under an INDIVIDUAL light, I could mention ( and list also a lot of references about) a LOT of immune parameters related to SOME children with autism. This is the problem of a condition diagnosed under an extremely wide umbrella very imprecise and generating for me a lot of confussion.
    María Luján

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