An Open Letter To The Poling’s

12 Apr

Dear Poling family,

Let me first start by saying that your little girl is beautiful. I am father to two girls (as well as one boy, young man now actually) so I know how great it is to have such wonderful little people around.

I read Jon Poling’s commentary in the AJC and I have to say that I was very disappointed by the level of accuracy in the piece. For example, he says:

On Nov. 9, 2007, HHS medical experts conceded through the Department of Justice that Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations administered when she was 19 months of age…

Now I have taken a keen interest in your families case since it became clear what the situation was. I _think_ I have read most of the newspaper reports available online as well as (more importantly) the HHS document itself and (even more importantly) the case study co-authored by Andrew Zimmerman and Jon Poling.

Nowhere, I repeat, nowhere, have I seen anyone from either the HHS, CDC, US Government, or even the Zimmerman/Poling case study say that ‘Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations’.

I have seen David Kirby refer to this several times. I have heard lots of people refer to these statements as if they are true and now I hear you doing it too.

But where is this concession?

In what legal, scientific or medical document does it state unequivocally that ‘Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations’?

You are a family on the cusp of storm. You need to take more care with your statements. People all over the world are listening. The *fact* as of right now is that no one has conceded ‘Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations’. Simply stating it as if it were true does not make it true.

The HHS expert documents that led to this concession and accompanying court documents remain sealed, though our family has already permitted release of Hannah’s records to those representing the almost 5, 000 other autistic children awaiting their day in vaccine court.

Now this confuses me on two levels. Firstly, Special Masters have already said that:

….in the case that is the subject of the media reports, if the parties who supplied documents and information in the case provide their written consent, we may then be able to appropriately disclose documents in the case.

It sounds to me like Dr Poling is trying to turn something around onto the HHS without justification. Maybe your legal team haven’t told you about this news. I understand they’re very busy of late.

The second part of Dr Poling’s statement that confuses me is the allusion to the records being released ‘to those representing the almost 5, 000 other autistic children’.

I thought that you wanted your documents to be made entirely public? Are you now saying you only want the legal teams of the other omnibus lawyers to have access to them?

I would also like to draw your attention to the email I sent to Terry Poling on March 5th asking why the Poling family had not cleared Dr Andrew Zimmerman from speaking publicly about the case. Does the Poling fmaily have any intention of lifting that embargo any time soon?

Dr Poling goes on:

Emerging evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction may not be rare at all among children with autism. In the only population-based study of its kind, Portuguese researchers confirmed that at least 7.2 percent, and perhaps as many as 20 percent, of autistic children exhibit mitochondrial dysfunction. While we do not yet know a precise U.S. rate, 7.2 percent to 20 percent of children does not qualify as “rare.” In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction may be the most common medical condition associated with autism.

This is very disingenuous Dr Poling. I am not sure if you are purposefully distorting the truth or simply not as knowledgeable as you think. In point of fact the figure of 7.2% is from a 2005 study ‘Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders: a population-based study‘. This is _not_ (as you state) ‘the only population-based study of its kind’. It was in fact a precursor to a _second_ follow up study by the same lead researcher correcting his own data.

This second study (published October 2007) is called ‘Epidemiology of autism spectrum disorder in Portugal: prevalence, clinical characterization, and medical conditions’.

This study declares a 4.1% figure. It is disingenuous in the extreme to refer to old science when newer, more accurate science exists on the subject (and by the same author no less!).

Further, as far as I can tell, the figure of 20% has but one source – a non published summary for attendees of a 2003 LADDERS conference in Boston, USA. Therefore it has not been subject to any kind of peer review. That’s not to say the figure is wrong, merely that it hasn’t been verified or undergone any kind of the usual scientific checks and balances a published piece of work must undertake to ensure quality. This is not ’emerging science’ Dr Poling. Its a set of program notes.

Further, as I understand it from talking to people involved in all three of these different items, the percentages you talk about are expressed percentages _of regressive autism only_ . Now I might have that wrong but I’m pretty sure that’s what was communicated to me.

Taking this into account, when Dr Poling states that:

In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction may be the most common medical condition associated with autism..

and he goes on to suggest population numbers between 10,000 (1%) , 72,000 (7.2%) and 200,000 (20%) of the autistic population he estimates at one million in the US, he is incorrect.

However, if I have understood what is said to me then we need to look at regressive autism numbers only, which are estimated to account for 25%-30% of autistic people. Therefore we are looking at not 7.2% or 20% (one is incorrect, one is not scientifically justified) of one million. We are actually looking at 4.1% (the only scientifically valid number) of between 25 – 30% of one million. Lets take the upper figure of 30%. This gives us a population of 300,000 for regressive autism. Applying the 4.1% estimate we can see that – at best and only if this data is all correct – mitochondrial autism may affect about 13,000 autistic people – 1.3%. If we took the lower range of 25% for regressive autism, we barely get over 1% (10,250).

Secondly, it should be noted that approximately 40% of autism can be accounted for genetically. This already makes it the single largest established cause(s).

Dr Poling goes on to say:

Today there is no doubt that mitochondrial dysfunction represents a distinct autism subpopulation biological marker.

This is true. However, prefacing this sentence with the word ‘today’ gives the highly misleading impression that autism has been associated with mitochondrial disorders and/or dysfunctions only since Hannah Poling came into out collective conciousness. This is far from the case. I can find instances in the scientific literature going back to 1986, over 20 years ago discussing mitochondria and autism and a PubMed search for ‘mitochondrial autism’ yields 34 quality papers published over a 20 year period. This is hardly a new thing Dr Poling.

As a neurologist, I have cared for those afflicted with SSPE (a rare but dreaded neurological complication of measles), paralytic polio and tetanus. If these serious vaccine-preventable diseases again become commonplace, the fault will rest solely on the shoulders of public health leaders and policymakers who have failed to heed the writing on the wall (scribbled by my 9-year old daughter).

I fear that this is projection. You are very close to pushing an anti-vaccine agenda Dr Poling and indeed Terry Poling was active an the Yahoo Group ‘Recovered Kids’ from at least Summer 2001 where she says things like:

Really, the only way to obliterate a disease is to vaccinate everybody – or at least so “they” say

Sept 2001.

Had I told the hospital staff she was autistic they would not have believed me. The same held true for a (sic) educational consultant who came to evaluate hannah the day before the fever started. She said in her report she saw absolutely no autistic behaviors.

Nov 2001.

She has mitochondrial disease which causes her autism.

March 2004.

I do know docs that speak for drug companies but they cover all the meds for a particular disease in their talks with other docs. If they do not agree that the drug is best for certain conditions on the whole they say so.

Feb 2003.

…it [autism] is a DSM set of symptoms. When the symptoms disappear you cannot say the child still has autism…..

Oct 2001.

So Dr Poling when you try to lay the blame for vaccine preventable injuries increasing at the foot of those agencies assigned to try and stop them reappearing I think that is farcical. To me it is clear that the main responsibility lies with those who shun what are by and large safe safe vaccines on the strength of a hypothesis that is nowhere _close_ to scientific truth. I urge you to read this article and the comments left by readers. Its clear who they see as responsible. For example:

Don’t want to vaccinate your kids? Fine with me. Just don’t send them to school where they then put my kids at risk because of your decision.

You are deluding yourself if you think you can turn responsibility for shunning vaccines back on health agencies Dr Poling.

All in all Dr and nurse Poling I think that your public use of misinformation and erroneous science to make your point will serve you no good in the long run. I also continue to be puzzled by your refusal to ‘ungag’ Andrew Zimmerman. I hope you can start to realise that what has ‘happened’ to Hannah is far from remarkable. Best wishes from one autism parent to another.

54 Responses to “An Open Letter To The Poling’s”

  1. Schwartz April 17, 2008 at 05:37 #

    Ms. Clark,

    There is no question these children are certainly at higher risk of illness, as the danger is due to increased immune response.

    However, there is a risk difference in having 100% chance of immune response from a vaccine vs a small percentage chance of acquiring measles, so mitigation can certainly be taken. I consider that value. And they do have treatments for some mito conditions. It’s possible that they might be able to support the body, and then apply a lighter vaccine with a lot lower risk.

    I certainly wouldn’t assume no value, even at this early stage.

  2. bones April 17, 2008 at 15:26 #

    “…there is a risk difference in having 100% chance of immune response from a vaccine vs a small percentage chance of acquiring measles.”

    At this particular snapshot in time, yes. Ironically, because the majority of the populace (industrialized nations, anyway) has been vaccinated against it.

    If you follow your proposal to its logical conclusion, eventually, the majority becomes the unvaccinated, and said disease will flourish once again.

    …and what do you mean by the phrase “100% chance of immune response”?

  3. Schwartz April 18, 2008 at 04:13 #


    The application of a vaccine pretty much guarantees an immune response whether from the preservatives, adjuvants, or pathogens.

    Even if measles returned to a higher prevalence, the odds of contracting it during a specific period of vulnerability were far lower than 100%.

    As for following my proposal, you got that part wrong. My proposal does not include leaving everyone unvaccinated. From what did you draw that conclusion?


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