Autism Omnibus – Liz Mumper

21 May

Elizabeth Mumper is an expert witness for the Petitioners (for the families). She is the medical director for DAN/ARI and founder of the Rimland Centre.

She firmly believes vaccines cause autism.

On Days four and five last week, Mumper testified. Again, there’s little point me going through the Petitioners exam – you can easily guess the content. Where things got interesting was on cross exam.

Again, this is me making notes on the audio so there may be minor errors. I also didn’t get the name of the young man doing the cross exam for the Dept of Justice.

In the expert reports that Mumper prepared for the thiomersal hearings, she stated:

1 in 6 children born today is predicted to have blood levels of mercury high enough to impair neurological development.

And she referenced Stern, 2005 to support that statement.

The DoJ immediately asked her where in the Stern paper that figure was quoted. After 2mins, 01 seconds of which only the noise of someone rifling through a paper could be heard, Mumper stated:

I do not see the 1 in 6 statistic there.

To which the DoJ lawyer asked:

Q: So the Stern paper does not state ‘1 in 6 children born today is predicted to have blood levels of mercury high enough to impair neurological development.’

A: You are correct.

Ouch.

The next question that came Mumpers way was – in fact I’ll do the whole exchange:

Q: Have you ever treated a child for mercury poisoning?

A: No.

Q: What formal training have you received in toxicology?

A: None.

Now wait just a minute – Liz Mumper, medical director of DAN! is stating that _she has never treated a child for acute mercury poisoning???_ Did I miss something here?

There was a lengthy to and fro after this during which ‘autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning‘ was discussed. Mumper squirmed a bit but admitted that it was published by three non-scientists, in a non-peer reviewed journal and that as she put it ‘the science had progressed’ since its publication (which was her way of saying it was dead wrong I think).

The DoJ moved on to a discussion of some of the papers that Mumper used to support her beliefs. Key amongst them were Mady Hornig’s Rain Mouse study and the Nataf Porphyrin study.

Mumpers take on the Hornig paper was fascinating. According to her, the:

…mice got OCD behaviours and they clawed through each others skull…

Now firstly – OCD behaviours? According to every member of the mercury militia worth their salt, Mady’s mice got _autistic_ behaviours. Now, obviously, they didn’t. Everyone from the IOM down (including certain tiara wearing bloggers) pointed out that the behaviours reported by Hornig bore no resemblance to autism. Now here was Mumper confirming that.

Secondly – this skull clawing – why was that raised in court? This behaviour was certainly not part of Hornig’s paper. It smacks of second hand sensationalism.

The DoJ lawyer asked Mumper what her opinion was of the Berman paper that entirely refuted Hornig (‘the present results do not indicate pervasive developmental neurotoxicity following vaccine-level thimerosal injections in SJL mice, and provide little if any support for the hypothesis that thimerosal exposure contributes to the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders’).

Amazingly, Mumper’s response was that she hadn’t read it! I must admit that when she said that (and yes, you could clearly hear the embarrassment in her voice when she admitted that) I laughed out loud. Aren’t medical directors supposed to keep up to date with science relevant to their ‘areas of expertise’?

The next section concerned the role of the ‘new kid on the black’ – Porphyrins. I’ll quote the initial exchange as near to verbatim as I can.

Q: You order this Porphyrin test in your own practice?

A: Yes.

Q: And do you find them to be a reliable measure of mercury toxicity in autistic patients?

A: *I’m split on that now* because I think that they’re good at showing differential toxicities but the thing that is worrying us now is that we’ve not looked at a lot of control children and we’re starting to do that and *finding that some normal children have abnormal Porphyrins too* .

Again, to those of us who’ve been following these stories, this is not news. However, what _is_ news is to hear the medical director of DAN/ARI confirm that Porphyrins aren’t as useful as touted. Note that although she knows she’s getting false positives she’s still ordering the tests.

There was some back and forth at that point as to why Mumper thought that the Porphyrin test wasn’t very accurate. She says she thinks it is because the control in the Nataf paper were French and Swiss and that US kids are ‘environmentally and genetically different’.

Could be. But, as Prometheus pointed out when we talked about this via email:

Now, if Swiss and French kids are “…too genetically different…” from US (and presumably UK) children for something as simple (and reportedly reliable) as the “porphyrin profile” to work, then what about the Amish?

Which is an excellent point. Its an established fact that the Amish _are_ genetically different. They’re also certainly environmentally different. I guess that doesn’t matter though.

DoJ wrapped up day four by asking:

Q: Porphyrins do not provide any evidence that mercury is in the brain, is that correct?

A: That’s correct.

On day five, DoJ played a little dirty. Bearing in mind that Mumper had said on day four that she was ‘split’ on the efficacy of the Porphyrin test, DoJ asked her to read out sworn testimony she had given in a separate case in Jan/Aug 2007:

Probably the most helpful test to me now is the Porphyrin test….

Which direct contradiction of yesterdays testimony was embarrassing enough, but she then went on to say (in 2007) that:

….it actually looked at the impact of ethyl mercury….

When on day four she had testified that it did no such thing.

All in all, DoJ made Mumper look very unsure. They tripped her up factually any number of times and led her into making statements (never treated mercury poisoning!) that I’m pretty sure she would not really have wanted to make.

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24 Responses to “Autism Omnibus – Liz Mumper”

  1. Schwartz May 21, 2008 at 01:13 #

    Kev,

    I’m amazed how different the perspectives of people writing on the hearing are.

    Keep it up.

  2. Ms. Clark May 21, 2008 at 01:39 #

    The DoJ lawyer who cross examined Mumper is Bo Johnson.

  3. Ms. Clark May 21, 2008 at 01:49 #

    Regarding what she said about Mady Hornig and Ian Lipkin’s killer autistic mice, it was just amazing how she totally misrepresented the paper.
    She said something like this (based on notes I took, it’s not verbatim, but some of the words are exactly what she said):
    “Mady hornig gave infant mice doses of thimerosal comparable to those in childhood vaccine schedule to autoimmune susceptible mice. And she did this great thing, she observed the mice through animal measures of behavior that are very well worked out. What she found was
    very dramatic, they had OCD like behaviors and they clawed through each other’s skulls instead of grooming each other.”

    There are no animal measures that are “very well worked out” as representing mouse autism. Though that’s what she seems to imply. Then she goes straight to the gory stuff which is absolutely not mentioned at all in the paper Mumper is discussing. Mumper conflated Mady Hornig’s credulous representation of videos here and there that mice killing their cage mates equals autism. When the mice did not kill their cage mates because of thimerosal, but becaue they are known to do this and she left them in cages together when she should not have and they killed each other while she or a colleague videtaped it. This resulted in her being sanctioned in some manner by the Columbia IACUC, but without Columbia advertising that fact. In other words she got in trouble, but only a few people at Columbia and a few others know about it. I have had it verified that she and maybe others in her lab was disciplined for this, at least by the lab members having to take “intro to how to not abuse lab animals” classes of some sort.

  4. Diane May 21, 2008 at 04:10 #

    A couple of thoughts on what you’ve posted:

    First of all, maybe when she said the “science had progressed” she means just that. It has since that paper was written. Additionally, there are several people trying to help kids who also say that porphyrins are not reliable in determining an individual’s metal toxicity. But maybe you haven’t read that because you spend so much of your time reading AoA so you can spew your anger and hatred at anyone who believes in things that you do not. It amazes me how much time and energy you put into ripping apart people who think differently than you. Maybe that time would be best served with your daughter. She probably needs you, Kev.

  5. Joseph May 21, 2008 at 04:29 #

    The science has certainly progressed, but not in the way she most likely believes it has.

  6. Matt May 21, 2008 at 04:51 #

    It’s amazing how thin the veneer of civility so often is with the biomed crowd.

    “She probably needs you”?!?

    Sweet.

    My child need someone to stand up for their rights and image. My child needs someone who will promote the idea that while my kid needs a lot of support, he is still a full member of society.

    I don’t see this in the GR message. I do see it in the work that Kev has done. For that, I owe him a lot.

  7. Kev May 21, 2008 at 06:20 #

    First of all, maybe when she said the “science had progressed” she means just that. It has since that paper was written.

    Its a possibility but I strongy suggest you listen to the exchange. I’m not a good enough rapid note taker to catch it all but the inference is pretty clear. Mumper was wriggling like a worm on a hook to avoid saying anything slightly negative. That speaks to her scientific objectivity in spades.

    Additionally, there are several people trying to help kids who also say that porphyrins are not reliable in determining an individual’s metal toxicity. But maybe you haven’t read that…

    Uh, yeah, I have. Thats why I said ‘to those of us who’ve been following these stories, this is not news’

    …because you spend so much of your time reading AoA

    I read the new blog entries…don’t you?

    …so you can spew your anger and hatred at anyone who believes in things that you do not. It amazes me how much time and energy you put into ripping apart people who think differently than you. Maybe that time would be best served with your daughter. She probably needs you, Kev.

    Probably not when she’s fast asleep though huh?

    And Diane? Do you pass that same moral judgement on the people on AoA who spend so ‘much time and energy’ into writing about the same thigns I do? No? Of course you don’t. Thats because you’re the worst kind of hypocrite – one who is too stupid to register their own hypocrisy.

    Matt – thanks 🙂

  8. Ms. Clark May 21, 2008 at 09:14 #

    Here’s a little more fleshed out transcript of what Mumper was saying about porphyrins. In my opinion she’s quite good at talking around a question and padding her answer with plausible sound stuff. But fortunately, I don’t think what she said will make any sense to the Special Masters and I hope they will see that at the very least she doesn’t have a lot of insight into what she’s using for tests or how she seems to be doing rather random stuff to kids based on unreliable tests.

    —-
    Johnson: Do you remember giving a deposition in that case?

    Mumper: Yes.

    Johnson: … do you remember being asked about laboratory results for biomarkers that you look for in your patients have been harmed by mercury.

    Mumper: I’m sure that I was, but it’s been so long I’d appreciate it if you’d flash the testimony up.

    Johnson: I’d be happy to.

    Johnson: …why don’t you just read that portion of your testimony

    Mumper: (reading) “Probably the most helpful test to me now is the porphyrin test. And the reason I like the porphyrin is that it actually looked at the impact of ethyl mercury and other heavy metals on body biochemistry and body physiology”
    I realize now that I should have specified the impact of mercury because it does not distinguish the species of mercury.

    Mumper: I do continue to use the porphyrins quite a bit.

    (question and answer about test for inflammatory markers in urine)

    Johnson: The porphyrin test is still one that you are ordering in your practice is that right?

    Mumper: That’s correct.

    Johnson: And it is still a test that you are using to make decisions regarding your patients care, is that accurate?

    Mumper: Yes, using it in context with … the history of the child and the clinical appearance of the child.

    Johnson: You testified yesterday that you could not tell me how long after exposure to mercury that the porphyrin test would be reliable.

    Mumper: That’s correct.

    Johnson: If you are using the test to make treatment decisions you must have some idea of when the test is medically appropriate wouldn’t that be correct.

    Mumper: When I use the test I am looking at the impact of the particular child and with regard to the impact on a crucial biochemical pathway at the time I get that child.
    I don’t have the advantage of getting that child at a time I can choose with regard to any exposures…

    I think we’ve already established that I’m not a toxicologist so I don’t want to venture beyond my area of expertise about how that test is constructed in terms of the question that counsel asked me, but I still am able to use it I think as a clinically valuable tool…

    —–

    I believe this Diane who commented has had her autistic child see Dr. Mumper. If I recall correctly, this Diane has said some rather harshly critical things about Dr. Mumper, too.

  9. Lisa May 21, 2008 at 13:57 #

    Fascinating stuff… you’d think a person like Mumpers would be impeccably prepared for the Omnibus hearings; strange to think that she wasn’t right on the ball.

    Agree with Schwarz that the different takes on what’s happening are really interesting. Thanks so much!

    Lisa (about.com)

  10. Ms. Clark May 21, 2008 at 17:17 #

    Dr. Mumper seems to me to be immersed in her world view. She uses typical DAN! vocabulary that is vague and sounds “sciencey” but is meaningless. She’s used to using this stuff with parents but it doesn’t wash with experts. It’s like a magician can see when another magician is using sleight of hand, where a non-magician might not see it.

    I’m sure that parents who have been sucked in to DAN! will think she sounds amazingly well prepared. But, what I hear is that she’s just got a schtick down pat, but not so well that she doesn’t say things that are self contradictory often enough.

  11. Schwartz May 22, 2008 at 01:25 #

    Ms. Clark,

    I can’t vouch for the authenticity, but I find the story about having to take an ethics refresher course is a plausible and appropriate response for that study.

    I always thought it was more sensationalist than not.

  12. Diane May 23, 2008 at 13:11 #

    “Do you pass that same moral judgement on the people on AoA who spend so ‘much time and energy’ into writing about the same thigns I do? No? Of course you don’t. Thats because you’re the worst kind of hypocrite – one who is too stupid to register their own hypocrisy.”

    No, Kev, I do not. But it is not because of stupidity or hypocrisy. It is because they are not as nasty as you. I find you one of the most offensive writers in the world of autism blogs. Whenever someone says something that goes against your grain, they are, according to you, an idiot, a hypocrit, stupid or some other nasty term that flows into your limited brain. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but you are over the top in your attacks. The above clip of your response to me … well, I would not have expected any less from you.

  13. Kev May 23, 2008 at 20:08 #

    Oh I _see_ – so the accuracy doesn’t matter, what matters is how its said?

    Oh well, in that case I’d like to point out to you that I don’t attack until I am attacked (if you can find me attacking with no provocation please show me where).

    So basically Diane – you’re not only a stupid hypocrite, you actually lack the mental capacity to apply your standards to your allies as well as your opponents.

    If you feel that thats unfair then boo-hoo. Get over it. I’ve got no inclination to play nice with people like you who are determined to affect my kids future so negatively.

  14. Jon May 23, 2008 at 22:52 #

    by the way, anyone got a link to the MP3s of proceedings? Sure I saw one before, but can’t find it now 🙂

  15. Diane May 24, 2008 at 15:21 #

    “If you feel that thats unfair then boo-hoo. Get over it. I’ve got no inclination to play nice with people like you who are determined to affect my kids future so negatively.”

    No boo-hoo here, at least not caused by you. But if you think that your kid, or any kids seriously affected by autism have anything close to a positive future, then I suggest you think long and hard about what their possibilities are in life when you, or any of the other parents, are gone. Sorry, Kev, but its not looking too good. An individual who can’t speak, can’t dress themselves, can’t use the toilet….where are they going in terms of an independent life? Nowhere.

    In terms of accuracy…I don’t know. I am not a scientist. And neither are you.

    And Ms. Clark: Nope. Not me. My child was never examined by Dr. Mumper. Maybe another Diane. Sorry.

  16. Joseph May 24, 2008 at 15:31 #

    But if you think that your kid, or any kids seriously affected by autism have anything close to a positive future, then I suggest you think long and hard about what their possibilities are in life when you, or any of the other parents, are gone.

    Diane, I take it you’re really not that familiar with autism research. I think you’ve bought into the unsubstantiated belief that autism is a death sentence or some such, correct?

    Outcome in autism is highly variable. There’s also reason to believe that poor adult outcomes reported in the past are very much skewed by early institutionalization. Additionally, there’s some evidence that severity of symptoms is not a very good predictor of outcome, independently of non-verbal IQ.

  17. Diane May 24, 2008 at 16:03 #

    No, Joseph. I do not. I maintain very high hopes for my daughter due to the therapies and interventions she has received. But I am still not convinced that she will be able to live independently. Time will tell and I pray that I am around to see her living the life that SHE wants, not one that is dictated by her autism. However, my daughter is relatively high functioning. She can speak, she can use the toilet (finally!), and she is learning more and more each day. She reads beautifully and loves to draw. But that’s her. I see kids who are older than mine, who cannot do any of those things. I don’t know what’s going to happen to them, and that saddens me. It also frightens me because I believe that our governement (here in the US) is totally unprepared for what’s coming in terms of adults with autism.

    Please refrain from ridiculous comments about we don’t know what’s going to happen to our typical kids. Yeah, I know that…but our typical kids have every tool available to them to excel in this world, make their own choices and process information to better thier lives.

  18. Matt May 24, 2008 at 16:11 #

    Well, chalk one up in the “won’t even try to understand the premise” department.

    The fact that many people (autistics included) need a lot of support and that the public at large isn’t always willing to acknowledge that is sort of the point of neurodiversity, eh? Get people to understand the value and dignity of each individual and that is a step towards acknowledging the responsiblity that society has towards its people.

    Tell me how promoting an image of autistics as damaged will help, I’m open for discussion. However, if that discussion depends on playing a guilt card and trying to get money out of court settlements, keep in mind that the fact that this is based on a false concept of autism as vaccine injury will actually hurt their future.

    Yes, hurt.

    In terms of accuracy…I don’t know. I am not a scientist. And neither are you.

    Luckily, many of us are.

    As to the comparison of nastiness of this blog vs. another: if you don’t see the intense nastiness over there, take a look again with a fresh view. It is a blog that depends heavily on “bogy-man” politics, where creating an image that people and organizations are evil is the rule.

    This blog doesn’t purport to be an “internet newspaper”. But, since the “internet newspaper” has such low standards of reporting, I am not surprised that they have such low standards for their character.

    I’ve seen kev go to significant effort to obtain information from the source. This should be, but rarely if ever is, what an “internet newspaper” should be doing.

  19. Matt May 24, 2008 at 16:24 #

    It also frightens me because I believe that our governement (here in the US) is totally unprepared for what’s coming in terms of adults with autism.

    Why haven’t the autism ‘advocates’ of the past 10 years (or more) been working on adult issues? Why have they not been recognizing that there are very likely a huge number of unidentified adults?

    Unfortunately, it appears that the reason is based largely in a short sighted view of what their children needed in the short term. People felt the need to promote–without room for question–the concept of an ‘epidemic’. Rather than work on adult issues, they actively avoided the topic.

    Even now, when the idea of the vaccine-induced epidemic of autism has been abandoned by the petitioners in the Omnibus, the pseudo-journalists, lobbyists and ‘activists’ are still ignoring the very real possibility that adults with autism are underserved and mis-identified.

    Keep in mind–the point is to get a better life for children and adults who need support. Limiting the discussion to ‘autism’ as in

    “I believe that our governement (here in the US) is totally unprepared for what’s coming in terms of adults with autism.”

    Is not helping. If we don’t push for a better life for all people with disabilities, we are going to lose.

  20. Joseph May 24, 2008 at 16:35 #

    Time will tell and I pray that I am around to see her living the life that SHE wants, not one that is dictated by her autism.

    There’s always the distinct possibility that she will live the life that SHE wants, and it will be one that is very much dictated by her autism. Diane, you might not like your daughter being autistic, but that doesn’t mean she also won’t.

    I see kids who are older than mine, who cannot do any of those things. I don’t know what’s going to happen to them, and that saddens me.

    And again, the general assumption here is that these kids are developmentally stuck in time. This is simply a mistaken assumption.

    It’s true that some autistics will develop more than others. But I don’t think this translates into some having a more valuable life than others or anything of the sort.

    The hope that exists for those who don’t develop as much is the social model of disability. You might dislike “the neurodiverse” but, really, when you are gone, whose advocacy do you think would’ve been in your daughter’s best interest?

  21. Joseph May 24, 2008 at 17:13 #

    About Diane’s concern regarding the tsunami of adults that is coming, let met get some hard numbers for her that are easy to verify. Let’s see how the number of 10-13 year olds who do not live at home has changed from 2002 to 2007, according to California DDS.

    You’d expect this should’ve increased, correct? After all, the number of autistics in the cohort has increased.

    In September 2002, we see that 1321 children are reported to live outside the home. In December 2007, the number is 892.

    This is a clear decrease, meaning that California is presumably spending less on 10-13 year old developmentally disabled children throughout much of the “epidemic”. How could this be? Please explain.

  22. Kev May 24, 2008 at 19:25 #

    But if you think that your kid, or any kids seriously affected by autism have anything close to a positive future, then I suggest you think long and hard about what their possibilities are in life when you, or any of the other parents, are gone. Sorry, Kev, but its not looking too good. An individual who can’t speak, can’t dress themselves, can’t use the toilet….where are they going in terms of an independent life? Nowhere.

    Right because in diane-world thats the choice isn’t it? Desperately hang on to the idea that vaccines cause autism and X treats it because then they’ll have a Better Life. Except no one’s ever _seen_ these ‘thousands’ of recovered kids. No paper has been written about them. The best we’ve got is a few websites where about 5% are ‘undiagnosed’ and a film with (how many?) four or five ‘recovered’ kids. Wow.

    Thats a zero-sum game Diane. Not one I elect to participate in.

    So, back in the real world, children develop and learn. Some by 0.1% and some by 100%. Whether that person is ever fully independent or not should not dictate their happiness. If it _does_ then we as a society have to ask ourselves some pretty hard questions about how well we are caring for our most vulnerable members. What we _don’t_ do is throw our hands up in the air when the chelation/hbot/urine injections/shit enemas don’t work and write off our kids futures.

    But really, I love how you keep switching the goalposts on our little tete a tete here.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Back to Vaccine Court - May 24, 2008

    […] Elizabeth Mumper, a expert witness for the Petitioners, the medical director for DAN/ARI and founder of the Rimland Center. […]

  2. Autism Blog - It isn’t RhoGaM either | Left Brain/Right Brain - June 30, 2008

    […] Coleman and Geier. Yep, our good friends the Geiers. I believe that is also our new friend, Dr. Mumper as […]

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