A call to the the Special Masters: No Splinch, No Splunge

29 Jun

When a person in the Harry Potter world apparates but leaves some piece of him/herself behind, it is called “splinching“. In the world of Monty Python, “Splunge” means “I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no and I’m not indecisive”.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, we should see a decision in the first part of the Autism Omnibus Proceeding, with the decision in the second part following a some time later.

What do these two things have in common? We need a clear, definitive decision from the Special Masters. No splinch. No splunge.

It will come as no surprise that I am expecting a the decision to go against the petitioners. Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be great if every person with a disability got the support–either as a lump sum, public services, or some combination of the two–that they needed for their lives. But, the problem is, I just don’t think that the petitioner’s science even comes close to proving this case.

No matter what happens, I expect that the losing side will appeal to the Federal Circuit. Should the decision go against the petitioners, and they lose the appeal, expect this to spill over to civil court.

For that reason, we need a clear, decisive well… decision. We need the Special Masters to write the sort of decision that tells the Federal Circuit, “this idea has no merit”. We need a decision that tells the civil courts, “don’t even let this one through the door” (think Blackwell).

I’m not saying I am right. I am not saying that this would be news to the Special Masters. I’m certainly not saying that this could influence them in any way.

What I am saying is that we are a very factionalized community. We need to move forward, and the vaccine issue is keeping that from happening. Progress will likely mean leaving some people behind with their old ideas. But the sooner we can move forward, the better. The sooner we can talk about issues that matter, the better. The sooner we can fight as a group for respect, rights, appropriate services, rather than fighting amongst ourselves, the better.

The Special Masters would likely see a strong decision as the best way to support the vaccine program (good idea, too). But, it would be one of best things they could do for the autism community.

17 Responses to “A call to the the Special Masters: No Splinch, No Splunge”

  1. Sullivan June 29, 2008 at 06:46 #

    I will point out, should the SM’s see that the evidence indicates that some or all families should be compensated, of course they need to do what’s right. Rejecting claims that are valid would do no one any good.

    Again, though, the decision would have to be very clear. And that is a big piece of why the PSC case isn’t convincing to me. There is no clear description of what constitutes “vaccine injury autism”. Every attempt by the DoJ lawyers to help define this was met with evasion by the PSC expert witnesses.

    That is, again in my eye, in addition to the lack of good science.

  2. Kev June 29, 2008 at 08:36 #

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be great if every person with a disability got the support—either as a lump sum, public services, or some combination of the two—that they needed for their lives. But, the problem is, I just don’t think that the petitioner’s science even comes close to proving this case.

    Thats the issue. I’d love to see Michelle Cedillo awarded several million dollars. I know her parents have put themselves into severe debt to first ‘treat’ her to no avail and to then keep her in this court action which – as you say – looks like it will be to no avail.

    When the Omnibus hearings go against her I will find no joy at all in that. There are a group of people who are very rich who have used people like Michelle and Michelle’s parents without risking their own precious money. Its all awfully tacky and a sad indictment of the so called autism community. Maybe these very rich people who founded their Autism/mercury/vaccine groups will reimburse the Cedillo’s et al

  3. Ringside seat June 29, 2008 at 09:57 #

    Michelle Cedillo will certainly not be compensated. Anyone – including the three special masters – could see that she was autistic before her MMR. Family videos – which the family fought to keep private – proved it beyond question.

  4. AntiVax June 29, 2008 at 17:38 #


    Key realities about autism, vaccines, vaccine-injury compensation, Thimerosal, and autism-related research by P.G. King and G.S. Goldman

  5. Margaret Romao Toigo June 29, 2008 at 18:00 #

    AntiVax has invoked Scopie’s Law: “In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses you the argument immediately.”

  6. Kev June 29, 2008 at 19:08 #

    Margaret – ‘AntiVax’ is the man himself. Hi John, welcome back.

    I take it you fully expect the Cedillo’s to win? Let me therefore offer you a little wager. If they do not win in the Autism Omnibus hearings, will you meet their legal bills and pay for adequate education and provision for Michelle? If not, why not?

  7. Sullivan June 29, 2008 at 19:55 #

    I expect disagreement. It would be nice if it was on topic, rather than just an advertisement for a website.

    The experts in the Omnibus put together better arguments than can be found in whale. They were still unconvincing.

  8. María Luján June 29, 2008 at 20:47 #

    I hope that the Special Masters consider the possibility of the truth-and provide justice.
    I am very aware that this implies completely different things for different people.
    I do think- I do hope- that the truth. with high quality scientific evidence-about the implicancies of adverse reactions to vaccines with autism to be known in my life time.

  9. Ms. Clark June 29, 2008 at 21:32 #

    The truth about vaccines and autism did come out in the Omnibus hearing.

    The truth is that the PSC had nothing to work with. Their experts were sad to put it nicely. Their evidence was unimpressive, to put it mildly, and I’m working very hard here to put it mildly.

    I think one might make a case that the PSC hasn’t met the criteria for bringing these cases in good faith. They look very cynical to me and it looked like they worked very hard to manipulate what “truth” they had to make it say far more than it does say.

    For me, personally, it looks like the lawyers in this case could have known well and early on that vaccines don’t cause autism. I would also say that it looks like maybe they knew vaccines didn’t cause autism in these particular cases, but perhaps they hoped to pad their wallets carrying out a sham with a chance that if they manipulated the media enough they could get money also for their badly misinformed clientele.

    Maria, you say that you “hope that the Special Masters consider the possibility of the truth”. Are you saying that they might not? If I were one of the SM’s I’d be offended by that.

  10. Kev June 29, 2008 at 22:38 #

    María, I agree that the SM’s should consider the truth and be just in respect of that truth. I have no doubt that whatever ruling they come to it will be reached because they honestly believe it to be the truth.

    I enjoy your comments because they are full of opportunities to see another perspective without rancour. I do see that you believe – from the the tone and content of the abstracts you post – that there is more to the issue than has been presented.

    However, I’m afraid I don’t agree. I think the experts that the PSC presented did the absolute best they could. However, the truth is that they were professionally weak (remember Vera Byers claiming institutional affiliation due to visiting a library?) and based on totally unsupported ideas (such as the idea of a provoked chelation test) as well as the presentation of an inflexible belief from the parents (remember how they claimed regression but home videos showed autism symptoms prior to vaccination?).

    I would dearly love Michelle Cedillo to get a large payoff. But then, I would also like to get the same for your child, my child, Kim Stagliano’s girls, Ms Clarke’s child, Steve Dionne’s son and Sam Best as well. That would be social justice. That money flowed to where it was most needed. But we don’t live in that world. In _this_ world, the money only comes if we can prove our ideas. I really can’t see that happening for the Cedillo’s. I don’t hope I’m wrong about that but I wish this could’ve been handled in a way that didn’t put these parents in massive debt and makes these children into test cases rather than just children.

  11. María Luján June 29, 2008 at 23:48 #

    Kev, first thank you for your consideration.
    However, I still think that there is much more in the issue (even unnknown at the current status of the science) that what has been presented in the Hearings.I do think that the truth about this controversy is going to be solved in a scientific lab, not in a court room and not these days.
    Do you think that a dismisal is going to change the controversy? Do you think that a concession is going to change the controversy? IMHO, No to both questions.
    The controversy is scientific in the root but has so many implicancies in health and policy that it is very difficult to move on in the right aspects- especially to decide what the right aspects are.
    What I have presented you and others, what I wanted to reflexionate with is that the weakness of the arguments is not privative of one side. The dogma has been presented once and again , IMO, in the HEarings- side by side by several unsupported assumptions. However, not all is at my understanding bad science but several paths of research in the begining or the presentations of unknowns ( for example testing appropiate for biaccumulation in tissues that it does not exist today or how autism symptoms are defined in NT vs autistic children during first 2 years-beyond opinions).
    I have tried to present the situation when both sides of this- especially when low stamdards of science are used or extremists/biased points of view are adopted- are doing a disservice (to my child at least) because
    it is not fallacious at all to point out that certain advantages or disadvantages may apply equally to both positions presented in a debate, and therefore they cannot provide a reason for favoring one position over the other (such disadvantages are referred to as “non-unique”). In general, using tu quoque statements is a good way to assure that judges make decisions based only on factors that distinguish between the two sides.

    In this world, the money only comes if we can prove our ideas. I really can’t see that happening for the Cedillo’s. I don’t hope I’m wrong about that but I wish this could’ve been handled in a way that didn’t put these parents in massive debt and makes these children into test cases rather than just children.

    About the decision to go to court or not, I consider- such as in other decisions- that is private of the parents and their particular challenges.I may tell you what I thnk about, but I consider that these decisions are part of the overall point of view of the family and the situations that need to be faced.Now, to say that the proofs beyond doubt have not been presented in the court do not imply that the ideas are wrong-in a whole or in parts. Perhaps the proofs are not available yet- for the whole or for the unknown that explain the partial aspects; or they are in the begining. To criticise the criticable is not a lack of respect; it is the presentation of the status of the issue. For me there is lack of high quality evidence for and against everywhere in both sides.This is why I mentionned some times the paradigm change , when different views are presented.There is a paradigm change going on, but it is in the begining- at least in my perception.And the paradigm is not only form the CMPs and the scientific consideration of Autism , from me is also sociological/ethical/medical and even parental/familiar about disability in general and autism in particular.


    this could’ve been handled in a way that didn’t put these parents in massive debt and makes these children into test cases rather than just children.

    Well, this is an aspect that we may agree with. My personal experience was awful in the begining and I couldn´t find the adequate help for almost 2 years- until I did. I wonder also about the experience of these parents- because I do not think that money hunger is the root of their decision- to go to this level. I wonder about all the aspects that are related to their decision.I try to understand them such as I try to understand you and other parents.
    It is a confusion and in this confusion I honestly believe that we do the best we can, what we believe is the best for our children with all the tools we may find- and consider under personal/familiar analysis-adequate and helpful.

  12. Sullivan June 30, 2008 at 03:26 #

    There was no truth that vaccines cause autism presented at the Omnibus. The PSC made an argument that there is plausibility. But, even they decried the lack of hard evidence.

    Obviously if there were good evidence, a convincing case, the Special Masters would have to find in favor or the petitioners.

    Instead, the SM’s were presented a case that is not convincing. The PSC lawyers are trying to argue that the case is close, and that a close case should be decided in favor of the petitioner.

    But, the PSC lawyers also know that the Appeals Court leans towards compensating in close cases.

    But, again, this isn’t close. I doubt that the Vaccine Court has ever seen the parade of world experts that has testified for the respondents in the Omnibus. These people aren’t the corporate paid hacks (ala tobacco litigation) that some groups would try to have us believe. These are the top people in the field, at the top of their game.

    Should the Special Masters agree, I feel that they have a responsibility in this case to make the decision documents as clear as possible.

  13. Anne June 30, 2008 at 05:56 #

    Maria, the judges or Special Masters in any case are engaged in the pursuit of truth, but it’s a different kind of truth than you are talking about. It’s a truth that is consistent with the law and based on the evidence submitted by the parties.

    I’m pretty sure that if you were the judge in these cases, and you had to base your decision on the evidence submitted, you would not think that you could discern the truth in the way you meant in your comment.

    I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t say what the result will be, but like Sullivan I believe that the petitioners have not given the Special Masters enough evidence to find that the MMR vaccine and/or TCV’s caused the petitioners’ autism. I do believe that, if some of the petitioners did suffer vaccine injuries, the theories of causation that are being advanced, and the evidence supporting those theories, are not what is needed to prove that vaccines caused the injuries. I have a bad feeling that some injured people may have been sacrificed for an agenda of proving that vaccines cause autism.

  14. Navi July 1, 2008 at 00:34 #

    “What I am saying is that we are a very factionalized community. We need to move forward, and the vaccine issue is keeping that from happening.”

    Interesting, I just pretty much said the same thing in a comment on the next post (I hadn’t read this one yet it was next in my reader) only not nearly as eloquently and with a lot more words. Of course, I’m getting problem loading page, so maybe it ate my comment…

  15. Navi July 1, 2008 at 00:42 #

    nevermind. I hit the back button, edited some more and it posted.

  16. isles July 1, 2008 at 01:27 #

    I really hope the SMs will see that a finding against the petitioners is not a finding against autistic people – that, as Sullivan points out, it is the best thing that could happen to autistic people.

    It’s time to move on and a scientifically sound decision will help that happen.

  17. Ms. Clark July 1, 2008 at 02:03 #

    It will be interesting to see how Autism Speaks and Autism Society of America (and the MIND Institute) make the transition from giving credence to the vaccine/autism myth, to realizing that giving credence to the vaccine/autism myth marks them as loonies. It will be interesting to see how hard they work to expunge prior statements of support of the fringe element.

    I suppose Katie Wright may become bitter and hardened toward “them”, “they” who poisoned a generation, blah blah blah. I wonder if the Wrights would divest themselves of Autism Speaks all together rather than face having to admit that their child was so wrong.

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