Saturday, February 14, 2009

Court Ruling on Vaccine and Autism Link

A federal vaccine compensation court recently ruled that the MMR (measles, mumps rubella) vaccine does not cause autism. This case is very important because of the standard the court used to make its decision. As opposed to criminal cases where the standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt" this special court used "preponderance of evidence" as the standard. The judge, called a "special master", George L. Hastings, Jr ruled that the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary" to the argument made by the parents seeking compensation in this case. In fact he said that the family had been "misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment."

The point is that those who have been telling parents of autistic children that the cause is vaccines are really the problem here. In fact, I think they are no different than those who claim the holocaust didn't happen or the flat earth society members who claim NASA never went to the moon. They create a controversy where none actually exists. Unfortunately, the media at times accepts deviant viewpoints as the "other side of the coin" and gives them the opportunity to present rebuttal, when they have no more valid a point than holocaust deniers or flat earthers do.

I know that a lot of my colleagues have a different opinion. Many chiropractors are as opposed to vaccination as religious zealots are to evolution. They cite specious research and ignore valid studies that refute their point. I understand why they have this position, even if I reject it out of hand. They tend to have anti vaccination positions for what they believe are good reasons.
Their experience is that the AMA ignored evidence that chiropractic care can be quite helpful when they engaged in an illegal boycott of the chiropractic profession (see Wilk v AMA). Thus, many in the chiropractic profession recall this history and do not trust medical research, especially when it contradicts their one of our basic philosophies, that nature is the best medicine. Then of course there is all that anecdotal evidence which just reinforces the distrust of medical interventions.

Saying I understand where the anti-vaccination beliefs come from doesn't mean I agree with them. In my ethics column in Dynamic Chiropractic, I've written about the ethics of being opposed to vaccinations. This ethics column resulted in the most hate mail (hate e-mail) I've ever received from my peers. One, a former student suggested I help my profession by killing myself. This type of argumentum ad hominem is common when one attacks ideas in my profession. Unfortunately, despite the talk of chiropractic philosophy (philosophy is the love of learning), free thinking often isn't loved too much. BTW there is better evidence now that suggests that cervical manipulation does not cause stroke.


1 comment:

  1. There were actually three cases decided at the same time in that federal court. The best line of the decisions came from Special Master Denise Vowell in the case of Colten Snyder v. HHS in which she stated,

    "To conclude that Colten's condition was the result of his MMR vaccine, an objective observer would have to emulate Lewis Carroll's White Queen and be able to believe six impossible (or at least highly improbable) things before breakfast."

    Between this and the exposition of Andrew Wakefield's data manipulation from the original Lancet article that began this hooey, it is indeed a fine month for debunking vaccination myths.