Professor Dorit Reiss recently posted an article here about a 2014 ruling from an Italian court in Milan that awarded compensation to a child that was claimed to have developed a neurological deficit after receiving GSK’s hexavalent vaccine, which protects children against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), Haemophilus influenzae type B and hepatitis B. Essentially, the decision was based on one so-called “expert” who seemed to think the tropes of the antivaccination world were scientifically based.
Professor Reiss pretty much debunks the legal arguments for that case by actually reviewing the court ruling rather than accept the word of various biased blogs and “news reports” out there in the world.
Of course, I’m not a legal scholar (nor do I play one on the internet), but Italy’s reputation as the center of legal interpretation of science is almost at the level of good comedy given its history. Italian court vaccine rulings would be great comedy if only it didn’t put children in harm’s way.
Remember, a previous Italian provincial court decided that vaccines cause autism, by accepting Mr. Andy Wakefield fraudulent claims over the consensus of science–vaccines do not cause autism. Update–an Italian appeals court overturns this Italian court vaccine ruling because of the lack of scientific evidence.
And let’s not forget about the Italian court that convicted six geologists for manslaughter because they could not accurately predict earthquakes (which no one can do, unless you’re a psychic). If this weren’t actually true, you’d think I was making this stuff up.
How are we to take seriously a decision that arises from a court system that is profoundly anti-science (at least in three cases)? Well, let’s look to the Age of Lying About Autism, one of the most loathsome websites that claims to care about autism, but is really just a bunch of deranged fools yelling about vaccines and autism, when there isn’t a scintilla of evidence that vaccines have anything to do autism. None.
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These lunatics get their own “expert,” Mary Holland, a legal scholar at New York University School of Law, to write an opinion about the recent Italian court decision. So let’s look at Ms. Holland’s commentary on the ruling, because I was personally appalled by what she wrote.
- “Based on expert medical testimony, the court concluded that the child more likely than not suffered autism and brain damage because of the neurotoxic mercury, aluminum and his particular susceptibility from a genetic mutation.” Professor Reiss already told us about the quality of that “expert medical testimony,” which wasn’t that expert. Apparently, the Italian courts accept false balance by completely and utterly ignoring the real scientific consensus that autism is unrelated to vaccines. And thiomersal (the so-called “neurotoxic mercury” which is neither elemental mercury nor neurotoxic) is unrelated to autism. And the amount of aluminum in vaccines is so far below environmental exposure (breathing, breast milk, etc.) that it’s not physiologically significant. Ms. Holland may be a legal expert, but she obviously flunked basic science.
- “GSK’s acknowledgement that the vaccine causes side effects including “anaemia haemolytic autoimmune, thrombocytopenia, thrombocytopenic purpura, autoimmune thrombocytopenia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, haemolytic anemia, cyanosis, injection site nodule, abcess and injection site abscess, Kawasaki’s disease, important neurological events (including encephalitis and encephalopathy), Henoch-Schonlein purpura, petechiae, purpura, haematochezia, allergic reactions (including anaphylactic and anaphylactoid reactions),” and death.” Ms. Holland obviously doesn’t understand the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, that is, making a pseudoscientific claim because one thing follows another (say neurological events after vaccination), it must be caused by the first thing. As I’ve stated before, package inserts list out all observed events, whether or not they are related. It takes real science, with controlled and large populations, to determine if there is correlation, let alone, causation. Ms. Holland not only lacks scientific knowledge, but she’s missing out on the basic principles of statistics. This is the best that the Age of Lying About Autism can do?
- “Two years earlier, on May 23, 2012, Judge Lucio Ardigo of an Italian court in Rimini presided over a similar judgment, finding that a different vaccine, the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine (MMR), had caused a child’s autism. There, too, the Italian press covered the story; the U.S. press did not.” Because this was an invented controversy where the idiotic Italian court decided that the lying fraud Andrew Wakefield trumps all the rest of science. Ms. Holland, if you’re going to place your bets on the defrocked and debunked stupidity of Andy Wakefield, then whatever respect I might give you for being associated with a world class university is forever lost.
- “These court decisions flatly contradict the decisions from the so-called U.S. vaccine court, the Court of Federal Claim’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. There, from 2007 to 2010, in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, three decision makers, called Special Masters, found that vaccines did not cause autism in any of the six test cases, and one Special Master even went so far as to compare the theory of vaccine-induced autism to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The Italian court decisions contrast starkly with these U.S. cases based on similar claims.” Let’s look at this logically. The Special Masters, which compensated the “experts” of the plaintiffs, who gave the plaintiffs every chance to prove their case, could not do so, because the facts of science solidly contradicts their beliefs. The Italian courts ignore real science, accept the lies of Andy Wakefield, and award compensation. It’s obvious that the Italian courts support Ms. Holland’s a priori conclusion that vaccines cause autism (completely debunked by huge epidemiological studies, apparently not a forte of Ms. Holland), so she’s going to ignorantly accept the Italian decision, while completely dismissing a much more thorough and unbiased decision by the US Courts.
- “But in the current absence of the necessary science on vaccines and autism, decisions of impartial judicial tribunals, based on extensive evidence and testimony, may be some of the best sources of information and insight we have.” Ms. Holland is either an ignorant fool or a liar, and from my perspective, I don’t really care. The best evidence based on the best science published in the best journals have come to a huge consensus–VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM. Yes, Ms. Holland, you might live in a delusional world where the Age of Lying About Autism has brainwashed you, but the facts are the facts–science has dismissed this ridiculous belief over and over and over. Investigating Wakefield’s lies have cost billions of dollars, money which actually could be used to investigate the real evidence behind what causes autism. You know, genetics.
- “Are court decisions science? Of course not.” You got something right. Courts decide on law, emotions, and bias. If the Italian court actually did it’s job right, it would have pulled in the thousands of scientists who have shown not one single tie between vaccines and autism (or any other neurological issue) versus the one “medical expert.” But that’s not how the law works, it uses false balance to make decisions. Real science is a process that takes years, where a question is asked, and unbiased data is used to answer that question. Even though Andy Wakefield’s original assertion was found to be a lie, science spent a decade looking at it in every way possible. And still, we have no evidence that vaccines cause autism. And we have mountains of evidence derived from well-designed epidemiological studies that have established that vaccines are unrelated to autism. Not only is this decision not science, it isn’t even in the same universe as real science.
The Age of Lying About Autism hates Professor Reiss (and anyone else that makes intelligent commentary about vaccines). But Professor Reiss gets it right about the Italian court decision, not because she’s on the right side of the vaccine debate (not a real debate, of course), but because she takes an unbiased and thoughtful approach to the facts and the law. Ms. Holland doesn’t care about facts or law, just that her preordained beliefs are supported by a laughably incompetent court.
So, what’s next? Are Italian courts going to decide that because that butterfly caused a snowstorm in the Alps, the Italian police need to arrest every entomologist for not killing all butterflies?
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in February 2015. It has been completely revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.