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Washington - Supreme Court to Consider Vaccine Case

Published on: October 11, 2010 11:33 PM
By:  NY Times
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Washington - The safety of vaccines is at the heart of a case expected to be heard on Tuesday by the United States Supreme Court, one that could have implications for hundreds of lawsuits that contend there is a link between vaccines and autism.

At issue is whether a no-fault system established by Congress about 25 years ago to compensate children and others injured by commonly used vaccines should protect manufacturers from virtually all product liability lawsuits. The law was an effort to strike a balance between the need to provide care for those injured by vaccines, some of them severely, and the need to protect manufacturers from undue litigation.

Under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, such claims typically proceed through an alternative legal system known as “vaccine court.” Under that system, a person is compensated if their injury is among those officially recognized as caused by a vaccine. That person, or their parents, can choose to reject that award and sue the vaccine’s manufacturer, but they then face severe legal hurdles created by law to deter such actions.

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The case before the Supreme Court is not related to autism. But the biggest effect of the court’s ruling, lawyers said, will be on hundreds of pending lawsuits that contend a link exists between childhood vaccines and autism. Repeated scientific studies have found no such connection.

Also, in several test case rulings over the last two years, administrative judges in vaccine court have held that autism-related cases did not qualify for compensation. During the last decade, about 5,800 of the 7,900 claims filed in vaccine court, or about 75 percent, have been autism-related, federal data show.

Federal data shows that $154 million was paid in fiscal 2010 to 154 claimants involved in vaccine court proceedings. That figure was significantly higher than in preceding years and reflected several unusually high awards, officials involved in the program said.

In the five preceding fiscal years, an average of $68 million in compensation was paid out on an annual basis, federal data indicates. A compensation fund is financed by an excise tax on vaccinations.

The case to be heard on Tuesday involves an 18-year-old woman, Hannah Bruesewitz, who suffered seizures when she was 6 months old and subsequently suffered developmental problems, her parents say, after receiving a type of D.T.P. vaccine that is no longer sold. The D.T.P. vaccine protects against three potentially deadly childhood diseases: diphtheria; pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough; and tetanus.

Ms. Bruesewitz’s parents have contended in court papers that the vaccine’s manufacturer, which is now a part of Pfizer, knew at the time that their daughter was immunized that there was a safer version of the D.T.P. vaccine but did not produce it. The company rejected that contention

Initially, Ms. Bruesewitz’s parents brought a claim on her behalf to the vaccine court, but the severe injuries that she reportedly suffered were removed from the list of those that qualified for compensation a month before the case was heard. An administrative judge in vaccine court subsequently rejected her claim, so her parents filed a product liability lawsuit against Wyeth, a Pfizer unit that had acquired the vaccine’s manufacturer, Lederle Laboratories.

Lower court judges have ruled that her claims are barred by the federal Vaccine Act. As a result, Ms. Bruesewitz, who lives with her family in Pittsburgh and requires specialized care, has not received any compensation, her father, Russell Bruesewitz, said in a telephone interview.

“The cost of her care is an ongoing burden,” Mr. Bruesewitz said.

The Supreme Court review revolves around the narrow question of whether Congress in passing the Vaccine Act intended to bar lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers based on so-called design defect claims. A vaccine design defect claim essentially asserts that the manufacturer should have sold a different vaccine, which plaintiffs say would have been safer than the one used.

Those filing briefs arguing that Congress intended to permit such lawsuits include the American Association for Justice, a plaintiffs’ lawyers group, and the National Vaccine Information Center, an advocacy group.

Those filing briefs arguing that Congress intended to bar them include the solicitor general of the United States, the Chamber of Commerce and several professional medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

James M. Beck, a lawyer in Philadelphia who defends makers of drugs and medical devices, said in a phone interview that a ruling in favor of the Bruesewitzes would allow hundreds of lawsuits asserting a link between vaccines and autism to go forward.

“If these cases go forward, it will make it economically unfeasible for anyone to make vaccines in this country,” said Mr. Beck.

Mr. Bruesewitz said that he and his wife were not opposed to vaccination. Instead, he said they pressed his daughter’s claim because he thought that vaccine producers needed to face the threat of litigation to produce safer medications.

“What we want and are concerned about is to make sure that the safety of vaccines in this country is constantly enhanced,” Mr. Bruesewitz said.


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Read Comments (15)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 12, 2010 at 12:06 AM Anonymous Says:

Parents just can't deal with the harsh fact that they gave birth to a retarded child so they blame vaccines.

2

 Oct 12, 2010 at 01:25 AM LiberalismIsADisease Says:

What happened to the report out of the UK a year or so ago, debunking this vaccine/autism connection?

3

 Oct 12, 2010 at 03:22 AM mytake Says:

And you, anonymous #1, know that HOW? One can tell from your flippant attitude that you b"h have not experienced any bumps in the road of child bearing/raising (or haven't even begun to cross it.) Be grateful. That's all.

Those who have may legitimately question and investigate, no, it's their obligation to do so - all the way to the Supreme Court if they must.

I applaud them.

4

 Oct 12, 2010 at 06:41 AM Anonymous Says:

#1 You should never know the feeling of this. A parent goes to the doctor with a healthy child and comes home with an autistic one. There are unfortunately alot such cases, by us yiden too.

5

 Oct 12, 2010 at 06:57 AM Anonymous Says:

#1 That is the most unintelligent comment . If you did any research you would see that vaccines are to blame for some cases.

6

 Oct 12, 2010 at 07:37 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

#1 That is the most unintelligent comment . If you did any research you would see that vaccines are to blame for some cases.

If you actually did any research you would see that they are definitely NOT to blame. It's just emotional parents trying to blame someone.

7

 Oct 12, 2010 at 07:52 AM Aron1 Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

Parents just can't deal with the harsh fact that they gave birth to a retarded child so they blame vaccines.

Judging from your comment, I assume that your parents had to face the same harsh fact.

8

 Oct 12, 2010 at 08:17 AM jewish-person Says:

to #1

having seizures post-vaccination is not a hallmark of retardation, but it is a sign of vaccine injury. wake up, vaccines can cause real damage. that's why the u.s. government established the vaccine injury compensation fund in the first place.

9

 Oct 12, 2010 at 08:52 AM Anonymous Says:

He who does not vaccinate their children lacks basic bitchon, and is a rodef for endangering society with many contagious deaseases

10

 Oct 12, 2010 at 08:53 AM basmelech Says:

It''s a known fact that vaccines contain dangerous toxins such as mercury. The question is why they continue to make them that way.

11

 Oct 12, 2010 at 09:59 AM Joe-Shmoe Says:

#6

From your statement you sound like a no argue with me man.

Every case involving a kid with autism, you will label as "emotional" parents.
Furthermore, you will insist that emotional people dont have the right to compensation, (by denying them the right to have their case reviewed and paskened by a court.) But rather you should be the smartest one in town, who should judge if one does pass the "emotion" bar or not! (and being that in your opinion, everybody with a disease in their family is emotional to their case) you will judge them wrong and make them pay for the lawyers fees of the pharmaceutical co.

Hope you get enlightened asap, and all the suffering should be stopped in a good way. and until then, I hope people like you wont take a ride on other peoples suffering, just cause you are really the enlightened one. (and obama the anointed one)

12

 Oct 12, 2010 at 10:24 AM The_Rat Says:

#10 - actually, the following are facts:

1) Thimerosal [preservative containing mercury], was used in vaccines since the 1930's. There has been no widespread toxicity reported in the near 80 years of use.

2) Thimerosal is being phased out of vaccines. As of May, 2000, it is possible to get the entire course of childhood vaccines without thimerosal, since some manufacturers have developed thimerosal-free vaccines.

3) Since the removal of thimerosal, the claims of harm have not gone down.

It's clear from your statement, that misinformation is more dangerous than vaccines. Feel free to look the info up for yourself (I pulled my info using Google). If you'd like, there are numerous good books on the subject and I'd be happy me to reference them.

Quite simply, vaccines are probably the greatest life saving invention of modern medicine.

13

 Oct 12, 2010 at 09:04 PM cbdds Says:

Reply to #12  
The_Rat Says:

#10 - actually, the following are facts:

1) Thimerosal [preservative containing mercury], was used in vaccines since the 1930's. There has been no widespread toxicity reported in the near 80 years of use.

2) Thimerosal is being phased out of vaccines. As of May, 2000, it is possible to get the entire course of childhood vaccines without thimerosal, since some manufacturers have developed thimerosal-free vaccines.

3) Since the removal of thimerosal, the claims of harm have not gone down.

It's clear from your statement, that misinformation is more dangerous than vaccines. Feel free to look the info up for yourself (I pulled my info using Google). If you'd like, there are numerous good books on the subject and I'd be happy me to reference them.

Quite simply, vaccines are probably the greatest life saving invention of modern medicine.

1) Thimerosal [preservative containing mercury], was used in vaccines since the 1930's BUT IN LOWER NUMBER OF VACCINES per kid.
2) Thimerosal is being phased out of vaccines. As of May, 2000, it is possible to get the entire course of childhood vaccines without thimerosal, IF YOU AND YOUR MD REALLY SEARCHED FOR THEM and if your MD avoided the flu vaccine most years.

Perhaps do real research instead of getting it off google.
As a Dentist working in the 80's I can remember a major brand of anasthetic was taken off the market and reformulated very suddenly and resulting in shortages for months. It may have been related to Thimerosol and was years before the vaccine makers realized the urgerncy of doing so.

14

 Oct 12, 2010 at 10:07 PM mytake Says:

#9 maybe it's the other way around? Isn't the Torah's stance "Shev v'al taaseh"? When you are not 100% sure that vaccines are safe, and you may suspect things that happened to your children after giving them vaccines that it may have been a contributing factor... I say it's a lack of bitachon to GIVE vaccines...

15

 Oct 13, 2010 at 09:59 AM The_Rat Says:

Reply to #13  
cbdds Says:

1) Thimerosal [preservative containing mercury], was used in vaccines since the 1930's BUT IN LOWER NUMBER OF VACCINES per kid.
2) Thimerosal is being phased out of vaccines. As of May, 2000, it is possible to get the entire course of childhood vaccines without thimerosal, IF YOU AND YOUR MD REALLY SEARCHED FOR THEM and if your MD avoided the flu vaccine most years.

Perhaps do real research instead of getting it off google.
As a Dentist working in the 80's I can remember a major brand of anasthetic was taken off the market and reformulated very suddenly and resulting in shortages for months. It may have been related to Thimerosol and was years before the vaccine makers realized the urgerncy of doing so.

No need to shout. I used Google, because I was at work. It is real research. On the other hand, you do not indicated that your statements included any research. My sources for my statements included information from anti-vaccine sites, so my mind was open to both sides of the issue. As I said, I can recommend many good books on the subject (try anything by Dr. Paul Offit, or "Vaccine" by Arthur Allen, if you don't like medical researchers).

As a medical professional, you should be aware of the safety of vaccines, and their tremendous societal health benefits.

Indeed, as your anecdotal evidence shows, problems arise, however, the evidence is simply not there that Thimerosal is a problem. Please read "The Cutter Incident" to get a better understanding of real issues, and errors, associated with vaccine development (it's about the polio vaccine, and written by D. Offit).

I'll restate my #3, as the use of it has been reduced, the claims that it is the problem have not gone down. If Thimerosal was the issue, they should have. I'd be happy to see any data that you can show me about reduced claims/medical issues correlated to Thimerosal removal from vaccines.

16

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