Panels in U.S., U.K. issue opposite rulings in vax-autism cases

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has upheld a special vaccine court's decision denying a link between vaccines and autism in the case of Michelle Cedillo. Her parents had been seeking compensation on her behalf, alleging she suffered from autism and other medical conditions as a result of receiving a MMR vaccine together with thimerosal-containing vaccines. A special master denied the Cedillos' petition, and the court of federal claims affirmed. 

"[W]e have carefully reviewed the decision of the Special Master and we find that it is rationally supported by the evidence, well-articulated, and reasonable," the court says in its decision, which came last Friday. "We therefore affirm the denial of the Cedillos' petition for compensation." The family told CNN that they are "extremely disappointed" by the decision. Her case was part of a group of disputes over whether there is a causal relationship between childhood vaccines and autism, the Examiner notes.

The Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA), which submitted an amicus brief on behalf of 23 civil society organizations urging the court to reverse the special master's decision, also disagreed with the decision. The group says it is now focused on Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, a case scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 6. This case, according to the group, will determine whether families may bring claims of vaccine design defect to regular civil courts after having first filed in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

The question of whether vaccines cause autism has lingered for years. Those who say there is no link seemed to get a win earlier this year when the Lancet formally retracted the report Dr. Andrew Wakefield authored 12 years ago that ignited the firestorm. And while the U.S. federal court found in favor of their position, a U.K. panel recently found in favor of a patient who alleged vaccines had caused him harm, the Telegraph reports.

Robert Fletcher, who is now 18, was a healthy 13-month-old baby when he received the MMR vaccine. He now suffers from frequent seizures, is incontinent and cannot care for himself. Although the Department of Health denied any link between his disabilities and vaccine, a medical assessment panel has determined his disabilities are a direct result of the MMR shot. He was been awarded £90,000 ($139,100).

Experts are speculating that the ruling in the Fletcher case could open the floodgates for other cases. "One case like this makes other people think that they will be able to get a similar ruling. In the past, when there has been a first ruling of this kind, it has opened the door to others," Malcolm VandenBurg, a medical legal authority, explains. However, a DOH spokesperson says the decision "reflects the opinion of a tribunal on the specific facts of the case and they were clear that it should not be seen as a precedent for any other case," the BBC reports.

- check out EBCALA's statement
- see the ruling here
- get more from CNN
- read the Examiner's coverage
- here's the Telegraph report
- get more from the BBC