Vaccines, Autism and Brain Damage: What’s in a Name?

Vaccines have saved untold millions of lives, and the vast majority of people who get them suffer no major problems.

But there’s a trade-off: occasionally, vaccines cause injury or death. Very rarely, patients are left with what’s known as “encephalopathy”, the medical term for brain damage.

In fact, CBS News has found nearly 1,300 cases in which vaccine-related brain damage has been compensated in court over the past 20 years.

The debate over any links between vaccines and autism – a behavior problem triggered by brain damage – couldn’t be more contentious. The great majority of medical opinion holds that vaccines don’t cause autism. However, many of the same experts don’t dispute that vaccines can, in rare instances, cause brain damage.

Family to Receive $1.5 Million + in First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award

Learning From a Previous Vaccine-Autism Case

Our examination of federal vaccine court decisions over the years reflects this. Children who end up with autistic symptoms or autism have won vaccine injury claims over the years-as long as they highlighted general, widely-accepted brain damage; not autism specifically. But when autism or autistic symptoms are alleged as the primary brain damage, the cases are lost.

That doesn’t make sense to families who see autism as a specific form of encephalopathy. But it makes perfect sense to the University of Pennsylvania‘s Dr. Brian Strom, who has served on Institute of Medicine panels advising the government on vaccine safety. He says the prevailing medical opinion is that vaccines are scientifically linked to encephalopathy, but not scientifically linked to autism.

“The fact that a person suffers autism and encephalopathy does not mean that the vaccine caused both of them,” says Dr. Strom. “Even if it caused the encephalopathy, that may or may not have been the cause of the autism–those are two different questions.”

Still, some families who believe vaccines caused autism in a loved one are circulating these words of advice: use “encephalopathy” in vaccine court and you’re more likely to win. Argue “autism” and you’re sure to lose.

“I purposely avoided mentioning ‘autism’ in the claim,” says the attorney for a child diagnosed with brain damage and autism after her DTaP vaccination at 18 months. The lawsuit alleged only encephalopathy. “Using (the child’s) autism diagnosis would have dragged out the lawsuit for years. The point wasn’t to try to win the autism debate, it was to get this family the compensation they need to take care of their injured child.” They promptly won a significant award.

Sharyl Attkisson’s 2007 Report on Michelle Cedillo

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/8300-31727_162-10391695.html?contributor=41919&tag=contentMain;contentBody#ixzz0zr4soPcR

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