Sunday, February 15, 2009

THE LAST PLACE TO LOOK FOR JUSTICE

After the Court of Claims issued its ruling denying recovery in the thee vaccine-induced autism cases, SafeMinds issued a statement, which included the following quote:
“The government has its thumb on the scales of justice,” said Jim Moody, director of SafeMinds and an advisor to the Petitioners Steering Committee of the U.S Federal Court of Claims. “The Vaccine Injury Compensation Act passed by Congress in 1986 gave immunity to vaccine manufacturers and removed the incentive to create safer products. Meanwhile, the law only gives the illusion that parents will have their day in court. The process is dysfunctional and many families will not see justice done.”

As was stated in the reaction issued by the National Autism Association: “Advocates say they are disappointed in today’s rulings, but not surprised.” Indeed, the decision did not come as a shock to anyone who as spent time around the legal system.

For the last several years that I actively practiced law, I often said that the last place one should go to find justice is the courthouse. As a corollary to that idea, I would add that the further removed from a jury decision one gets, the more remote the chance of achieving justice becomes. And it doesn’t get much further removed than special masters.

The cases pending in the so-called vaccine court never really stood a chance. No matter what anyone says about a reduced burden of proof, the fact remains that there was still a burden imposed on the plaintiffs, and that burden made ruling against the plaintiffs the far easier path for the finders of fact (in this case, the special masters). Add in the fact that a plaintiffs’ ruling would have meant taking a stand against a powerful, mainstream establishment of vested interests, and the ruling of February 13th was a fait accompli.

Even though the “science” supporting the defense in these cases was bullshit ⎯ and there’s really no other word for it ⎯ that bullshit had widespread support in the mainstream, and the emerging science showing a connection between vaccines and the onset of ASD did not. The court system is not prone to accepting emerging science.

I need to make it clear that I am not questioning the personal integrity of the special masters. But judges (even the in-for-life federal judges who will determine the appeals of these cases) tend to take the easy road. There’s nothing easy about questioning what too many in the medical community accept as an unquestionable article of faith.

Unfortunately, the science demonstrating a link between the currently insane vaccine schedule and the triggering of disorders on the autism spectrum is “emerging.” Science always takes time; in this case, it is taking even more time than it should. It’s hard to march uphill carrying the weight of the conventional “wisdom” that is being challenged. So it’s going to be a while longer before the rest of the world is ready t even consider the possibility that we might just be right.

Dan Olmsted, at Age of Autism, likened the recent decision to an early move in a long chess game. Although I don’t think this is a game we’re playing (and I also don’t think that Dan is implying it is), the analogy fits. We still have a long way to go.

For the immediate concern of the three families that got screwed by the decision, and for the thousands of families that were relying on a favorable outcome to give them hope in their own claims, there is the hope of the appeals process. I regret to say that I’m not expecting any different outcome.

But winning monetary awards was never what this struggle has been about. The Court was just one venue of a much broader struggle. That struggle is to get the world to understand what happened to our children, and to get our society to recognize its obligation to help. That’s the justice we need.

There have been many steps on this journey. In reflecting on what the rulings mean, I thought back to April, 2006, and the Mercury Generation Rally in Washington. Like thousands of parents who wanted to be there, I was stuck at home working. The whole day of the rally, however, I kept hearing an old refrain going through my head:
We shall not, we shall not be moved.
We shall not, we shall not be moved.
We’re fighting for our children,
We shall not be moved.

I went home, and I wrote a post, which included the following:
. . . Everything I’ve seen in the last couple of years tells me we’re on the right track. I recall visiting relatives living in tobacco country as a boy. I can still hear my father’s cousin, who operated a wholesale business for tobacco products, railing about those litigation-seeking agitators who were trying to draw a connection between cigarettes and cancer. He could cite lots of impressive studies that “disproved” the connection, but we came to find out those studies were dictated more by interests than science. In the autism controversies, both sides claim that it’s the other guys using “tobacco science.” It says a lot to me that only one side says the debate is over. That side needs to be reminded that there are a lot of us out here, and we’re not going away any time soon.

Yes, there are a lot of us out here, we're everywhere, and we’re not going away any time soon. We’ll be here until the truth is known. Once the truth is known to a degree that nobody can argue against it, we’ll have justice for ourselves, for our children, and for children yet to be born. Let’s not get lose faith just because that justice could not be found in the last place we should be looking.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Rene said...

I'm glad you're back, Wade. Thank you for this post.

2/15/09, 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Lujene Clark said...

So glad you are back blogging, my friend. Have greatly missed your wit, wisdom and insight. Thanks for this post...let many more follow.

Lujene

2/15/09, 9:09 PM  
Blogger Ginger Taylor said...

Welcome back Wade.

2/15/09, 11:35 PM  

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