I am a strong proponent of adhering to truth and utilizing appropriate lines of logic and reasoning to arrive at my understanding of the truth. I have stated publicly and openly for quite some time that scientific data do not support the theory that vaccines nor the vaccine preservative Thimerosal cause autism. I still adhere to that statement. I also have supported the position that one must change one's position as new evidence comes to light.
What has occurred with the Poling case (I hate to refer to it as a "case". Hannah Poling is a 9-year old girl who is a loved, valued person and deserves individual respect as a whole person without regard to what caused her condition, how that condition has manifested itself, or how that cause has been contested in any venue. But her suit against HHS does, in fact, constitute a "case") is that a legal hurdle has been presented and overcome. The VICP did, in fact, deem that the Polings had enough evidence to warrant their claim that Hannah suffered physical harm from her vaccinations at around 18 months.
I do not think that Hannah Poling flips a true/false switch on the statement that "vaccines cause autism", but I am now more likely to consider the merits of data that is presented that includes the role of mitochondrial dysfunction as an explanatory factor in the onset of autism, and furthermore that mitochondrial dysfunction could correlate to vaccinations. In other words, I am willing and able to consider new information and adapt my understanding of the scientific body of evidence as a result. This is not a direct result of the concession, but instead is a result of the focus that the concession has brought on this emerging area of research and my initial reaction to the quality of the data.
Having said all that, and with apologies since my time to complete this post is short, I have some interesting questions/issues with regard to this issue in general and with regard to Dr. Poling's post to AoA today specifically:
- I find it fascinating that a paper that was co-authored by Dr. Poling was actually used as a supporting document in the case. Is this not a conflict of interest? Is it possible to factor in the existence of a potential large settlement/award from VICP as a COI for Dr. Poling while at the same time not including the other authors in any implication of bias?
- If you read the post by Dr. Poling on AoA, you will see that he clearly avoids making a statement regarding thimerosal/autism causation that he could be questioned on. In other words, he offered an implication while avoiding a "mine-able" quote. Observe:
5. Thimerosal—On or Off the Table?I don’t want to dwell on mercury, as this theory is not why HHS conceded Hannah’s case (imo)....Is this statement a way to avoid making his stance debatable while at the same time influencing the reader to deduce that he does consider thimerosal a causative agent? Or is he simply adhering to the language of science which precludes him from making an overly strong statement in the absence of compelling evidence?
My opinion is that mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Therefore, don’t inject it into kids! Interestingly, basic research studies have shown that Thimerosal toxicity occurs through mitochondrial pathways.
- Dr. Poling, at the end of the post, discloses numerous COI's. None of these concern me or have any effect on my opinion of his acumen as a neurologist or researcher. Can people like JB Handley say the same thing? Can all the members of EOHarm list and organizations like TACA, parents such as Jenny McCarthy and Lenny Schafer, author/journalists such as David Kirby, in general people who have backed their claims of government conspiracy over and over and over for years simply wave their hand and ignore the declared COI's simply because Dr. Poling's VICP-related efforts support their position instead of contesting it? Anyone who has observed the debate over the years will acknowledge that a primary Talking Point of the supporters of the mercury/autism theory is that a government coverup is involved. Just two or three days ago Jenny McCarthy put out a call to parents to blitz the White House with calls for Julie Gerberding's (of the CDC) resignation. But what, then does that same group make of these statements from Dr. Poling and the editor of AoA?:
-"He also would like to declare his conflicts of interest. First of all, he is the father of Hannah Poling. Dr. Poling has also accepted consultancy or speakers honoraria from Pfizer, Eisai, Ortho-McNeil, Biogen, Teva, Immunex (now Amgen), and Allergan.)"
-"Dr. Shoffner furthermore advocates, along with us, that vaccination is important even for kids with mitochondrial dysfunction. "
- I thought for a while that I was the only parent following this discussion who was thinking to myself, "This is all very valuable in terms of adding to the scientific body of knowledge, but is anybody thinking about/talking about autism in the blogosphere aside from this topic?" Until I saw my thoughts echoed by Kristina. And then I looked at the Autism Hub in general. What I saw was a huge range of people and opinions covering all kinds of topics including, but not limited to, discussion of the Poling case. Let it be known that I sincerely hope Hannah Poling is an Autism Hub contributor someday. She would fit right in over here. Not so much at AoA, where autistic people dare not tread. I wish Dr. Poling would have considered that issue when deciding where to post his response to Dr. Novella today.