Tort reformer says vaccine junk science created worldwide threat to children

The SE Texas Record Jan. 25, 2011, 10:00am

By Cliff Collier

When new parents bring their baby home from the hospital, questions and uncertainties are often too numerous to count.

A lot of parents-to-be spend the months leading up to the big day reading books, seeking out advice, and boning up on the latest research on ways to keep babies safe.

After a 1998 study linked some childhood vaccines to autism, new parents added the very personal "vaccine question" to their list of unknowns to grapple.

It was staggering then to read last week that the British Medical Journal reported that results of the high-profile vaccine-autism study were fabricated and paid for by a personal injury lawyer.

The study's author � whose results were never replicated � reportedly received nearly $700,000 from a lawyer looking for a "lawsuit test case."

It turns my stomach to learn that junk science struck fear into the hearts of new parents everywhere � and contributed to a deadly resurgence of childhood whooping cough, measles and mumps around the globe.

That the study's author lost his medical license and reputation is hardly consolation.

The revelation that the vaccine-autism link may be bunk is just the latest in an epidemic of junk science that pollutes our court rooms and threatens our health.

Junk science is peddled when lawyers hire doctors, scientists and other health care professional to present questionable research or misleading information as scientific fact and it is often used to prop up baseless lawsuits.

Many of these so-called "experts" testify before a jury without being qualified and scare consumers with their sham diagnoses and sensationalized "science." Sadly, these so-called experts abandon their oath to "do no harm" to fatten their own wallets by doling out junk science for personal injury lawyers.

As appears to be the case with the vaccine study, some hired "experts" are handsomely paid or paid extra to produce specific findings that support the case of the lawyers footing the bill. When these "experts" are lured by greed to manufacture bogus diagnoses they threaten a critical part of our civil justice system and the public's health.

The fact that junk science is for sale may sound too bizarre to be true. But many high profile lawsuits � and countless others that haven't made the news � have been based on junk science.

Here in Texas, a Corpus Christi judge threw out thousands of cases claiming silicosis, a potentially deadly respiratory disease, because she determined the diagnoses were bogus. She ultimately dismissed all but 100 of the 10,000 claims from her court in a scathing, 249-page decision where she concluded that the diagnoses were "manufactured for money."

The unseemly alliance between some personal injury lawyers and the scientists and healthcare professionals paid to do their bidding not only undermines the integrity of our health care system, but also dishonors our courts and mocks those who are truly injured. Questionable lawsuits based on junk science burden our court system every day, while justice for the truly injured is delayed and diluted.

As parents, we have no greater charge than protecting our children. Decisions we make with regard to our children's health care are extremely personal and based on individual beliefs. Many rely heavily on medical literature and the advice of health care professionals to guide these decisions.

It's beyond shameful that greed, fraud and misinformation about children's health care may have threatened � or ended � the lives of countless children.

Cliff Collier is chairman of the Board of Directors of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) of Central Texas, based in Austin.

CALA is a nonprofit, grassroots public education movement dedicated to raising awareness about the cost and consequences of lawsuit abuse. The movement is supported by more than 25,000 Texans. For more information, visit

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