Readers familiar with the arts will immediately recognise the name Federico Fellini, a film maker who is regarded as one of the most influential in twentieth century cinema. It is less likely that they will be aware that he was born in Rimini, a coastal town situated on the Adriatic coast in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, an area recently hit by earthquakes causing much damage and loss of life. Fellini’s films were apparently influenced by Jungian psychology resulting in cinematic works containing magical surrealist episodes. There was however nothing surreal about an event that took place in Rimini’s District Court House last month. The court ruled that a child had become autistic as a direct result of vaccination. The vaccine concerned was none other than MMR. The after-shocks emanating from this decision will stretch much further than the tremors of the recent local tectonic stress and will already have reached the legal departments of some of the world’s most powerful pharmaceutical companies.
Some years ago in the UK almost 2,000 parents reported the self same adverse outcome for their child; ‘autism following MMR’, only to have their legal aid removed by the Legal Services Commission shortly before a court decision could be reached. The presiding judge at the tribunal in 2007, Mr Justice Keith, emphasised that “it was the funding issues rather than the merits of the case, which had driven the decision not to allow the claims to proceed: it is not because the court thinks the claims have no merit”. He added “Although this litigation has been going on for very many years, the question whether the claims have merit has never been addressed by the court”.
Over the following days, months, and years the UK media-- hand fed by various public health bodies- -insinuated that the parents had actually lost their case and that there were no grounds for further speculation on a connection between MMR vaccination and autism. The parents of the damaged children were soon to find out that their legitimate claims for compensation would be misrepresented ad nauseam until the very suggestion of an MMR/autism link became regarded in the public eye as preposterous.
The gross injustice done to the parents of MMR damaged children in the UK by the Legal Services Commission brings shame on us all. Today, the truth is there for all to see: MMR can cause autism.
A judgement in a small court room in Rimini may be the tipping point in what has been a lengthy and acrimonious debate.
Fellini said “Our dreams are our real life”. Hopefully the dreams of justice for parents of autistic children can now become real, and very soon.
Autism Treatment Trust