Paper_on_fire By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

When I was a young attorney I received a piece of advice from an older attorney which I’ve always remembered.

The attorney said, “Whenever you get a new case, begin by asking yourself, what information would I like to have which would convince a court to rule in my favor?”

As the conflict continues about vaccines and autism I think it’s worth considering what information has come to light in the past few weeks and how that information will play in the court of public opinion.

The online edition of TIME magazine this week had an article entitled “Case Study: Autism and Vaccines”.  I normally cringe to read these articles because from my vantage point they usually get so much wrong.  In the past I’ve rated articles, saying things like, “well, I agree with about 20% of what was said, but not the other 80%.”  After that I’d usually bore the people around me with a point-by-point recitation of all the things they’d gotten wrong.

This time the numbers were reversed.  I found myself nodding along as I read, saying, “Yes!  Yes!  They’re getting it!”  A few choice passages, starting with the lead paragraph, will demonstrate my point.

“What happened to little, red-haired Hannah Poling is hardly unique in the world of autism.  She had an uneventful birth; she seemed to be developing normally-smiling, babbling, engaging in imaginative play, speaking about 20 words by 19 months.  And then, right after receiving a bunch of vaccines, she fell ill and it all stopped.  Hannah, now 9, recovered from her acute illness but she lost her words, her eye contact and, in a manner of months, began exhibiting the repetitive behaviors and social withdrawal that typify autism.  “Something happened after the vaccines, says her mom, Terry Poling, who is a registered nurse and an attorney.  “She just deteriorated and never came back.”

Did I really just read that in TIME magazine, read by millions of people, rather than one of those autism blogs which are feared by mainstream medicine as if we were the face of the devil himself, but are lucky to get more than five thousand hits a day?  You’ll forgive us if we feel a bit like Harry Potter in the final book of the series, with pictures of him blanketing the magical world and proclaiming him “Undesirable Number One!” 

At least in the world of J. K. Rowling they give him a name.  The press never names us, because if they did they’d at least have to consent to letting us appear and speak and people could judge for themselves. 

Here are a few other gems from the TIME magazine article.

“Nonetheless, there’s no denying that the court’s decision to award damages to the Poling family puts a chink-a question mark-in what had been an unqualified defense of vaccine safety with regard to autism.  If Hannah Poling had an underlying condition that made her vulnerable to being harmed by vaccines, it stands to reason that other children might also have such vulnerabilities.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  One of the final paragraphs is a statement which shouldn’t be controversial, but when our community has said similar things we’ve been treated like we were primitives who wanted to take public health back to the nineteenth century.

“It’s difficult to draw any clear lessons from the case of Hannah Poling, other than the dire need for more research.  One plausible conclusion is that pediatricians should avoid giving small children a large number of vaccines at once, even if they are thimerosal-free.  Young children have an immature immune system that’s ill-equipped to handle an overload, says Dr. Judy Van de Water, an immunologist who works with Pessah at U. C. Davis.  “Some vaccines, such as those aimed at viral infections, are designed to ramp up the immune system at warp speed,” she says.  “They are designed to mimic the infection.  So you can imagine getting nine at one time, how sick you could be.”  In addition, she says, there’s some evidence, that children who develop autism may have immune systems that are particularly slow to mature.”

It’s stunning to read a paragraph like the one above in a major publication like TIME magazine when it’s been part of the catechism of our movement for years.  It’s as if we’ve been secret believers in God in some totalitarian state and the ruler just announced he’s considering a conversion.

But the news gets even better.  For years I’ve spent some of my time reading about a health problem I’ve always thought of being similar to autism, Gulf War Syndrome. 

In the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein our soldiers were rushed to Saudi Arabia, given lots of vaccines in a short time period, along with other medicines designed to protect against the possibility of biological or chemical weapons being used against them.  Like autism, Gulf War Syndrome is a controversial and complex malady, with symptoms ranging from fatigue, muscle or joint pain, and mood problems.  About 200,000 veterans are believed to suffer from the problem.

The Los Angeles Times reported in a story on March 11, 2008 that “Gulf War Syndrome’s Chemical-Origin Theory Upheld.”  I will reproduce a few key passages from the article.

“A review of medical studies on Gulf War Syndrome supports the theory that the still-hazy disorder was caused by a group of related chemical used around military facilities and anti-nerve-gas pills given to soldiers, according to a study released Monday . . . The group of chemicals, known as acetylcholinestrase inhibitors, has long been discussed as a possible cause of Gulf War Syndrome.  The review “thoroughly, conclusively, shows that this class of chemicals actually are a cause of illness in Gulf War veterans,” said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego and author of the latest paper.”

So let’s make the comparison.  A large number of people were given untested combinations of vaccines and chemicals which had never been examined for their synergistic interactions and many of them became sick with a disease whose cause was difficult to diagnose.  Sounds kind of like autism to me.  Did the article about Gulf War Syndrome provide any other information which might be helpful to the issue of autism? 

A final quote from the article: “Golomb also noted several studies that found sick veterans were more likely to have an enzyme problem that lowered their ability to clear the chemicals from their bodies.  Several studies have also found Gulf War syndrome-like symptoms in farm workers exposed to pesticides and victims of the 1995 sarin gas attacks in Japan.  Some of the studies showed similar enzyme deficiencies.”

Okay, I think I’m getting it.  Our soldiers weren’t “genetically destined” to get Gulf War Syndrome, but when they were exposed to certain chemicals many of them had an enzyme problem which made it difficult to clear the chemicals from their body and as a result they got Gulf War Syndrome. 

Maybe my daughter wasn’t destined to get autism and seizures, but her body couldn’t bear the load of the increased vaccination schedule.  If news reports like this keep coming out I’ll sound less like a crazy person, and more like the voice of reason.  I wonder how it will feel to go from medical outlaw to wise sage.

And finally, this selection from the article "Vaccine Case - An Exception or a Precedent" from the CBS Evening News of March 6, 2008. 

"While the Poling case is the first of its kind to become public, a CBS News investigation uncovered at least nine other cases as far back as 1990, where records show the court ordered the government compensated families whose children developed autism or autistic-like symptoms in children including toddlers who had been called "very smart" and "impressed" doctors with their "intelligence and curiousity" . . . until their vaccinations."

The CDC has stated that the case of Hannah Poling was a “singular event.”

Hannah Poling's problems were either a "singular event" or there have been others.  Did CBS News get it wrong, or the CDC?

In the court of public opinion, in addition to the facts, it looks like we've got TIME magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and CBS News on our side.  That's the kind of firepower my old boss could only have dreamed about.

Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor for Age of Autism.



The same people that routinely dismiss autism/environment connections dismiss agent orange damage. Like this clown.. http://www.fumento.com/military/agent.html


Let's us not forget that the IOM in 2006 said that there is no such thing as the Gulf War Syndrome.

Sound familiar???


If Hannah Poling had an underlying condition that made her vulnerable to being harmed by vaccines, it stands to reason that other children might also have such vulnerabilities.”
I hope this finally sinks in to the medical community who up to now seem to be the least interested in vaccine safety.
Thanks for another great article.

Tim Kasemodel

Kent, (and Dan O. by the way)

I have been lobbying for a Minnesota Mercury bill for 3 years. The publicity of the Poling case has been the best thing.

One other parent who lobbies with me spoke with her Lawyer friend about the Poling Concession and he had a very interesting observation - worth looking into and comparing with current times.

He told my friend that the Poling case reminded him of the Agent Orange issue from the Vietnam war. The Government for years denied and denied the chemical caused the maladies attributed to it - until the first case was conceded by the government for damages.

Then apparently, the whole thing blew wide open and it is now the cover-up by people who sere trusted is a part of history, for better or worse.

I hope Gerbil-ding picks a really stupid lawyer.....


I remember a Vanity Fair article a few years ago that talked about Gulf War Syndrome and noted high levels of depleted uranium in the patients. (DU found in ammunition and lingers in the dust created by exploded ordnance). A friend of ours has ALS at a very young age, part of a cluster of patients near where he grew up in Michigan. (Growing up, he also worked at a dry cleaners and a plant that strips silver off of old film stock.) I met a doctor who specializes in ALS, she mentioned a cluster of patients who were military pilots. (Vaccines + mercury vapor from switches in the cockpits?) Three of the four boys in our neighborhood mommy group who were all born within a month of each other, including my son, developed autism spectrum disorders. At the risk of seeming like a crazy lady searching for an imaginary Grand Unified Theory, what is it going to take before someone starts connecting the dots here?

Kelli Ann Davis

My husband was a pilot in the first Gulf War. He was “forced” to take a boatload of vaccines and pills.

He questioned it at the time and was “ordered” to comply. They literally would make him swallow the pills in front of them.

Later, as Gulf War Syndrome became an issue, he was a part of the study. He was warned by the Disabled Veteran’s Group to make copies of his medical records as soon as possible because many turned up “missing” once they became a part of the study.

When he looked closely at his records, most of the shots he rec’d were not notated.

“Surprise, surprise” – Gomer Pyle style.


PS. Kent, this is a classic:

“I wonder how it will feel to go from medical outlaw to wise sage.”

Jack Russell

Progress is being made, even if it is at times incomplete.

I work in a company of scientists. Many with young children. Many having to withstand my constant emails of studies and articles (often from Age of Autism). Today one of them sent an email out to many of the newer parents with a list of shots still containing thimerasol (do you think they made it hard to spell on purpose so people would be reluctant to even type the word). Of course, that's just one of the issues, but it is definately a start. Especially given the nature of what we do at my company. I managed to refrain from what I consider my full-scale tirade since I didn't know all the people and merely asked for a list of ones containing aluminum.


I have always tried to make this analagie when trying to get the public to grasp an understanding of what could be going on. I have said they have a clinical trial going on right now in the military. I work in a Radiology Department of a hospital and the amount of immune system disorders have inclined tremendously over the last decade- Scleroderma, MS, Lupus, Parkinsons, ALS etc... It wonderful that some people are starting to make the connections and reporting it.


"But it means there may be something wrong with how we're going about it -- i.e., the vaccine schedule and/or the vaccines themselves. That's what we've got to get to the bottom of."

Dan, when I looked at the vaccine schedule when we would take my son into the pediatrician, (they would have us sign off giving "permission" each time we went in for them) my first thought was an amazed "so MANY vaccines!" I distinctly recall a slump after the 4 month and 6 month shots which seemed to affect the central nervous system as sleep, food, sensory, and noise problems became huge. However, it was after the MMR that my son got very sick with 2 bouts of very high fevers after which the dairy cravings, diarrhea and tantrums began in earnest. What seems to be extremely telling is the fact that Jenny calls the MMR the "autism shot." It does seem to "get" a lot of kids as per the parent reports out there. Mine did hang in there as long as he could and in his case it was the flu shot that finally sent him hook, line and sinker into autism. It was ALL of it for us, we had to meet each tipping point separately and pay due homage to it, if you will.

Dan Olmsted

Hi Kent,

This is an especially powerful article and argument. I spent some time in my previous life looking into Gulf War Illness, and the main anti-nerve-gas agent in particular. One thing I recall is that agent was designed to temporarily bind to the receptors that the nerve gas attacked. The "theory" was that the anti-nerve-gas agent got there first and blocked the nerve gas. The whole thing depended on the anti-agent then dissipating rather than continuing to bind to the receptors. If there was anything wrong with that "theory," you could predict the consequences -- some of the same long-term effects that the nerve gas itself might have induced. Of course the parallel to vaccines here is obvious -- if there's something wrong with your theory that the vaccines provoke a "harmless" immune response and prep the system for the real thing, you're in big trouble. That's what I think has happened. Again, that doesn't mean vaccines are inherently a bad idea -- just as warding off a chemical attack is not an inherently bad idea. In fact it's a good idea when applied judiciously. But it means there may be something wrong with how we're going about it -- i.e., the vaccine schedule and/or the vaccines themselves. That's what we've got to get to the bottom of.

Terri Lewis

Talk about the court of public opinion. . .that's the real court, isn't it?

Here's a little e-mail I just sent to Larry King Live (I wonder who else might like to report about this--hmmmm. . .can anybody think of other media outlets who should know about this!?)--

"More on autism--you're starting to get it out there.

Now that the cat is out of the bag with Hannah Poling, let's put the real science out there--the stuff the CDC so carefully buried at Simpsonwood, California in 2000, when they saw the connection between thimerosal and autism and agreed to keep quiet about it.

Something to report: Parents of autistic children have been flooding the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, phone lines of presidential candidates, and the CDC "hotlines" for one whole week now.

There are about 500,000 of us, and we're calling for the immediate resignation of Julie Gerberding as head of the CDC for her inhumane attitude, constant stonewalling, and complete inaction in the face of the autism epidemic.

The ongoing response of our government is denial and silence.

We want this news to be heard on Larry King Live!"

Teresa Conrick

Hi Kent,

I think so too and loved reading these. Knowing that these big hitters are reporting so much more of the true science AND the emotional, financial implications of what that means is like a dream come true.

Wise sage sounds like a good thing. I get tired of the "small, vocal, anti-vaccine group who blame MMR or the mercury preservative, thimerosal, which has been out of vaccines since 1999, and study after study has shown no correlation....." Our "small, vocal group" has done a damn good job of changing the disbelieving landscape.

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