The Short Good-Bye – Day Twenty-One of the Autism Omnibus Proceeding – Snyder v. the Secretary of Health and Human Services
By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
After 4,665 pages of testimony the first three test cases of a planned nine ended with closing arguments totaling 36 pages.
As an attorney I have to admit I find something so satisfying about the end of a case when each side is required to do their own summation of the evidence. If law is the way in which civilized societies resolve their differences rather than armed combat, then at their best, attorneys are our modern warriors.
Instead of brute force though, they use their brains as well as their hearts, so that the truth may be revealed.
Opening Comments by Special Master Denise Vowell
Special Master Vowell began the session by welcoming ten-year-old Colten Snyder along with his brother and sister to the courtroom. She hoped they would be impressed to see a real court in action as it sought to solve an important issue.
Opening Statement by Mr. Tom Powers – Attorney for the Family (Petitioners)
Mr. Powers began by remarking how at the outset he talked about how the petitioners would show biological plausibility in connecting the vaccines to Colten’s autism. He reminded the court of how even the testimony from the government’s witnesses conceded that viruses often have “novel and unexpected” consequences.
The measles virus is known to cause diseases like Sub-Acute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE) and Measles-Induced Brain Encephalopathy (MIBE). There have been reports from the CDC discussing encephalopathy and other neurological injuries associated with the MMR shot. A study of HIV patients who were given the MMR shot showed viral persistence 69 days post-shot, a span of time far longer than normal, demonstrating that immuno-suppression can allow for viral persistence.
The attenuation process to render a virus less lethal so it can be used in a vaccine was described by the government’s own witness as taking place in a “black box”, in which even the best doctors are unaware of exactly what has taken place.
The measles virus was found in Colten’s cerebral spinal fluid, where it was replicating, activating microglia, releasing proinflammatory cytokines, and causing overexcitation of the brain. It was explained by the petitioner’s expert witnesses how this “neural noise” could cause a child to withdraw into himself.
From the time sequence of Colten getting well-baby visits which showed him as neuro-typical until his MMR shot it’s relatively simple to discern cause and effect. The core evidence in this case was the finding of measles virus RNA in Colten’s cerebral spinal fluid.
Powers claimed the attack on Dr. O’Leary’s Unigenetics Laboratory was like a house of cards, with “hearsay built upon hearsay.” The experts for the petitioners didn’t overreach in their testimony. When they didn’t know something, they admitted it.
In closing, Powers remarked it’s important to remember these are not abstract numbers in a case file, but people with real injuries. In this instance, the facts presented provided powerful, compelling evidence of causation.
Closing Statement of Mr. Vincent Matanoski – Attorney for the Government (Respondents)
Mr. Matanoski opened by acknowledging the participation of the Snyders and the care and concern they’ve show over the years for Colten. He lamented that the current system “built a wall” between the government attorneys and the petitioning families, but wanted the Snyders to know that as they read the case files it was clear to the government attorneys what the Snyders had lived with on a daily basis.
Matanoski next turned to the issue of the burden of proof, which he reminded the court meant 50% and a little more. He noted that petitioners had laid out a multiple-step theory of causation and he wanted to highlight what he saw as the essential questions.
Does mercury cause clinically relevant immuno-suppression?
Does the measles virus cause immuno-suppression?
Does the measles virus persist in the brain and cause damage to the brain in ways never before observed?
Can the measles virus persist in the brain without causing cell destruction?
Can the measles virus persist in the brain in ways which we currently don’t understand?
Can the lab results of Unigenetics be trusted?
In closing he wanted to apologize if his defense had been too passionate at times, but not for what he believed. Epidemiological studies, although not specifically addressed in this case, have consistently shown no linkage between vaccines and autism. He considers this case very important in terms of decision-making for vaccine usage and public health.
Rebuttal by Mr. Tom Powers – Attorney for the Family (Petitioners)
Mr. Powers felt the need to respond to criticisms of Unigenetics, which he claimed were based on “conjecture and limited information.” Regarding the claim that Unigenetics was a “purpose-built lab”, he noted that the pharmaceutical companies had launched a “purpose-built attack” on the lab.
In reference to epidemiology, he said that the scientific community agrees that epidemiology alone is not enough to prove cause and effect in an individual case. Further, no comparative study has been done of children who have developed normally and regressed into autism after a vaccination.
In closing, he stated that the petitioners were not anti-vaccine, but wanted safe vaccines.
Thoughts on the end of the First Three Cases
The decision now rests with the Special Masters, who should issue a ruling sometime in the next three months. Although the recent concession in the Poling case might point to how the Special Masters will rule, nothing is certain.
After reading the 4,665 pages of this proceeding and writing 21 articles which total more than 100 pages I hope you’ll forgive me if I close with some personal thoughts.
Like all parents of autistic children I live a difficult life. I try to keep my family together, my marriage, and my career. We all dream of a better day for our children. Are we on the right track in finding out what has happened to our children, or are we deluded parents who endanger public health? I had a dream some time ago, which is either the sign of something delusional, or hopeful.
In the dream I stood on a great, grassy plain, while off in the distance rose an enormous, ugly Dark Tower. I knew the Dark Tower concealed all the lies told about autism as well as the answers we so desperately seek. A voice whispered in my ear, “The Dark Tower will fall,” but I couldn’t believe it. The Dark Tower was too powerful.
But then a gigantic bolt of lighting struck the Dark Tower and I watched it crumble to the ground. The lies were seen for what they were, and we had the information we needed to start healing our children. I felt a joy well up within me which was almost beyond description.
I can’t tell you if the dream came in response to my difficult life, or was the promise of better times ahead. I’m trained as a logical thinker and can only tell you I had the dream, not what it means.
But I know what I believe. Let’s see what the future brings.
Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor for Age of Autism.