Turning the Tide – The Omnibus Autism Proceeding – Second Set of Hearings (Thimerosal & Autism) – Day Three – May 14, 2008
By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
Memo to government attorneys: When CBS News puts the expert report for the opposing side on their web-site you’re probably losing the public relations battle.
As reported by Mary Holland in her account that’s exactly what they did with Dr. Kinsbourne’s report and the rest of the day did not go much better for the defense.
Direct Examination of Dr. Marcel Kinsbourne (Witness for the families)
Dr. Kinsbourne’s testimony went simply to the question of general causation of thimerosal to autism and not to the two specific cases identified in this set of hearings. Dr. Kinsbourne is a pediatric neurologist although he is now engaged primarily in research and writing.
He believes mercury should be put on the agenda for possible causes of autism and that mercury can cause autistic symptoms. He believes about 20% of autism cases include clear-cut regression, which can be startling and dramatic.
From studies of twins it’s his belief that 10-40% of autism cases can not be explained by genes. There are known factors which influence the development of autism; thalidomide if given to a pregnant mother at a certain point, as well as dylantin and rubella exposure while the mother is carrying the child.
In Dr. Kinsbourne’s opinion, the relevant brain structures are neurons, astrocytes, and microglial cells. The death of astrocyte cells from excess glutamate leads to an increase in microglial cells. This was discussed in the 2008 Lopez-Hurtado article on language-related cortex cells in the autopsies of the brains of people with autism. This is consistent with petitioner’s theory of toxicity, oxidative stress, and neuro-inflammation.
Dr. Kinsbourne believes with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that thimerosal-containing vaccines deliver inorganic mercury to the brain. This idea is not controversial.
On how mercury causes damage, Dr. Kinsbourne relies on the Aschner study which shows how mercury inhibits the uptake of glutamate, thus leading to an oversupply in the body. This fits the description of people with autism having an overexcited brain.
While the model of an over-aroused or over-excited brain is not universally accepted, there is good evidence for the belief. Autistics tend to have higher resting heart rates and may engage in their autistic behaviors as a way to try and calm themselves.
Evidence of neuro-inflammation in the brains of autistic individuals is strong. The 2005 Vargas study found evidence of neuro-inflammation in 2/3 to ¾ of the individuals they examined. The Pardo 2005 study showed persistent stimulation of the microglia in people with autism, supporting the theory of neuro-inflammation.
Cross-Examination of Dr. Kinsbourne (Witness for the families)
Mr. Matanoski began by questioning Dr. Kinsbourne about how he had come to work on this case and that there is no official criteria for regressive autism.
The bulk of his questions then centered around knowing at what dose a thimerosal-containing vaccine might cause astrocyte death and lead to the condition of autism. Dr. Kinsbourne based his opinion on articles by Burbacher from the University of Washington, from the Aschner articles, the Charleston studies, as well as Dr. Aposhian’s article.
While Dr. Kinsbourne couldn’t tell how much glutamate is necessary for astrocyte death, he noted that there is a project now on microglial activation which is being funded by the National Institute of Health.
A good deal of time was spent by Mr. Matanoski comparing Dr. Kinsbourne’s report on thimerosal and neuro-inflammation with his previous report in Cedillo on the measles virus and neuro-inflammation. He replied that the mechanism of neuro-inflammation is the same for both the measles virus and thimerosal.
Dr. Kinsbourne has testified in about 130 vaccine injury cases, claiming vaccines can cause a wide variety of injuries, from encephalitis, seizure disorders, ADEM, septicemia, and autism.
Redirect Examination of Dr. Kinsbourne (Witness for the families)
While Dr. Kinsbourne published a chapter in Pediatric Neurology in 2005, many of the recent advances in the thimerosal-containing vaccine theory has come about since that time. Mr. Powers pointed out specifically 22 articles which are contained in Dr. Kinsbourne’s report which had not been published in 2005.
In discussing the 2005 Burbacher study on monkeys and thimerosal exposure, it was important to realize the study only mimicked the first six months of the vaccine schedule, not the full two years.
Direct Examination of George Mead (Father of William Mead)
In addition to being the father of the child at issue in this case, Mr. Mead is an attorney doing construction and real estate law, who also did medical malpractice defense for 10 years.
William was born healthy on May 5, 1998, developed normally, and at the age of 14 months was even a model for “Pottery Barn.”
His developmental regression started at around 18 months. He was vaccinated shortly before his second birthday and then things got dramatically worse. Within a few weeks he lost the language he had and started having diarrhea, vomiting, and unexplained welts. His stomach was also bloating.
William was diagnosed with autism as well as having an IQ of 55, 5 points above retarded. It was predicted that he would need to be institutionalized. In January of 2001 they started him on bio-medical treatments with Dr. green, including chelation, the gluten/casein-free diet, secretin, and nutritional supplementation. In one chealtion test he excreted seven times the normal amount of mercury. The mercury he excretes now is at barely detectible levels.
William is now in 2nd grade with an aide, he’s doing math at a 1st grade level, plays with his sister, and language is emerging. He’s regained gross motor coordination and has made huge strides.
Cross-Examination of George Mead (Father of William Mead)
Does cross-examining the parent of an autistic child ever go well?
Not really, but Ms. Esposito did her best.
All she could go after was eliciting some information about when problems first started to arise, when he thought the vaccines contributed to the autism, how he got to the various medical professionals who treated his child, and whether he kept careful records of his son’s problems and progress.
Redirect Examination of Mr. Mead (Father of William Mead)
Mr. Mead talked at greater length about the treatments his son received which have resulted in such wonderful progress. The point of this was apparently to show that he would not take his child to a medical “quack”, especially given his past employment as a medical malpractice lawyer.
Mr. Mead concluded his testimony by telling how that morning William jumped into bed with him and asked for his father to read to him. This was a child about whom it was said he’d need to be institutionalized.
Closing Thoughts on this Day of Testimony
I’ve always heard the expression, “don’t get on a sinking ship”, but it’s never meant as much to me as I consider the plight of the government attorneys in this case. They must be fully aware of how waterlogged their vessel has become.
The prestigious Institute of Medicine in 2004 said there was nothing to this crazy theory, but in the interim all these other articles have been published, the former head of the National Institute of Health goes on the national news to say the theory is credible, and you’ve got this kid, William Mead, who was supposed to be institutionalized, hopping into daddy’s bed wanting dear old dad to read to him!
If you’re a government attorney defending vaccines or a pharmaceutical executive this is the stuff of nightmares.
But for the rest of us I think it’s a new day.
Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor for Age of Autism.