By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
In what can only be described as a legal bombshell, the government has withdrawn two of its three expert reports claiming that thimerosal has no connection to autism. The expert reports are from Dr. Thomas Clarkson and Dr. Laszlo Magos, two world-renowned in the field of toxicology, who have been working in medicine from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
A PubMed search under Clarkson lists 21 published articles concerning mercury and Magos worked for the prestigious Medical Research Council Laboratories in England, as well as co-authoring 4 articles on mercury with Dr. Clarkson.
In fact, Drs. Magos and Clarkson have been such cheerleaders for mercury that their work is high-lighted on a curious web-site www.mercuryfacts.org which takes issue with the finding from the National Academy of Sciences that at least 60,000 children in the United States are at risk from prenatal exposure to mercury from the consumption of fish by pregnant women.
The web-site is set-up by a group called the "Center for Consumer Freedom" and its research director is named David Martosko. According to a story by reporter Mark Matthews which ran on the ABC Channel 7 affiliate in San Francisco on May 3, 2006, Martosko was a music major in college, then an AM radio talk show producer before becoming the chief researcher for the Center for Consumer Freedom. The group came in for some harsh criticism in the story as being nothing more than a "non-profit front" for lobbying firms to "push their corporate message."
If this case was in the civil arena, the withdrawal of two expert reports of such magnitude would in all likelihood result in sanctions or a directed verdict. It's akin to two of the three alibi witnesses in a murder trial deciding to skip their testimony. There's no way to spin this as a positive development for the defense.
The withdrawal which is contained in a document on the court website and entitled “Order Concerning Theory 2 General Causation Rebuttal” sets out much of the procedural history, but leaves many vital questions unanswered.
Drs. Magos and Clarkson were apparently unwilling or unable to testify about the substance of their report which left the attorneys for the families having to call a witness to rebut the two expert reports. Surprisingly, the government then chose to withdraw the expert reports, leaving only the report and testimony of Dr. Jeffrey Brent, a scientist who has not devoted significant time to the question of mercury and autism. (At one point in his career it’s alleged that Dr. Brent claimed thimerosal to be as safe as “drinking water.”)
I spoke about these matters to Dr. Paul King, the science advisor for CoMed (web-site address www.mercury-freedrugs.org). According to Dr. King, at the time the reports were filed there were still significant questions about how mercury could harm the developing brain. The recent Peru study on hamsters, though, appears to be devastating, as well as the Texas study on the release of industrial mercury and autism rates, the Harvard papers on inflammation from the brain autopsies of people with autism, and the as-yet-unpublished study on monkeys which was presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in London which was the subject of a previous article in Age of Autism by Dan Olmsted (Click HERE.)
But with the publication of these articles and others which the scientific community knows are ready for publication, Dr. King was of the opinion that the claims made in the expert reports could no longer be maintained.
I also spoke with David Geier about this latest development and he also agreed that this was knocking out some of the government's strongest pillars that autism is not related to thimerosal. Geier considered it difficult to underestimate the near-legendary reputation of these two experts in the field of toxicology. Their apparent unwillingness to testify on these matters suggests they cannot sustain their previous assertion that thimerosal has nothing to do with the autism epidemic.
An e-mail request to Dr. Clarkson asking for a comment on the withdrawal of his report has gone unanswered.
Although the parties are continuing to submit motions and it appears unlikely that there will be a decision this summer, the withdrawal of these reports are likely to have profound consequences.
Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor of Age of Autism.