By Anne Dachel
On January 19, 2006, an eighteen month old toddler named George Fisher died in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. On December 4 this year, an official inquest declared that he died of "natural causes."
Many people are asking what's natural about a child who was described as "healthy and robust" in the British press suddenly being found dead in his crib. It seems that in Britain, things like this simply can't be explained, especially if all the alarming points of evidence are considered unrelated.
What has the attention of the autism community is the fact that this toddler received an MMR vaccine just ten days before his death. Not only that, four months earlier, he had a febrile convulsion following a fever. The Daily Express (HERE) told readers, "His parents claim doctors failed to warn them about the potential side effects he faced after the injection. They say doctors did not ask them about George's medical history or warn them that he should be monitored after the vaccination."
The Gloucester Citizen (HERE) quoted a legal representative who said, "It is documented that children who have experienced a febrile convulsion should be closely monitored following their MMR vaccination as it can raise their temperature."
After receiving the MMR on January 9, George developed problems which included loss of appetite, swollen eyes, and diarrhea. The symptoms persisted and his mother had scheduled a doctor's appointment on the day he was found dead.
At the inquest, it was revealed that "his lungs and blood showed measles virus," along with an enlarged spleen, a sign "he was fending off a virus."
Furthermore, the Telegraph (HERE) said that Professor Elizabeth Miller, an immunization expert for the Heath Protection Agency, testified, "The MMR jab can cause a febrile convulsion in one child in two to three thousand." She also stated that "the febrile convulsion would be expected to occur between six and 14 days after an MMR jab."
All this seems pretty conclusive. There were very good reasons to think that the MMR had severely compromised the health of this child, leading to his death. That's not however the way things work out in the British system of justice.
Coroner Alan Crickmore, after hearing the evidence, concluded that George Fisher died of natural causes. This death has been attributed to the mysterious event known as "Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood," or SIDS in the U.S., which the coroner said was because of "an unascertained disease."
It seems incredible that Crickmore could reach his conclusion based on the facts in evidence, but there's a lot more to the story.
First of all, Alan Crickmore is a lawyer, not a doctor. The BBC (HERE) announced that the Crickmore asserted that George's symptoms had emerged too soon after the jab to be related to it.
And Professor Miller may have linked the MMR and the timing to a febrile convulsion, similar to the first one George Fisher had, but she disagreed that this could have caused his death. Miller stated, 'Fatal outcomes associated with MMR vaccination as a result of febrile convulsion have not to my knowledge been reported.'
Miller was the expert and she denied a connection between the MMR and this child's death, but Miller is hardly unbiased in this issue and it seems incredible that she would have ever been asked to testify. For a number of years, Miller has been a strong promoter of the safety of the MMR.
A BBC report (HERE) in 2001 told about a £3m publicity campaign to promote the MMR vaccine with TV advertising, videos and leaflets for health professionals and parents as well as information and training for doctors and nurses. The story quoted Professor Miller in defense of the vaccine and denying any truth to the controversial link to autism. It seems that Miller finds nothing dangerous in the MMR. It doesn't cause autism and though it can cause convulsions, they are never fatal.
A representative from Sanofi, the vaccine maker, was also there. His intent seemed to be to blame the medications given to the child, not the vaccine. Anything but the vaccine.
Other experts lined up against the parents. Dr. Alan Day, consultant pediatrician at Cheltenham General, said the staff was correct in giving George the vaccine.
Professor of Infant Health, Peter Fleming, of Bristol University, said it was most likely that George died of SIDS, which also gave Crickmore a conclusion that let the medical community off the hook.
It seems that unless a child collapses and dies at the clinic, vaccines can never be implicated. What stands out to us in the autism community is the continued denial that MMR is a damaging and even deadly vaccine.
The British press couldn't wait to proclaim once again that parents are wrong to worry about the MMR. Where earlier headlines had announced 'Healthy' Baby Died After MMR Jab, and Inquest to Begin into Death of Baby after MMR Vaccination, new ones appeared with reassuring messages:
MMR jab 'played no part in boy's death', coroner rules,
No link to MMR over baby's death,
MMR jab 'didn't kill healthy tot',
MMR baby died of natural causes.
What was really surprising was coverage from FOX News (HERE) in the U.S. They posted the headline, Baby Dies From Vaccine Complication the day after the inquest and announced, "An 18-month-old boy died after doctors vaccinated him with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine while he was sick, the baby's parents told an inquest this week." FOX hasn't caught up with the news that the coroner disagrees that the death resulted from the MMR.
George Fisher was 18 months old when he died. Many parents report that after their children receive routine vaccinations at the same age, they suddenly lose learned skills and regress into autism. Both in the U.S. and in Britain, health officials have refused to honestly and thoroughly address this controversy. This continues to be one of the most contentious issues in medicine.
Allison Edwards of Cry Shame (HERE) was at the inquest and she gave her own account of what happened before the findings were reported:
"We have reason to believe that the faith and trust we parents place in those guardians of public health on immunisations has become much more about their own protection than our children's. We have been betrayed. ... Unfortunately, I predict that no-one will be held accountable and the death put down to an unascertained cause."
Allison was right. The inquest covered for those who have everything to lose if the truth about the side effects of the MMR were publicly acknowledged. John Stone, another tireless advocate in Britain, wrote to me about this decision and the reaction of ordinary British citizens. He said, "They know they now live in a country where increasingly everything can be 'fixed.'"
Anne Dachel is Media Editor of Age of Autism.