Kent Heckenlively

Blame the Car, Not the Needle

California-lemon-law-attorney By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

There was an interesting juxtaposition on the Fox news website the other day.

On one side was an article about the BMJ's report claiming that "Study Linking Vaccine to Autism was 'Elaborate Fraud' Journal Says" HERE while right next to it was an article which read, "Study Finds Link Between Autism and Air Pollution." HERE 

Sometimes when you're an attorney and presenting a case you engage in an exercise in which you assume that the other side's assertions are true.  What then?  Let me be clear about my own opinions.  I've read Dr. Wakefield's articles, his book, listened to him lecture, and have even sat across the table from him to have a conversation.  I believe Wakefield is innocent of any wrongdoing and that he has identified an important piece of the autism puzzle, namely, that something has gone so wrong in the immune system of many children with autism that a weakened measles virus from a vaccine can persist for years in their gastrointestinal systems.

But just for the sake of argument let's say I didn't believe that.

Instead I'll go to that second, supposedly non-controversial article, "Study Finds Link Between Autism, Air Pollution."  From the first paragraph of the article it states, "Researchers have found that children who live near freeways at birth (within 1,000 feet) have twice the risk of autism, suggesting that environmental factors may play a role in the disorder's growing incidence."  The study was undertaken by researchers from the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

Further on we're told that "The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at 304 children with autism and 259 normally developing children," and that, "A 2006 study also found autistic children were 50 percent more likely to have been born around contaminated air."

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The Medlam Family Thanks the Age of Autism Community

Mason Managing Editor's Note: We honored Sheila Medlam earlier this week (HERE) for her unfathomable strength following her young son Mason's death by wandering and drowning this past summer. She created a Foundation in his name to protect others. That's the meaning of strength, love and mettle. It moves our community forward and teems with positive energy. It shines in stark contrast to the negative factions who fight and write for base and self-serving reasons. Sheila sent this thank you, and we decided to highlight and share it with each of you, our fellow travelers on this journey. Happy New Year, friends.  KIM

Sheila said:

Thank you so much for recognizing our voices and our passion. It is wonderful to know that Mason lives on through such wonderful people who not only love my son, mourn his loss, but understand how quickly our lives were changed. Over the past few months there have been a few, very few thankfully, that have said, "How could this happen? This family is responsible. This family is negligent." Those few can never understand the pain and sorrow that we live with every second of every day, but all of you do. You have never asked those questions because you see your children in my son's beautiful face and you understand how our world was destroyed in the blink of an eye. It is very easy to share Mason with all of you. I can not bear to let him go. I can not bear to let the world forget him or let his memories fade. He lives on in all of you and I am forever in your debt. Thank you for allowing us to become a part of all of your families. Thank you for remembering Mason and keeping him alive in all of your hearts. You will never know what you have all done for my family. You saved us. You gave us the strength to live when we didn't know how we would be able to. Thank you all so much. It doesn't seem like those words are even adequate for all you have given, but they are all I can offer. We love you all so much. Sheila Medlam and family


What I Really Want for Christmas - The Truth

Small_christmas-wish By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

There's an old Latin maxim which states, fiat justitia ruat caelum, which translates roughly as, "May justice be done though the heavens fall."

It's a testament to the eternal nature of humanity that the things which endure are not the trappings of wealth, fame, and celebrity but simple truth.  We want to know what people did when confronted with great issues.  Did they act with courage or cowardice?  It's the standard by which we judge them.

In my role as a writer for Age of Autism I've tried to find the truth.  Some truths have made themselves clearly known to me through my own experiences as well as those of others in this community and my own research.  Simply stated, I know vaccines were responsible for the decline of my daughter into autism and the near-miss of autism for my son.

The truth which eludes me is how exactly the vaccines are causing autism.  The array of possibilities are truly mind-boggling.  Consider how many theories you've heard.  The mercury, the alumminum, the live viruses, the supposedly dead viruses, unknown animals viruses in the vaccines, unknown human viruses, bacteria, parasites, a misguided immune system response, or other chemicals which we haven't yet focused on.

And this truth is important to me for a simple reason.  My daughter is still severely affected.  I have no issue with those who advocate that they way to avoid problems like autism is to go to a significantly reduced vaccination schedule, or even forego vaccinations until such time as the answers to these questions become clear.  That will work for the next generation of children.  The problem is it still leaves me with a severely affected daughter.  I want to make sure her future is as bright as that of any other child.

Continue reading "What I Really Want for Christmas - The Truth" »

Why Can't We "Cure" Autism in a Few Years?

Newsboy By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

It's probably a requirement to read Age of Autism that you don't mind ruffling a few feathers.

But when we say a major effort should be made to "cure" autism, an affliction which at a conservatively estimated rate of 1 in 100 children is an epidemic on a scale which dwarfs polio which at its height afflicted anywhere between 1 in 1,500 - 2,000 children, (the majority of whom recovered), we're told science doesn't move that quickly.

It was with some amusement I read a recent profile of James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, Nobel Prize winner, and former head of the Human Genome Project in The Wall Street JournalHERE in which he said cancer could be cured in his lifetime.  He's 82 years old.  He also seems to enjoy ruffling feathers.  I'm a great fan of such ambition. 

I'm well aware that Watson has his detractors, from his failing to give credit to the work of Rosalind Franklin to some of his more off-color comments of recent years, but how can you not have a little soft spot in your heart for a researcher who titled his 2007 book, "Avoid Boring People: Lessons Learned from a Life in Science" in which he described some of his former Harvard colleagues as "dinosaurs", "mediocre" and "deadbeats"?

Watson's target in the article is the FDA which he says is stifling innovation.  From Dr. Watson's remarks in The Wall Street Journal, "The FDA has so many regulations . . . They don't want you to try a new thing if there's an old thing that might work . . . But the regulations are saying you can't do these (new) things until we give you a lot of s--- drugs."  I know that many autism researchers and clinicians live in fear that their best treatments, even if absolutely safe, will run afoul of FDA regulations.

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A Mandela Approach to Autism

Nelson_mandela_return_to_cell By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

An activist for another disease recently asked me why our community didn't do more to support political candidates.

I'd thought that over the previous few weeks I'd explained the situation in which we find ourselves well enough that she wouldn't ask such a question.  Apparently, I hadn't.  My simple answer is that no politician really wants our support.  We're more of a liability than an asset.  Any politician who actively supports the "bio-medical" or "vaccines are linked to autism" line of thinking lays themselves open to immediate attack.

I told this activist that the situation of our two communities was vastly different.  Their fight with the medical community is over recognition of their disease and whether an infectious agent which might be behind it.  Our fight with the medical community is about the disease we believe they caused.  It's a pretty big difference.

The question then becomes, how do we win?  And by winning I mean a clear understanding of what goes wrong in the body to cause autism, the ways to avoid it, and if your child does have it, what are the options for treatment?

I can say the answer is fight, fight, fight, and our community should be proud of the way we have moved the ball forward.  A large number of new parents are very concerned about vaccine side-effects and I think the new Safe Minds public safety announcements being shown in movie theaters in Oregon is also a wonderful development.

But I still struggle with figuring out an effective model of political action for our community.

After reading the wonderful book, Invictus by John Carlin (originally entitled Playing the Enemy) about Nelson Mandela's efforts to lead and ultimately keep South Africa together I felt I may have found a model for our efforts.

I continue to be amazed at the depictions of Nelson Mandela as an almost Gandhi-like figure when even a short review of his life would show he was much more complex.  Mandela was the founder of Spear of the Nation, the military wing of the African National Congress.  They did actually bomb police stations and other symbols of white power.  (Admittedly, this was after decades of trying to negotiate with the white government.)  When Mandela was sent to prison for his role in these bombings it wasn't a miscarriage of justice.  He actually did plan them.

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"Science Stoppers" and the Question of Autism

Stop By Kent Heckenlively

I recently spent three days engaging my "inner geek" by attending the California Science Teacher's Convention in Sacramento.  For most people I'm sure the highlight would have been the closing speech by the hosts of Mythbusters, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage.  But for me the highlight was the speech by professor Kevin Padian, curator of the University of California Museum of Paleontology.

Professor Padian was one of the chief expert witnesses in the Dover trial in which a local school board was trying to adopt a creationist textbook.  Now I should probably confess I've been an evolution freak since the age of three when I fell in love with dinosaurs.  My job as a science teacher gives me free rein to talk about such issues and also get paid for my eccentric interests.

I don't have much energy for attacking creationists, being a Catholic, and knowing our own tumultuous history of trying to mix faith with science.  Although I went to a Catholic college with a Galileo Science Hall, it would still be several years after I graduated that the Catholic Church finally rescinded his excommunication.  After a couple centuries wrestling with the issue I think we've come up with a pretty good formulation that "science without faith is blind, and faith without science is lame."  I believe in God (I'm actually a eucharistic minister in my parish) and science, but they live in different zip codes.

What really interested me in professor Padian's talk was the masterful way in which he showed multiple lines of evidence for the turning of a fin into a foot, the development of feathers in theropod dinosaurs, and how whales went from land to water animals.  Then he said something about creationist arguments against evolution which I felt went to the heart of why so many of us don't trust the medical authorities when it comes to the vaccine-autism issue.

He said that creationist arguments against evolution are "science stoppers" because they discourage the efforts of the human mind to understand evolution in all its complexity.  

With voluminous accounts of parents detailing how the problems of their children began after a vaccination it's nothing less than a crime that the medical authorities stop the science by claiming that the question has been "asked and answered."  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They have refrained from doing the type of population studies of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations which might yield promising information.  How about also doing extensive biological studies of their immune systems to see what is going wrong?

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Read the Bruesewitz Supreme Court Document Here

Supreme court Read the Bruesewitz Supreme Court document HERE.

By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

In an oral argument before the Supreme Court the justices have read all of the briefs and motions.  They come to oral argument with their best, most provocative questions.  If you get questioned aggressively it doesn’t mean you’re losing.  The justice may just want to make sure he fully agrees with your position.  If you get a gentle question, don’t imagine you’re winning.

What you should expect at oral argument in the Supreme Court is the very best arguments in favor of your position, and the best arguments against your position. The fifty-nine pages of oral argument can probably be read fairly quickly.  In total word count it’s probably akin to twenty pages of a popular novel.

Mary Holland, Esq. was actually at oral argument and will soon be writing her own account of what she observed.

I encourage you to read the entire transcript, although I have to point out some of my favorite passages which will give you a flavor of the hearing.

At one point Justice Sotomayor was questioning Ms. Sullivan, counsel for Wyeth  Laboratories on what incentive manufacturers have to take a vaccine off the market if there is no threat of state civil liability and the FDA is the only oversight.  After dodging the question several times and trying to move onto another issue, Chief Justice Roberts stopped her and said, “Before you get to that, I think your answer to Justice Sotomayor’s question is: Nothing; the manufacturers have no reason to take the vaccine off the market until the FDA tells them to.”  (P. 31)

On the question of why the act creating the Vaccine Court didn’t clearly state it was pre-empting the historic rights of states to compensate its own citizens for injuries caused by design defects in consumer products, Justice Kennedy stated to Ms. Sullivan, “I’m still not clear what answer you gave to Justice Ginsburg’s question, saying: Why didn’t Congress put this out in plain words: There should be no liability for design?  Is the answer sloppy drafting?  Are you reluctant to give the answer?”  (P. 43)

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The Supreme Court and Vaccines - Bruesewitz v. Wyeth

Legal update By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 states, "No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable (italics mine) even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings."  (42 U.S.C. section 300aa-22(b)(1))

This is the critical section the United States Supreme Court is taking up in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Inc.  As with many of these vaccine injury cases the particulars are heart-breaking.  The plaintiff, Hannah Bruesewitz, at the age of six months, suffered seizures and subsequent developmental delays after receiving a type of D.T.P. vaccine that is no longer sold.  Her injuries had been compensible under the previous table of vaccine injuries, but not under the one at the time her action was filed.

I've wanted to write more about this case for a while but haven't really known what else to say.  The language seems pretty clear.  If a vaccine is unavoidably unsafe, then you're in vaccine court.  If there's a design defect, you get to sue in regular civil court.  Since pretty much everything in the world can be made more safely (even dynamite), there has to be a pretty well understood flaw in a product to make it unavoidably unsafe.  Since the proponents on the other side are saying vaccines are safe, why should they fear this interpretation?

It's seems to me that not being able to sue in a typical civil court for a vaccine injury is an abomination, not just to the millions I believe have suffered from vaccine damage, but to the entire concept of democracy and the rule of law.

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My Wife, My Daughter, and XMRV

Retrovirus By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

My wife has tested positive for XMRV, otherwise known as the xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus. 

My daughter with autism has also tested positive for XMRV, a new human retrovirus that was recently found to be highly associated with patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME by the Whittemore-Peterson Institute.

What has been discovered and speculated about for chronic fatigue syndrome/ME and XMRV may also hold important information for autism.

By now many of you are probably aware that in August of 2010 the National Institute of Health, Harvard University, and the Food and Drug Administration published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirming an earlier study showing that XMRV (xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus) is strongly associated with chronic fatigue syndrome/ME.  HERE 

The earlier study published in the journal Science was a joint study by the Cleveland Clinic, the National Cancer Institute, and the Whittemore-Peterson Institute of the University of Nevada with Drs. Vincent Lombardi and Judy Mikovits as lead authors. HERE  The lead author of the NIH/Harvard/FDA study, Dr. Harvey Alter, noted in a press conference that he considered his study a confirmation of the earlier WPI study, even though they had detected different MLV-related viruses (MRVs), rather than only XMRV.  There does seem to be a greater variety of MRVs in chronic fatigue syndrome/ME patients than first understood.  The WPI’s original study also showed some evidence of additional MRVs.  Alter is one of the true giants in the field of virology, having been a co-discoverer of the hepatitis C virus, and winning the Lasker Award for medical research, which is often compared to the Nobel Prize in Medicine in terms of its prestige.

The CDC had also recently published an article in July of 2010 which they were unable to detect the virus in any sample.  Their study was published in the journal Retrovirology.  HERE

In trying to determine the quality of the work of the various groups it’s probably helpful to refer to what’s known as a journal’s “impact factor” which reflects the reputation of the publication.  The higher the impact factor the greater the reputation of the journal.  Generally any score above 2 is considered good.  By way of comparison, Science has an impact factor of 29.747, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have an impact factor of 9.432, and Retrovirology has a score of 4.105.

The question of whether XMRV is actually a new human retrovirus affecting people seems to have been put to rest at the 1st International Workshop on XMRV held at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland on September 7 and 8, 2010. 

The evidence for XMRV infection was so strong that the workshop was opened by the Director of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, who was previously in charge of the Human Genome Project.  I’m told Dr. Collins stayed for 75% of the CFS plenary session, listening and asking pertinent questions, leaving little doubt of his interest in the issue.

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A Night of Comedy to Benefit Autism

2010_Logo_med By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

Okay, so I haven't been out much in the past ten years.

I've gone to two autism events during that time, one in San Francisco and one in Chicago.  But when I heard that Generation Rescue and the Ryder Foundation were putting on a night of comedy at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, near where I used to live in the Marina district of San Francisco I knew I had to go.  This would be my third event.

For those of you unfamiliar with San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts Theater is a beautiful relic of the 1916 Pan Pacific Exposition designed to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal.  The theater probably seats somewhere under a thousand people and it shares the space with the Exploratorium, one of the country's most unique science musuems.  I take my science students there every year on a field trip.  It's a hands-on museum at which students can make their hair stand up straight by putting their hand on a Van de Graaf generator, or watch in fascinated horror as one of the volunteers dissect a cow's eye or sheep brain every half hour. It's the highlight of my school year.

I bought one of the expensive tickets which got me into the gourmet food and wine reception before the event and the dessert reception afterwards.  As I walked from the car to the theater I saw a big, black stretch limousine (Jenny's?) and at the entrance there were a few photographers, men entering in suits, and tall, leggy women in six inch heels towering over me.  I have to admit I felt a little out of place, almost like Frodo amongst a gathering of Men and Elves. (Yes, some of the women were so tall, slender, and endowed with such unearthly beautiful I'm convinced they represent a slightly more evolved race than our own!)  But then again, San Francisco always has been a little different than the rest of the world.

Hanging around the entrance to the reception was a regular reader of Age of Autism who describes himself as my number one fan.  I've now run into him at all three events I've attended.  We greeted each other warmly and he told me I need to stop stalking him.  He's a brilliant, unconventional thinker and I always look forward to our discussions.  He's usually ahead of the curve in his areas of scientific interest and is one of the many people who make me appear smarter than I actually am.

I also met up with my brother-from-another-mother, J.B. Handley, only the second time we've seen each other in person.  However, we e-mail a few times a week and talk regularly on the phone.  Usually the conversation goes something like this, "Yes, Kent, that's a good idea but it would cost a lot of money and I'm not sure how much it will advance the cause."  Then he reminds me how Generation Rescue is funding a vaccinated/unvaccinated study, paying for kids whose parents can't afford treatment, all while Jenny is trying to put together a television show to try to become the next Oprah Winfrey.  We then swap stories about intriguing rumors of a retroviral connection to autism which might also explain some of the health problems of the mothers of many of the children.

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The Whittemore-Peterson Institute - A Light in the Darkness (XMRV Update!!!)

Schindlers-list By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

(BREAKING NEWS - The NIH has announced a briefing by experts from the FDA and NIH today at 3:00 p.m. EST on their study confirming the Whittemore-Peterson Institute's findings regarding the XMRV virus and chronic fatigue syndrome.  The study will be published later today in the on-line version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The Editors would like to congratulate the WPI on this wonderful accomplishment.)

There's a moment in the film Schindler's List in which the accountant, Itzhak Stern shows Oskar Schindler the list of Jews they're saving.  The document seems to glow with an almost spiritual light as he says, "This list is an absolute good.  The list is life.  All around its margins lies the gulf."

Such moments of unsullied heroism are rare, but I traveled two hundred and fifty miles to Reno, Nevada this last weekend to observe one.  I'm talking of course about the opening of the Whittemore-Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Diseases which is part of the new Center for Molecular Medicine at the University of Nevada, School of Medicine.

All of this transpired because of Harvey and Annette Whittemore and their unrelenting efforts to help their daughter Andrea who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis).  Along the way they were helped by many physicians like Dr. Daniel Peterson who struggled to understand the epidemic, and lately by Drs. Judy Mikovits and Vincent Lombardi.  Like autism, chronic fatigue syndrome has been the subject of scorn and ridicule in the medical community.  Even when pioneering scientists showed significant immunological abnormalities among chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers it was difficult to get the medical community to pay attention.

When I say that the vision of the Whittemores for an institute in which the very best of medical science would be harnessed to solve this mystery has been realized, what do I really mean?  Here are some facts about this effort.  The newly completed Center for Molecular Medicine was built at a cost of $77 million dollars, encompasses more than 115,000 square feet of office space, labs, and patient care areas, and will eventually house approximately 150 researchers and 30 principal investigators.

The Whittemore-Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disorders (WPI) has been in the news most recently for its discovery linking the XMRV virus (xenotropic murine leukemia virus related virus) to chronic fatigue syndrome.  The discovery was published in October of 2009 in the journal Science and can be found HERE.  There are rumors that this study will shortly be confirmed by new a study coming from the NIH and FDA.

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Bugzy and the Rabies Shot

Puppy-Shots By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

(Author's note - Since we're in the dog days of summer and I need to let several brewing stories develop on their own timetable I submit the following shaggy dog story.)

As a science teacher my summers are spent at home while my wife goes back to her job as a speech therapist.  I'm the man of the house, responsible for all appointments for my twelve-year-old daughter Jacqueline who has autism, my normally developing and very active, ten-year-old son Ben, and our five-year-old dog, Bugzy.  For the dog lovers among you Bugzy is a mix of terrier and pomeranian, has white fur, and weighs about twenty pounds.

My lovely wife informed me I needed to take Bugzy to the veterinarian for his annual check-up, something I always dread doing.  We adopted Bugzy from a rescue shelter as a three-year-old and I had worried when we got him it appeared he had received a double dose of his vaccines before we adopted him.

Now as a parent with a vaccine-injured daughter, a son who went mute for twelve days after his eighteen month series of shots, thus pushing me into a life of activism, concern for my dog should probably rank quite low on my list.

But as I've researched human vaccines I've also become aware of problems with animal vaccines.  Yes, I know that they removed thimerosal from animal vaccines long before anything similar was attempted with pediatric vaccines, but still my worry remains.

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The Moment We Become Credible

Credibility By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

This web-site has abundantly recounted stories from our community of how the affliction of our children and subsequent efforts to determine what happened to them have earned us the ridicule of the medical community, contempt of the media, and perhaps most surprisingly, a change in attitude from friends and family about our grasp of reality.

I confess this change in attitude hit me with great force.  People had always relied on me for my good sense and intelligence.  When I graduated from high school my mother gave me a large wooden owl because she thought it symbolized my wisdom.  In college I was the school's Rhodes scholar candidate and headed up our delegation to the Model United Nations at Harvard University.  In law school I was a writer and editor for the law review.  After I got married my father-in-law referred to me as his "own personal Google" for my ability to recall anything from historical and political events to the names of actors from old movies.

But lately I've noticed a new phenomenon.  I'm becoming credible again.  People value what I have to say.

I noticed it first during this past school year in the staff lunchroom.  The issue of vaccines and autism came up and I'd held forth with what I hoped was an abridged discussion of this vast topic when one of the teachers turned to me and said, "When I have kids I'm going to talk to you about what to do."  I was momentarily taken aback by this sentiment.  I felt it had been a long time since anybody outside the autism bubble was so interested in what I had to say.

I noticed it a few weeks later with the wife of my son's boy scout troop leader.  We'd had some discussions before about autism, and she had a great interest in the subject as her own son had shown signs of autism and they endured two years of intensive therapy with him.  He still seems to have some Asperger's-like traits, but from my view is essentially indistinguishable from his peers.  Whenever she sees me she asks what's new and I inevitably end up sharing the latest research with her and my thoughts on it.

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Show Me Vaccines are Safe! - The Importance of the Supreme Court and Bruesewitz v. Wyeth

Kent legal By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

The genius of our political and legal system is that we don't fully trust ANYBODY.

Consider these two comments from James Madison, one of our Founding Fathers, and a co-author of The Federalist Papers, which explained the principles of our system of government.  Madison wrote, "If men were angels, no government would be needed," thus establishing the need for a system of laws.  He also wrote, "The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted," which justified the need for an overlapping system of checks and balances to keep those in power relatively honest.

It's with these two principles in mind that I want to discuss Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Inc., a case headed to the U. S. Supreme Court in September or October of 2010 which will answer the question of whether the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 prevents claimants from bringing an action for "design-defects" of vaccines in state court and why this case is so important.  Specifically, I want to focus on the arguments made in the brief in support of the Bruesewitz claimants by attorneys Kenneth Starr and Erwin Chemerinsky.

Most readers will be familiar with the name Kenneth Starr from the Clinton impeachment hearings but may not know that prior to that he was the U. S. Solicitor General and subsequent to the hearings became the dean of Pepperdine University School of Law and is now the president of Baylor University. 

When I was in law school the name Chemerinsky was invoked by my Constitutional Law professors with something akin to divine reverence.  Chemerinsky taught for more than twenty years at the University of Southern California, School of Law and is the current and founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law.  To understand how politically opposite Chemerinksy is from Starr you should know that when President Clinton wanted to appoint Chemerinsky to a vacancy on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals he was told by Senate Republicans that the nomination would be dead on arrival. 

Despite these strong ideological differences, both esteemed lawyers agree that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 has been misinterpreted for more than two decades.   They believe the Act was never intended to close the courthouse doors on what are known as "design defect" cases in which a manufacturer will be held liable if a safer alternative was available.  Starr and Chemerinsky have joined together in a brief to the Supreme Court (interested parties or acknowledged experts in the field may submit what are called "amici curiae" or "friend of the court" briefs in cases before the Supreme Court).  Both lawyers are experts in the field of federal and state authority so it will no doubt be of interest to the court that these lawyers with such differing ideologies agree on this point.  You can read their brief HERE.

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Osler’s Web – A Prequel to Autism?

Wmosler By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

For a long time I believed there was no group more wretched and abandoned by mainstream medicine than children with autism and their families.

However, after reading the magnificent book Osler’s Web Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic by Hillary Johnson I have found a group which can reasonably lay claim to a similar level of hostility and indifference from the medical community. 

Dr. William Osler was one of the first professors of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is credited with establishing the medical residency system.  He insisted that students learn from seeing and talking to patients.  He often stated, “He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.”  He’s also widely quoted for having said, “If you listen carefully to the patient they will tell you the diagnosis”, thus establishing the patient as the most important resource for the physician to solve the problem.

Osler’s approach was the reigning philosophy among medical practitioners throughout most of the 20th twentieth century.  Doctors were trained to listen to patient reports and the histories they gave were generally accorded high credibility.  But as medical testing became more sophisticated there was a shift in this philosophy.  If the patient complained of an ailment and the medical test didn’t pick something up, the focus turned to the psychological state of the patient.  Maybe the patient was crazy.

While with Osler’s approach the patient was a doctor’s greatest resource in diagnosing a problem, under the technological approach, the patient was suspect until proven credible.   To take an example from the legal arena, this shift is akin to our criminal courts proclaiming a person guilty until proven innocent.  The problem was not presumed to be with the test, but with the person claiming the supposed “disease.”  Osler’s Web claims it was this shift which has complicated meaningful research into the epidemic of chronic fatigue syndrome.  I could not help but hear echoes of the autism epidemic in this account.

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The Autism Triangle: A Key to Understanding Other Diseases?

Puzzle triangle By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

One of the first bio-medical doctors I consulted for my daughter's autism gave me a framework to understand the disease which I have long remembered.  She said, "Many practicioners in my field look at autism as a triangle.  The three points of that triangle are genes, toxins, and infections.  Individually we may disagree on the relative importance of each point on that triangle, but we agree on that general approach."

This is the basis for our community's strong disagreement with the mainstream medical community's mono-maniacal obsession with gene research, while among the bio-medical community we can for the most part politely disagree about the utility of various approaches and theories, while generally agreeing on the big picture.

Last weekend I ran across an article in Science Daily, (Virus Works with Gene to Cause Crohn's-Like Illness, June 25, 2010) HERE which echoed this theory.  The report was also published in the journal Cell and the abstract can be read HERE.

The article described how researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were trying to understand the riddle of Crohn's disease, an inflammatory human bowel disorder.  One of the confounding issues with this disease is the finding of a gene which was linked to the disease, but having the gene was not generally a good predictor of whether a person would get this disorder. 

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Dr. Andrew Wakefield's Book Callous Disregard – Book Review

Callous (Managing Editor's Note: You can read Dr. Wakefield's complete analysis of the "Lancet 12" in his new book, Callous Disregard from Skyhorse Publishing.  Visit Dr. Wakefield's website HERE.

By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

If you have a child with autism and haven’t yet purchased a copy of Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s wonderful book, Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines-The Truth Behind a Tragedy then shame on you. 

You need to buy it NOW.  I’ll wait.

(Imagine me whistling and pacing as you run down to your nearest bookstore or click on over to Amazon and order your copy.)

Okay, I’ll assume you have the book in your hot little hand, or you’ve at least gotten e-mail confirmation of your order.  Now if you have the book and haven't read it, that's a shame.

I’ve heard from many parents that cracking open a book like this is emotionally exhausting and I’m sympathetic to that feeling.  But get over it.  After all the lies which have been told about Dr. Wakefield because he has chosen to help us, we owe it to him to read this book.

Callous Disregard is organized almost the way a lawyer would set up a case, which isn’t surprising given the circumstances which gave rise to it.  There are the events which begin the story, namely the parents of children with autism and gastrointestinal issues who believe they’re not being listened to by the medical community.  This is followed by the appearance of medical professionals interested in getting to the bottom of this mystery, their findings, the legal persecution which follows, and the subsequent ruling against them by the General Medical Council (GMC) for the United Kingdom.

I’ve always thought there should be a natural sympathy between lawyers and scientists.  Both disciplines are trained in logical thinking, the careful marshaling of facts, and the need to develop a reasonable theory to explain observed events.  That’s exactly what the reader gets in this book.  The chapters are arranged so that each deals with a specific issue or witness from the case and Dr. Wakefield then supports his account with abundant documentation.

What develops is a devastating story of medical deceit and hypocrisy that many have long suspected, but which is still surprising to read.

Take the example of Dr. Michael Rutter, one of Wakefield’s main accusers in the GMC.  Dr. Rutter originally published a paper several years earlier which linked autism to vaccines.  Since that time he has apparently turned and become a paid expert for pharmaceutical companies, distancing himself from his previous concerns.  It’s interesting to note that Wakefield’s original paper only noted the onset of behavioral symptoms reported by parents following the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in 8 of 12 children.  Further investigation found the measles virus in the gut of several of the children and he called for further research into this issue.  Put side by side with Rutter’s work, it’s clear that Wakefield is the more careful scientist.

There’s also an interesting comparison between the disclosure policy which Rutter claims Dr. Wakefield should have followed and the disclosure policy Rutter himself follows.  Callous Disregard goes through exhaustive details explaining the disclosures Wakefield did make as well as the policy at that time.  Wakefield firmly believes he followed the then-existing policy and provides extensive documentation to support his claim.  The current disclosure policy calls for a disclosure of “any perceived conflict”.  Rutter continues to omit from any of his recent publications that fact that he is a paid consultant for the pharmaceutical industry in vaccine-injury cases.

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The Cloer Decision - When Does the Statute of Limitations Begin to Run for Vaccine-Induced Autism?

Autism clock By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

It's a question my wife has often asked in the past.  Could we ever bring a case for the injuries our daughter sustained in early December of 1998 when her six-month series of shots caused her seizures and autism?

In the past my answer was no.  The reason was we'd missed the statute of limitations.  I first became aware that vaccines may have caused my daughter's autism in January of 2002 when my son had a negative reaction to his eighteen-month series of shots and I read Karyn Serrousi's book Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and PDD

The reason I gave her was that National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 specifies a claim must be filed within three years of the first manifestation of symptoms.  We were beyond the statute of limitations and this was confirmed when I contacted some vaccine-injury lawyers to explain my circumstances.

"That's not fair," my wife would say.  I agreed with her.  The only consolation I could give was that if we were ever able to prove that vaccines caused autism Congress would probably establish some sort of fund to which we could apply.

Then came Cloer v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, (2010 WL 1791422 (C.A.Fed.)), decided on May 6, 2010 and I have to say my wife's fairness argument is beginning to get some support in the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

In Cloer the claimant was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) after a series of hepatitis B shots.  The problem is that no medical authorities linked the hepatitis B shots with MS until after the statute of limitations had passed.

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Autism One: Just Like the Series Finale of Lost but with a Better Ending

Lost-google-text By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

I don’t think it’s a secret that most of us live in relative isolation.

I know I feel that way.  I write my articles, send them off, and wait to read the comments.  I realize I’m part of an amazing community but what I’d prefer is that all of you lived close by and might drop by for a beer after work.  Or maybe with a couple guys I’d go out to see the latest action movie.  Or on an early Sunday morning a group of us might squeeze in a round of golf before it got too late and the wives needed us to tackle the latest honey-do list.

But that’s not our lives.  We have children with autism.  Even those who have “recovered” their children still face significant challenges that they work on every day.

And so in place of friends who stop by we might have the shows we watch to give us a sense of community and comfort.  For the past seven years I’ve been addicted to Lost.  Even if you’re not a fan you know it’s about a bunch of people who survive the crash of their plane on a mysterious island. 

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Autism and the National Science Bowl

Kids costume Managing Editor's Note: You can meet Kent at Autism One. Join us at our 3:00pm session on Saturday in the Executive Forum.

By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

I was checking my school e-mail account on Monday morning when I got the message.

A team of five kids from my school, including three of my students had qualified for the finals of the National Science Bowl.  For those of you unfamiliar with the National Science Bowl, it's a competition which was started twenty years ago by the Department of Energy to promote science excellence among middle and high school students.  This year there were more than 1,000 middle school teams competing and the team from my school had made it to the final two.  The panel asking questions would consist of the Secretary of the Department of Energy and Nobel Prize winner, Steven Chu and First Lady, Michelle Obama.

The e-mail informed me the competition would be streamed live starting at 8:00 a.m. west coast time.  I glanced at the clock, noting that my first period class, (which had one of my students on the team) started at 8:15.  I ditched my planned activity in favor of having the class watch the competition.  It was also the day before we began STAR testing and I figured what could be more inspiring than watching their classmates be questioned by a Nobel prize-winning scientist and the First Lady?

I didn't imagine my class could get so enthusiastic about a science competition.  It was like watching the Superbowl with them.  Our team won the first round of questioning with about three seconds left to spare.  Unfortunately we lost the second round to a private school from New Mexico.  I couldn't help noticing though, that their team was composed of all 8th graders while our team was all 7th graders.  We'll be back next year.

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On Being Compared to Hitler and the Nazi Movement

No_pointless_jokes_bumper_sticker-p128607186943544216trl0_400 By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

You know, I'm more often mistaken for being Jewish than I am for being a Nazi.  Even my wife (whose family is half-Jewish) thought for certain I was Jewish when she first met me.

But according to a YouTube video in which the movie Downfall has been given new subtitles so that Hitler becomes J.B. Handley ranting about vaccines and autism, I'm one of the few loyal Nazis that Hitler/Handley wants remaining with him in the bunker.  The others are Mark Blaxill, Dan Olmsted, and Kim Stagliano.  I just can't figure out, though, which Nazi officer the lovely Kim is supposed to be.  Jenny McCarthy is Eva Braun and Dr. Kartzinel is commanding a tank division threatening the bunker.  (Yeah, I don't understand that part, either.)  This gem posted on Heraldblog's YouTube account (aka Autism News Beat, aka Ken Reibel) is so awful that I couldn't stop laughing after watching it.  It's HERE.

After viewing it though I couldn't help but ask a simple question.  With more than a million children with autism, is that the best you've got?

No answers about what causes autism beyond looking for some gene that you haven't been able to identify yet, even though the human genome was mapped years ago?

Oh, and besides, if it is a genetic problem, why hasn't this always been with us?  You think it has?  Then why did Dr. Leo Kanner in his 1943 study claim it was unlike anything he or any of his colleagues had ever seen?  Why when the movie Rainman came out in 1988 were pediatricians in medical school told they might go through an entire career without ever seeing an autistic child?  How did something that was 1 in 10,000 twenty-five years ago become 100 in 10,000 today? 

Maybe the increase from 10 to 36 vaccines before the age of six, with the majority of those administered in the first six months of life?

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How to Fight Autism

Town crier By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

What’s the best way to fight autism?

It’s a question our community has long struggled with.  And by “our community” I mean those who believe their child’s autism was caused by a vaccination.

I was reminded of this vexing question when I recently met with an autism advocate who’s been helping families implement various dietary programs.  For many children the changes have been dramatic.  I also want to point out that this advocate has no children of his own on the spectrum.  He’s one of those rare individuals who willingly entered this cause.  When I encounter such people I always express my admiration saying, “You volunteered for this fight.  I got drafted!”

But as we continued our conversation I noted that although our goal was the same our approach differed.

His approach was to speak about diet as a way to help children with autism and lead to the question of vaccines.  My approach was to state the cause, then explain why the various therapies may help some kids, and from this understanding of causation figure out why many other children have not yet been helped.

He was not against what I was saying, or even that vaccines seem to be the causative factor for most children.  Our discussion centered on the most effective way to bring about that change.

I argued that we needed to be LOUD!  We needed to say things like VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM! with the same vigor as other people once said SMOKING CAUSES CANCER! 

Now everybody knows smoking doesn’t cause ALL cancers, but it causes enough that you can put it down as a pretty good mechanism of causation.  Although the government says they don’t know what causes autism, they have so far admitted it caused the autism of Hannah Poling and to a lesser extent, Bailey Banks.

I could sense the autism advocate listening to me and struggling with my opinion.

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The Supreme Court takes on Vaccine Court: Turning the Tables with Bruesewitz v. Wyeth

Legal update By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

In the movie Ransom Mel Gibson and Rene Russo play the wealthy parents of a boy who’s been kidnapped and is being held hostage for $2 million dollars.  The business man played by Mel Gibson is a smiling charmer, but also knows how to turn the table on his opponents.

Going on live television with the two million dollars piled high on a table in front of him he announces that he’s turning the ransom into a bounty on those who kidnapped his son.  It’s a bold, risky move, and like most Hollywood movies turns out well.  Gibson’s action causes the kidnappers to start looking over their shoulders, making mistakes, and eventually turning on each other.

That’s the best way to understand the potential implications of Bruesewitz v. Wyeth.  For nearly twenty-five years the pharmaceutical companies have been able to lock vaccine injuries out of the courthouse through the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act establishing the Vaccine Court.  Their potential losses for vaccine injuries as well as the discovery of possible dangers from vaccines have been minimized by this structure.

But like Mel Gibson turning the tables on the people who took his son, parents may soon be able to turn the tables on the pharmaceutical companies.  The money which was once used to influence legislators and medical associations could soon be coveted by legions of trial lawyers.  When I consider the more than one million children with autism, and the 1 in 4 children who have a chronic health condition I really don't care if the wolves of the legal profession gobble them up.  It's called justice and every other industry in America has had to live under the same set of rules.  If their product causes injury they need to pay for the damage.  Why shouldn't vaccines be subject to the same level of scrutiny as other products?

Let me tell you why I think the current legal legal status of the vaccination program in this country is so crazy.  If you got up this morning, put some bread (gluten-free, of course) in the toaster, turned your back, and the toaster was on fire, burning up your kitchen, you’d be able to sue the manufacturer.  In discovery you’d be able to subpoena all the records from the company on toaster fires, design and manufacture of the product, reports to consumer agencies on defective toasters, and eventually you’d be in possession of just about all the necessary information on toaster fires.  You could present this to a jury and twelve of your fellow citizens would determine if the company was negligent in the design or manufacture of their toaster, and if so, how much you should recover.

It’s a pretty simple system and for the most part it keeps everybody honest.  The safety of the majority of the products in our lives is fairly high.

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The Supreme Court Takes Bruesewitz v. Wyeth: Is There Justice for Vaccine Injury Victims?

Legal update By Mary Holland, Esq. and Jim Moody, Esq.

On March 8, the Supreme Court voted to hear Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, an appeal from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Supreme Court will decide whether a vaccine-injured child has the right to pursue a traditional "design defect" claim under state tort law when "Vaccine Court" refuses compensation.  The Supreme Court must interpret the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act and decide whether Congress intended to "preempt" all industry tort liability when it wrote, “No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable…if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”

Did Congress intend to extinguish the right to sue for all defective vaccine designs in civil court?  While the statutory language is awkward and thus somewhat opaque, Congress’s legislative intent was not – the statute as a whole shows clearly that Congress intended to leave civil courthouse doors open for petitioners who elect to leave Vaccine Court to sue for design defects.  Lower courts, nonetheless, have decided the question both ways.  So the Supreme Court must step in and resolve the conflict.  The stakes are high: whether a person injured by a vaccine can challenge the safety of the design in any court in the United States.

A three judge panel of the Third Circuit unanimously decided in March 2009 that petitioner Hannah Bruesewitz did not have the right to sue vaccine manufacturer Wyeth, Inc. to assert that its vaccine design was unsafe.  [See Bruesewitz-Decision]  Hannah was born in October, 1991, and received her third DPT shot on schedule on April 1, 1992.  Shortly thereafter she developed "residual seizure disorder," recognized as a Table Injury at the time, meaning that causation was presumed.  "Residual seizure disorder" was deleted from the Table just one month before she filed her case.  Finally, on December 20, 2002, more than ten years later, Vaccine Court categorically rejected her claim.  This hardly complies with Congress’ promise in the 1986 NCVIA that awards be “made to vaccine-injured persons quickly, easily, and with certainty and generosity.”  The Bruesewitz family argues that the safer acellular DTaP vaccine was long available by the time Hannah received the DPT and suffered seizures, and that her vaccine injury was avoidable had the manufacturer used this demonstrably safer vaccine design.

Before Bruesewitz, in October 2008, the Supreme Court of Georgia came out in the exact opposite way in Ferrari v. American Home Products, Inc.  That nine member court decided unanimously that petitioners could pursue their claim for a vaccine design defect in state civil court.  [See Ferrari decision]  The Ferrari family alleged that the mercury-containing preservative in his childhood vaccines, thimerosal, contributed to his autism.  AoA discussed the Ferrari decision HERE

In a recent development, the Ferrari family decided to voluntarily withdraw their claim at the trial court level without prejudice – in other words, the family decided that now is not the most auspicious time to continue the lawsuit, for whatever reason.  Most commentators, although not all, believe that the Ferraris could reopen their lawsuit later, if they chose to, while the child is still a minor.  So, while Bruesewitz and Ferrari interpret the 1986 statute in diametrically opposite ways, the Supreme Court has decided to hear the Bruesewitz case as the vehicle to resolve the conflict.

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The “Idiot Moment” in Autism (The New York Times & Dr. Poul Thorsen)

Idiot By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

(Author note - No offense is intended to actual idiots who are really nice people and would never do any of the foolish things mentioned in this article.)

I keep wondering when the “moment” will come.  I’m talking about the moment when the average person who isn’t really interested in the vaccine-autism question will go “Hey, that doesn’t make sense!”  You might call it something else.  Perhaps the “bull***” moment, or even the “what the f*** moment!”  For me, I prefer the “idiot moment.”

Maybe the idiot moment came a few weeks ago on February 25, 2010 when Nicholas Kristof, op-ed columnist for The New York Times wrote an article entitled, “Do Toxins Cause Autism?” Click HERE  (Strangely, the national media employs a great number of idiots when it comes to autism, and I don’t mean the ones who are really nice and wouldn’t do any of the foolish things I’m getting ready to talk about.)

According to Mr. Kristof’s account, Dr. Phillip Landigran, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York told him he is “increasingly confident that autism and other ailments are, in part, the result of the impact of environmental chemicals on the brain as it is being formed.”

The article may have actually captured an idiot moment in real time with Dr. Landrigan who said to the reporter (one idiot to another), “The crux of this is brain development.  If babies are exposed in the womb or shortly after birth to chemicals that interfere with brain development, the consequences last a lifetime.”  For those who haven’t been tuned into this debate, this is a major shift from medical professionals who have long argued that autism is a genetic condition, and the rise is nothing more than better detection of autism.

So let me think here for a moment.  Pregnant women are advised not to drink or smoke during pregnancy, not to eat too much seafood because of the mercury it contains (remember, that’s the bad kind, not the kind in vaccines which is really good and will cause an increase in mental functions, just like it did to the Mad Hatter in the new Alice in Wonderland movie), so I’m trying to think where they might be getting these bad chemicals? 

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The Cedillo Appeal - Mary Holland is a "Friend" to the Court and Autism Community

Kent legal By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

The autism community owes a great debt of thanks to attorney Mary Holland for putting together her excellent amici curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Cedillo appeal which can be found [HERE]. Ms. Holland was surprised to find there had never been an amicus brief in a vaccine case before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and was delighted with the 23 autism organizations who supported the brief.  She hopes that future issues concerning our community will generate a similar level of support.

A legal proceeding is a long process and sometimes it’s only in a brief such as the one that Holland put together that the outlines of what’s at stake, and what went wrong during the Omnibus Autism Proceeding become clear.

Michelle Cedillo was born healthy on August 30, 1994 and like other children at the time received twelve mandated vaccines containing ethyl mercury.  At her fifteen month check-up she received a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and seven days later developed a 105 degree fever.  She also developed a rash.  As the months went by Michelle’s pediatrician noticed she was less verbal and continued to have a rash.  Around the time of her third birthday she was given a diagnosis of autism.  Now fifteen years old, Michelle cannot talk, walk unassisted, or care for herself.

Holland’s excellent brief recounts the history of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986 which was designed to ensure the vaccine supply, improve vaccine safety, and generously compensate vaccine victims.  Recovery was supposed to be based on certain criteria, such as a “temporal relationship between a vaccination and symptoms specified in a Vaccine Injury Table.” 

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Bring Back the Neanderthal!

Neanderthal By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

On the weekend of January 30 I went to my first autism conference in San Francisco.  It was called "Autism: Hope in Action" and put on by Martin and Julie Matthews.

It may seem unusual that I'm such an active voice on-line and yet have met hardly any of our community in person.  What can I say?  My home life is tough, but this was in my area.  There was no reason not to go.

I expected to find a range of people, from the lost, the struggling, the brilliant, and the eccentric.  I wasn't disappointed.

As I sat with more than 150 people in the hotel ballroom listening to speakers talk about dietary changes, the struggles we parents, especially men face, I thought, well, this is a good start.

I spent about a half hour with one of the organizers outside the ballroom discussing the vaccine/autism question.  The general idea the organizers had was to fully document all of the medical research on the positive effects of diet while skirting the vaccine question.  I understood the thinking, even if I disagreed with it.  I tried my best to explain from my veteran perspective that what we're saying isn't new to the medical establishment.  Those at the very top, as explained so well by former NIH chief Bernadine Healy, have made a conscious decision not to investigate these claims "for fear of what they might find."

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TIME Magazine on Epigenetics and Autism

Darwin By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

Our community rightly spends a good deal of time pointing out errors in media stories about autism, but it’s so much more enjoyable to write about mainstream articles which get the scientific issues involved in autism right.

The cover story in TIME magazine last week is entitled “Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny” (HERE) by John Cloud.  I was amazed at what a great job the writer did with a very complicated subject.  And yes, it touches on autism.

As somebody who teaches both genetics and evolution these are important matters, not just in the great span of time, but also in our individual lives.  Before I get into the subject of epigenetics let me give you a little background on evolution in general and genetics in particular.

In the 150 years since Darwin published On the Origin of Species the controlling belief was that your genes were your destiny.  The good genes conveyed a survival advantage that would persist over time, while those that didn’t would be weeded out.  You could pretty much do whatever you wanted to yourself, drink or smoke yourself into an early grave, but when your kids were born they got a blank slate when it came to their genetics.  They’d have the same chance as you did.  The sins, health habits or environmental exposures of the parent did not pass onto the children.

But the evidence showed something radically different from this view of evolution.  For example, what were the effects of periods of feast and famine on the descendants of those who survived?  Using data from an area of northern Sweden, scientists were able to determine how much food had been available to selected subjects and various times in their development.

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Entering the New Year as Public Enemy #1

Public_enemies_movie_image_johnny_depp By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

As a science teacher I’m a regular consumer of science magazines and Discover has long been among my favorites.  Despite having published some good articles on the dangers of mercury they’ve been contemptuous of the vaccine/autism theory.

I usually just breeze by those ill-informed articles to read some well-informed ones about stem cells, a recently discovered dinosaur species, or the latest findings from the human genome project.

In late December Discover publishes an edition devoted to the top 100 science stories of the year.  The #1 story of the year for the 2009 edition is entitled “Vaccine Phobia Becomes a Public-Health Threat.”  I guess that makes all of us who are trying to help our vaccine-injured children and warn others of the danger "Public Enemy #1".  Welcome to your new status.  Maybe our pictures will start showing up at the local post office.  For those of you keeping track the swine flu outbreak was story #6.

From my previous career as a lawyer I’ve found it’s often best to let people speak in their own voice.  So, here’s how Discover writer Andrew Grant opens his article.  “The question will not go away: Do vaccines cause autism?  Some 1 million to 1.5 million adults and children in the United States have received autism diagnoses, and there is no clear insight into its causes.”

There are a few things I can quibble with in the opening statement.  For example, the vast majority of individuals with autism were born sometime after 1990.  It’s a little disingenuous to lump adults and children together, but at least we both agree this problem affects somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million people in the United States.

A little further on in the article is this assertion.  “In October Michael D. Kogan of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and colleagues announced that about 1 out of 91 has a disorder on the autism spectrum.”  (Author's note - These numbers are for children born in 1998, which means they're now 11 to 12 years old.  A later study put the number at about 1 in 110, but either way there’s been a substantial increase from the previous numbers given by HHS of 1 in 150 for the 1994 birth cohort.)  A boy born during that period had a 1 in 70 chance of becoming autistic while a girl had a 1 in 315 chance.  This represents an increase of 60% for boys and a 41% increase for girls according to the CDC's own website.

The public health threat we represent is characterized as follows, “Meanwhile, the reluctance of some parents to immunize their children can lead to the return of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles . . . Across the United States, reported measles cases shot up from 43 in 2007 to 140 in 2008, and more than 90 percent of those reported in 2008 were among children who were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status.”  (But then, how can we tell if measles cases have really gone up?  Maybe doctors are just getting better at diagnosing it!)

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Kickin’ the Tires of the Green Vaccine Initiative

Ferrari-dealership-11-03-09 By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

From the years I worked in sales there was one piece of information which has always stuck with me.  It’s said that even when a person goes to a car dealership knowing he wants to get a specific car, the salesman still has to ask for the sale at least five times before the customer says yes.

I understand very few of you had ever considered a ballot proposition as a way to make progress in combating autism.  You didn't intend to walk onto that particular car lot.  I may need to “ask” for your support many times before you say yes.

But the process goes even deeper.  The person who goes onto that car lot knowing the specific car he wants isn’t trying to make the salesman’s job more difficult.  We may know what we like, but we also want to make sure the decision we make is the right one.  In the sales world the four times the interested customer says “no” are known as “objections”.  The salesman’s job is to answer those objections as completely as he can.  If he does a good job the sale is made.  If not, the interested customer walks away.

Since I’ve rolled out the Green Vaccines initiative it seems there have been three main objections raised and I want to take each one of them in turn:

A.  We should just stick to getting a Vaccinated/Unvaccinated Study funded – I will confess that the first order of business is getting a Vaccinated/Unvaccinated study done with world-class researchers and a large enough sample size to make people sit up and take notice.  However, I know that some people are very close to getting something along those lines started.  That’s the first punch.  How long will it take them to get results?  Personally, I think such a thing could be done relatively quickly.  Then what follows?  I think the Green Vaccines Initiative is something which supports that line of inquiry.  It's a good second punch.  If a Vaccinated/Unvaccinated study gets funded we should have the results by election time.  If not it creates more of an impetus to get such a study completed.

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A Quick Guide to the “Green Vaccines” Initiative

Stethoscope-globe By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

Okay, you’ve had time to digest the new direction I want to take our movement but let me go over the basics. (Please see our earlier posts, The Green Vaccines Initiative, Learn More and Kent's introduction to the Green Vaccines initiative.)

We’re not going to get anywhere with our current legal system because everything gets funneled into Vaccine Court.  We’re not going to get far with the current media because they’re so heavily funded by pharmaceutical drug ads.  We’re not going to get far with the medical community because they’re part of the machinery.

And don’t even get me started on the politicians.  On one hand you have pharma handing out millions of dollars to politicians, and on the other you have parents of children with autism who are slowly bankrupted by this disease.  Who do you think is going to have more money to “support” the politician of their choice?

And that brings me to the “Green Vaccines” initiative which simply seeks to do the same job the medical community should have been doing all these years.  We’re at the beginning of this process, but these are the ideas we want the political consultants to “poll-test” to determine support.  They told me specifically to go broad to see how people react to the various ideas. 

The time to winnow out ideas will come later.  Without recounting all the ideas at length, there were five general areas.

1.  Research/Testing – Oregon requests the federal government to return the records of the Vaccine Safety Data-Link from private industry and make them available to independent researchers, conduct a study of vaccinated and unvaccinated children, study the health effects of aluminum adjuvants, and other substances used in vaccines like hydrolyzed gelatin and sorbitol.

2.  Disclosure/Informed Consent – Comparison of Oregon schedules with that of the CDC and other first world countries and full disclosure of vaccine ingredients, as well as the level of safety testing on them.

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When Journalists Play the Telephone Game - Part 2

Telephone game Read Part 1 HERE.

By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

As somebody who regularly writes about autism issues, I feel a responsibility to the families of children with autism.  I feel a responsibility to those who search for an answer and also those who are on the very cutting edge of solving this problem.  Let there be no doubt. I believe this problem WILL be solved one day.  And it will be done safely.

I must confess it's confusing to me when journalists like Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan in the November 23, 2009 article "Autism Treatment: Science Hijacked to Support Alternative Therapies" seem to have no such feelings of responsibility or even intellectual curiosity.

I'll begin with the first part of the article.  It describes how Dr. Carlos Pardo and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins found neuroinflammation in the brains of people with autism who had died in accidents.  This research was published in 2005, nearly five years ago.  Do they have any additional information since that time?  Is anything imminent?  Additionally, the article goes on to say "the scientists did not know whether the inflammation was good or bad, or even how it might relate to autism."

I understand in the scientific process you may not definitively know the relevance of a finding, but you should at least have a general opinion as to whether something is good or bad to spur further research.  How about this?  Since autism is not a normal state, the finding of something so abnormal as neuro-inflammation may indicate a clue as to the condition.  Would that be too great a leap to make?  Yes, we understand that a fever is a positive response of the body to an infection, but in and of itself it is not a good thing.  It is fighting off a bad thing.  Too high of a fever can damage the body.

Continue reading "When Journalists Play the Telephone Game - Part 2" »

When Journalists Play "The Telephone Game"

Telephone game Managing Editor's Note: Remember the old slumber party standby called, The Telephone Game? That's when you whispered something to your friend, and she passed it the next gal, and by the time it got to the last girl at the party, "I smell bacon" had become, "I love Satan." Seems journalists play The Telephone Game too. Except it's no game.

By Kent Heckenlively

I need to begin this article with full disclosure. 

In August of this year I was contacted by Trine Tsouderos of the Chicago Tribune to talk about autism treatments.  I probably spent about two hours on the phone with her laying out the vaccine theory of autism causation as well as sending her a large binder of various publications to support this position.

I tried to steer clear of practitioners and research which might be controversial and provided her instead with information from credible sources that she could check.  (At the end of this post I’ll provide the cover letter I sent her.)   Given her November 21, 2009 article in the Chicago Tribune on autism I can only say she gives the appearance of thinking without actually engaging in the activity.  

I have three major criticisms of her article based on the information I’d provided to her.

1.  The Autism Increase - She wrote in her article, “One in 100 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by age 6, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The figure has increased in recent decades, though experts do not know whether more children actually have autism or more cases are being diagnosed.”

Article 2 which I provided to her was a study done by UC Davis (January 2009, Journal of Epidemiology) showing that the increase in autism could not be accounted for by better diagnosing.   This is from a press release put out by UC Davis about their findings and provided to Ms. Tsouderos: 

"A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted — and the trend shows no sign of abating.

Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California’s children.

It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of environmental and occupational health and epidemiology and an internationally respected autism researcher."

Continue reading "When Journalists Play "The Telephone Game"" »

The "Green Vaccines" Initiative

Game changer By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

I hope you'll forgive me if I talk about this idea for the next couple weeks.  I think it's the game-changer for which everybody in our community has been hoping and praying.

The legal system is rigged against us.  The dying traditional media is begging for advertising dollars from pharmaceutical companies in this economic crisis.  And the politicians have their hands open for pharma dollars.

All these doors are closed.  We won't get them to help us by playing nice.  As somebody once said, "if all the doors are closed, find a window."

The "Green Vaccines Initiative" is our window.  Consider how we might change the course of autism and other neurological conditions with this single effort.  Here are what I think are the three most compelling reasons to support this initiative:

1.  If we make this a political fight, then the media has certain additional legal protections.  It's my opinion that a good deal of the media fears giving us too much of a voice because they'll be looking down the barrel of a lawsuit like the 100 million dollar claim made against Oprah Winfrey by the cattle industry for going after beef.  (I know she won it, but how many of the media companies have the money of Oprah Winfrey?  Come to think of it, only Oprah has that kind of money!)  If it's a political fight, the media is obligated to cover both sides, and their LEGAL protections are just about invulnerable.  They could run an entire issue on what we say and the pharmaceutical companies couldn't lay a finger on them.  Do you know how many young reporters must be itching to do this story and make a name for themselves?  This gives the press the opportunity to do the job it should have been doing for the last fifteen years.

2.  It means the medical community has to come out of hiding to defend themselves.  Have you noticed how lately when our community goes on television that all we get from the CDC or some other medical group is a damned written statement?  Where are the flesh-and-blood doctors willing to defend vaccines?  How do you think that's going to look in the context of a political debate?  Will they be able to defend the theft of data from the Vaccine Safety Data-link?  What about the complete absence of studies of the neurological health of vaccinated and unvaccinated children?  If they show up they lose on the facts.  If they don't show up, they lose because they public will see them as cowards.

Continue reading "The "Green Vaccines" Initiative" »

The "Green Our Vaccines" Initiative for Autism

Mrsmith Managing Editor's Note: We'd like you to know that the parent volunteers of Generation Rescue are donating $50,000 to this ballot initiative effort. We are seeking additional donations, large and small, every dollar counts.  You can donate by clicking HERE. When you get to the donation page, click that you want to make the donation in honor of somebody, then during Step 2 you can make a personal note at the final field to enter information, please place the word "Ballot" in the personal note section so your donation can be directed to this cause.  Thank you.

By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

I'd hoped the Special Masters of the Vaccine Court would put an end to the vaccine/autism catastrophe.  Nobody was more surprised than me by the decisions earlier this year in the cases of Cedillo, Hazlehurst, and Snyder.   

As an attorney I have great respect for the judicial system but the decisions struck me as terribly flawed.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.  The Vaccine Court isn't really part of the traditional legal system.  It was a creation of the pharmaceutical companies to shield themselves from liability.  Why else would a plaintiff be unable to force a defendant to produce a single document or witness without the permission of the Special Master? These companies and the U. S. government know they have something to hide.

The Vaccine Court also anticipated a small number of claims.  With conservative estimates of 670,000 children with autism and a rate which has gone from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100 over the course of about two decades it’s probably difficult for those in the medical and legal systems to comprehend the extent of the damage they've caused.

Kept out of the regular court system, ignored by the media who view our questions as “fringe” and “irresponsible”, and shunned by most medical professionals, we need a new plan.

I have one.  I hope you'll join me in making it a reality.

Continue reading "The "Green Our Vaccines" Initiative for Autism" »

Are We Becoming a Majority?

Diversity-Hands1-400x266 By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

The pharmaceutical companies control the legal system (Vaccine Court), the media (try watching any news program without getting bombarded by prescription drug ads), and the politicians ($29 million to Congress in 2008 and $176 million since 1990).

But are they losing the people?

Last Saturday morning my attention was drawn to a small article on the bottom right side of page 11 of my local newspaper.  I'd later realize that the headline was even further downplaying the significance of the story.  The headline read "Many Californians won't get H1N1 vaccination, poll shows."

I'd read similar articles in the past so I thought I'd be getting more of the same.  I was wrong.  A threshold has been crossed in my home state.  In my opinion it should have been on the front page.

The article was taken from the Los Angeles Times (November 6, 2009) and had this as its lead paragraph.  "As concern spreads about H1N1, a new survey of California voters found that while most consider the vaccine safe, a majority had no plans to get vaccinated."

STOP!!!!  Did I just read that correctly?  "A MAJORITY HAD NO PLANS TO GET VACCINATED"????  Isn't this the pandemic that President Obama declared a "national emergency" a few weeks ago?

I couldn't help but continue reading. 

Continue reading "Are We Becoming a Majority?" »

The New Science Teacher


By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

With budget cuts hitting California schools hard my job teaching science in elementary school wasn’t looking secure.  Science was slowly being cut in the lower grades and in two years I probably wouldn’t have a full-time job. 

But in three years teaching I’d compiled an enviable record of success.  The year before I’d started teaching only 11% of the fifth grade students at one of my schools scored advanced in the state science test.  Each year my students demonstrated significant gains and last year 66% scored advanced in science.  The other school at which I taught had similar gains.

The principal at one of my schools came to me late last year and said there were science jobs at the new middle school and that I should apply.  Science in middle school would be safe from budget cuts.  It was a promotion of sorts and the new school had its benefits.  In its first year of operation the new middle school had an Academic Performance Index (API) of 940 on a scale which only goes to 1000.  These are students who do their work, ask for more, and dream of ivy league schools. 

I was the third science teacher hired for the school and shortly after I began another science teacher was hired, a woman I’ll call C-.  That makes her the "new" kid.  Before going into education, C- was a geo-technical engineer and worked several years for an engineering firm composed mainly of men.  The day she had her first child they cut her pay 50%.  That experience made her decide to change careers, especially as she was planning on having more children.

C- was cheerful and interesting, telling us about many things, such as the inactive fault which runs close to the school and under the homes of many of our students.  As we collaborated on planning the academic year we also talked about ourselves.

There always comes that uncomfortable time when I’m getting to know another person, and they ask about my family and I have to tell them about my daughter’s autism.  And what my wife and I believe caused it.  It's the, "I know I don't look it, but I'm really one of those anti-vaccine radicals" talk that I dread so much.  But as I unwound that series of events which plunged my daughter into autism I didn’t detect any resistance from her.

Continue reading "The New Science Teacher" »

The Political Alienation of the Autism Parent

Disenfranchised By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
There was a time when I thought politics mattered.

I saw our country as a place where differing ideologies battled in the marketplace of ideas with the best one winning.  I could imagine good people on either side of the political divide, but at the end of the day there were clear differences.  My father set a good example of always having an opinion on current issues, but never failing to engage respectfully with people of differing opinions.

But as the debate over health care continues to roil our country I find myself disinterested in the controversy.  What will happen if the government gets into the health care business?  Probably some bad things and a few good ones.  What happens if our health care system stays the way it is with some tinkering around the edges?  Probably some bad things and a few good ones.  The challenge of solving autism doesn’t enter into either side’s political calculation.

I used to believe that any halfway decent cause would get picked up by at least one political party, if for nothing else than to have a club to hit the other one over the head.  I’ve always understood self-interest.  So as President Obama took the stage I thought, “Well, maybe this will be something he can fling at the feet of the evil Republicans and some good will come of it.” 

Then I remembered I thought something similar when George W. Bush took over.  Maybe this will be a way to get back for those tawdry Clinton years.  And before that I wasn't even thinking about these issues.  But I’m sure there were those who were dealing with these problems, thinking that maybe the “Man from Hope” could undo the terrible vaccine decisions made during the first Bush presidency. 

And so it goes.

Continue reading "The Political Alienation of the Autism Parent" »

The End of Vaccine Court?

Retro lady justice By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

The recent decision handed down on August 17, 2009 by the U. S. Court of Federal Claims in the case of Rotoli, Myers, Torbett, Porter, and Hager v. the Secretary of Health and Human Services has me wondering if the days of the so-called "Vaccine Court" are numbered.  (An abridged discussion of this case can be found on the web-site of Conway, Homer, and Chin-Caplan, HERE.)

Coming so quickly after the U. S. Court of Appeals decision in Andreu v. Sec. of Health and Human Services (see my previous article Vaccine Court: Don't Be a Putz) it seems as if serious questions are being raised about the conduct of the Vaccine Court.  In Andreu, the appeals court found that the Vaccine Court failed to properly apply all three parts of the three-pronged Althen test in the case of a child who developed seizures after a DPT vaccination.  In what can only be regarded as a slap in the face to the Vaccine Court, the appeals court found the petitioners had made their case and the only question to be answered by the Vaccine Court was the amount of damages.  The Rotoli court specifically cited the Andreu decision in various parts of its decision as an example of serious errors by the Vaccine Court. (Click HERE to read Rotoli.)

In the three public test cases linking vaccines to autism, Cedillo, Hazlehurst, and Snyder, the Special Masters not only denied a link, but took extraordinary efforts to disparage the entire community of parents and medical professionals who assert the credibility of such a link.  This is beyond the pale of what a court is supposed to do and I had wondered if this was simply limited to those who were asserting a vaccine connection to autism.

After reading the sixty-six page Rotoli decision, though, I’m starting to believe the Special Masters are interested in disputing a connection between vaccines and any health problems.  The federal courts now appear to be pushing back against this effort.  I think this apparent federal distrust of the decisions of the Vaccine Court will have significant effects when the three public vaccine-autism cases already decided make their way into the traditional legal system.

Continue reading "The End of Vaccine Court?" »

Scientists Find People Vary Widely in their Ability to Eliminate Arsenic – Implications for Autism?

Claude rains casablanca By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

There’s a famous scene in the movie Casablanca in which the French police captain in Rick’s Café is told there’s illegal gambling at the establishment, and in mock surprise says, “I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”, just before being handed his winnings.  For veterans of the autism-toxic metals war this is one of those kind of stories.

According to an August 27, 2009 article in Science Daily (HERE) there’s a wide variation in the ability of people to excrete arsenic.  The subjects were given seafood containing known amounts of arsenic and then in the days following their urine was measured for arsenic excretion.  The researchers from the University of Graz, Austria “found that ability to eliminate arsenic from the body varied greatly, with some participants excreting up to 95 percent of the ingested arsenic, but others eliminating as little as 4 percent.”

All right, so let me break this down.  Fish often contain arsenic, and I think I recall fish often contain some other toxic metal . . . it’s on the tip of my tongue . . . oh yeah, it’s MERCURY!  That's the same mercury that a recent study found present in 100% of fish sampled from all parts of the United States.  But we're not supposed to worry about that because only 25% of them were at unsafe levels!  Just for the sake of argument let’s do a thought experiment.

Continue reading "Scientists Find People Vary Widely in their Ability to Eliminate Arsenic – Implications for Autism?" »

Dr. House on Chelation

Dr_house2_sip-300 By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

The exercise bicycle at my new gym has a television.

I know such combination machines have been around for a while, but in the years I’ve been trying to help my daughter I haven’t made it to the gym very often.  This summer I made a vow to get myself back into shape. 

And I've discovered a new guilty pleasure.  If I time it right I can get on the bike and take in a full episode of House, the series revolving around Dr. Gregory House, the brilliant, crippled, misanthropic, prescription-drug abusing physician who gets all the most interesting patients.  Dr. House has become my new hero.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and more cynical.  Or maybe it’s because I still believe in the ability of the human mind to figure out the most puzzling mysteries.

Continue reading "Dr. House on Chelation" »

Re-branding Autism and the “Noble Lie”

Lie By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

It’s a lament I’ve heard more than once and I don’t know what to make of it.

Vaccines and autism equals rolled eyes, whether it’s from the Vaccine Court, news reporters, or official organs of the medical establishment.

But call vaccine damage something else, like neuro-inflammation, pervasive developmental disorder, an encephalopathy, or a mitochondrial dysfunction, and suddenly the conversation gets a little warmer.  People are more ready to listen.  And yet the actual science bears little resemblance to the public debate. 

Medical authorities readily admit that drugs can have side-effects.  And they’re pouring billions of dollars into studying areas such as pharmo-genetics in order to determine those people most likely to suffer from adverse reactions.  For example, the cytochrome P450 enzymes are necessary for the metabolism of many medications with the most vivid example being coumadin, a blood-thinner.  Coumadin, also known as warfarin (used as a rat-killer because it causes the rats to bleed to death) can cause internal bleeding in some people.  Those individuals generally have a polymorphism in those enzymes.  By identifying the individuals with these polymorphisms it's believed the injuries and deaths associated with coumadin usage can be drastically reduced.

Continue reading "Re-branding Autism and the “Noble Lie”" »

The Cedillo Appeal – Justice Delayed

Kent legal By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

There’s an old story about how people act when they’ve made up their mind and don’t want it changed.  A guy goes to his neighbor’s house and asks to borrow his lawnmower.  The neighbor says he’s really sorry but he lent it to his cousin.  The guy replies he just saw the lawnmower in the neighbor’s garage as he was walking over.  The neighbor responds, “What does the reason matter?  I’m not going to let you borrow my lawnmower anyway.” 

Reading the decision in the Cedillo appeal gives me a greater appreciation of that story. It doesn't seem to matter what's presented, the Special Masters are still going to deny any connection between vaccines and autism.

The Cedillo case depended a great deal of the identification of the measles virus discovered in an intestinal biopsy taken from Michelle Cedillo and analyzed by the Unigenetics Laboratory of Dr. John O’Leary.  The court agreed that “the general reputations of Unigenetics and Dr. O’Leary are good.” (P. 11) It also agreed that the reliability of the Unigenetics Laboratory was “the single-most critical issue in the case.” (P. 10)

There was discussion of other studies, namely the Uhlmann study which supported the finding of a measles infection in the guts of children with autism, and the Afzal and Souza studies which did not support those findings.  The main criticism of the Uhlmann study by the Souza group was the contention that they used primers which were not specific to positively identify the measles virus and mistakenly identified human genetic material as the measles virus.  There were other criticisms of the Unigenetics findings, raising questions of DNA contamination and reliability.

In a legal case each side will generally say that the other side’s evidence is not reliable.  It’s to be expected. 

Continue reading "The Cedillo Appeal – Justice Delayed" »

And the Band Plays On - Autism is Now 1 in 100

Too-Many-Babies-Too-Much-Carbon By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

In 2007 the National Survey of Children's Health conducted a study on the rate of autism.  The results have now been released.  Of the 80,496 children surveyed, 921 were said by their parent to currently have autism or Asperger's syndrome.  That makes the rate of autism in the children surveyed approximately 1%, or 1 in every 100.  The rates generated from data in 2002 and 2003 suggested a rate of 1 in every 150.

A curious finding of the study was that 459 of the parents told the researchers that their child was previously told their child had autism or Asperger's Syndrome, but that they do not have it currently.  This result is in accord with what has been reported by many parents that their children can improve, especially through bio-medical interventions, although many also report success through therapeutic interventions.

When you add the two numbers together, you find that of the 80,496 children surveyed, 1380 either currently have autism or Asperger's Syndrome, or did at some point in the past.  That works out to 1.7% or 1 in every 58 children.  Think about that.  1 in every 58 children is now getting a diagnosis of autism or Asperger's Syndrome in their lives.  If you have two children that means the chance one of your children will be diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder is 1 in 29.  If you have three children the chance is 1 in 19.  If you're Jon and Kate plus Eight that's a little more than 1 in 7.

Continue reading "And the Band Plays On - Autism is Now 1 in 100" »

A Clear Biomarker for Autism? – The Question of Alterations in Lipid Metabolism.

Q&A2 By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

(Author’s note – I’m indebted to Professor Richard Deth of Northeastern University for sending me this article.)

The title may be long and confusing, but the findings are what many have been hoping to discover for years.  (Novel Plasma Phospholipid Biomarkers of Autism: Mitochondrial Dysfunction as a Putative Causative Mechanism, Prostglandins Leukotrines Essent. Fatty Acids (2009) (HERE).

Given the profound differences in behavior and cognition in children with autism it's only reasonable to believe there must be some trace in the body of what makes these children so different. 

Researchers in Canada working for Phenomenome Discoveries, Inc. and the Jonty Foundation out of Saint-Paul, Minnesota believe they may have found the answer. 

Continue reading "A Clear Biomarker for Autism? – The Question of Alterations in Lipid Metabolism." »

Solving the Autism Puzzle – The Fatty Acid Question and “Big, Fat Neurons”!

Neuron By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

(Author's note - Further discussions with Dr. Kane have allowed me to significantly improve and deepen the science of this article.  Worth reading again!)

Let me be clear.  I hate the expression “autism puzzle.”  The only time I’ll have the slightest affection for it is when it’s used in a sentence such as “The autism puzzle has been solved.”

This article delves into theories which will hopefully bring that day closer.  I don’t say the theory expressed here is true.  But it's interesting.  And I believe it’s worth discussion.

In the recently published book, “Food and Nutrients in Disease Management”, ($133 on Amazon) edited by Ingrid Kohlstadt is a chapter entitled “Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Dynamic Intervention for Neuronal Membrane Stabilization” by Patricia Kane, Ph.D, Annette Cartaxo, M.D., and Richard Deth, Ph.D. In the chapter a number of interesting claims are made.  I believe they’re consistent with the experiences of many people with autism, and if verified, provide a clear picture of what has gone wrong with the disease, and more importantly, the road out of autism and other neurological disorders.

Continue reading "Solving the Autism Puzzle – The Fatty Acid Question and “Big, Fat Neurons”!" »

Wrestling with Pigs at the Bad Astronomy Blog

Wrestling pig By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

Okay, I had to do it. 

When the Bad Astronomy blog at one of my favorite science magazines, Discover, went after Jenny McCarthy I had to respond. I began by pointing out my dismay that the vast majority of articles on the vaccine-autism theory inevitably left the impression that only Jenny McCarthy and we desperate, deluded parents were making these claims.

I thought by pointing out that the former head of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Bernadine Healy, and the former Chief Science Officer for the U. K., Dr. Peter Fletcher shared many of the same concerns and supported an aggressive research program to identify environmental exposures and vulnerable sub-populations the discussion might be moved in a more reasonable direction.

And the attacks began.  I’m a bad parent, society at large should be scared I teach science, and of course, that old-favorite, I should be exposed to people with infectious diseases which I would catch and die.  There were also, surprisingly, a few attacks against Dr. Bernadine Healy, since she was appointed by the first President Bush, which meant, you know, she was a party hack without adequate medical credentials.

Continue reading "Wrestling with Pigs at the Bad Astronomy Blog" »


Ben franklin By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

A few days ago I was talking to the latest cutting-edge health professional trying to solve the mystery of my daughter’s autism and seizures when I thought to offer him some advice about entering the bio-med world of injured children and tired parents.

I mentioned the years of struggle many of us have endured, sleepless nights, empty wallets, lost friends, and medical professionals who look away from our children rather than trying to figure out what has gone wrong.  We’re reluctant rebels, made this way only because we grasped that the medical community gave no hope, and even more damning, no explanation.  Why was such a brilliant community suddenly so silent?  If not vaccines, then what?  Where are the demands for a Manhattan project to solve this mystery?  At times I feel this newspaper and a few other voices are like John Connor in the latest “Terminator” movie who declares, “If you hear this message, you are the resistance.”

Continue reading "Tattered" »