In what is being described as the first judgment of its kind in the UK, a family was awarded nearly $140,000 after a medical assessment panel consisting of two doctors and an attorney concluded that the MMR vaccine was to blame for the brain damage suffered by Robert Fletcher. He was vaccinated at 13 months and is now 18 years old, confined to a wheelchair and requires round-the-clock care.
His parents applied for compensation under the UK government’s Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme, but were rejected in 1997 on the grounds that it was impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt what had caused their son’s illness, The Daily Mailreports. But she won on appeal, although she says the money isn’t the issue: “‘What matters is the recognition that (the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) was the reason this happened.”
In a six-page judgment, the panel wrote: “Robert was a more or less fit boy who, within the period usually considered relevant to immunization, developed a severe convulsion…and he then went on to be epileptic and severely retarded. The seizure occurred ten days after the vaccination. In our view, this cannot be put down to coincidence. It is this temporal association that provides the link. It is this that has shown on the balance of probabilities that the vaccination triggered the epilepsy. On this basis, we find that Robert is severely disabled as a result of vaccination and this is why we allowed the appeal.”
The case does not involve autism which, of course, is a hugely controversial issue. Nonetheless, the decision is likely to further fuel the debate over childhood vaccines and links to various disorders. Polly Tommey, who edits the magazine The Autism File and believes her son Billy is autistic because of MMR, tells the paper that “This is fantastic news. Now doctors can’t tell me that the MMR is safe.”
Nadine Dorries, a member of the Commons Health Committee in the UK Parliament, adds that, “if an independent panel has reached the conclusion that there has been a link between the MMR vaccine and the brain damage suffered by this boy in this case, then it is fair to assume that there could be as many as thousands of children and parents in the same position.”