Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cedillo vs. HHS Appeal Denied

Michele Cedillo was selected by the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (OAP) Petitioner's Steering Committee (PSC) as a test case for the 'Thimerosal and MMR Vaccine Autism Causation Claim'. On 12 February 2009, Special Master Hastings denied compensation to the Cedillos on Michele's behalf.
Considering all of the evidence, I found that the petitioners have failed to demonstrate that thimerosal-containing vaccines can contribute to causing immune dysfunction, or that the MMR vaccine can contribute to causing either autism or gastrointestinal dysfunction. I further conclude that while Michelle Cedillo has tragically suffered from autism and other severe conditions, the petitioners have also failed to demonstrate that her vaccinations played any role at all in causing those problems.

This decision was upheld on 6 August 2009 by the United States Court of Federal Claims.
After performing this review, the Court is satisfied that the Special Master’s decision is rational and reasonable in all respects, and is in accordance with law. For the reasons addressed above, the Special Master’s decision is AFFIRMED.

Attorneys for the Cedillos filed an Amicus Brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on 25 January 2010. The Court of Appeals rendered their decision on 27 August 2010.
In conclusion, we have carefully reviewed the decision of the Special Master and we find that it is rationally supported by the evidence, well-articulated, and reasonable. We therefore affirm the denial of the Cedillos’ petition for compensation.

Part of the Cedillo's arguments relied upon the admissibility of Dr. Stephen Bustin's testimony. While the panel for the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit found the admission of Dr. Bustin's testimony "troubling", they did not find cause for reversal.
In our recent decision in Hazlehurst, we specifically addressed this question and held that the failure to exclude the testimony and reports of Dr. Bustin did not constitute reversible error. See Hazlehurst, 604 F.3d at 1348-52. In particular, we concluded that the Special Master’s decision to admit and consider Dr. Bustin’s testimony was “in full accord with the principle of fundamental fairness” under Vaccine Rule 8(b)(1) and did not “contravene[] the purpose[] of the Vaccine Act” to avoid proceedings resembling tort litigation.

Curiously, it was the Cedillo's admission of the Unigenitics Laboratory results validity which compelled the HHS to seek rebuttal evidence.
As we noted in Hazlehurst, “[a]lthough not obligated to do so, the petitioners chose to introduce the Unigenetics data and thus placed its validity squarely at issue. Fairness dictated that the government be given an opportunity to refute that critical evidence.” Id. at 1349.

To further the baselessness of this particular complaint by the Cedillos was the fact that they were provided a year to procure relevant documentation from the U.K. regarding Dr. Stephen Bustin's testimony of the Unigenetics Laboratory audit he had conducted, but failed to do so. This, even in light of the fact that Special Master Hastings and the Department of Justice offered their assistance to the PSC.
Second, petitioners did not request that the Special Master apply Rule 26 or order the government to secure the underlying information.
Third, petitioners themselves did not seek to access the data from the UK court, nor did they examine Dr. Bustin as to the current location of the data he relied upon in creating his reports. In the Special Master’s evidentiary ruling denying petitioners’ motion to exclude Bustin’s reports and testimony, he encouraged petitioners’ counsel to seek the underlying data from the UK court, and pledged to join any request. Thereafter, the Special Master then gave petitioners over a year to petition the British court for access to the information. Petitioners also requested that the OAP Special Masters provide a letter supporting a possible request, which the Special Masters did. Petitioners considered making such a request from the UK court, but never did so. They contend that British counsel informed them that it was unlikely that the UK court would permit disclosure of the expert reports without the consent of the experts, which petitioners stated that they could not obtain. But Dr. Bustin did consent to the release of his reports. Once his consent
for the release of his reports had been obtained by the government, there is no reason why the data underlying his reports could not also have been requested.

It appears as though the PSC wilfully shoot themselves in the foot and then expect laws and procedures to change to accommodate their own incompetence. The rest of the frivolity of the claims by the petitioners for a 'do over' and subsequent decision by the Federal Circuit of Appeals is best summed up with the following statement:
Petitioners also contend that the Special Master abused his discretion in “ignor[ing]” certain concessions made by the government’s experts or in “refus[ing] to consider” certain evidence. However, the Special Master did not ignore relevant testimony and explicitly considered the evidence in question with a few limited exceptions. Petitioners primarily argue that the Special Master considered, but erroneously declined to credit, certain evidence, or to draw from it conclusions favorable to petitioners. We have reviewed petitioners’ arguments and we find them to be unpersuasive. In the Special Master’s careful and thorough opinion, he considered, weighed, and stated his reasons for rejecting or discounting each item of evidence in which the petitioners relied. With respect to many of petitioners’ claims of error, no discussion is necessary because there is no possible basis for the claim of error.

In other words, the petitioners' arguments amounted to a lot of foot-stomping because Special Master Hastings did not find their experts nor evidence at all compelling, even in light of the fact that Special Master Hastings qualified each and every statement he made regarding the PSC's expert testimony and evidence.
This case, as with Hazelhurst vs. HHS has been heard 3 times examining various parameters and none have affirmed that the petitioners have presented a compelling case, nor have any reversible legal errors been committed by the presiding Special Masters.

We wish the Cedillos and other petitioners of the OAP the very best and can somehow, accept these decisions in order to move on with their lives. While it is possible that the Cedillos may opt to appeal to the United States Supreme court, it is our rather non-legal opinion that they won't even hear it and it is time for the Cedillos and other families like them to stop being used by interested parties to further their agenda.

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