Progressive policy and fundamentalist resistence

A close look at the rejection of evidence and application of religious belief as guiding principles for members of the Negative team, in debating if drugs should be legalised. Jade Lewis, Greg Pike and Paul Sheehan.
Last post we looked at the debate All drugs should be legalised held by Intelligence Squared. One of the greatest moral, social and human rights based questions today is: Should illicit drugs be legalised?
We ask this question because the harm caused at the community and personal level by prohibition is irrefutable. To this we can add the devastating effects of The War On Drugs – crafted initially by Nixon on the back of the Vietnam war. Few realise the first head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration had his office in Saigon. Returning veterans had to produce clean urine to show they were not using heroin.
Once begun, this foreign policy bonanza worked much like Dr. Whoʼs “psychic paper” pass. Flash it at a sentry and they read whatever convinces them of ones legitimacy. But more so was the USAʼs powerful control over the UNODCP and hence, UN drug policy. Most in the Western world have knowledge of Harm Reduction. The acceptance that punitive measures for drug users ultimately inflicts personal, monetary and social cost on the wider community, and accepting use whilst minimising harm reaps benefits for all.
For this reason nations who focus on evidence and the international right to health provide clean needles through NSPʼs – needle and syringe programmeʼs. Safe injecting facilities are provided increasingly in Europe and elsewhere. Australia has over 1,000 NSPʼs and one Medically Supervised Injecting Facility – MSIC – in Kings Cross, Sydney.
These programmeʼs and facilities serve to manage high risk behaviour, control the spread of blood borne viruses, motivate/provide for users to seek treatment, and they meet community discontent arising from obvious illicit drug use. Most users can return to work, pay taxes, raise a family and remain healthy. But what of intractable addiction? More recently several heroin on prescription schemes in Europe have shown dramatic results in reducing crime, death/illness, uptake of heroin use and length of heroin addiction. Portugal has full decriminalisation and demonstrates a resounding success to date.
Once world leaders in harm reduction, Australia was ready to be the first nation since the War On Drugs began to introduce a heroin on prescription trial in 1997. Despite State government sanction of 6-3, John Howard personally intervened to stop this, and weʼve been backsliding ever since. The rise of Christian Evangelical lobbyists has caused bemusement, angst and disgust.
Australiaʼs full policy is Harm Minimisation – HM. Supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction. Zero Tolerance has only ever been rhetoric. Harm reduction is the least funded, with the struggle to repel supply and the education and (usually failed) advertisements thrust at young Australianʼs taking the two highest shares respectively.
Those who resist drug legalisation seek to distort the argument by misrepresenting the success of harm minimisation. Indeed despite overall reduction in drug use they fraudulently and falsely argue that HM encourages, condones, increases or has no positive effect on use. Attacks on successful initiatives with peacock terminology and weasel worded opinion pieces are common. Published as “research” these are brought up time and again.
In the case of Drug Free Australiaʼs Case For Closure [PDF] against the MSIC, written during itʼs trial status, it is simply rehashed, republished and recirculated. One speaker, Greg Pike is co-author and “statistical analyst”. Greg is best known from his role as Director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, which presently promotes his part in the upcoming debate. Another co-author is the infamous “naltrexone fatality” doctor, Stuart Reece. Embattled DFA secretary Gary Christian is another.
You may wonder why, if supply and demand reduction are funded more than harm reduction, that such groups attack harm reduction – HR. My psychological profiling days may be behind me, but this is clear. HR already attracts right wing condemnation and is easy to misrepresent. The evil druggie and his/her filthy lifestyle is a false pop culture phenomenon. However, conservative Christians cast HR in pop culture format usually in the context of blaming HM. Enter the suggestion of why we need demand reduction. Young Aussies take drugs. Kids from all walks of life. From all faith backgrounds.
For the religiously conservative mind this is an affront. An insult to parenting skills, the instillation of Christian values and indeed, Godʼs work. God “cures” addiction. He does not leave vacuums of vulnerability, in the mind of the fundamentalist. Thus HM in totality is an affront to conservative Christians. Overlaying this is the fear of the success of HR education. An analogue of sex education and condom availability, no proper child would fail to just say no to sex and drugs – or rock n roll for that matter. With two down, supply reduction must be increased along with punitive measures for users. And DFA are adamant they speak for “all Australians”, promoting behaviour control: Harm Prevention.
Another speaker and DFA identity – whose intentions I kind of understand – Jade Lewis wants a drug free Australia, [surprise!] through application of biblical values and the never ending sale of her “story” on DVD. Not your story, or the story of drug policy, or evidence based material – her amazing religious conversion. Jade is ruthlessly exploited by DFA. The excessively priced, only-seen-if-you-buy-it DVD, “Golden Haze” earned Jade the title “The goose that laid the golden haze” – (more on Jade later).

Greg Pike
Greg is co-author of the Case for Closure and a crusader against humane or progressive policy and free choice. His “bioethics institute” gig is a misleading peacock in some of today’s most pressing health issues. Abortion to him is of course, murder and at one time he claimed – as a research outcome – most women do not want choice. His argument against euthanasia once included the appalling claim that a patient travelled to Switzerland – with others – to die with dignity, as “… a case of someone wanting to pursue death under activist like circumstances.” [ABC 7:30 Report Feb. 2007].

Greg Pike

The right to die for the terminally ill is supported by as many as 85% of Aussies according to some polls. The reluctance of politicians shows the grip of the Australian Christian Lobby on vote wary parties. Prior to the above debacle, Pike wrote “Once the killing starts, there’s no stopping it” in January 2007. It included;

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All Drugs Should Be Legalised – Intelligence Squared Debate

On May 10th this year Intelligence Squared – the forum for live debate – hosted All Drugs Should Be Legalised in Sydney Australia.
You can watch the video alone here, or check out the audio here. They note on their website.
In most cases, prohibition has failed to curb demand and the provision of illicit drugs has become the lucrative trade of organised crime – with the associated ills of corruption, violence and health risks.
Some people urge tighter restrictions on all recreational drugs as the cure for social ills linked to their use and abuse. Others argue that all drugs should be legal – subject only to prudent regulation.
Below are the pre and post debate audience figures for All drugs should be legalised.
Question Pre-debate poll Post-debate poll
For: 46.8% 69%
Undecided: 32.3% 8%
Against: 20.9% 23%
Well prior to this debate, I was struck (to put it mildly) at the makeup of the negative team. Decorated veterans from The Enemies of Reason army, I felt more disappointment than the outrage I expected would engulf me. It was clear those bastions of moral evangelism and anti-drug hysteria, Drug Free Australia had quite likely been called upon to muster a good riposte to the ever expanding evidence supporting a change in policy. Like calling upon conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccination lobbyist Meryl Dorey of the AVN for “balance” one can rest assured DFA, enamored with pseudoscience, could fill the anti-drug niche. For “balance” if you like.
My next post will be my own biography of the negative team. These guys have a lot in common and I feel it’s only just to point out the “incestuous” relationship that manifests as informed opinion, but is in fact a superstitious, narrow and morality based attack on secular Australia, progressive policy, free thought, free choice, human rights and individuality. Yet my disappointment in “releasing the hounds”, so to speak stems from the fact I myself can argue against legalisation for reasons never mentioned here. Yet they tend to be reasons on variations of legality and access. Or concerns over black markets. Or solutions proffered by other pro legalisation movements. Australia is unique. Great arguments come from Norm Stamper and his colleagues at LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. But we don’t have shoot outs in suburban streets and thankfully, haven’t tortured and jailed our civilians at the rate the USA has. We already have Harm Reduction – we just need more. Period.
The negative team is:
Jade Lewis is a former drug addict who now campaigns and educates against use of illegal drugs. As a young teenager she was a champion junior athlete who competed internationally, and won the WA Doug Hancy Award, Athlete of the Year and Junior Sportswoman of the Year. Her records remain unbeaten in Western Australia. Her later heroin addiction, criminal behaviour and volatile relationships are recorded in her book, Golden Haze. She now educates at schools on positive relationships and runs a program for women prisoners.
Dr Greg Pike is the Director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in Adelaide, South Australia where he focuses primarily on the influence of bioethics on public policy development. He trained as a physiologist with a PhD in muscle electrophysiology, becoming Hospital Research Scientist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in the Department of Surgery. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Australian Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Program and a member of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, has served as a Deputy Member on the SA Council on Reproductive Technology and was a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee for the 2006-09 triennium.
Paul Sheehan is one of the most thought-provoking commentators in Australia today. A columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, Sheehan is a prominent writer and has written on the bigger debate about the politics of cultural diversity in contemporary Australia. He is one of Australia’s best-selling authors with three best-selling books including, most recently, the number-one best-seller, Girls Like You.
The positive team is:
Nicholas Cowdery AM QC BA LLB was the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions running the largest prosecuting agency in Australia from 1994 to 2011. He became a Barrister in 1971 and was Public Defender in Papua New Guinea for four years. As a Barrister in private practice in Sydney, he specialised in criminal law appearing in many high profile cases including the prosecutions of the late Justice Lionel Murphy (of the High Court of Australia) and of the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (former Premier of the State of Queensland). He is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and the Advisory Committee, Sydney Institute of Criminology and the National Advisory Committee, Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, University of Wollongong. He is the author of Getting Justice Wrong: myths, media and crime.
Wendy Harmer is a prominent Australian broadcaster, entertainer and veteran of countless international comedy festivals. She has presented top-rating morning radio and has hosted, written and appeared in a wide variety of TV shows including ABC’s Big Gig and In Harmer’s Way. Harmer is the author of several books for adults, two plays and a series of children’s books. She has also hosted the television Logie Awards and has been a regular newspaper and magazine contributor.
Dr Alex Wodak AM is a physician and has been Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent’s Hospital since 1982. His major interests include prevention of HIV among injecting drug users, treatment of drug users and drug policy reform. Dr Wodak is President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and was President of the International Harm Reduction Association (1996-2004). He helped establish the first needle syringe program (1986) and the first medically supervised injecting centre (1999) in Australia when both were pre-legal. Dr Wodak helped establish the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (1987) and the Australian needle syringe program annual survey (1995).
It’s clear drug law reform has manifest merit. This by no means suggests a simple reverse of policy or free for all is justified. Managing existing problems through evidence based approaches is the avenue needed. This is not the “handouts to children’ moral panic we’re often misled with. Whilst it’s true alcohol is far more damaging to individuals and society – something we ignore handing out ever more lenient licences – I don’t think the “my buzz vs your buzz” argument applies here, either. Prohibition is an abysmal failure to be sure. Indeed the sole cause of illicit drug induced tragedy. However because this can be demonstrated in a crisp top down, if not straight linear fashion doesn’t assuaged the reality that reversing this insult to our species is a complicated bottom up process that will have set backs, loud opposition and unforeseen hurdles and successes. Fortunately other nations have taken the step. Portugal is finding great success after a decade and now Poland is moving toward legalisation.
Today we struggle with drugs unheard of when this open door to profit was gifted to organised crime. Not only is there fantasy, ecstasy, mephadrone and a repulsive mix in between of these amphetamine type stimulants, but so much profit ensues that clandestine production is the norm. This has given us crystal methamphetamine and hydroponic cannabis. Our media and politicians score an E and an F for Epic Failure and in the main deserve our disgust and derision. That newspapers can be sold with articles gloating over and baying for blood for problems they themselves have in no small way contributed to beggars belief. That elected politicians pander to Christian Lobbies or their own retarded opinions, rather than serve the community that placed them in office is undemocratic.
Along the way, police have fallen to corruption and far, far worse. Prominent informers in cases of police involvement in production, selling and underworld murders have themselves been murdered. Far from a case of “they deserved it”, as crown witnesses under police and custodial maximal protection their deaths signify an attack on the very heart of our justice system. As I write the head of Barwon prison, David Prideaux is missing on a hunting trip in the Victorian Alps. This report came in a few minutes ago.
I can confirm Prideaux is a high profile witness in the murder of Carl Williams who was bashed to death in the most secure section of the most secure jail in the state whilst under 24 hour watch. Williams in turn was preparing to give evidence into the murder of informant Terry Hodgson. Hodgson was preparing to give information into the theft of pseudo-ephedrine allegedly by himself and Drug Squad officer Paul Dale. In the case of the two informers, police had leaked documents to underworld figures outlining their intentions. Hodgson was under police guard in a safe house, with all security details – alarms, lights, locks etc, known only to police. Investigations showed he and his wife were shot in the back of the head, kneeling, after letting someone in to the safe house.

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SensaSlim jockeying for credibility

When Today Tonight reported on jokey Wanderson D’Avila suing the makers of a seemingly gimmicky weight loss spray for riding under weight, viewers were reassured that lawyers for both sides claimed it “wasn’t a publicity stunt”.
“It couldn’t be better publicity for a spray that’s made the headlines for all the right reasons”, grinned reporter Damien Hansen. How fast things change with SensaSlim now making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On June 1st, A Current Affair reported on “the slimming spray swindle” with investors claiming that a mere fraction of promised marketing and advertising actually eventuated. This left them unable to sell the product and may well explain why genuine SensaSlim is available on eBay for as little as $26:00 plus $7:70 postage. This is well under the $69:95 plus Air freight costs that SensaSlim are seeking on their website and markedly less than retail.
“They took us absolutely hook, line and sinker”, said advertising consultant Jack Singleton. He is owed $20,000 by SensaSlim – money he considers lost. What also stood out was the theme now dogging SensaSlim from Europe to Australia. That the much touted evidence is nowhere to be seen. As such the claims of research, subject numbers and results are simply hearsay. Effectively a slogan. As ACA rolled on SensaSlim credibility was challenged further.
Three of SensaSlim’s five ingredients are the same as SlimMist – one of the weight loss scams of once jailed Aussie fraudster and conman, Peter Foster. Going after SensaSlim further ACA noted that their head office is in Switzerland as was SlimMist and their use of twins in promotion was also a feature of one of Foster’s illegal dalliances. None of this is to be construed as conclusive evidence of a scam. It may all quite likely be coincidence. However, the absence of SensaSlim Australia’s Managing Director, Peter O’Brien, didn’t help “the world’s number one weight loss product”.
Indeed, the presence of Peter O’Brien hasn’t done the SensaSlim reputation any good either. As you can read in the previous post republished with permission from Dr. Ken Harvey, he is being sued for defamation after submitting a complaint about SensaSlim’s grandiose yet unverifiable promotional claims. This complaint was submitted to the Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). These bodies deal with complaints about the relevant Advertising Code, Goods Act and Competition and Consumer Goods Act respectively.
Dr. Harvey is one of seven complainants. ACA reporter Justin Armsden sought to speak with two complainants both of whom are being sued for defamation by SensaSlim. As such they are unable to comment. However Armsden did some “digging” and presented two affidavits submitted to the NSW Supreme Court by Managing Director Peter O’Brien – the plaintiff. Here’s where things get interesting.
The witness to both affidavits is listed as Richard Scott Cooper and they are apparently signed by him. A cursory glance at an overlay of both signatures shows they are not the same.
different signatures by richard cooper

The mismatched affidavit witness signatures

Furthermore his capacity as witness is listed as “solicitor”. Yet Cooper was barred from practicing in NSW in 1990. There is not another Richard Cooper, Solicitor, registered in Australia. Cooper did some consultancy work for SensaSlim leaving the country in February this year. The documents were filed in April and May this year. Richard Cooper confirms that one signature is “definitely” not his. It is unclear how valid the other is.
We’ll get back to ACA and meet the erstwhile (and rather angry) Medical Research Director of SensaSlim, Dr Matthew Capehorn in due time. First, let’s review the Today Tonight segment involving jockey Wanderson D’Avila which, thanks again to Peter O’Brien, has made the news just recently. On June 5th O’Brien published an advertisement in The Sunday Advertiser.
Headed “Thank you for suing us” it has been positively covered on news site Australia.to. The most recent article on June 5th was written by one… Peter O’Brien. I have no idea if there is any relation, but the article is published under the sites “Your Say” URL. Both the advertisement and the article may be a subliminal riposte to the ACA revelations. The ad’ is self explanatory, whilst the article broaches the claim that the jockey of Black Caviar uses SensaSlim as his “secret weapon”, now with the added benefit of calming nerves.
The jockey of super horse Black Caviar has admitted using the controversial slimming spray as his secret weapon allowing him to calm his nerves, forget about food cravings and focus on Black Caviar, but critics warn that this could lead to unexpected excess weight loss and potential disqualification.
“I am aware of the law suit, but the benefits outweigh the risks,” Nolen said. “This has been a lifeline to many jockeys.”
The O’Brien article claims the advertisement is a risky strategy that has “lawyers scratching their heads”. I disagree. The chances of Wanderson D’Avila being able to prove a causal relationship between losing an extra 800 grams and the correlating use of an as yet unproven agent are highly remote. However. Peter O’Brien – either one – may need to be aware that the advertisement lacks a Complimentary Healthcare Council number. According to both the CHC and the ACCC such accreditation aims to provide,
“reliable and quality advice and information to our members, government, key stakeholders, the media and consumers.”
There’s absolutely no ambiguity there. SensaSlim appear not to be members and not accountable to CHC obligations.
In closing, we can for now, be confident of one further black mark against SensaSlim.
thank you for suing us ad

From The Sunday Mail - June 5th, 2011

                        Today Tonight on Wanderson D’Avila

The SensaSlim Affair – by Ken Harvey

Dr. Ken Harvey is an adjunct senior lecturer in the School of Public Health, La Trobe University, well known for his ethical stance against unproven and grandiose claims that often accompany alternative medicines and bizarre therapies. In fact on December 6th last year “Pharma in Focus” revealed that “up to 90% of complementary medicines reviewed by the TGA do not comply with regulatory requirements”. He has also carved a niche for himself through educating skeptics and advocates of evidence based medicine as to what are arguably shortfalls of current regulatory guidelines.

© Dr. Ken Harvey

On March 18, 2011 I submitted my first complaint about the promotion of SensaSlim to appropriate authorities; the Complaint Resolution Panel (CRP) who hear complaints about alleged breaches of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2007, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), who administer the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who administer the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
This complaint, and at least six others sent to the CRP by other people, alleged that the promotion of SensaSlim on the Internet, TV and in shops breached numerous sections of the above regulations.
My initial complaint had been worked up with the help of several pharmacists. In addition, specific promotion was directed at pharmacists to encourage them to stock and sell this product. Thus, on March 31, 2011 AusPharm published a brief but accurate account of the complaint detailing concerns about the claims made.
Later that day both AusPharm and I received a letter from the SensaSlim Australia Pty. Ltd, titled, “Notice of Intention to Commence Proceedings”. This, and subsequent communications from SensaSlim Australia Pty Ltd, threatened legal action against AusPharm and myself; initially aimed at removing the material on AusPharm, but subsequently (after AusPharm complied) threatening both my university and me with legal action unless my complaint was withdrawn.
My university could not be joined in the threatened legal action because the conditions of my Adjunct appointment were clear,
“During the period of this appointment you will receive no remuneration from La Trobe University. Nothing in this offer creates or implies an employment relationship between you and the University”.
I declined to withdraw my complaint. Whereupon, on April 19, 2011 a “Statement of claim” was issued against me in the NSW Supreme Court alleging that my complaint was defamatory and claiming “general and punitive damages for libel in the sum of $800,000.00”, plus costs.
This action had the effect of stopping the CRP from hearing all complaints about SensaSlim due to Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990 42ZCAJ (2),
“If, after a complaint has been made to the Panel, a proceeding begins in a court about the subject matter of the complaint, the Panel cannot deal with the complaint until the proceeding is finally disposed of”.
I have now learnt that the CRP did make a determination about the promotion of SensaSlim in response to an anonymous complaint submitted in late January, 2011. The CRP agreed that the SensaSlim promotion breached multiple provisions of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The determination was posted on http://www.tgacrp.com.au on March 30, 2011 for less than one hour before it was taken down in response to a representation from SensaSlim Australia Pty Ltd. However, this determination was downloaded during this time and can be found here.
I have also been made aware of SensaSlim Newsletter No. 42 from Adam T. Adams which states in relation to the above,
“Last week Peter O’Brien was at his desk until 11pm the night before the CRP were to reconsider the matter, and back at 5 a.m., drafting, redrafting and writing a 9 page submission. With the assistance of his legal team and SensaSlim in London’s lawyers a very comprehensive submission was written stating that the CRP had absolutely no justification at law in adjudicating on the matter since the company had filed an $800,000.00 defamation lawsuit against Dr. Ken Harvey. You see, it is written in Law that if the subject matter of the complaint is currently the subject of court proceedings, then the CRP are unable to adjudicate”.
“This defamation action, which could be in the courts for a year or two or even longer, basically gives an iron clad protection that nobody can raise a complaint against SensaSlim to the CRP and hurt us. There are nine complaints that were received in a three day period two weeks ago. These were not complaints by members of the public, but clever legal crafted arguments by people acting on behalf of our competitors and big pharmaceutical companies. These are the same people who have written to the CHC [Complementary HealthCare Council] to delay and hinder our progress and having our advertisements approved. And they also wrote to the TGA. But let me say this. We will not allow their dirty tactics defeat us. We had a very big win this week with the determination by the CRP that they cannot adjudicate on any matters pertaining to SensaSlim.”
My own lawyers filed a notice of motion in the NSW Supreme Court seeking orders to have the SensaSlim claim struck out and the proceedings dismissed because they disclose no reasonable cause for the action. In addition, my lawyers asked for an order that the plaintiff pay the defendants’ costs. These matters are now before the Court.
Meanwhile, the issues raised have been ventilated by the ABC “Health Report“, the “Croaky Health blog“, the Australian Skeptics and, last night, Channel SEVEN’s “todaytonight” and Channel NINE’s, “A Current Affair“.
The Medical Research Director of SensaSlim, Dr Matthew Capehorn, has now resigned. He stated,
“Despite requests, I have never seen evidence of the original clinical trial, and it has never been published in a peer reviewed medical journal. Therefore, the White Paper holds no scientific relevance, until that original trial is published”. “It has not been published at the European Congress of Obesity in Istanbul as suggested recently” and “video interviews were put on the SensaSlim website, without my approval or opportunity to review the content”.
As of today, SensaSlim is still listed on the TGA’s Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (no: 1760039) which allows it to continue to be legally sold, it’s still actively promoted on numerous Australian Internet sites and Dr Capehorn is still featured spruiking the product.
There are a number of lessons that need to be drawn from this case study.
First, one might have hoped that university trained health professionals (Dr Capehorn and numerous Australian pharmacists) would have been more discerning in their assessment of the evidence for this ‘dietary aid’; but perhaps the return on investment offered was more compelling?
Second, one might have expected that the TGA would have responded to previous calls to look more rigorously at complementary medicines before they are listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
Failing that, on receipt of well documented complaints, surely the TGA could have rapidly removed this product from the ARTG which would have made continued sales illegal? Ironically, the TGA have yet to respond to queries and complaints about this product that were sent to them direct. Perhaps the Pan Pharmaceutical class action has made the TGA more cautious about taking such action?
Finally, we are left with the ACCC, whom I understand have been investigating this matter for some time but are not yet ready to inform us of their findings.
It seems a sad reflection on the regulators that we are dependent upon complainants, investigative journalists, blogs, skeptics and pharmacy web sites to get the message out.

Written by Dr. Ken Harvey June 5th, 2011 and initially published on Medreach. Republished here with permission.


You can help Dr. Ken Harvey navigate this challenge by emailing Australian Skeptics, who have begun a programme to assist Dr. Harvey meet the financial burden. Simply email supportken [at] skeptics [dot] com [dot] au with a phone number and your pledge.

There is also a Facebook page run by supporters of Ken Harvey where you can find out more on this topic and have a look at the unique management of SensaSlim members who ask probing questions on Facebook.

The “Groundbreaking” Vaccine-Autism Investigation Release of May 10th 2011

“You cannot hold the truth back forever. And when that dam breaks, the flood will wash away those who have suppressed these facts to the detriment of our kids. It is time for the piper to be paid.” Meryl Dorey: President of The Australian Vaccination Network Inc, May 10th, 2011
Around the first week of May a “major investigation” breakthrough was promised by USA lawyers and anti-vaccine identities acting for certain parents, supposedly claiming to have been compensated for vaccine induced autism. Reported irresponsibly here by FOX News , the much touted “proof” was proffered by a team headed by Mary Holland. Mary is co-author of Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children.
A document compiling these Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) data would “blow the lid off” the vaccine-autism controversy. The number of cases were rumoured to be 80 plus – not “hundreds, possibly thousands”, as Meryl Dorey claimed many days later on 102.9 KOFM – see below.
The release was due to happen on May 10th. From Lisa Jo Rudy writing for About.com;
“Findings on autism and the vaccine court to be released today”
Investigators from Pace Law School in New York will be joined by parents and children with autism to announce a groundbreaking study that strongly suggests a link between vaccines and autism on Tuesday, May 10 at 12:00 pm in front of the US Court of Claims (717 Madison Place in Washington DC).
The study, which was carried out using readily available, public government data, found that a substantial number of children who have been compensated for vaccine injury by the federal government have autism – more than three times the national prevalence.
However, as the government publicly denies a link between autism and vaccines and claims these individuals have been compensated for brain damage and seizures, of which autism is often a symptom, this study casts a serious doubt on previous findings by the government regarding vaccine safety. This is the first time this study is being unveiled.The investigators will be calling upon Congress to immediately investigate the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and plan to hold Congressional briefings.
We’ll return to Lisa Jo directly.
Some clarification:
The USA National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, the associated Act and Court, serve a vital purpose. The programme quite rightly compensates children who suffer permanent disability from vaccine reactions. It’s absolutely essential. We’re familiar with Wakefield’s fraud, the misconception that autism can be an immediate side effect from vaccination, that autism can be eventually “caused” by vaccination and of course the resulting drop in vaccine coverage as a result of these fears. But we are less familiar with the very real tragedies that effect vaccine injured families – albeit at extremely low rates.
There are no-fault compensation schemes in 19 countries. Australia lags behind somewhat. Germany began theirs in 1961. France 1963, Switzerland 1970, Denmark 1972 and our pals across the Tasman, New Zealand in 1978. A review of international programmes was published earlier this year by Looker and Kelly – doi:10.2471/BLT.10.081901.
At time of writing an editorial was published today, May 6th, online in the Medical Journal of Australia – eMJA. Published by Kelly, Looker and Isaacs it is entitled, A no-fault compensation scheme for serious adverse events attributed to vaccination. Referring to the WHO criteria for adverse events following immunisation – AEFI – it suggests our “enviable reputation” in this area could be improved by better monitoring and a no-fault compensation scheme.
Such a programme would offer much to silence the appalling manipulation of media outlets, spread of misinformation and the many characteristics of outright offence orchestrated by the anti-vaccination lobby. Immediately we see adverse events following immunisation. A favourite of Meryl Dorey of the discredited and misnamed Australian Vaccination Network when interviewed publically is to obfuscate the anti-vaccination stance yet insist vaccination “is not the same as immunisation”. Immunisation is only truly gained from having the disease, whilst vaccination is a pharmaceutical hoax, they argue.
Also in the habit of denying herd that immunity has any protective effect, the AVN would be pushed to explain the following from the MJA editorial.
Any person who is injured while helping to protect the community — for instance, by contributing to herd immunity, such that there are sufficiently many people immunised to prevent widespread disease transmission within the community — should not bear the consequences of injury alone. In essence, the community owes a debt of gratitude to that person.
However, as important as acknowledging vaccine related injuries do occur and deserve compensation is, we must be careful to place them in context. Risk-benefit ratio is the key here. One is far more likely to die or be maimed doing housework or changing a light globe than be injured at all by any vaccine.
Looking at the graph below, we see encephalitis effects children at a rate of 1 in 1000 – 5000 measles cases and 1 in 1 million MMR jabs. Meningitis is similar for MMR, but presents a 5000 times greater risk for measles cases. “Convulsions” are documented as RSD; Residual Seizure Disorder in the USA.
measles mumps risk benefit chart from the encephalitis society
Source: The Encephalitis Society http://www.encephalitis.info/
Read page one here. Read page two here. Read the full document here.
Autism ‘epidemic’:
The apparent “epidemic” claimed to be caused by the ethyl mercury containing vaccine preservative thimerosal, then the “number” of vaccines and now just vaccination itself (as each cause is shown to be wrong) is very likely due to diagnostic criteria.
A recent survey study in the UK, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, May 5th, used todays diagnostic criteria on adults. Of all new cases, not one knew they had autism. Using todays criteria, children present with 10 cases in 1000. Adults, 9.8 cases in 1000. This tells us volumes about exploitation of the fear factor by anti-vaccine lobbyists. Autism for most, conjures disturbing images. In fact since Autism Spectrum Disorder became accepted we saw the growth of many expressions including High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, and the decline of less pleasant terms such as “retarded”, “mental”, “slow”, “special”, “difficult” and so on.
This was summed up in the opening sentence of articles reporting on these findings: “Not a single person identified with autism or asperger’s syndrome during a community survey in England actually knew they had the condition, research led by the University of Leicester reveals.” See:
“Most adults with autism go undiagnosed” AlphaGalileo
“University of Leicester researchers present further evidence from first ever general population survey of autism in adulthood.” Disabled World
“Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults in the Community in England.” Archives of General Psychiatry  –  doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.38
Nonetheless, with a population approaching 310 million in the USA it is expected that the VICP will be required to pay no fault compensation for life time care of steadily increasing numbers of vaccine injured children. My guess with the Mary Holland team’s grandiose promises was that something unscrupulous was afoot and legitimate encephalitis cases were being exploited. Arguably this is true for certain elements – such as Age of Autism, The Australian Vaccination Network and Generation Rescue. Personally, I conclude that “autism-like symptoms” are no doubt tragic but do not conclusively prove causality of, or existing autism.
The other concern was use of phrases like “parents of children with autism who received compensation from VICP” would speak. But we need to see “children who received compensation from VICP because of their autism… [or] … as a result of developing autism”, before one can begin to accept any claimed causal link.
Unanswered Questions:
Back to Lisa Jo Rudy. On May 11th she wrote Update on vaccination court raises questions, noting that The Pace Law School had contacted her and asked about her previous article.
I just heard from a representative from the Public Relations department at Pace University School of Law. She wondered why a press release cited in my earlier blog would say that members of their law school had been involved with the investigation into and presentation of “Unanswered Questions From the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury,” when there was no such involvement in either the investigation or the presentation.
I did respond to Danielle Orsino, who sent out the press release, asking the question:
Were there cases in which the vaccine court awarded a settlement for damage that manifested itself as the symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder? Was the term “autism” ever used to describe the outcome of vaccine damage (eg, “the child suffered from neurological damage resulting in autism”)?
Danielle responded quickly, saying “The study strongly suggests a link between autism and vaccines. The study found that of those who had been compensated for brain damage due to vaccines, a much-higher-than-average number also had autism. The study makes an extremely strong case for the vaccine-autism connection, which is why the study’s authors are urging Congress to investigate the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.”
This response seems to suggest that the simple answer to my question is “no”.
Not much ambiguity there. Iʼd suggest: No causal relationship between vaccines and autism as it would be accepted by the medical, legal and academic community.

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