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Blogger Subpoenaed for Criticizing Trial Lawyers 500

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lookin-for-a-free-ride dept.
Cutie Pi writes "Katherine Seidel, mother of an autistic child and an avid blogger has been subpoenaed for her "family's bank records, tax returns, autism-related medical and educational records, and every communication concerning all of the issues to which [she] has devoted [her] attention and energy in recent years." The lawyer in question is representing a mother who is suing Bayer for $20M with the claim that mercury in their vaccines caused her child's autism. In her blog Seidel has spoken out against lawyers trying to cash in on thimerosal lawsuits, noting that the thimerosal-autism link has been debunked in several studies. But Seidel herself has had no direct involvement in the lawsuit."
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Blogger Subpoenaed for Criticizing Trial Lawyers

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  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:24PM (#23039878) Journal
    These people are angry and want something to take their frustrations out on. The fact that no studies provide any evidence of a link between the vaccines and autism is an minor inconvenience to be ignored!

    Scumbag lawyers, shoddy science, willfully ignorant and upset parents - it's a perfect combination.

  • by R1Lawrence (1271570) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:26PM (#23039890)
    This is the worst of what our legal system allows. Now this woman is forced to hire an attorney just to defend her right to free speech. It makes me sick!
  • by rbphilip (530254) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:26PM (#23039892)
    Except, of course, that there is no evidence that vaccines harm children. Or adults.
  • by brianf711 (873109) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:28PM (#23039924)
    What do you think the cost-benefit ratio is for reducing measles, mumps, polio, small pox, diptheria, strep pneumonia, N. meningitis HPV, etc? Between that and no known link between vaccination and autism, I think such a belief against vaccinations is one not based on evidence and one that is not reasonable.
  • Lawyers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by njmarine2001 (946297) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:29PM (#23039934)
    Practicing the finest abuses of perceived power man has ever known.
  • by Naughty Bob (1004174) * on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:32PM (#23039968)
    The guy who started all of this, Andrew Wakefield, now practices in the US, having been effectively kicked out of the UK medical scene.

    He is clearly addicted to the idea of being a superstar doctor, and doesn't mind how many hopes, dreams and desperate parents he abuses along the way.

    As science becomes debased in popular culture, by everything from homeopathy to astrology to religion, tragedies like this one will be the consequence.

    We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.
  • by Surt (22457) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:36PM (#23040016) Homepage Journal

    This is the worst of what our legal system allows. Now this woman is forced to hire an attorney just to defend her right to free speech. It makes me sick!
    This is not what she is doing. Her right to free speech is not being interfered with. In fact, what the lawyer in question seems to be seeking is the documentation on which her free speech is based, so if anything this might be closer to a press shield law issue.
  • by vinn01 (178295) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:39PM (#23040052)
    The lawyer may be a sick farker, but the judge who allows this, without sanction, is even sicker.

    Third party subpoenas should be looked at under a microscope for relevance. This lady didn't manufacture, sell, or administrate the vaccine in question. What does she have to do with the underlying lawsuit?
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:40PM (#23040070) Journal
    Unfortunately people are not rational, and when they're child is stricken by such a disorder, rather than simply accepting that in a world full of luck good, bad and indifferent, they want to strike out, to make someone pay. There are plenty of things in the world that cause damage to children, but other than the odd bad batch, vaccines are not among them, at least as far as autism goes.
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:40PM (#23040072) Homepage
    Well, if Silent Spring was shown to be a crock, and people still bring it up as a bogeyman.... then yes, it's just like the vaccines (shown to be a crock, but with people still bringing it up as a bogeyman...) This just makes the comparison more valid! =)
  • by D Ninja (825055) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:43PM (#23040108)

    We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.
    If said geeks do not have experience of dealing with the real world, no amount of intelligence will solve these social issues. (And, of course, being a geek != intelligence, but that's beside the point.)
  • by eln (21727) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:44PM (#23040116) Homepage
    It's even worse than that. The anti-vaccine movement operates much like a cult. It takes people who are in a situation where they feel isolated, helpless, and angry, and they give these people a strong support community that will not only alleviate their feelings of isolation and helplessness, but give them a boogeyman to lash out at. Once someone is in a community like this, they will continue to fight for the cause no matter how much evidence is stacked against them.

    It's really sad, because these people are risking allowing some truly horrible and often fatal diseases to come back decades after they were virtually wiped out. I'd much rather have a minuscule and totally unproven chance of a few kids getting autism, which is not fatal, than have a virtual certainty of thousands of kids getting fatal and/or permanently disfiguring diseases like pertussis or polio.
  • by wattrlz (1162603) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:46PM (#23040138)
    There's also the issue that if she can't blame someone else the only obvious alternative is to blame herself. Something few people would willingly face the possibility of doing.
  • Subpoenas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrifterCC (673360) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:46PM (#23040144)
    I am not a lawyer, but you just wait about six months.

    The thing to understand about subpoenas is that in most states, once litigation commences, the lawyers (as officers of the court) for each side have the power to issue subpoenas to anyone who might have information relevant to the lawsuit.

    The major limitations on such subpoenas are ethical limitations (attorneys' behavior is governed by a complex but far-from-bright-line set of rules) and the rules against discovery abuse, which can be found at Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b) and elsewhere. The decision to grant sanctions is up to the discretion of the court, which basically means that an appellate court will go with what the judge decides, unless, for example, the discovery sanction is death.

    However, it looks like Ms. Seidel is in good hands lawyer-wise. Her motion to quash the subpoena (the way that one tries to avoid having to comply) hits a lot of different theories and defenses, including the most important one: that the subpoena won't lead to discoverable evidence.

    Postscript of Surprise: The plaintiff's attorney filed the suit in the Eastern District of Virginia, a federal court whose nickname is "The Rocket Docket." The consensus among attorneys is that once you file a case there, you should go ahead and say goodbye to your family for a few months. Rather than let litigation drag out for years, the Rocket Docket judges set -extremely- aggressive discovery schedules. Filing any complaint there is ballsy, no less a thimerosal one, since whether thimerosal causes autism is far from crystal-clear. Long discovery would mean more time for the plaintiff to gather evidence (and for new autism studies to come out).
  • by Oxy the moron (770724) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:48PM (#23040162)

    As a father of an autistic child, I can totally understand an emotional and illogical response to the suggestion of a Thimerosal/autism link. Believe me, at first it had me somewhat enraged as well. In light of some other drugs that have come under fire in past years for either under-delivering on promises or outright harming people that take them, it only makes sense that some people are going to look at a statement like that and say "Oh, look, something *else* the FDA missed!"

    The problem is most people nowadays seem to either 1) lack the capacity to think for themselves (either mentally or as a result of time constraints, etc.) 2) lack the desire to think for themselves. After all, why bother doing that when someone else has already done it for me?

    I also think that both sides are sitting too much in the area of absolutes. It seems that most scientists insist that *every* vaccine is safe for *every* child, and the inverse is true for those who think Thimerosal causes autism. Obviously, just the mere presence of Thimerosal doesn't cause autism, because if it did we'd all be autistic. But at the same time, I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that the large number of vaccines that are administered at once nowadays, along with other possible factors, are at the source.

    Autism can be very difficult to work with as a parent, and I hope they find out the cause/cure soon. But flying off the handle, on either side, isn't going to get it done.

  • by cprael (215426) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:52PM (#23040214)
    She's been given three weeks, give or take, to review virtually every electronic communication or posting, or scrap of paper, that has passed through her life in the last 4 years, and package it _all_ to take the deposition. She isn't even being offered a witness fee.

    It is not "probably" an abuse of the legal system. It is one. It is also overly intrusive, and has a number of other "defects".

    The last time I saw a subpeona like this, the lawyer quickly backed down, because he realized we were going to ask for sanctions for abuse of process as soon as we walked into the courthouse.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:54PM (#23040238) Homepage
    That's an assinine claim. At the very least you have to be worried about potential
    allergen issues with the components of various vaccines. Then there are various
    vaccines which have known "infection" rates.

    The whole POINT of vaccines is to be somewhat harmlful. That's how they work.

    If they were completely inert, they wouldn't do what they are designed for.
  • by WaltBusterkeys (1156557) * on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:55PM (#23040252)
    Sure, fair enough. But the great-grandparent hinted that she was being sued, which is a very different proposition. Being sued would be completely unconscionable.

    Third-party witnesses get subpoenaed all the time. From here, it sure looks like this subpoena is abusive. But I can imagine other contexts (where she had secret documents from the PharmaCos related to the case or something) where it'd be reasonable. THIS subpoena looks abusive and I'd hope that the court looks at sanctions closely. But, not all third party subpoenas are evil.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:56PM (#23040260)
    There's also the issue that if she can't blame someone else the only obvious alternative is to blame herself. Something few people would willingly face the possibility of doing.

    I find it difficult to believe that the parent of an autistic child is to be "blamed." At this stage in the game, no one knows what causes autism so it is too early to asses blame.

  • Not to mention that "Silent Spring" was shown to be a crock.
    Nope. DDT thins bird shells in trace amounts, and has a measurable effect on humans. Notice how it's not sprayed everywhere anymore?

    "Silent Spring" is no more a crock than "Y2K" was. The disaster was averted because America acted.
  • by Bogtha (906264) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:58PM (#23040294)

    Don't get me wrong -- it's still a pain in the butt and it's wrong and probably an abuse of the legal system. But her freedom of speech isn't at risk. She could respond by just giving the documents requested. She shouldn't have to do so, but her speech is in no way at risk.

    It's called a chilling effect [wikipedia.org]. If this is upheld, it will send the message that if you criticise pseudo-science, you are in danger of being dragged before a court and having all your personal details examined for no good reason. It's an undue burden on speech that many people will not be willing to take just to speak out against some kooks.

  • by tthomas48 (180798) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:59PM (#23040312) Homepage
    Scientists don't "insist that *every* vaccine is safe for *every* child". They insist that the small number of side effects in the small number of children is far better than the massive side effects (like death) of having to treat the diseases in large populations including children. They are fully aware that there are going to be a tiny number of kids that have negative reactions to vaccines. That doesn't outweigh the number of deaths that are prevented by getting rid of these diseases.

    And these are planetary efforts. Sure in the US most of these diseases are not going to kill your kid (unless they're born prematurely), but outside the US these childhood diseases are much more serious. Vaccines are for the good of mankind.
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:00PM (#23040324) Homepage Journal
    "It seems that most scientists insist that *every* vaccine is safe for *every* child,"
    Unless a child has an allergy to something in the vaccine, they are.

    "I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that the large number of vaccines that are administered at once nowadays, along with other possible factors, are at the source."

    Actually it is unreasonable.
    It wasn't unreasonable to look at that possibility, but it has been shown not to be the cause many times.

    "Autism can be very difficult to work with as a parent, "
    no doubt, but continuing to say 'maybe' to the vaccine issue doesn't help.

  • by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012@pot a . to> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:05PM (#23040384)

    But her freedom of speech isn't at risk.
    I disagree totally. Yes, they are not asking for her web site to be closed down. But did you actually read the subpoena [neurodiversity.com]?

    They want her bank statements, her canceled checks, her tax returns, and any documents even vaguely related to any issue covered on her web site, including correspondence with her physicians, attorneys, and any member of the government. Imagine how you would feel about giving the last seven years of your correspondence and financial records over to a hostile party.

    And, of course, they want the right to grill her about anything related to any of that, while she pays a couple hundred bucks an hour in legal fees. And for why? Because she has blogged critically about them.

    That doesn't just have an effect on her right to free speech. It has an chilling effect [wikipedia.org] on every blogger who sees themselves as a citizen journalist. Anybody who wants to blog about something important -- or even read blogs like that -- should oppose legal harassment like this.
  • Flashback! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:07PM (#23040428) Journal
    I mean dupe [slashdot.org]!

    Well, not the article so much as the discussion...We've already discussed vaccinations. This should be about overreaching subpoenas, which in this case goes way too far.
  • by Skapare (16644) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:10PM (#23040446) Homepage

    This does put her free speech at risk. That is not necessarily through a process that would order her to stop. Instead, this is a case of harassment and invasion of privacy as a result of her having exercised her free speech rights. It may well be an attempt by Mr. Shoemaker to discourage her from speaking. She, or someone else considering speaking on these matters, may be discouraged from doing so for fear of the costs and invasion of privacy due to such a subpoena.

    If Mr. Shoemaker had believed she had information relevant to the case, he could have simply asked for that. Instead, what he is asking for goes beyond what this case is about. We need to have legal procedures that mandate all subpoenas, even for discovery not carried out in the courtroom, be reviewed by the judge for relevance.

  • by sm62704 (957197) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:10PM (#23040448) Journal
    But her freedom of speech isn't at risk

    Yes it is. Freedom of speech also is the freedom to NOT speak.
  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:13PM (#23040480) Homepage

    I see that this is really the media's fault, to a large degree.

    We got really flimsy evidence of this link, which they trumpeted (because it was "sexy" and brought in eyeballs). When these studies were basically proven false, they got very little mention.

    So now what you see is every once in a while a story is done about these things. They show some doctor saying "that's nonsense, you should be more afraid of scarlet fever." Then you see 4 crying mothers talking about how doctors ruined her kid's life. They are given equal weight.

    So people don't get the right picture. They get a skewed one. They glamorize the "poor mothers" who get outpourings of grief. They play on people's fears. They don't deal with the elephant in the room.

    The people who do these kinds of suits are either really stupid, or not finished grieving. The people that take it this far (make sites devoted to it, sue everyone involved, etc) are quite probably just in the "anger" stage of grief. They are looking for anyone or anything to blame so that it's not their fault, it's not random, etc. People prefer concrete incorrect answers (it's the mercury) to abstract correct answers (some kids just develop that way).

    They don't talk about how these kind of things could be because of grief. They don't talk about how there is basically no evidence. They try to get viewers. The lawyers go for the long shot cash and the good publicity. Both are taking advantage of people operating out of grief.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:15PM (#23040502) Journal
    well ok, they can have a 2 minute deposition wherein they ask her 'are you being paid by the pharmacutical companies?'. Depositions are given under oath (or, at least, lying counts as perjury). If they subsequently believe that she may have lied and can build a reasonable case to show that that may be the case, they can issue a more wide-ranging subpoena later. As it is, they're swanning over and demanding that she prove that she isn't in the pocket of the pharma companies - note that that's asking her to prove a negative, which is basically impossible.
  • The H-word (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:16PM (#23040522)
    This is nothing more than sheer harassment disguised as a blatant fishing expedition.
  • by wattrlz (1162603) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:17PM (#23040540)

    There's also the issue that if she can't blame someone else the only obvious alternative is to blame herself. Something few people would willingly face the possibility of doing. I find it difficult to believe that the parent of an autistic child is to be "blamed." At this stage in the game, no one knows what causes autism so it is too early to asses blame.
    When something tragic happens it's a natural human response to try and assign blame. It doesn't have to make sense. It might not even be conscious, but people like to have reasons for things.
  • by FroBugg (24957) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:25PM (#23040662) Homepage
    Sure it does. This lawyer has the government on his side. Because he asked them to, the government is forcing this woman to collect and submit all of this information. It's a significant hardship and can most definitely create a chilling effect.
  • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:26PM (#23040666) Journal
    It seems that most scientists insist that *every* vaccine is safe for *every* child,

    Not even close. What they do say, is that the chances of side-effects from vaccines are less than the hazards of the disease that the vaccine prevents.

    -jcr
  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:27PM (#23040694)
    Personal anecdotal nonevidence beats reason and statistics every time. This is why humanity will fail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:29PM (#23040722)

    This is the worst of what our legal system allows. Now this woman is forced to hire an attorney just to defend her right to free speech. It makes me sick!
    This is not what she is doing. Her right to free speech is not being interfered with. In fact, what the lawyer in question seems to be seeking is the documentation on which her free speech is based, so if anything this might be closer to a press shield law issue.

    What do financial records have to do with free speech? She needs to get a lawyer and get this jerk disbarred.



    Since she is not party to the case, he has no right to her personal records.

  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:35PM (#23040808)
    No, it's not meant to be for your own good. Mass vaccination policy is in place for the good of the population. If 95% of people get vaccinated for Pluto's Spotted Canker Sores, then 5% of the population remains a nice breeding ground for it, allowing the disease to sustain itself and mutate into more dangerous varieties. This is somewhat similar to the avian flu threat we face today, which is largely caused by the lack of genetic diversity in chicken populations. The uniformity of chicken immune systems acts like the uniform lack of vaccine in humans, allowing new disease strains to come into being and multiply in a friendly environment before spreading to the rest of us.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:41PM (#23040896) Homepage
    The reason you, your children and everyone else in your community needs to be vaccinated is real simple. The biggest risk is losing something called "herd immunity" where today most of these diseases that are being vaccinated against are rare and not life-threatening in the US could spiral out of control if they were allowed a safe haven.

    While today a case of pertussis is almost unheard of this was not the case 150 years ago. But at the same time it cannot be assumed that this disease is "extinct" in any fashion. It is that most people in the US are vaccinated against it so there are no hosts for it. Turn that around with people not being vaccinated for it - even in numbers like 5-10% of the population - and we would see outbreaks of the disease.

    Similarly, in no way can it be assumed that a childhood vaccination lasts a lifetime. It was assumed this would be the case in the early 20th Century but since proven not to be true. However, there are no outbreaks of these diseases in the population simply because there are no hosts and any potential outbreaks are bounded by a majority of the population being vaccinated.

    It is my understanding that most children are excellent disease vectors. They touch things and touch others with a frequency that is not present in adults. Therefore it makes sense to vaccinate the most vulnerable and most likely to transfer the disease to others while leaving the rest of the population to work with a declining immunity carried from childhood.

    Sure, if we stopped manditory vaccinations we would all be "freer". But we would also be a lot sicker. This is not an experiment that needs to be done. With any sense of historical context it can easily be shown as already having been proven. We need to learn from history and avoid repeating it.
  • by tthomas48 (180798) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:43PM (#23040924) Homepage
    "'cause we know how well those pan out. "
    According to wikipedia 300-500 million people died of smallpox in the 20th century. It was irradicated via vaccine in 1979.

    Ok, first of all Thermisol is a preservative. It doesn't have to be in vaccines. It did not do anything to help your body. And autism cases have increased since they removed it.

    "If it works, your kid had it and won't get Pluto's Spotted Canker Sores."
    If it works your kid gets antibodies and won't get paralyzed by Polio.

    "If it doesn't, why do I have to take it anyway?"
    This is a common argument. Social Darwanism would seem to say this would be desirable. If you're not intelligent enough to recognize the value of vaccines then your children should be free to die from early childhood diseases and no longer populate the gene pool with your particular brand of ignorance.

    Except that this doesn't happen in the US the fact that everyone else is vaccinated means that the chance of your child getting a horrible disease is pretty low. You can piggyback off the immunity of others.

    The problem is that your child becomes a host for disease. Those bugs are free to use your child to breed and spread. They're also able to use your child to mutate into new strains that can bypass the antibodies created by the vaccines in the healthy population. And your kid can wipe out 5% of the kids in the US. That's why vaccines are mandated.

    The main reason that this is an issue is because we really don't have any horrible childhood diseases anymore, so no one remembers why we started this vaccinating stuff in the first place.
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:43PM (#23040928)
    You're not going to convince ME there was no link. I was there. Show me all the studies showing red is really green you want and I'll be convinced that the researcher is color blind or dishonest.

    You're evidently (and self-admittedly) irrational about the subject. I understand your feelings, but feelings don't determine facts. You can rage, ignore, or refuse to let facts influence you, but they will remain facts.

    If Autism is ever to be cured or prevented, by the way, it will be by somebody who respects facts. This vaccine controversy is a huge distraction from what we should be doing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:44PM (#23040946)

    You're not going to convince ME there was no link. I was there.
    Emotion isn't justification. It's just emotion.

    I am sorry for your pain, but your post wasn't anywhere near analytical discourse.

  • religion: While the news probably didn't reach your mom's basement, the antagonism between "science" and "religion" only started in earnest in the last two hundred years. For the thousand years before that, science and its precursors were thoroughly entwined with religion, both supported by and supporting in exchange the dominant religion of their land. Any stores you have to the contrary are, sadly, more properly called "Atheist Mythology" than anything else.
    The Atheist Mythology of the Galileo. Fascinating. It'd make more sense to say Science and Religion get along well, as long as the former doesn't waltz into the latter's territory.
  • by eln (21727) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:44PM (#23040956) Homepage
    While I have no doubt that those whose children are severely autistic are in a totally different world, my son is mildly autistic (high functioning autistic), and I would take that over polio any day of the week.

    Your argument is absurd and designed to appeal to raw emotion. Hundreds of kids get killed in traffic accidents every year. I would agree with the assertion that cars should not be banned so long as you sign your kid up to be the first to get nailed by a car. No? Oh, I guess a few hundred kids is ok as long as they're not yours?

    Actually, that's not a good analogy, because there's solid evidence that getting creamed by a car will cause death, but there's no evidence at all that vaccines cause autism.
  • by Chas (5144) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:48PM (#23040986) Homepage Journal

    Her right to free speech is not being interfered with

    The hell it isn't. [wikipedia.org]

    • Blogger: Blah blah something inconventient blah
    • Lawyer: I don't want you to say that
    • Blogger: Sorry. It's protected speech.
    • Lawyer: I'll give you something else to do then. Bring out all records since the second you were born, package them up, and come all the way out to me so that I can verbally harass you. That should keep you so busy that you don't have time to say stuff I find inconvenient. It should also keep you so busy that you can't actually do anything else with your life (like work, take care of your kids, etc) either.


    It's not about denying someone their rights.

    It's about exerting social influence on them to distract/prevent them from exercising those rights.

    And, failing that, it's about creating pain points when one decides to exercise those rights. Like electroshock therapy. Sure, nothing's STOPPING you from doing "Activity A", but if you get a painful jolt every time you do "Activity A", you'll soon find that you either reduce or completely stop doing "Activity A".

  • by void* (20133) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:52PM (#23041056)
    Except that subpoenas are basically orders from the court to appear, and the courts are government institutions.

    If I can exert governmental authority, through the use of subpoenas, to harass you into not saying bad things about me, that is definitely a free speech issue.

  • Re:Flashback! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:58PM (#23041128) Journal
    I think it should go further, to the baseless lawsuits we see, that seem, at best, a legal strategy to humiliate or inconvenience someone or some organization or company into just paying to make it go away. The problem here is, of course, that vaccines have done an enormous amount of good, and I'd wager probably beat out antibiotics in the benefits to the general welfare of humanity.

    The long and the short is that a courtroom isn't the place to do scientific research, nor is it the place to review such research. The research is pretty clear that there is no link to autism. That should be the end of it. It shouldn't be about who can produce the most emotional appeal. It shouldn't be about who can send out the most threatening or largest quantities of subpoenas, it shouldn't be about who keep can keep discovery going forever, it should be about the facts. If the facts aren't there, the case should be tossed out. That's sort of how it works in criminal cases, where a grand jury convenes to determine whether there is, in fact, sufficient evidence to proceed. I think that should be mapped over to the civil system so cases like this (and even cases like SCO's IP claims) simply don't get into a courtroom until a preliminary jury can be convinced there's even a case there.

    There's never going to be a perfect legal system, but we can sure as hell reform the system sufficiently so that nuisance cases never go anywhere. And make no mistake, no matter how angry and distraught these parents are, that's exactly what it is, a baseless nuisance case, an abuse of the system, a waste of money, and I would support, despite the teary-eyed mothers who clearly have many problems to deal with, seeing them pay the defendants' fees, not because I like drug companies, but because I think the only way the system is going to be brought back down to earth is by making those who weight down the system with frivolous cases pay dearly for wasting the court's time.
  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:59PM (#23041150)

    religion: While the news probably didn't reach your mom's basement, the antagonism between "science" and "religion" only started in earnest in the last two hundred years. For the thousand years before that, science and its precursors were thoroughly entwined with religion, both supported by and supporting in exchange the dominant religion of their land. Any stores you have to the contrary are, sadly, more properly called "Atheist Mythology" than anything else.

    Tell that to Galileo Galilei [crystalinks.com] who died forget 200 years ago, more than 300 years ago.

    Falcon
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:10PM (#23041264) Journal
    While the news probably didn't reach your mom's basement, the antagonism between "science" and "religion" only started in earnest in the last two hundred years.

    This is because science, as we know it, only started in earnest in the last two hundred years.
  • by buddyglass (925859) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:23PM (#23041376)

    Reading between the lines, in issuing the subpoena, Shoemaker seems to be trying to determine whether Seidl is, in fact, being compensated by Bayer to act as an agent for their propaganda.

    If she's just an innocent blogger then yeah, this sounds like gigantic invasion of privacy. But if she's really just a shill for Big Pharma...well, then it's a little harder to muster up sympathy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:47PM (#23041600)
    Actually it's a lot like being sued.
    she has been subpoenaed for her "family's bank records, tax returns, autism-related medical and educational records, and every communication concerning all of the issues to which [she] has devoted [her] attention and energy in recent years."

    and you compare that to being called in to give testimony about a car crash? This isn't testimony -- it's all-out unwarranted search-and-seizure. And no, a subpoena does NOT count as a warrant, which requires suspicion and evidence of a relevant crime.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:57PM (#23041678)

    I decided, years ago, that I would let society suffer the consequences of its actions without lifting a finger to help.

    A rather unwise decision, since any significant social problems will also affect you, and a catastrophic failures will most likely kill you.

  • by Niten (201835) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:03PM (#23041734)

    It'd make more sense to say Science and Religion get along well, as long as the former doesn't waltz into the latter's territory.

    More like as long as the latter doesn't waltz into the former's territory.

  • Re:liberty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Niten (201835) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:23PM (#23041926)

    Your [family's] rights end where my [family's metaphorical] nose begins. Yes, obviously some laws and mandates that limit personal "liberties" are necessary to a healthy and functioning society; without any such laws we would be living in a literal anarchy.

    For instance, you are not "free" to walk into my house and stab me. You are also not free to send your kid into a public school with my kid, where he or she may wind up infecting other students with otherwise preventable diseases such as TB or worse, without first being administered certain vaccines. These vaccines do not all work 100% of the time, so the only way to minimize the chances of disease outbreaks is to maintain a fully-vaccinated population [wikipedia.org].

    As for Thiomersal, there has never been a shred of solid evidence linking it (or modern vaccination in general) to increased risks of Autism. Removing Thiomersal from certain vaccines' formulation was a concession made not because the preservative posed any danger itself, but because of the imminent threat to children who would otherwise remain unvaccinated due to their parents' unfounded fears. In the long run, I believe that removing Thiomersal was a mistake, as it only served to bolster such unscientific claims about the dangers of vaccination.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:39PM (#23042060) Journal
    > And, of course, being a geek != intelligence

    Technically correct. What we are is "nerds". A "geek" was the carnival sideshow guy who bites the heads off chickens. In "Revenge of the Nerds", Booger was actually the one and only geek.
  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:43PM (#23042088) Journal
    So the Catholic Church's recent apology to Galileo was because they don't understand their own history?

    Huh.
  • by CCW (125740) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:54PM (#23042190)
    I would suggest you take a long hard look at the recent outbreak of measles in San Diego, where the virus was imported via one vector (unvaccinated child) who traveled in europe, infected a bunch of unvaccinated kids in his school (which had a lot of parents that used the philosophical exemption waivers), who then put at risk many infants that could not be vaccinated because they were too young. Nobody vaccinated caught the disease. The unvaccinated kids all got sent home for a couple weeks so that they could only infect their own siblings. Fortunately I don't think any of the infected had any serious side effects.

    Not intending as harassment, but your choices for your children don't just put them at risk, it puts other children at risk who cannot be vaccinated. If there weren't well-documented serious potential risks for these diseases, it wouldn't matter.

    It boggles my mind that people don't trust their own doctor, don't trust the public health system, but do trust some guy the read about on the internet. You are also trusting that every other parent will choose to vaccinate, so that you can get away with not doing it. Seems like misplaced trust to me.
  • Re:liberty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LeafOnTheWind (1066228) on Friday April 11, 2008 @08:24PM (#23042882)
    Actually, this is fairly simple. We know that vaccines work - case in point, the smallpox vaccine. Denying that you present a definite health risk to society by not being vaccinated against communicable diseases is illogical and dangerous.

    On the other hand, if you're talking about non-communicable diseases - screw up your life however you like, I don't care.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday April 11, 2008 @09:04PM (#23043094)
    that is NOT what happened, stop it. You ahve completely misunderstood it.


    That gets modded informative? A note to the wise moderator: "Informative" presupposes the contribution of information. Whereas what we have here amounts to an authoritative-sounding chin-jutting, "Is Not!" with nothing of any material to back it up. Children argue like this, and it should be pointed out that an adult who argues like this is likely to maintain other over-simplified thought patterns which will naturally extend to their belief systems.

    No it's the wrong kind of mercury. It is NOT the same stuff that comes in thermometers.

    Metallic Mercury doesn't dissolve in water and is not useful in pharmaceuticals, so it is bonded into an organic molecule, C9H9HgNaO2S, (Thiomersal), which metabolizes in the human body into C2H5ClHg (Ethyl Mercury). Ethyl Mercury, however, is indeed toxic. [deakin.edu.au]

    # Very toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
    # Danger of cumulative effects.
    # Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.

    (It's worth adding that these material safety data sheets generally assume that the substance isn't going to be injected into the subject.)

    --There has been a study reported [myomancy.com] by those who champion the medical establishment which demonstrate that Ethyl Mercury clears from the human body about three times more quickly than its cousin, Methyl Mercury. But Methyl Mercury is also not the "stuff that comes in thermometers", which for the most part isn't terribly dangerous unless inhaled in a vapor form which allows it entry through the lungs and into the blood stream where the problems begin. The relevance of this study stems from recent regulatory limitations placed on Thiomersal use having been based on health-safety studies of Methyl Mercury and it's longer half-life in the human body.

    However, complaining that Ethyl Mercury is not the same as the stuff in thermometers when its toxicity is in fact very well established seems both irrelevant and a bit weird.

    As it turns out, Thiomersal use has been reduced in most vaccines as a result of these recent health regulations, (from about 2001). The one exception is the flu-shot.

    really? I find it to be favoring the truth. as it turns out many corporation are actually telling the truth.

    A lot of spin is indeed true in a "letter of the law" kind of way. That's why it's called 'spin'.

    But it's also true that corporations tell lots of baldfaced lies, both directly and through omission. They do this because it is very profitable to not have to clean up after yourself or behave responsibly. It's forgivable to be fooled by the corporate spin-doctor; the point of spin, silence and lies is to deceive, but once a person has seen the mountains of evidence of moral bankruptcy, to continue insisting that problems are not there seems very strange to me. It's almost as though this poster has tied strongly his ego and sense of self-worth to the idea that he stands against those who over-react, and has through this allowed the area he defends to grow larger than is truly deserving. That is, if he concedes that the people he opposes might be a little bit right, it would mean that he is a little bit wrong, which the ego finds utterly unacceptable. I find it is important to regularly watch out for these kinds of thought patterns so that they don't creep in and infect one's mind. Egotism can be seductive to the best of us.


    -FL

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:15PM (#23043524)

    Silent Spring was a crock in the overreaction that followed the book.

    We went from spraying DDT on everything, to nothing.

    There are films from the 40s and 50s where trucks would just drive down neighborhoods spraying DDT. They'd do it at public pools. No one thought anything of it. We way over used DDT.

    In the wake of the book, people overreacted and moved to basically ban DDT outright. Instead of spraying in a controlled manner (such as, say, only where mosquitoes are a problem), we stopped spraying it altogether despite the fact that it was incredibly effective and cheap.

    The book it's self was fine. As I remember Rachel Carson didn't argue to ban DDT but to be much more responsible in it's use. That really isn't what happened. It's that legacy (overreaction causing serious other problems) that people generally mean when they talk about Silent Spring being a crock.

    DDT is still legal throughout most of the world. There's really not much use for it in the US, where there hasn't been a malaria outbreak since 1971 or so. And there are exemptions in place in the US should its need arise. This is a common misconception about DDT - that somehow banning it in the US is responsible for millions of malaria deaths in third world countries. That makes no sense. Malaria plagues poor countries because mosquito eradication programs are expensive and require infrastructure and administration that are too often in short supply. Also, mosquitoes grow resistant to DDT or any other kind of insecticide, all the more reason not to overuse the stuff.

    And there's no evidence that vaccines cause autism.
  • Re:DDT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by donscarletti (569232) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:25PM (#23043558)

    Homes collapsed under the weight of hornets' nests that died and hardened from the DDT

    That's not logical in the slightest, hardened hornet's nests should dry out and get lighter, not heavier. Even if DDT somehow manage to double the weight of a hornet nest, if a house had almost enough hornets nests to collapse the roof by weight, the house would be uninhabitable anyway.

    The houses really collapsed because DDT killed the parasitic wasps that kept certain thatch eating caterpillars under control. I read about that here. [cdra.org.za]

    while larger animals such as cats ended up with toxic levels of DDT from consumption of smaller creatures

    Firstly, I find it unlikely that the rat population was controlled by domestic housepets, these "cats" do not refer to an indigenous species in the island but Felis Catus which were kept in houses. Secondly DDT isn't like mercury, it doesn't just accumulate in a predator's body and work its way up the food chain, it leaves the body. DDT just isn't all that toxic to mammals, it would take a hell of a lot to kill a cat. Sure, longterm exposure to DDT has effects, like an increase in cancer but nothing that could cause the local extinction of a whole cat population. Anyway, if DDT were killing the cat population, why not other species that eat small lizards and bugs, like rats for example? Finally, DDT stays around in the environment for a long time (one of its main controversial traits) why would these new cats simply not die?

    Ecosystems are complex things and killing all the insects is such a huge thing that it's going to have some complex repercussions. Luckily Silent Spring came out a couple of years later and since it is now commonly accepted that DDT kills absolutely everything, they can just pin it on nasty DDT killing the cute fluffy kittens (because it's evil) and be done with it.

  • I have little to no sympathy with Seidel. Thiomerisol, a mercury(!) compound, deals enormous damage to a child's (and an adult's) brain. Basically it boils down to a needle full of lobotomy. If she is defending Thiomerisol then either she hasn't done her homework or knowing the facts she is on their payroll.

    What the fuck hyperbole train did you just ride in on?

    The amount of ethyl mercury in a dose of vaccine is tiny, and ethylmercury [wikipedia.org] is eliminated so quickly (half-life 18 days or less) that it does not bioaccumulate. You're putting your kid in more danger by feeding them a tuna sandwich once a week than you are by giving them the standard childhood vaccinations, even if you go back in time to 1998 before the US started phasing out thiomersal. Unlike ethylmercury, methylmercury does build up in the body (half-life 44 days), and methylmercury is found in tuna and other large, long-lived ocean fish. (It's also found in large, long-lived land mammals like humans, and babies receive noteworthy amounts of mercury through breast milk.)

    The reality is that toxicity depends on dose. Oxygen is a deadly poison [wikipedia.org] at a high enough concentrations: divers at 600m generally use breathing gas that's 98% He and 2% O2, because 21% O2 would kill them more-or-less instantly. Iron, an essential nutrient, is acutely toxic [wikipedia.org] at a dose that's not much larger than a healthy amount: iron overdose is a leading cause of poisoning deaths in young children [emedicine.com], and it used to be even worse thanks to the iron in Flintstone's chewables. (I myself had my stomach pumped when I was 4.) Methyl salicylate [wikipedia.org], better known as Ben-Gay and closely related to aspirin, killed a cross-country runner last year [wikipedia.org] because she didn't know that it's poisonous in large doses.

    On top of that, thiomersal has been phased out of the routine childhood vaccines for years now. There was no resulting drop in autism rates; there was no resulting drop in mercury poisonings; there was no resulting increase in cognitive function, or test scores, or any measurable thing whatsoever. All the available evidence shows that removing thiomersal did absolutely nothing.

    On top of that, thanks in large part to the autism-vaccine controversy, mumps is making a comeback [wikipedia.org], and pertussis [wikipedia.org] is now endemic in the area around Boulder, CO [theatlantic.com], thanks explicitly to unvaccinated children and a failure to reach herd immunity [wikipedia.org] (which for pertussis is 92-94% vaccination).

    I mean, hell, at least autism won't kill you.

  • by cdwiegand (2267) <chris@wiegandfamily.com> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @02:53AM (#23044662) Homepage
    Are you kidding me?! [hhs.gov]

    My wife and I, after reviewing the stats, decided that it was very unlikely that our son would get a disease that was vaccine preventable, but also very unlikely even within that likelihood that it would be seriously life-affecting or lethal. On the other hand, 1 in 150 children has autism [nationalau...iation.org], which is ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE for the families affected! My brother has mental retardation, and that was very difficult on the family growing up. There's no disease, or even combination of diseases, that is/are vaccine-preventable that have that kind of risk. Now, that's not to say that the vaccine causes it, but I have read papers, scientific ones, that argue both sides. At this point we'd prefer to take the very minor risk of him getting a disease like diptheria or mumps, which aren't very likely to be serious or lethal, than him get autism if we can try to prevent it.

    Also, please note, the sites I've linked to - they're not crackpot sites. When we did our risk analysis for our son, we used the CDC's own data to evaluate his risk. And since they still haven't figured out autism, we as parents have to make our own decisions. The day they figure out what causes it I will throw a party - regardless of if it's vaccines or mothers drinking milk or the father smoking or whatever. Because then we can prevent it. And if it's not vaccines, I'll happily work with our doctor to bring him current. But until then, I have to make my own decision since the CDC can't tell me how to prevent it (autism).

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst

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