Thursday, February 25, 2010

No Nobel Prize For Me

In the early 1980s I tried a lawsuit on behalf of a severely autistic boy whose mother, a nurse anesthetist, administered a popular inhalational anesthetic agent 47 times during her pregnancy with the child to pediatric patients undergoing minor surgery. In these 47 cases, the anesthetic was administered in a manner that exposed the mother to nearly as much anesthetic as the patients to whom it was being given. The expert chosen to defend the pharmaceutical company mocked me during his trial testimony that he would be the first to award me the Nobel prize in medicine if, as I claimed, the agent was discovered to be a cause of the young man's autism. This expert privately stated to me after his testimony that he wished that I had "gotten to him first," suggesting that his sworn testimony was due to something other than principled scientific reasoning. The case was lost (and, alas, I did not get my prize), but the matter serves to illustrate quite nicely the trenchant disposition of industry in America to ignore basic facts, the most simple of which is to conclude that exposure in embryonic/fetal nerve tissue to substances capable of harming that tissue can express itself in visible damage to children across a wide spectrum of expression. The extent of prenatal damage to the tissues of children from exposure to a variety of toxins is one of the tragic untold stories of our industrialized society and, so long as politicians, judges and medical researchers are subsidized directly or indirectly by industrial America, the subject will be ignored or dismissed as the figment of imagination.

Systematic erection of procedural and substantive requirements have evolved that must be in place before so-called scientific researchers can offer 'definitive' conclusions about cause and effect. What industrial America has been successful in doing is to establish a couple of pre-conditions, such as epidemiologic evidence that a substance causes a certain type of harm before that substance can be specifically indicted. For example, I once had a substantial jury verdict obtained in Tyler, Texas federal court tossed out by the fifth circuit court of appeals because I failed to present "conclusive epidemiologic evidence that the [drug] caused the child's birth defects. In short, this was [and is] an unrealistic condition because, most simply put, the science of epidemiology does not address the issue of causation as part of its rigor. What was originally developed as a means of measuring and controlling the composition of beer in vats has now been set as a standard of proof of individual scientific causation by a group of federal judges with no known scientific background. The carefully orchestrated plan to impose this unrealistic and unscientific requirement mirrors the efforts of the conservative movement since Reagan to impose a pro-business, restrictive limitation on the rights of individual citizens to obtain redress under the seventh amendment to the Constitution. The net effect of these restrictions is to continue to ignore substantial health problems occurring daily, such as autism in all of its variants in children being exposed to toxins in utero.

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