Science and Law
23rd April 2014

Fraudulent Vaccine Study Exemplifies The Perils of Junk Science

Although the scientific community has not established a link between vaccines and autism, the anti-vaccine movement continues to misinform and alarm parents, deterring them from protecting their children. More parents are buying into the groundless claims about vaccines, even though news reports have exposed fraudulent data (see bottom of 1st page here and here).

Fraudulent Vaccine Study Exemplifies The Perils of Junk Science

Although the scientific community has not established a link between vaccines and autism, the anti-vaccine movement continues to misinform and alarm parents, deterring them from protecting their children. More parents are buying into the groundless claims about vaccines, even though news reports have exposed fraudulent data (see bottom of 1st page here and here). Defense attorneys can cite this public health threat to impugn junk science when faced with faulty data in the courtroom.

Pervasive fear of vaccines has led to a resurgence of serious illnesses, such as measles. Scientific evidence shows that clusters of unvaccinated individuals can infect the broader community, including individuals who have been inoculated (the vaccine is about 95% effective). For instance, a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana produced 34 cases of the disease, including six people who had been vaccinated. According to an NEJM study, “This outbreak was caused by the importation of measles into a population of children whose parents had refused to have them vaccinated because of safety concerns about the vaccine.”

The recent measles outbreaks in New York City, California and Canada demonstrate the danger junk science poses to the public health. When attorneys for the plaintiff in any personal injury case rely on junk science, the defense team should be prepared to expose the damage junk science can cause. Refuting junk science in the courtroom requires a well-articulated, multi-pronged strategy. A thorough evaluation of the data, testimony from the right expert, and effective visual aids will neutralize the plaintiff’s arguments.

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