Mar 31 2008

Preponderance of Evidence

I wrote previously about the case of Hanna Poling – whose case was before the vaccine court and was settled by the US government who decided that “compensation was appropriate.” Today in the New York Times Paul Offit, a vaccine and infectious disease expert, wrote a great editorial about the case and its potential for harm to public health.

He made one interesting point, of which I was not aware, and so want to point it out as an addition to my previous post. Offit points out that up until a few years ago the Vaccine Compensation Court, who administers a special fund set up to compensate those legitimately injured by vaccine, used the legal standard of preponderance of the evidence in order to decide compensation cases.

However, now they have lowered the standard. Petitioners no longer need to present evidence that a particular vaccine causes the type of injury alleged, they just have to present a biologically plausible mechanism for possible injury. Even if the evidence suggests the proposed mechanism is wrong, if it is plausible then the court will err on the side of compensation.

Offit argues, I think correctly, that the standard should be returned to preponderance of the evidence. Give his editorial a read.

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