win 18 year fight over MMR damage to son: £90,000 payout is first
since concerns over vaccine surfaced
whose son suffered severe brain damage after he was given the controversial
MMR vaccine as a baby has been awarded £90,000 compensation. The judgment
is the first of its kind to be revealed since concerns were raised about
the safety of the triple jab. Robert Fletcher, 18, is unable to talk, stand
unaided or feed himself.
boy: Robert Fletcher with his mother Jackie at the age of 14
frequent epileptic fits and requires round-the-clock care from his parents
Jackie and John, though he is not autistic. He suffered the devastating
effects after being given the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine
when he was 13 months old.
Department of Health had always denied that the jab was the cause of Robert’s
now, in a judgment which will give hope to hundreds of other parents whose
children have been severely affected by routine vaccinations, a medical
assessment panel consisting of two doctors and a barrister has concluded
that MMR was to blame.
mother Jackie said the money would help with his care, though she described
the amount as ‘derisory’. Her
first application for compensation under the Government’s Vaccine
Damage Payment Scheme was rejected in 1997 on the grounds that it was impossible
to prove beyond reasonable doubt what had caused Robert’s illness.
But Mrs Fletcher
appealed and in a ruling delivered last week, a new panel of experts came
to a different conclusion.
Robert in the bath as baby before he had the MMR jab
a six-page judgment, they said: ‘Robert was a more or less fit boy
who, within the period usually considered relevant to immunisation, developed
a severe convulsion... and he then went on to be epileptic and severely
seizure occurred ten days after the vaccination. In our view, this cannot
be put down to coincidence.
is this temporal association that provides the link. It is this that has
shown on the balance of probabilities that the vaccination triggered the
this basis, we find that Robert is severely disabled as a result of vaccination
and this is why we allowed the appeal.’
ruling will reignite the debate over the safety of common childhood vaccines,
although it makes clear that Robert’s case does not involve autism.
is one other reported case of a family being given compensation as a result
of an MMR jab. But Mrs Fletcher said she believed the compensation award
to Robert was the first to a surviving MMR-damaged person since controversy
erupted in 1998 when the now discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield raised concerns
about a possible link between the combined MMR injection and autism. He
has since been struck off the medical register.
Robert with his parents as a five-year-old. He is unable to stand, feed
himself and speaks very little
Government refuses to say how many awards have been directly attributed
to this jab rather than other inoculations against illnesses such as diphtheria
or whooping cough. Details of successful claims involving vaccine-damaged
children are seldom publicised because the Department of Health is thought
to be anxious not to encourage a rush of applications. Figures
released in 2005 under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that tribunals
had paid out £3.5 million over the previous eight years.
Department for Work and Pensions, which administers the Vaccine Damage Payment
Scheme, said: ‘We do not hold any information on how many awards have
'It is not a requirement
when a case is being assessed for the medical adviser to state which vaccine
the damage has been attributed to.
'Nor is it a requirement
to list the disabling condition that gave rise to the award.’
controversy over a suggested link between MMR and autism erupted in 1998
when Dr Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet medical journal. His work
has since been discredited and earlier this year Dr Wakefield, who has moved
to America, was struck off the medical register after the General Medical
Council ruled that he had acted against the interests of patients and ‘failed
in his duties as a responsible consultant’.
Fletcher does not suffer from autism. But Mrs Fletcher, from Warrington,
Cheshire, said the ruling would give hope to hundreds of other parents fighting
to prove that their children’s disabilities were caused by the MMR
Fletcher set up and runs pressure group JABS - Justice, Awareness and Basic
Support. Around 2,000 families seeking compensation for their vaccine-damaged
children are registered with the group, which provides advice and support.
husband John and I have battled for 18 years for the cause of Robert’s
disability to be officially recognised,’ she said.
were told the vaccine was perfectly safe. Like most people, we trusted what
the doctors and nurses were putting to us.
is nearly 19 but mentally he is like a 14-month-old toddler. He can’t
stand unaided and he is doubly incontinent.
can’t speak except to say “Hi, Mum” or “Hi, Daddy”.
chop up his food and have to anticipate all his needs. He is prone to various
illnesses and last week suffered around 40 severe epileptic seizures.
April this year, we thought we’d lost him. He contracted a chest infection
and had to go to hospital for several days.
is such a lovely boy. When he’s not ill, he’s so cheerful and
seems to take everything on the chin. In between seizures he says “Hi,
Mum” and tries to kiss me.
money is a derisory amount though it will help with making adaptations to
the house for Robert’s benefit.
matters is the recognition that MMR was the reason this happened.’
first doctor who assessed Robert under the compensation scheme in 1996 concluded
that he had suffered a ‘simple febrile convulsion with no long-lasting
he agreed that Robert had a degree of disability, he refused to accept that
the MMR vaccine was to blame.
month’s appeal, evidence was given by a leading expert on vaccine-damaged
children, paediatric neurologist Dr Marcel Kinsbourne. He explained the
biological changes which had occurred in Robert’s brain following
the vaccination. The
one-day hearing was chaired by a barrister sitting with two doctors, Professor
Sundara Lingam, a former consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital for
Children, and Dr Adrian Allaway.
dissenting judgment, Professor Lingam said he believed Robert was ‘genetically
predisposed to epilepsy and that the vaccination triggered it rather than
would have developed epilepsy in any event, even if he had not had the vaccination’.
But Professor Lingam was overruled by his two colleagues. In their
final judgment, they accepted that MMR had caused Robert’s illness
but added: ‘We would stress that this decision is fact-specific and
it should not be seen as a precedent for any other case.
particular, it has no relevance to the issue... as to whether there is a
link between the MMR vaccine and autism.’
night, Tory MP Nadine Dorries, a member of the powerful Commons Health Committee,
said: ‘If an independent panel has reached the conclusion that there
has been a link between the MMR vaccine and the brain damage suffered by
this boy in this case, then it is fair to assume that there could be as
many as thousands of children and parents in the same position.
be full and easy access to all documentation relating to the judgment for
any parent or professional to read and assess.’
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, a London
GP whose own son is autistic, said: ‘It is a very important principle
that parents should be compensated in cases of this kind.
'But although a
causal link has been established in law in this instance, exhaustive scientific
research has failed to establish any link between MMR and brain damage.
case should not make parents feel any different about the safety of the
Department of Health said: ‘This decision reflects the opinion of
a tribunal on the specific facts of the case and they were clear that it
should not be seen as a precedent for any other case.
safety of MMR has been endorsed through numerous studies in many countries.’
sue over vaccine link to autism read