Archive for the ‘legal system’ Category

There’s this virtual reality device that simulates psychosis, called Virtual Hallucinations.  It’s been mentioned in some news stories as an empathy-inducing device for police officers, and it seems to be helpful.  I think that’s great (and I’m really pleased to keep seeing mention of more police forces being trained in handling mental illness issues).

But it’s weird to see it presented (not in that article but in some others I’ve seen) as letting people experience what it’s like to be schizophrenic.  That’s like saying that induced nausea and malaise and having your head shaved is like having cancer and going through chemotherapy.

Maybe someday they’ll be able to simulate delusions and lack of insight and thought disorders and other things like not having insurance and not having a job and having strained or absent friendships and family relationships and physical health problems and all the other things that often go along with actually having a mental illness, and then that will be like what it’s like to have schizophrenia.  (Or bipolar and schizoaffective disorders, since it’s simulating psychosis, not psychosis in schizophrenia.)

The hot in-depth dissection of and commentary on the trial transcripts is going on over at Autism Diva‘s blog. I encourage you to check it out, though you may want to start back in the archives when the trial began.

She also links to this New Scientist article that brings to light some of the shadiness going on behind it.

Paul Offit at the Boston Globe writes compellingly about vaccine companies, lawsuits, and evidence.

He talks about pertussis vaccine lawsuits involving minimal or absent evidence in the 70s and 80s, which contributed to the number of companies making vaccines decreasing from 18 to 4 from 1980 to 1990. Then he talks about the consequences of that:

The infrastructure to make vaccines became tenuous, and vaccine shortages became commonplace. For example, in 1998, the tetanus vaccine was in such short supply that its use was restricted to emergency rooms. Beginning in 2000, a pneumococcal vaccine for children — designed to prevent bloodstream infections, meningitis, and a common cause of pneumonia — was available only intermittently; parents could only hope that their children weren’t among the thousands permanently harmed or killed every year by pneumococcus.

Between 2003 and 2004 an influenza epidemic created a demand that dramatically exceeded supply; more than 150 children died that year from influenza. Since 1996 severe shortages have occurred for 10 of the 16 vaccines routinely given to children and adolescents. All of these shortages resulted in a delay in getting vaccines, and some children never got the vaccines they had missed.

I’d been writing about the autism/vaccine lawsuit while being worried about the future, but the past has been pretty scary too. I’m glad that science and forethought has managed to win out even as much as it has…

Okay, not really. But apparently it’s being asked to decide that thimerosol causes autism.

Who cares about science (and extensive epidemiological studies finding no link)? Let the courts decide…

On a (thematically, but not morally) related link, my dad came home from a chemistry conference with a paper someone presented on a possible biomarker for autism (summary: lower levels of stuff in pee):

Scroll down to “Stercobilin: A Possible Biomarker for Autism?”

Dad says that stercobilin has [mumbo jumbo isomerish chemical-esque] to do with mercury or thimerosol or something. It makes sense to believe the extensive epidemiological studies over a hypothesized connection without further evidence, though.