Friday, 8 September 2017

Compensation compassion

There's lies, damned lies and willful mis-representation of facts. There have been a couple of fanous cases where an excess of hubris and certainty led some scientists to generate fake data to support a case the they knew to be true. Cyril Burt [the genetics of intelligence] and Gregor Mendel [genetics of genetics prev] are widely suspected of fudging their data or at least being subject to unconscious bias in their counting. A more recent headliner is Andrew Wakefield [prev] who claimed that he had found a connexion between MMR vaccination and the development of autism. That is the main evidential plank in the anti-vaxxers platform that vaccination is a conspiracy to enrich multinational Megapharm at the expense of the mental and physical health of children. Unfortunately, it is demonstrably true that Wakefield sexed up his data and failed to declare substantive conflicts of interest. But that exposure has made no difference to the lobby who continue to believe that autism is worse than measles or mumps and/or that the risks of the former outweigh the benefits of avoiding the latter.  My family have weathered measles [The Boy unvaccinated - tsk!] and mumps [Dau.I vaccinated - dang!] and, believe me, they are no fun.

I had some e-mail traffic from one of The Beloved's sisters, let's call her G, last week. She is tech savvy, restlessly curious about medical issues, has a useful crap-detector but no scientific training. So she often sends links over to me hoping that I'll do her research and post an executive summary on The Blob. I appreciate that because I am often short of copy and have my own thread of restless curiosity about things that don't impact me directly. aNNyway, here's what I got:
Sat, Aug 26, 2017 at 9:21 AM
True or not true?  A dodgy claim or . . .
Sat, Aug 26, 2017 at 9:36 AM
Answered my own question

First thing to note is that my Professor pal Dan had a practice of only answering his e-mail once a day. 24 hours later, he'd often find a desperate question from a frustrated post-grad at 1030hrs . . . followed by a "sorry, I worked that out for myself" apology two hours later. G is clearly quicker on the uptake because she only took 15 minutes to solve her problem.  The latter is a devastating rebuttal of the AltNewsNet story. Well that's my take on it: "he would say that, he's a scientist" if you will. If you're an anti-vaxxer you won't have read the piece, let alone be swayed by its arguments. I found the response interesting because it spoke about the VICP National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the US. It appears in the story because the anti-vax position takes the pay-out of compo as evidence for an association between vaccination and a different condition to that for which the compensation was given : a double whammy of alternative news. VICP is a government run vaccine-damage compensation initiative. Not to be confused with the NVIC = National Vaccine Information Center which is a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and deaths through public education. With respect to the VICP, the NVIC digs with the other foot.

What I like about the idea of VICP compensation is that, if the damage and the vaccination event are sufficiently close in time, the parents get some money to help with their troubles because they have 'taken one for the team' . . . without having to prove negligence, or a multinational conspiracy. Limited resources for health services and the pervasive reach of the adversarial system of the legal establishment mean that the HSE routinely and stoutly denies any responsibility for medical misfortunes . . . to keep the floodgates of compo-culture as nearly closed as possible. Many cases of cerebral palsy have been put down to a difficult birth, perinatal anoxia and . . . incompetence of the medical staff. You have to assert the latter because without that you have to carry the child [literally in the case of CP] on your own. I wrote about one case last year where it took 25 years of trundling through the courts to secure a settlement in one such case; nine! other similar cases are cited in my link.

If we lived in a fair, compassionate society, a) there would be compo money for those dealt a crappy hand and b) it would just Go to the unfortunate rather being top-sliced by lawyers. Let's lay out compensation as compassion rather than as a consideration, as the lawyers define the value in a transaction.

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