Today the Supreme Court ruled to protect drug manufacturers from lawsuits over vaccines. Justices voted 6-2 to shield Pfizer’s Wyeth unit from the claim of two parents, Russell and Robalee Bruesewitz, that a vaccine caused their daughter Hannah Bruesewitz’s seizure disorder.
The court started to hear arguments in October 2010 and handed down the decision today. If the lawsuit had been allowed, it might have opened the door to further suits from parents claiming that vaccines caused their child to develop autism.
But the Supreme Court said the family could not sue the drug maker, and here’s why:
Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, drug manufacturers are protected from lawsuits over “unavoidable” side effects of vaccines (since, as with every drug, there are risks involved for a small percentage of children). In return, the manufacturers pay into a fund that will compensate families who suffer negative consequences from vaccines through a more informal “vaccine court.”
Many agree with the court’s upholding of this arrangement, since opening up vaccine manufacturers to lawsuits would drive many out of the vaccine-making business. And vaccines are a vital part of public health. As the Wall Street Journal reports:
“The major threat to the integrity of the no-fault system is gone,” said Stephan Lawton, who authored an amicus brief from the American Academy of Pediatrics and 21 other physician and public-health groups, on a conference call with reporters. The decision “preserves the concept that it should be experts under a no-fault system who make these determinations,” he said.
Do you think the court made the right decision to protect Wyeth from a lawsuit?