The Cedillo case was one of three test cases involving the vaccine-autism connection.
How a questionable testimony affected so many cases
The verdict in Cedillo v Secretary of HHS was interpreted as absolute
proof that vaccines never triggered autistic regression in children.
The fact that the petitioners did not prevail does not mean that
Michelle Cedillo was not vaccine-injured. It only means that the
Special Masters did not think that the evidence presented by them was
as convincing as that presented by the DOJ.
The Special Masters’ conclusion, that the DOJ evidence was more
convincing, stands however on shaky ground. It should become clear that
the testimony by Stephen Bustin PhD, which seriously affected the
decision, should have never been considered because it included
extremely complicated yet unsupported scientific evidence that had not
been made available to the petitioners as expected.
Furthermore, RNA test results performed in the same laboratory that was
criticized by Dr. Bustin were later found to be perfectly concordant
with those from laboratories at the CDC and at Columbia University.
Because of this new evidence discussed here for the first time,
I respectfully submit that, more likely than not, Michelle Cedillo’s
measles virus genomic RNA testing, done on a biopsy from her diseased
gut, was both accurate and reliable. Because doubts about that specific
testing so much affected the case and the Special Masters’ decision and
because the test so strongly suggests a connection with Michelle’s MMR
vaccination, I hereby request a review by the Department of Justice.
At the very least, the Cedillo decision should not be used to deny thousands of families their rights.
Measles is a notifiable disease in the United States. According to the
Arizona Department of Health, there were no measles outbreaks in the
state and only 44 cases of measles from January 1, 1994 to December 31,
The population of Arizona increased from 1,465.404 in 1990 to 5,130,632
in 2000. If one conservatively estimated the state’s average population
at 3 million between 1994 and 2000, there was one case of measles per
68,000 Arizonians during the period in question. [http://www.npg.org/states/az.htm]
According to the CDC, “measles is a highly contagious respiratory
disease caused by a virus…Measles causes fever, runny nose, cough and a
rash all over the body. About one out of 10 children with measles also
gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. For
every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die. [http://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html]
Babies are quite sick when they come down with measles. Michelle’s
medical records neither mention a doctor’s visit for measles nor an
Arizona DOH notification for the disease.
If Michelle Cedillo had evidence of measles virus Genomic RNA in her
intestinal biopsies, then her GI findings were related to her MMR
In his decision, Special Master Hastings discussed petitioners’ exhibit
130 (p. 70) and stated that according to Shiels, O’Leary et al, 12 of
12 gut biopsies from children with developmental disorders tested at
the O’Leary laboratory “indicated the origin of the virus to be vaccine
strain”. The Special Master went on to offer his own reasons why he
rejected the Shiels information essentially insisting that the
petitioners did not show conclusively that Michelle’s intestinal biopsy
revealed vaccine-strain measles virus RNA.
In response, I would respectfully submit the following: If indeed the
petitioners had to present hard and absolute etched-in-stone evidence
that Michelle’s biopsy revealed evidence of vaccine-strain
measles virus to prevail, then why did the DOJ attorneys spend all this
money, time and effort to prove that Michelle’s testing and the lab
where it was performed were unreliable and why did we import Dr. Bustin?
Dr. John O’Leary is an uncontested expert with a stellar reputation and
Special Master Hastings conceded that. To effectively torpedo the first
autism test case, the attorneys for the respondent needed to produce
extremely solid evidence that Michelle’s RNA results were wrong and that the laboratory where the test was performed was unreliable.
As I will show, they did not.
On April 14, 2010, I submitted FOIA requests to the CDC and DOJ asking
for copies of all communications with British journalist Brian Deer
starting in 1998.
On August 16, 2010 the CDC/ATSDR FOIA Officer informed me that a search
of records failed to reveal any CDC documents pertaining to my request.
To date, the DOJ has not responded and I have no way to ascertain what
exactly Mr. Deer gave the government attorneys in the spring of 2007.
What is clear is that shortly thereafter Stephen A. Bustin PhD suddenly
became an expert witness for the Respondent.
In an exchange of remarks in a British website almost two years later
(February 13, 2009) Mr. Deer wrote: “…I recall supplying a key document
on the O’Leary lab business, which the DOJ didn't seem to know about
just weeks before the hearing. Hence the late surfacing of Bustin and
The following day Deer added: “…They didn't use my material. Under the
1983 medical act, they acquired all their own material, key portions of
which I had previously and separately acquired…”
It is important to keep in mind that Mr. Deer said that he supplied a document and not simply information about it, to DOJ.
Since he started writing about the “MMR scandal”, Deer seems to have
repeatedly been given free access to confidential and secret material
related to the subject. In an exchange in BMJ earlier this year, Mr.
Deer revealed that he even knew the names of the 12 patients in
Wakefield’s first study plus many details about them, information that
was supposed to be kept confidential.
The fact that Mr. Deer actually obtained and transmitted highly
classified material about the O’Leary laboratory, material that the HHS
attorneys did not have and would later allegedly have trouble getting,
besides being surprising, must have been a breach of some English law.
Unfortunately, no one seems to know, except those involved of course,
who in 2004 actually gave Mr. Deer the secret document that he sent to
DOJ just before the MMR-Autism “Test” case was to get underway. It
could have been Merck who needed to sabotage it and it could have been
Dr. Bustin who was frustrated by the gag order, as he declared in a
later interview (below). Regardless, under no circumstances should Deer
have been privy to this information and the fact that little attention
was given to the whole matter is disturbing, though it seems par for
1998: Dr. Wakefield publishes his well-known paper, later withdrawn, in
Lancet. 1999-2000: Merck contacts several sources looking for some way
to disqualify O’Leary’s findings
2000: Professor Stephen Bustin produces his “first” report criticizing
O’Leary’s work and results for use in the U.K. MMR case, a legal action
that was filed on behalf of some 1000 British children who reportedly
developed autism after MMR vaccination.
2001: U.S. parents start filing petitions for compensation under VICP,
alleging that their children had also developed autism following
immunization with MMR and Thimerosal-containing vaccines.
2002: The Office of Special Masters concerned about the upcoming
Tsunami, issues Autism General Order #1 establishing the procedure for
addressing the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (OAP).
September 2003: A Sunday Times Section Editor takes Brian Deer to lunch
and asks him to write “something big” about the MMR. That editor’s
father, a renowned British physician, had served on the committee that
considered the approval application of one of the MMR vaccines later
licensed in the UK.
October 2003: Funding for the MMR litigation in the U.K. is cut
Early 2004: That decision is confirmed by Judge Nigel Davis and for all
practical purposes most or all the MMR cases in the U.K. become a
non-issue. The judge’s brother, Crispin Davis, was a board member of
GlaxoSmithKline, a defendant in the case.
Many are jubilant but Merck, who manufactures the only U.S. licensed
MMR vaccine, does not celebrate because it is well aware that the
floodgates are ready to open in the United States.
Looking to the future, Merck succeeds in having the English Court ask
the Irish Government to issue an order allowing Stephen Bustin PhD, an
expert on PCR, to inspect the O’Leary laboratory in Ireland. The
request is granted and Dr. Bustin starts working on his report clearly not for local consumption, but in preparation for the upcoming battle across the Atlantic.
2006: The Cedillo case is scheduled to start on Monday June 11, 2007.
It is customary for all experts invited to testify in cases involving scientific controversies to submit their reports early enough
to give the other side the opportunity to see them and respond to them.
The actual period of time differs from court to court and may differ
from judge to judge but there certainly are numerous accounts of
serious scientific evidence having been excluded in the past because it
was not submitted before the deadline, usually weeks before the hearing.
Early 2007: Brian Deer contacts the DOJ and provides an important
document related to the O’Leary lab. The information is valuable but it
cannot be used because it came from the freelance journalist. The DOJ
must therefore officially request it and obtain it through legal channels.
Friday, June 1, 2007: Michelle Cedillo’s parents get ready to go to Washington DC
Thursday, June 7: Attorneys for the DOJ request permission to file Dr. Bustin's report.
Friday, June 8: Attorney for the plaintiff objects and requests the
report not be admitted. Her request is turned down. She then asks for
more time to prepare and that request is also turned down.
Monday, June 11, 2007: The Cedillo hearing gets underway, with the
understanding that Dr. Bustin will be allowed to testify but that the
Special Masters will later decide whether to admit his testimony or not.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007: Dr. Bustin is called to the stand and is sworn in.
Dr. Bustin was allowed to present highly technical information even
though the O’Leary Lab notebooks on which his information was based
were still in England and unavailable for inspection. He was also
allowed to quote extensively from a report by another expert even
though that report was also under seal.
Regardless whether it was legal or even fair to consider Dr. Bustin’s testimony, was it in any way actually relevant to the Cedillo case?
The most Bustin claimed was that O’Leary’s laboratory was likely not to
detect low levels of inflammation, so-called “low copy numbers”. He did
not contest the accuracy of the lab results in cases with “high copy
numbers” i.e. high levels of inflammation. Expert testimony confirmed
that Michelle Cedillo had high copy numbers and Dr. Bustin himself
conceded that she did.
I remember telling myself: So why did he come and what did his testimony exactly prove, as far as this case is concerned?
Another question also still haunts me is: How and why was Dr. Bustin,
who received funding from Merck, allowed to testify in a case involving
a Merck product? Why was that allowed?
Dr. Bustin testified that he had discovered one episode of contamination in the O’Leary Laboratory books he had reviewed, and that were not made available to the defense.
He never mentioned that in spite of all precautions, some
“contamination” does occur, from time to time, in the best research
laboratories in the world.
In any case, it is a fact that even if the contamination in the Irish lab had been rampant, it could not have resulted in specific high levels of inflammation being found in a specimen.
So far, I have shown why Dr. Stephen Bustin should not have been
allowed to testify in the Cedillo case and how his testimony did not
prove that the testing done on Michelle’s gut specimens was wrong and
Next I will show that even if Dr. Bustin’s testimony at the Cedillo
hearing had been relevant and allowable, it should have been excluded
anyway because of what he decided to do and say just after he returned
It is important to point out again that Special Masters Denise K.
Vowel, Patricia Campbell-Smith and Georges L. Hastings Jr. had decided
“For the purposes of the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (“OAP”) and for the
reasons indicated in the ruling issued on June 8, 2007, in Cedillo v.
Sec'y of HHS , the undersigned special masters will defer deciding
whether we will rely on the reports of Dr. Bustin (Respondent's
Exhibits WW and XX) as evidence in the OAP. However the parties may
question Dr. Bustin or any other expert witness concerning the contents
of these two reports at the proceedings commencing on June 11, 2007.”
On Wednesday July 4, 2007, well-known science writer Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick published an article in London titled:
‘The MMR-autism theory? There’s nothing in it’ Michael
Fitzpatrick talks to Stephen Bustin, whose devastating testimony in a
US court demolished the last shred of evidence against vaccines.
“Testimony in a US court last week by London-based molecular biologist
Stephen Bustin comprehensively exposed the unreliability of O'Leary's
findings, based on an investigation of his laboratory carried out in
early 2004. ‘It has been incredibly frustrating', Professor Bustin told
me on his return from the USA. ‘For three years we have been unable
[for legal reasons] to reveal our findings. Now I want to get the
message out about the O'Leary/Wakefield research: there's nothing in
Dr. Fitzpatrick then revealed the real reason why all this
needed to be advertised immediately: “…the testimony of Bustin and
other expert witnesses was yet another blow for the anti-vaccine
campaigners as Andrew Wakefield returns to London next week from his
new base in a private clinic in Texas to face charges of professional
misconduct at the General Medical Council.”
I am not aware of any other expert in the case discussing his testimony
in public or granting interviews before the decision was announced. In
fact, I do not know of any expert anywhere who would have considered
granting such interview. For Dr. Bustin to do so, when he was well
aware that all three Special Masters had yet to decide whether to
consider his testimony or not was at the very least irresponsible.
In his decision filed February 12, 2009, Special Master Hastings
discussed the issue of Dr. Bustin’s testimony at length, evidently
realizing that it was certain to lead to an appeal. He stated that
“even if I were to completely exclude and disregard all of Dr. Bustin’s
reports and all of his hearing testimony, nevertheless all of my
conclusions in this case would remain exactly the same.”
Special Master Hastings then explained that he had decided that the
testing done in the O’Leary lab was unreliable based on evidence
presented by experts other than Bustin but particularly for three other
reasons: “(1) the fact that the laboratory failed to publish any
sequencing data to confirm the validity of its testing, (2) the failure
of other laboratories to replicate the Unigenetics testing, and (3) the
demonstration by the D’Souza group that the Uhlmann primers were
With all due respect, I would point out that:
(1) Research laboratories very rarely provide sequencing data and not
because they have anything to hide. In addition, there is no evidence
that the DOJ ever requested the sequencing data for Michelle’s test and
did not receive them. It seems therefore at the very least unfair to
allow Bustin to testify, without submitting supporting evidence, and
then punish the Cedillos for not having presented supporting evidence they were never asked to provide.
(2) Other laboratories in England, Japan and the United States have
certainly replicated the “testing” performed in Dr. O’Leary’s
Laboratory in Ireland. John O’Leary was not the only researcher in the
world testing for measles virus RNA in the last few years. A discussion
of the O’Leary “testing results” follows.
(3) I read “No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood
Mononuclear Cells From Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder by Yasmin
D’Souza, Eric Fombonne and Brian J. Ward. Pediatrics
2006;118;1664-1675”. It was totally about research done on blood.
Specifically, D’Souza et al did not discuss Michelle Cedillo’s test
results and did not question the fact that she had evidence of measles
virus Genomic RNA in her gut.
The O’Leary test results
Dr. O’Leary’s test results were also replicated. In fact,
experts for the Respondent had stated during the hearing that the
laboratory of Dr. Oldstone in the U.S. and that of Dr. Cotter in the
U.K. had indeed performed tests and found results similar to those from
Dr. O’Leary’s Laboratory
In a footnote on page 116 of his decision, Special Master Hastings wrote:
154Another epidemiologic study was published in September of 2008. Mady Hornig et al., Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case ControlStudy, 3 PloS ONE e3140 (2008), available at
www.plosone.org. Neither party has sought to make that study part of
the record in this case, so I have not relied upon it. However, the
abstract of that study states that the study “provides strong evidence
against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or
MMR exposure.” Thus, it appears that the study would only add more
weight to the conclusion that I have otherwise reached.
As the Special Master pointed out, the mentioned study was published in September 2008 after the Cedillo hearing had ended
but before the decision was announced (February 2009). It could not
have been introduced in evidence by the petitioners during the hearing.
In my critique of the study in question, I explained why the authors’ findings were so different from Wakefield’s. [www.jabs.org.uk/pages/yazbak%20on%20cdc%20study.pdf]
It is regrettable that Special Master Hastings did not notice that just
two sentences above the quote he cited, the authors had stated in their
abstract that: “Results were consistent across the three laboratory
He also did not apparently notice that the authors had further confirmed under Real-time RT-PCR assays
that: “All laboratories correctly identified all positive controls …
All laboratories correctly identified all negative controls.” [http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0003140]
The study was sponsored by a CDC grant to the American Academy
of Pediatrics (AAP) and by NIH individual grants. It was authored by
renowned experts from Columbia University, Harvard University, the CDC
and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The three laboratory sites the authors used for testing for measles
virus RNA were Coombe Women's Hospital, Trinity College, Ireland (Dr.
O’Leary’s Lab); Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University,
New York; Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Herpesvirus Laboratory Branch,
If one accepts the facts that the authors including those from the CDC
and AAP chose the O’Leary Laboratory to test their specimens and that
the results of tests performed at the O’Leary Laboratory were identical
to those from the Columbia University and CDC laboratories then one
must conclude that the O’Leary Laboratory is reliable and that its
results are accurate.
It is therefore safe to state that the testing performed on Michelle
Cedillo’s specimen at the O’Leary Laboratory was also reliable and
accurate. Because Michelle never had measles and because evidence of
measles virus RNA was identified in her gut biopsy specimen, it is more likely than not that her gastro-intestinal findings were related to her MMR vaccination.
As very well expected, the Bustin testimony became part of the Appeal by plaintiffs.
The following exchange between Judges Newman, Linn and Dyk who reviewed
the Cedillo case on Appeal and Attorney Lynn Ricciardella (LR) is very
revealing. It shows how differently jurists in regular courts of law
would have reacted to irregularities related to Dr. Bustin’s testimony.
There was no written version of the minutes and what follows was
obtained with difficulty from the official sound recording. If there
are minor discrepancies, they are certainly not intentional.
Beginning at mark 23:20
LR: My name is Lynn Ricciardella and I represent the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Your honor..
Judge Dyk: Is it the government’s position that you can put on an
expert witness without putting on the underlying documents - seems to
me troubling. If this were a proceeding governed by the federal rules
of civil procedure rule 26, you'd have to produce the underlying
documents and if you didn't the witness’ testimony would be excluded,
is that correct?
LR: That is correct your honor.
Judge: Why should vaccine proceedings be different? I understand that
the federal rules don't technically apply here but it seems to me a
matter of fundamental fairness that if a witness is going to testify
that the other side should get the underlying materials to enable them
to cross examine.
LR: Your Honor. We don't even know if the underlying materials exist and we don't know that what's...........
24:14 Judge: Well that's your problem, you know. If they don't exist
maybe the witness' testimony should be excluded too. But under the
federal rules- you- it's your job if your gonna put on a witness to
provide the materials that the witness relied on.
24:27 LR: With all due respect, we tried your Honor. We actually...our
initial..ah...ah..when we first went to the United Kingdom we tried to
get as much as we could. We tried to get the petitioners expert reports
that were filed in the United Kingdom. We tried to get everything.
Judge Neuman: Was the petitioner and petitioners counsel present in the
company of these various expeditions to try and get the evidence from
LR: In February of 2007 when the petitioners in the Cedillo case first
filed their expert report, that's the first time the government became
aware that results from Unigenetics were going to be vitally important
in this litigation.
Judge Dyk: Was the petitioner notified that this was going on?
LR: Noo..no. We...we went to the United. No, we went to the United
Kingdom on our own to try to get as much as we could. I mean we were in
the process of putting our case together
Judge Newman: But this isn't an adversarial proceeding. The idea here
is to find the truth, scientific facts, causation or what's known and
to implement the policy of the statute. It's not a matter of surprise.
LR: This wasn't a surreptitious proceeding. With all due respect to Ms. Chin-Caplan
Judge Dyk: It may not have been surreptitious, but wasn't there an obligation?
LR: I...I don't. Respectfully your Honor, I don't believe so. I mean,
we had to hustle to use a coloquial term. The..the..the trial was
scheduled for June. We didn't know until the end of February 2007 that
Unigentics was going to be vitally important to this litigation.
Judge: What did you do to get, to try to get the underlying data?
LR: We made an application. We first consulted with the solicitors in
the United Kingdom because the United Kingdom is...has a special
proceeding where these things are often sealed and it takes an actual
act of court to unseal them. We went to the solicitors in the United
Kingdom and said we...we want all these...all these reports. We didn't
really know what was there...
Judge: Nah nah nah no forget reports. I didn't say reports. We're
talking about the underlying data. What did you do to get the
LR: We..we went to the..we went to the solicitor and said we would like
everything that we could possibly get our hands on that pertains to
Unigenetics underlying data. All the reports both reports that were
filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in the United Kingdom and reports
that were on behalf of the manufacturers. Our solicitors after putting
the package together said 'you know, your application is going to be
denied. It's too broad. You need to hone in on what you really want
because this...this was a case --- of first impression --- in the
United Kingdom. This had never been done before. It was a rule of law
that had just been created.
Judge: Did you do that?
LR: And our solicitors said...yes...we honed it down to the three that we were able to get.
Judge: Three what?
LR: The three reports.
Judge: What about the underlying data? Did you ask for the underlying data?
LR: I...I don't believe so, but then we were under counsel from our solicitors.
Judge: I don't understand not asking for the underlying data? You knew
you were going to put in Bustin's testimony. Why didn't you ask for the
underlying data from the UK courts? That would seem to be fundamental.
What more important than the other expert reports that were put in …
The discussion clearly shows that the Appeal Court Judges viewed the
failure by DOJ to produce and share all data as a fundamental error
that was unfair to the plaintiff, something that would have never be
allowed in ordinary court, and therefore should have not been allowed
in this case.
The statement by Attorney Ricciardella that “In February of 2007 when
the petitioners in the Cedillo case first filed their expert report,
that's the first time the government became aware that results from
Unigenetics were going to be vitally important in this litigation”
supports my earlier argument. The DOJ attorneys themselves considered
the identification of measles virus genomic RNA in Michelle’s gut
biopsy to be evidence that her gastrointestinal pathology was related
to the MMR vaccine she had received.
Presiding in his Court in London on June 6, 2007, Judge Keith gave the DOJ attorneys all the sealed English documents they wanted.
In his judgment Judge Keith stated:
“13. Although the Secretary for Health originally wanted to obtain from
the records of the court copies of a wide-ranging number of documents,
the only documents which are now sought are the two reports of
Professor Bustin and the reports of Professor Rima and Professor
It is evident that a) Judge Keith was aware that the DOJ attorneys had
originally wanted many more documents and b) he released to them everything they asked for in their official request.
Attorneys, including those at the DOJ, are not shy when it comes to requesting records they need. If Ms. Ricciardella really wanted to get “everything” she should have requested everything and there is a very good chance that she would have received everything from Judge Keith.
The fact is all data related to the O’Leary reports were never requested and one must ask why.
For the evidence by Dr. Bustin to be reliable, it had to be complete and as long as the supporting evidence and the laboratory books were not available, the evidence was not complete. It was therefore not reliable and it should not have been allowed in the first place.
Did Bustin’s so-called “devastating testimony” really demolish the last
shred of evidence against vaccines, as Fitzpatrick claimed after the
London interview? Certainly not!
Did Bustin’s testimony affect the outcome of Cedillo v The Secretary of HHS? Apparently
yes, because Special Master Hastings ultimately decided that: “… there
is no valid reason for me to disregard the evidence supplied by Dr.
The tragedy of it all is that Michelle Cedillo’s RNA testing was more
likely than not accurate and that the O’Leary Laboratory results were
indeed reliable. The fact that Michelle had evidence of measles virus
RNA in her gut biopsy strongly suggests that her severe
gastrointestinal findings and symptoms were related to her MMR
The defeat of the Cedillo case, the first “Autism” test case, not only
prevented a poor vaccine-injured child from receiving her rightful
compensation, but it also compromised the rights of many other children.
All this Injustice needs to be rectified. At the very least, the
decision in Cedillo v The Secretary of HHS should not be used to deny
thousands of families their rights.
F. Edward Yazbak MD, FAAP