Families in autism link claims fear legal ‘threat’
May 14 2004
Source: The Herald
SCOTTISH families claiming the MMR triple vaccine has caused autism in their children have accused Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, of trying to intimidate them into dropping compensation claims.
The company has given claimants until today to abandon legal action or face potentially crippling costs. The move comes after legal aid worth £10m was refused last year.
A letter sent to more than 500 families on April 29 by Lovells, Merck's solicitor, asked the families if they wished to continue the action.
It warns that, after legal aid is withdrawn, they will be "at risk of facing a liability for any further costs Merck continues to incur in defending the claim" unless an undertaking is given "not to issue any further proceedings arising out of vaccination with the MMR vaccine against Merck in this or any other jurisdiction".
The letter provoked a furious reaction among families, which say the discontinuance notice provided by Lovells would prevent a claim being made in the future should any firm evidence emerge to support the disputed link between MMR and autism.
Anne Glowacki, of Dunipace, Stirlingshire, whose daughter Ashleigh, 12, is autistic, said she and her husband had no choice but to abandon their legal action, adding: "I thought they were trying to threaten me. We want to fight the case but it would be our house that we lose. We don't have the money they have."
Jackie Fletcher, national co-ordinator of Jabs, a charity supporting families who believe their children have been damaged by vaccines, said parents had been caused "a great deal of distress" by the threat of legal costs.
A spokeswoman for Lovells said its offer was intended to inform claimants of the risks of continuing legal action and was not meant to be intimidatory.