MMR families end court fight with drug firms after legal aid defeat

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The Independent Online

Campaigners seeking compensation for children believed to have been damaged by the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine condemned a decision yesterday to withdraw legal aid for a court battle with drug companies.

Campaigners seeking compensation for children believed to have been damaged by the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine condemned a decision yesterday to withdraw legal aid for a court battle with drug companies.

The cases of more than 1,000 children who developed medical problems after receiving the MMR jab were due to be heard at the High Court next April. But lawyers acting for the families lost an appeal against the decision by the Legal Services Commission to withdraw legal aid, meaning the cases cannot go forward.

Funding has been provided to some of the children involved in the action for nearly 10 years in their battle for compensation. But the commission said medical research had not provided a conclusive link between the MMR vaccine and autism and there was no acceptance among the worldwide medical authorities that the jab caused the symptoms experienced by the children.

This, the commission said, meant the litigation was likely to fail and it would be wrong to spend a further £10m of public money funding a trial on top of the £15m already invested.

The children involved in the court cases suffered disabilities such as autism, bowel problems and epilepsy.

The pressure group Jabs, which supports parents of children apparently damaged by the vaccine, said the withdrawal of aid appeared "illogical, perverse and serves no public interest". Jackie Fletcher, national co-ordinator, said: "The decision to halt the cases now, following the provision of new evidence in support of the children's cases, will only confirm the view that the combined powers of government and drug companies are working against vaccine victims receiving justice." Ms Fletcher, whose 11-year-old son developed epilepsy after having the MMR jab, added: "These families believe their children are vaccine-damaged and need to know why their children's lives changed so dramatically within such a short time of the MMR vaccine being given if it wasn't the vaccine.

"The MMR court cases were vital not only to the families involved in the pursuit of justice for their children, but for all parents who are concerned about whether the vaccines they are giving their healthy children are safe."

Clare Dodgson, the commission's chief executive, said: "This litigation is very unlikely to prove [the parents'] suspicions. It would be wrong to raise their hopes unreasonably by proceeding."