Much might be learned from genetic cardiac testing – so why does an anguished mum rule it out?

Some mothers are infuriatingly stubborn.

Into this category we can put the mother of an Upper Hutt teenager who told an inquest she blames a vaccine for her daughter’s death.

It’s the Gardasil vaccine, intended to protect against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which has been linked to cervical cancer.

So why should it be blamed for the death of 18-year-old Jasmin Renata, who was found dead in her bed in September 2009.

This – it might be observed – was a year after she was first vaccinated.

But as Radio NZ reported (here), her mother blames Gardasil anyway.

Her mother Rhonda Renata says her daughter became short tempered and emotional after she was given Gardasil, and warts appeared on her hands.

But the medical evidence tells another story.

A nurse has told the hearing the teenager did not complain of side affects at any of the three appointments when she got the injections.

A cardiologist has also given evidence saying Ms Renata could have had genetic heart problems.

Trouble is, the Renata family on two occasions has refused genetic cardiac testing to rule out any hidden heart conditions.

Ms Renata refuses to be tested for genetic heart problems, saying she does not think it will reveal anything.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t.

But the surest way of revealing nothing and therefore of amplifying any doubts is to refuse to have the test.

Alf learned more about the case from the NZ Herald (here).

Most important, Medsafe, the medicine safety authority, says there were no manufacturing problems with the cervical cancer vaccination batch given to the teenager.

The Herald report tells us Jasmine’s dad shares mum’s opinion in blaming Gardasil for causing the girl’s death.

It also says she had received the last of three injections of Gardasil six months earlier.

At an inquest in Wellington yesterday before coroner Ian Smith, Rhonda Renata said her daughter was fit, rarely got sick, didn’t smoke and rarely drank alcohol.

But after her first Gardasil dose in September 2008, she developed pains in various parts of her body, suffered a racing heart beat, weak arms, tingling in her hands and legs, and became tired and irritable.

Her hair started falling out and she was sleeping as much as possible.

“[Husband] Joe and I believe the vaccine that Jasmine had been given contributed to her death. The year she received the vaccine she had never complained so much about her mental or physical state,” she told the inquest.

Again, other possibilities are raised.

Medsafe medical adviser Stewart Jessamine said the batch of vaccine that had been given to Ms Renata was tested after her death, but no issues with it had been found.

He said it was more likely that the symptoms she was experiencing related to the contraceptive Depo-Provera, which she had been using since she was about 14.

The Herald report names the aforementioned nurse who had given the injections, Patricia Ryan.

Following the third injection, she said, she noted that Ms Renata said she was well, and she had no concerns.

Coroner Smith asked Ms Ryan if there was anything that could have indicated Ms Renata was having trouble stemming from the injections.

Ms Ryan said there was nothing.

The cardiology expert is identified, too.

She is Katherine Neas,

…who said the symptoms signalled there was probably a problem with her heart.

She said there was no way her parents could have known there might have been a cardiac problem.

Fair to say, Gardasil is a controversial medical product.

In response to an article about it in Forbes (here), a reader commented (here) –

Gardasil has killed 110 , Injured 25,183 and the numbers are climbing. Everyone should have a choice this is AMERICA and you are the problem, speaking of mandatory vaccination. God help you if you or your child is injured or killed from one.

Science and medicine writer Matthew Herper rebuffed those figures in a follow-up article headed Here Is How We Know Gardasil Has Not Killed 100 People (here).

He writes –

And then let’s take a look at those 20,000 adverse events and 100 deaths and figure out what they mean. It’s absolutely clear that these are for the most part not side effects from Gardasil. Nor is the vaccine, which has been given to more than 10 million people, likely responsible for those deaths.

He goes on to point out that –

When a product gets bad press, the number of reported “adverse events” goes up. And there is no way to tell if a particular side effect is linked to the vaccine. Some people will die after any vaccination, not because vaccines cause death but because people, even babies and adolescents, die with terrible regularity.

And –

You can’t directly link any of those adverse events or deaths directly to the vaccines, any more than you could blame it on my morning coffee if I got hit by a truck later today.

Herper explains the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System in the US, put in place in 1990 as a result of a 1986 law that requires health providers to report harm that comes to patients within a specific time period after vaccinations.

He further explains what the figures tell us and what they don’t tell us, then observes –

Based on that analysis, it seems that of those dozens of deaths, only a handful could possibly be linked to Gardasil. And based on the data available, it is unlikely (though not impossible) that even those deaths were caused by the vaccine. The risks from the vaccine are very small and may be limited to headaches and fainting caused by the needle, not the vaccine itself. Gardasil has been studied in clinical trials of more than 30,000 people; Cervarix, the competitor vaccine, has run a similar gantlet.

Ms Renata, sadly, seems unlikely to be dissuaded from her view that the vaccination was to blame.

Even more sadly, she stubbornly refuses to try to get to the truth of the matter.

Her anguish is understandable.

Her refusal to allow the genetic testing that might throw more light on the matter is not.

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