Vaccine row parents made to pay for son's diagnosis
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor Wednesday 2 June 1999

A FAMILY in Cardiff has paid 2,000 for a medical examination for their
two-year-old son after their health authority refused to fund it.

They believe that the controversy over the measles, mumps and rubella
vaccine and the hypothetical links between it and inflammatory bowel disease
and autism in children are at the heart of the authority's decision.

Julie and Peter Loch, pharmacists from Marshfield, Gwent, are convinced that
the chronic bowel and developmental problems of their son, Oliver, are
related to the vaccination he had when 14 months old.

Oliver, who will be three next month, was a healthy baby. After the
vaccination, he developed diarrhoea which would not clear up. At the same
time, his mother says he began to lose the speech he had gained.

"At that age, he was not talking a lot but he had quite a few single words.
We realised that he was stopping talking. For about six months, he became
violent. We were very concerned, particularly about his loss of language,"
said Mrs Loch who has two other children, Matthew, eight, and Jessica, seven.

Oliver has not been diagnosed as autistic but is being reviewed by
specialists in Gwent every six months. "I believe that when we have our next
appointment there will be an autism spectrum diagnosis," Mrs Loch said.
Oliver is already being assessed by an educational psychologist as a special
needs child.

The argument with Gwent Health Authority began when Mr and Mrs Loch
 heard of the research being undertaken at the Royal Free Hospital,
Hampstead, north London, into MMR vaccine and bowel diseases in
children. The family GP referred Oliver for a consultation.

Under NHS rules, the family's own health authority needs to agree to pay for
a referral outside the area. Mrs Loch said: "The first appointment slipped
through. The problems began when the doctors at the Royal Free said Oliver
should have a colonoscopy to see if we could find out what was the matter
with his bowel. There was a big row as soon as they realised that we were
concerned about the MMR vaccination.

"We went to London to see if we could get something done about Oliver's
chronic diarrhoea. We wanted his physical problems sorted out. It was not
about autism." But the letter, in December, explaining the funding refusal,
dwells on autism. It refers to the Royal Free hypothesis as controversial.

"Given that three consultants have independently concluded that Oliver does
not have autism, there does not appear to be any reason for securing and
fourth opinion to assess whether or not Oliver has autism, " wrote Dr Sarah
Aitken, locum consultant in public health, Gwent Health Authority .

She says a "controversial diagnosis made at the Royal Free would make it
very difficult to arrange for Oliver to receive local therapy for his
language development problems".

The health authority would not budge and Mr and Mrs Loch finally arranged
to have the bowel investigation done in a private London hospital. He was
found to have severe inflammation right through his digestive tract. Oliver
is now being treated for inflammatory bowel disease.

Mrs Loch said: "It feels as if your child has gone away. The Oliver we have
now is a smashing little boy but he is not the Oliver we should have had. We
need to know the diagnosis so we can get Oliver the help he needs."

A spokesman for Gwent Health Authority said they could not comment on an
individual case.

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