Mother blames Gardasil vaccine for teen’s death

A New Zealand case of a young girl’s death is linked (without sound evidence) to the Gardasil vaccine. It’s certain this case will prompt more unfounded fears of vaccine safety.

Mother blames cancer vaccine for teen’s death.

Jasmine Renata, 18, died in September 2009 in a sleepout at her home in Upper Hutt, north of Wellington.

She had received the last of three injections of Gardasil six months earlier.

At the time of her death, Ms Renata’s mother Rhonda said she believed Gardasil may have been the cause.

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

The Gardasil batch used on Ms Renata was tested and there was no evidence of a manufacturing problem.

Ms Renata complained of chest pains and a racing heart in the weeks before her death, they “just put it down to something like anxiety or adrenalin”, Mrs Renata said.

She rejected a suggestion from Coroner Smith that her daughter could have died from a congenital heart problem because there was no history of heart disease in the family.

“The only one who’s not here is my daughter and she’s the only one who took Gardasil.”


Tip: Respectful Insolence

That last point shows severely faulty reasoning.

There is another strange quote: there were 69 confirmed deaths of others who had been given Gardasil, but they were all also either being given other vaccines or medicines, had other health problems or had committed suicide.

Obviously, there is no control group here. There is also no reason to believe that Gardisil is risky or the cause of this or any other of the deaths. Sadly, many young adults die. Statistically, some will have had the vaccine (or will drive cars, or smoke or drink alcohol or take drugs, add any factor here). That does not correlate to causation from that factor.

The doctor noted that many of the symptoms Ms Renata had complained to her family about were all known side-effects of the contraceptive Ms Renata was taking at the time.

Or, she may have had a medical condition that caused her death.

Orac, at the excellent blog Respectful Insolence, picks apart the claim that Gardasil was the cause of Jasmine’s untimely death.

It’s quite understandable that a parent, faced with such a tragic loss and consumed with shock and grief, would look for an explanation and grasp at any seemingly plausible explanation she can find. In this case, Rhonda Renata has latched on to Gardasil, even though the timing doesn’t even argue particularly persuasively for causation by Gardasil. In other words, while humans frequently confuse correlation with causation, in this case there doesn’t even appear, on the surface at least, much evidence of correlation. Six months after the last booster shot of Gardasil is a long time.

[…] most likely (although not certainly) [Jasmine’s death was caused] by a genetic defect in cardiac conduction that led to arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. A grieving mother, shocked by the suddenness and randomness of the tragedy, is unable to accept the most likely explanation, particularly given the uncertainty, latches onto something she can blame. Why? Who knows? But it didn’t help that she hooked up with antivaccinationists like Hilary Butler, who immediately began flogging the Jasmine Renata case as “proof” that Gardasil kills. The end result causes harm not just to public health but to Rhonda Renata as well. She’ll never be able to let go and heal as long as she is convinced (almost certainly mistakenly) that Gardasil killed her daughter.

Will Gardasil be the next MMR vaccine scare? It seems it’s well on the way.

Regardless, it would be another great tragedy if fewer people were vaccinated and suffered from the effects because of a faulty belief.

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  3 comments for “Mother blames Gardasil vaccine for teen’s death

  1. Massachusetts
    August 11, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    The article suggests that she had ongoing symptoms that started with the first shot–am I reading it incorrectly? If that’s the case, I can see how the parents might feel there was a causal link, even if it’s still merely a suspicious correlation. If she simply developed symptoms shortly before her death then the 6 month period would most definitely be a long time, but symptoms starting with the shot would make anyone wonder.

    Still, wasn’t there an autopsy? Couldn’t they prove definitively what caused her death? Wouldn’t the parents want this, since they are obviously concerned about the safety of the vaccine for others?

  2. Massachusetts
    August 11, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    Then again, maybe not…

    “He said that the “events” happened more than two months after the injections was likely to mean that the health problem was not related to the vaccine.”

  3. August 12, 2012 at 12:39 AM

    We’ve also been covering this in New Zealand, on our science writing collective (see link on my name).

    Inherited heart conditions have been raised as one possibility. Jasmine was also taking the contraceptive Depo Provera, which is another thing some are suggesting may be a cause for concern.

    Another issue is the anti-vaccine lobby exploiting this case for their personal interests (i.e. promoting anti-vaccine views) despite that there are questions about two experts and the science offered in support of this aspect.

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