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Lobbying on health issues does not belong in the court system. That's the message the Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sent in CoMed Inc v. Sebelius.
The Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs filed a lawsuit against the Federal government to suspend the Food and Drug Administration approval of thimerosal-preserved vaccines, claiming that the vaccines pose numerous threats, including autism in children.
The case was brought in Federal District Court, where the case was dismissed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in dismissing the plaintiff's lawsuit for lack of standing, since the plaintiffs suffered no cognizable injury as the result of the FDA's decision to allow the vaccines.
The circuit held that the plaintiffs lacked proper standing to bring the lawsuit and that the proper place for the group to raise its argument was not before the judicial arm of the government but rather, before the Legislative or Executive branches of the government.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals goes on to discuss the notion of "standing", citing that if a plaintiff does not have standing, "a dispute does not present a justiciable case or controversy."
The three-part test to determine standing, cites the court, is the following:
1. The plaintiff must have suffered an "injury in fact" that is concrete and particularized, and actual or imminent, as opposed to abstract, generalized, remote, or speculative.;
2. There must be a causal connection between the injury and the challenged action;
3. It must be likely and not merely speculative that the relief sought will redress the injury.
The plaintiffs alleged three kinds of injuries in order to assert standing: Physical injuries caused by the mercury in the vaccines, reputation injuries to members of the Coalition who are medical professionals, and difficulty in obtaining thimerosal-free vaccines.
As to the first allegation, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to establish a real and immediate threat. In response to the second allegation, the court stated that the FDA was not forcing doctors to give vaccines containing Thimerosal and that any reputational injury was not legally attributable to the FDA.
As for the third argument, while courts have held that the inability to buy a desired product by consumers may constitute injury-in-fact, the plaintiffs here failed to allege that the FDA's approval of thimerosal-preserved vaccines would prevent anyone from purchasing thimerosal-free vaccines altogether.