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Minnesota professor offers $1,000 for Bachmann's HPV vaccine victim

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  • September 14, 2011 - 3:43 PM

A University of Minnesota bioethicist is offering $1,000 for medical proof that a woman’s daughter suffered mental retardation from the vaccine for human papillomavirus virus, a story that was told by Rep. Michele Bachmann after Monday’s debate.

Bachmann has come under fire from the medical community for suggesting the vaccination for the HPV virus, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer, is linked to mental illness.

Steven Miles, a U of M bioethics professor, said that he’ll give $1,000 if the medical records of the woman from Bachmann’s story are released and can be viewed by a medical professional.

His offer was upped by his former boss from the University of Minnesota, Art Caplan, who is now director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics. Caplan said he would match Miles' challenge and offered $10,000 for proof of the HPV vaccine victim.

“These types of messages in this climate have the capacity to do enormous public health harm,” Miles said of why he made the offer. “The woman, assuming she exists, put this claim into the public domain and it’s an extremely serious claim and it deserves to be analyzed.”

After attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry over his vaccination executive order at Monday’s debate — which scored Bachmann points from debate pundits — the Minnesota Republican said a woman had told her that the HPV vaccine had caused her daughter’s mental retardation. Bachmann repeated the story on NBC’s “Today” the next morning.

“There’s a woman that came up crying to me tonight after the debate,” Bachman told Fox News. “She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She said her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine.”

The comment has sparked widespread criticism from the medical community, which has said Bachmann was stoking unfounded fears similar to claims made about vaccines and Autism. The Centers for Disease Control website makes no mention of mental illness in its “adverse events” report on the HPV vaccine.

Bachmann somewhat walked back her comments Tuesday on Sean Hannity’s radio show, where she said she had “no idea” if the HPV vaccine was linked to mental illness. “I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a physician,” Bachmann said. “All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me last night at the debate.”

Miles and Caplan said they aren’t expecting much from their offer, but they are prepared to pay should the Bachmann campaign provide the woman or if she comes forward independently.

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