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Bioethicist HPV Bet Ends Without Bachmann Acknowledgement

Bioethicist Art Caplan said his challenge to Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for evidence that a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer caused mental retardation ended without Bachmann acknowledging it.

Caplan, director of the center for bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, offered to pay $10,000 to a charity of Bachmann’s choice if she could find such a patient by noon today. Bachman claimed in television interviews on Sept. 13 that a woman told her that the shot, usually given at age 12, triggered mental retardation in the woman’s daughter.

The day before her claim, Bachmann chastised Texas Governor Rick Perry during a Republican debate for requiring girls in his state to get Merck & Co.’s Gardasil vaccine to ward off a sexually-transmitted disease that can cause cancer. Caplan said the statements by Bachmann, a U.S. representative from Minnesota, may cost lives by frightening parents away from vaccinating their daughters.

“I never heard back from her or her staff but I know she knew about it since she was asked about it by reporters,” Caplan said in a conference call today. He encouraged people to donate to the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He said he plans to donate to the center, without saying how much he would contribute.

Caplan announced the wager on the social media site Twitter on Sept. 14.

Neither Bachmann nor Alice Stewart, her spokeswoman, have returned telephone calls or e-mails from Bloomberg seeking comment on Caplan’s remarks.

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