DOJ urged to stop PAO from doing autopsies on Dengvaxia-vaccinated children

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 4) — A group of doctors wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to halt autopsies on children vaccinated with  Dengvaxia.

The group Doctors for Public Welfare, who counts former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral as member, released a statement Saturday calling on the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) "to stop performing autopsies on these children and to leave the matter of determining the cause of death to competent forensic pathologists."

The doctors issued the statement following the findings of the Philippine General Hospital's Dengue Investigative Task Force that only two out of the 14 vaccinated children who died could be linked to vaccine failure.

READ: 2 deaths may be due to Dengvaxia failure – experts

"None of the deaths of the 14 children autopsied were proven to be due to Dengvaxia," the group said.

The PAO, which is under the DOJ, has conducted at least seven autopsies on vaccinated children. The families of the children sought the help of agency after Dengvaxia maker Sanofi Pasteur announced in November the vaccine poses serious risks for children who have never had dengue.

READ: PAO forensic consultant suspects 'strong link' between Dengvaxia, seven deaths

"In light of these findings by the pathologists of the Philippine General Hospital, it makes no sense for any more families to be subjected to the torture of having a loved one exhumed and cut up only to find out thats no useful information was derived from the cruel act," the group said.

PAO's findings state the deaths show "strong links" to Dengavaxia, although it added the results are inconclusive.

The doctors urged the PAO to stop performing autopsies on these children and to leave the matter of determining the cause of death to competent forensic pathologists.

In a statement Sunday, PAO Chief Persida Acosta said her office has credible pathologists to conduct examinations.

"Ang PAO forensic team ay maninindigan at magpapatuloy sa pagsunod sa utos ng tamang awtoridad gaya ng DOJ, at hindi sa kung anumang pribadong grupo ng mga doktor," she added.

[Translation: The PAO forensic team will stand by its work and it will follow the orders of the DOJ, and not of any private group of doctors.]

The PAO's Forensic Laboratory Director Dr. Erwin Erfe, who conducted the autopsies, also told CNN Philippines Sunday the PGH investigators should to conduct their own independent forensic exams on the bodies of the 14 cases.

"Unfortunately, they chose to review just the clinical records," he said.

Erfe said he will "continue with the work entrusted to my by victims' families, the PAO, and the DOJ" unless instructed otherwise.

RELATED: TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy