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A special court ruled Thursday that evidence presented in three cases by parents of children with autism did not prove a link between autism and certain early childhood vaccines.

The ruling came from a panel of "special masters" who began hearing three test cases in 2007 involving children with autism -- a disorder that their parents contend was triggered by the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella combined with vaccines containing thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury.

Three families -- the Cedillos, the Hazelhursts and the Snyders -- sought compensation from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, but the panel ruled that they had not presented sufficient evidence to prove that the childhood vaccines caused autism in their children.

"I feel deep sympathy and admiration for the Cedillo family," Special Master George L. Hastings Jr. wrote in his ruling in the case involving 14-year-old Michelle Cedillo, who cannot speak, wears a diaper and requires round-the-clock monitoring in case she has a seizure.

"And I have no doubt that the families of countless other autistic children, families that cope every day with the tremendous challenges of caring for autistic children, are similarly deserving of sympathy and admiration. However, I must decide this case not on sentiment, but by analyzing the evidence," Hastings wrote. "In this case the evidence advanced by the petitioners has fallen far short of demonstrating such a link." Dr. Gupta: A look at the life of Michelle Cedillo Read full article »

CNN's Miriam Falco contributed to this report.

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