This is a great article — if you’re looking for a paper topic for Medical Ethics, I’d certainly go for this one..
The ethical quandary is pretty clear — parents can and should make medical decisions that are to the benefit of their children. There are many things to consider, including both religious and scientific beliefs. There are more than a few religious groups whose beliefs include declining some or all medical care. In these cases, parents will often decline vaccinations for their kids because they think their children will have spiritual problems as a result.
The “scientific” links are a bit more suspect. Back in 1998 there was a study that supposedly linked vaccinations to autism. Since then, all of the findings of the study have been shown to be false and the author of the study had their medical license revoked because it was shown that he wrote the student because of his work defending parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their kids. In all, it’s complete hooey (yep, that’s a legal and scientific term 🙂 ) — BUT, many parents believed it — they read testimony from parents of children who were vaccinated and then they were diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum — and they concluded that there was a link between the two events, even though science and medicine told them otherwise.
What’s interesting in this article is the concept of suing the parents who declined vaccinations, then their kids got sick and spread the disease to other kids — in particular kids who were too young to be vaccinated. In those cases, the “herd” immunity that young kids can generally rely on didn’t work because not enough older kids were vaccinated and the disease spread.
Because we can now trace the path of a disease like measles, we can figure out where it started and if the kid was old enough to be vaccinated, the parents could be legally liable for the costs to other families.
On the other hand, parents can and should be able to make medical decisions on behalf of their children. Limiting those choices, in all but some pretty extreme situations, seems like a bad idea. Adults can decline medical care at any point, for any reason and parents have a duty to use their best knowledge about the world to make decisions on behalf of their kids.