Endangering the Herd

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The case for suing parents who don’t vaccinate their kids—or criminally charging them.


What if a mother decided not to vaccinate her daughter for measles, based on rumors that the vaccine causes autism, and her daughter gets the disease at the age of 4 and passes it to a 1-year-old, who is too young for the vaccine, at her day care center. And what if that baby dies?   

That’s the sad scenario, more or less, of a Season 10 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. And it’s the hypothetical case study in a provocative paper in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics that explores whether there’s a case for holding people legally accountable for the damage they cause by not vaccinating their children. “One can make a legitimate, state-sanctioned choice not to vaccinate,” the bioethicist Arthur L. Caplan and his co-authors write, “but that does not protect the person making that choice against the consequences of that choice for others.” Since epidemiologists today can reliably determine the source of a viral infection, the authors argue, a parent who decides not to vaccinate his kid and thus endangers another child is clearly at fault and could be charged with criminally negligent homicide or sued for damages.

As you’d expect, the growing anti-vaccination movement responded in fury. After Caplan wrote a related post for the Harvard Law Blog, angry comments poured in. “This article is industry propaganda at its worst,” one commenter declared. Another wrote: “Caplan would have familiar company in fascist Germany.” The blog eventually shut down the comments for violations of the site’s policies against “abusive and defamatory language” and the sharing of personal information.  

Written By: Jed Lipinski
continue to source article at slate.com

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  1. The anti-vaccination movement responded with accusations of fascism, corporatism, scientism and with plain vitriol, but nowhere have they brought forth an argument that disproves the veracity of Caplan’s claim.

    When people get angry and choose wild accusations/insults over facts and logical arguments, it’s a clear sign that they have dug in and are not open to any rational debate. They will defend their doctrine no matter the cost, which is counted in children’s lives in this case, and no matter that deep down they know they are wrong.

    I say let them rot. Sue them, jail them when they harm anyone but themselves. And let natural selection do the rest.

  2. “The anti-vaccination movement responded with accusations of fascism, corporatism, scientism and with plain vitriol, but nowhere have they brought forth an argument that disproves the veracity of Caplan’s claim.”

    What they also haven’t done, of course, is present any actual evidence to verify their own claims.

  3. What on earth does “Green Our Vaccines” even mean? Administer via ladybug? From their perspective, how would these poison-mongers even demonstrate what illiteracy in science looks like? I’d really like to know.

    Mike

  4. “Green our vaccine” the nature fallacy writ large. Might as well say “we demand the right to lethal infectious diseases and if you don’t like that screw you. We hanker for the days when half our kids died miserable deaths.”

    Of course state sanctions are justified. If they don’t understand that you get more heavy metals in one tin of tuna than a lifetime’s worth of immunisation and think disease is the preferable option then they have to made to understand that if you live in a society you have to live by society’s rules. If they don’t like that they can always move to the Amazon basin or somewhere where they won’t endanger others.

  5. By the looks of things this march against the supposed health dangers of vaccines is probably the only exercise some of the adults in that photo have ever had. Leastwise they appear perfectly happy to eat themselves to death while simultaneously allowing their kids to catch and spread infectious diseases. Darwin works in mysterious ways :)

  6. Follow the Australian example. They now fine pre-schools, playgroups etc up to A$4,000 for every unvaccinated child enrolled who thereby puts other children at risk.

    But yes, sue them or indeed jail them for negligent homicide too if that’s what it takes. These people are simply guilty of child abuse. Their own and other people’s.

    • In reply to #6 by Stevehill:

      Follow the Australian example. They now fine pre-schools, playgroups etc up to A$4,000 for every unvaccinated child enrolled who thereby puts other children at risk.

      But yes, sue them or indeed jail them for negligent homicide too if that’s what it takes. These people are simply guilty of child a…

      An excellent idea. What is $4,000.00 Australian dollars in US dollars?

      • In reply to #10 by Neodarwinian:

        Follow the Australian example. They now fine pre-schools, playgroups etc up to A$4,000 for every unvaccinated child enrolled who thereby puts other children at risk.

        .An excellent idea. What is $4,000.00 Australian dollars in US dollars?

        According to the present London exchange the rates
        UK £1 = US $1.5448 CAN $1.5979 and AUS $ 1.6947

        So there is not a lot of difference.

    • In reply to #8 by aquilacane:

      Next on the agenda:
      Car seats for toddlers is a crime against my child’s freedom of expression!

      And don’t you dare infringe on my 4-year old’s 2nd Amendment rights!

  7. One way to handle this is to compute the average cost of non-vaccinating a child and make that a licence fee, like owning an unspayed dog. The number of non-vaccinated kids should drop. And the cost itself should eventually drop.

    Another way to handle this is to have a court case to settle the matter just how dangerous vaccinations are and do parents have the right to endanger other people’s children.

    Another way to handle is this is with some junk science law. Websites purporting to put out medical or scientific advice must be able demonstrate the truth of what they say or be fined and shut down.

  8. Refusing to immunize a child endangers not only the health of that child, but that of every other child with whom the non-immunized child comes into contact.

    If you bring your non-immunized child into contact with mine and my child becomes ill because of that contact, I will sue the arse off you. If my child dies, I’ll pursue you to both our graves to have you charged with murder, no matter how many rights-conferring Amendments your constitution has.

    And I don’t give a damn how many invisible friends you try to suborn to support your arguments.

    PUBLIC HEALTH TRUMPS INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM – ALWAYS!

    • In reply to #14 by Sally:

      If you bring your non-immunized child into contact with mine and my child becomes ill because of that contact, I will sue the arse off you.

      Sorry I don’t understand your comment. Your child would be immunized and therefore will not be ill. What is the problem?

      • In reply to #19 by ikinmoore:

        In reply to #14 by Sally:

        If you bring your non-immunized child into contact with mine and my child becomes ill because of that contact, I will sue the arse off you.

        Sorry I don’t understand your comment. Your child would be immunized and therefore will not be ill. What is the problem?

        It’s explained in the article

        What if a mother decided not to vaccinate her daughter for measles, based on rumors that the vaccine causes autism, and her daughter gets the disease at the age of 4 and passes it to a 1-year-old, who is too young for the vaccine, at her day care center. And what if that baby dies?

        The same sort of thing is happening a lot with whooping cough which can kill babies who are too young to have been vaccinated but not older children.

        Michael

  9. In reply to #6 by Stevehill:

    Follow the Australian example. They now fine pre-schools, playgroups etc up to A$4,000 for every unvaccinated child enrolled who thereby puts other children at risk.

    But yes, sue them or indeed jail them for negligent homicide too if that’s what it takes. These people are simply guilty of child a…

    Hi Steve, this was just recently – and only in NSW local authority run centres wasn’t it?

    I’ve just moved to Aus’ (WA) and have been pretty gobsmacked by the efficacy of the Anti Vaxxers here – specifically through the misleadingly titled ‘Australian Vaccination Network’ and it’s leader, Meryl Dorey:

    **“There will come a time – I pray to God that it will happen in my lifetime – when those who have pushed vaccines upon innocent, helpless babies – doctors, pharmaceutical companies, government officials – will be proven to have lied and cheated these instruments of death into our children’s bloodstream. When that occurs, the outcry will be heard around the world and there will not be enough hiding places on the globe for these murderers to hide or enough money to pay for compensation. Of course, it will be too late for the babies, like this poor child, to be saved. But we will be able to take satisfaction from the fact that never again will anyone have to be pushed to poison their child because for once and for all, it will be known as poison and we will all wonder how it was we fell for the vaccine lie for as long as we did.”

    Meryl Dorey, President, Australian Vaccination Network**

    Or the misleadingly titled ‘Vaccination Council’, or this whack-job, Dr Peter Baratosy at the incredibly named ‘Visa Info’site.

    It seems all is far from well in The Lucky Country… Chiropractors abound on every street corner and Psychic Fairs (and the Psychic TV Channel were you can see people being fleeced for their money live on camera) are incredibly popular, as are the claims for all sorts of products, both on national TV and locally in shop windows.

    I can buy a cream at my local market that professes to stop you smoking as well as cure sleeplessness, asthma, psoriasis, and cancer.

    Homeopaths and Naturopaths claim to immunise your children, and Chinese Herbal Medicine is huge – and its claims, bigger still.

    I don’t know why I thought there would be less woo out here than back in the UK? Perhaps the Aussie stereotype of calling a spade a spade?

    Regardless, a bit shocked to get here and discover it’s more ‘Oz’ than ‘Aus’.

    Anvil.

    No idea why the formatting doesn’t work on this?

  10. In reply to #15 by Anvil:

    Yes, to be fair it is I think only NSW which has so far legislated. But it’s a start, and well done Australia for – I think – being the first to legally penalise non-vaccinators.

  11. I do not believe in compulsory vaccinations. If a parent wants to vaccinate a child then so be it. If a parent doesn’t want to vaccinate then they have a right not to do so. I tend to find that in very rare cases children become ill through the vaccination. It is right to question this as in the case of Andrew Wakefield and the MMR vaccine. It is a question of choice.
    Judging the comments here all I can say is that a parent who doesn’t vaccinate has to live with the fact if any thing happens. Nothing is fool prove.

    • In reply to #20 by ikinmoore:

      I do not believe in compulsory vaccinations. If a parent wants to vaccinate a child then so be it. If a parent doesn’t want to vaccinate then they have a right not to do so.

      Why? Their actions put other people’s children’s lives at risk.

      Michael

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