This article examines a recent Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling on parental rights and vaccines – they upheld a decision to vaccinate a child in the custody of the state over a mother’s objections. This post explains the decision, explains why the lone dissenting judge was wrong, and reminds the reader that this decision is consistent with the majority of states deciding the issue – for good reasons.
On March 22, 2016 a court of appeals in Michigan joined several other states in finding that a parent who lost custody cannot refuse to immunize her children. The court upheld an order to immunize the children even though if fit, the parent could have used a religious exemption her state offered. As in other jurisdictions, the court’s ruling on vaccination and custody was based on the child’s best interests, though the Michigan court emphasized that vaccinating was both for the benefit of the child and the community.
The Michigan court emphasized the extensive powers courts have to make decisions for children in their care. Fit parents have extensive leeway to make medical decisions for their children; but if found unfit, that broad power belongs to the court.
The court also interpreted the law to narrow the effect of other provisions that would have allowed the parent to oppose immunization. This was not the only possible interpretation, and the route the court chose shows its support of the decision to vaccinate and protect children and community. Continue reading “Vaccination and custody issues – child’s best interest”