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Vaccination Dispute

In the recent Family Court matter of Arranzio & Moss [2015] FamCA 544, the topical issue of whether a child should be vaccinated was considered in circumstances where the child’s parents held opposing views.

At the commencement of the trial, the mother submitted that the issue of the child’s vaccination should be regarded as a ‘medical procedure’ and sought an order to restrain the father from having the child vaccinated without her written authorisation.

The Court drew from the mother’s evidence that it was her view that the father was likely to expose the child to a level of risk she considered unacceptable due to the father’s parenting style, including allowing the child to be vaccinated and to eat certain foods.

The mother accepted under cross-examination that, irrespective of any scientific evidence put before her, she would never consent to the child being vaccinated and would never provide the father with written authorisation for this to occur.

The mother sought to rely on the evidence of a “Dr J” who deposed that the child had an alleged underlying health issues which placed him at a higher risk of sustaining an adverse reaction from vaccinations. It emerged under cross examination that Dr J had not met or examined the child, and had simply relied on the mother’s version of events.

It was further found that in 2012, Dr J had given a presentation in Melbourne where the doctor relied upon a discredited research paper which purported to link the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism. Dr J’s evidence was not accepted.

A “Dr G” provided an opposing opinion to Dr J, and expressed the view that:

 

  • there is no evidence that vaccines cause cancer;
  • the flu vaccine is very safe;
  • whilst it had previously been thought that administering the diphtheria vaccine provided long term relief, it appeared that it provides only temporary control and, therefore, needed to be repeated as it loses effect over time;
  • the idea that administering the pertussis vaccine resulted in pertussis remaining in the system was nonsense because the whole point of vaccination was to get rid of pertussis;
  • the polio vaccine, which should be administered by injection, was extremely effective;
  • while polio had been eradicated in India because virtually all people had been immunised, there had been major outbreaks of this disease in Pakistan because the government/administrators had curtailed the immunisation programme in that country;
  • people like Dr J had forgotten history: namely, that in the early 1900s, it was well recognised that diphtheria and whooping cough and measles were very common causes of severe illness in children with quite high fatality rates and this was the very reason vaccination had been introduced in Australia, with the consequence that those diseases had been eradicated and/or eliminated;
  • one of the weaknesses with Dr J’s approach and analysis was that, whilst a lot of unvaccinated children may have no problems because disease has been eradicated, an absence of vaccination will result in the return of these diseases; additionally, people travelling into Australia may introduce the diseases into the country and the community;
  • he strongly objected to non-immunisation, at least on the basis that it is impossible to predict that a child will never get measles (which can be a major health issue) via exposure to a person who had introduced the disease into the community.

The Judge accepted Dr G’s evidence and was not persuaded that an order restraining the father from having the child vaccinated was appropriate for the child’s welfare or in his best interests. The Judge made an order granting the father to have sole parental responsibility for the child, which allows him to vaccinate the child without the consent of the mother.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers

 

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