A British High Court Judge has ordered that a 7-month-old boy be given a meningitis vaccine despite his mother’s objections.
The London mother was preventing the boy from receiving the vaccinations as her three older children had all experienced significant side-effects from the injection (including swollen leg, ear infection and rash).
Yet Mr Justice McDonald of the Family Division of the High Court said that the risks of not vaccinating the boy far outweighed the risks of any adverse side-effects.
"I am satisfied that the balance of risk as between administering the outstanding Hib vaccine and the PCV vaccine and not doing so plainly favours immunisation”, Justice McDonald said.
Elaborating on his decision, McDonald remarked that, “...whilst the mother submits that risk of infection is low, and whilst the expert evidence supports that contention to a certain extent, it is plain on the evidence before the court that the consequences of that risk becoming manifest are grave indeed, with the meningitis in particular being a rapidly progressive infection, hard to diagnose and treat in time to prevent permanent damage or even death”.
The ruling will allow officials from London’s Barnet Council to arrange for the boy to receive the Haemophilus Influenza Type b (Hib) vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) vaccine, both of which prevent infections that lead to meningitis in young people.
Barrister Rosalind English, who co-edits The Human Rights Blog, said that the decision fit well with other recent court rulings on immunisation:
“The current non-coercive vaccination regime under the UK Immunisation Schedule is probably a good compromise, but a consistent approach by the courts such as illustrated by the growing case law favouring immunisation is to be welcomed.”
A child who self-harms must be one of the most agonising experiences a parent can have. But it is relatively common. A study in The Lancet a few years ago found that about 1 in 12 teenagers, mostly girls, engaged in self-harming behaviour, with the most common methods cutting or burning. Most of them stop as adults, but some continue. It is a phenomenon which still seems to baffle the medical profession, despite the abundance of statistics.
In this issue of BioEdge, we report on an interesting response to self-harm, at least for some patients – educate them to minimise the harm, but supply them with razors. Given that harm minimisation is a popular public policy approach in other areas, like drugs, this makes some sense. But I think that most people will regard it as quite confronting. What do you think?
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