Though the tenuous “evidence” connecting childhood vaccination to autism has been dismissed not only as bad science but actual fraud, the trend of parents refusing to vaccinate their children continues. So much so that doctors are increasingly refusing to serve as primary physicians for unvaccinated children.
In the past, medical ethics boards have concluded that pediatricians have no obligation to treat unvaccinated patients, who can potentially endanger the health of other children waiting for treatment. ABC news reports:
Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics has in the past deemed it ethical to dismiss patients who refuse to get their children vaccinated, and offers a clinical guideline as well as an online toolkit on how to handle the pertinent issues.
The issue is partly a moral one, in that doctors want the freedom to provide what they believe is the best care. But it’s also a safety concern, with some doctors fearing that their waiting room could become a vector for the spread of nasty diseases like the measles.
It presents a real ethical quandary to doctors, since on one hand they have the long-term welfare of a child to consider and on the other the herd-immunity of an entire community. Taking a hardline on this issue certainly affirms the physicians faith in objective science and the protection of a group over an individual. But that image does not jibe with how many view medical practitioners: as impartial healers dedicated to the protection of all people.
It’s hard to fault either side, though. Ultimately the parents and the doctors have the welfare of children at heart, though perhaps with a different perspective. Certainly, doctors must be held accountable for their actions and not allowed to run wild without restraint — as they have in the past. But I find myself sympathizing with the men and women in medicine who are backed the amazing history of vaccination. Eradicating deadly and debilitating diseases from the face of the Earth is, to me at least, hard to beat.