Thursday, September 12, 2013

          Professor Dorit Reiss on the Legal Duties of Parents Who Choose Not to Vaccinate

          "If you choose to reject expert opinion and believe you know more than the majority of doctors, scientists, and health officials, you should not roll the costs of that choice onto others. The legal system can, and should, hold those responsible for harm if it is determined that their actions led to another person’s suffering."
          Professor Dorit R. Reiss

          Professor Dorit R. Reiss

          A German boy named Micha died last June after several years of agony from a rare but fatal complication of measles called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). 

          While still too young to be vaccinated himself, he contracted measles from an unvaccinated child in a pediatrician’s waiting room. Years later, SSPE erupted. One family’s choice not to vaccinate their child effectively destroyed another family.

          In the United States, where health insurance coverage is more limited than in Germany, Micha’s parents could have incurred substantial medical costs on top of their incredible heartache and suffering. The question is, would it be reasonable to hold the unvaccinated parents liable for those costs?

          In a recent blog post, Bioethicist Arthur Caplan suggested that in cases similar to Micha’s, the non-vaccinating parents should be held responsible. 

          There are two arguments that can be used to support Caplan’s points and justify tort liability.  The first focuses on compensation for the victims. The medical and scientific consensus is that the risks of vaccinating are significantly smaller than the risks of not vaccinating.  Therefore, those that do not vaccinate are choosing the larger risk: an unreasonable choice. Since the tort of negligence was created specifically to compensate those harmed because of another’s unreasonable choice, the conditions of tort liability apply.

          The second argument focuses on preventing externalities observed when parents roll the cost of their decisions onto others.  Several studies have shown that unvaccinated children are at increased risk of vaccine preventable diseases, and therefore more likely to transmit those diseases and cause others harm.  If parents are not held responsible and forced to pay when their unvaccinated child infects another, they will not consider those costs when deciding whether or not to vaccinate. However, assigning liability in these cases will encourage parents to include those costs into their calculation.

          Read the complete blog post from Professor Reiss from Shot of Prevention here.

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Thursday, December 01, 2016

          Thinkers & Doers: November 2016

          BIG NEW JOBS IN D.C. -- Prof Price’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post -- ALUMNUS TAKES THE BRONZE -- Prof Cohen in High Times -- THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW -- Prof Hazard talks “imputation” -- PROF WILLIAMS GOES VIRAL -- and so much more.
          Monday, November 28, 2016

          Market Street for the Masses Coalition Confers “Good Neighbor” Status on UC Hastings Development Project

          Long Range Campus Plan calls for development and rehabilitation of up to 1120 units of campus housing over the next 5 to 10 years
          Tuesday, November 22, 2016

          Lainey Feingold ’81 discusses her new book on Structured Negotiation and her tactics in dispute resolution

          UC Hastings alumna Lainey Feingold ’81 speaks with Professor Sheila Purcell about her new book
          Thursday, November 17, 2016

          Leah Chen Price ‘10 delivers hope for victims of human trafficking and human rights violations

          Using her legal education and passion for advocacy, UC Hastings alumna Leah Chen Price gives victims of human trafficking and human rights violations a chance for a better future.
          Friday, November 11, 2016

          Students support the troops with clinical legal services for San Francisco’s Senior Veterans

          The Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors- Veterans Project enables UC Hastings students to give back to San Francisco’s Veterans by providing free legal services to those who have given so much for their country.
          Go to News Archive