UCHastings Instagram

          What's on your #GratitudeTree? #UCH3
          Instagram Photo Likes feliperomerojr, mnguyen_ltd, alixgutmann and 21 others like this.
          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

          Monday, November 23, 2015

          UC Hastings Trial Team Wins ABA San Francisco Regional

          “There are teams that script themselves, with a speech they memorize word for word, and there are rare teams like ours, that don’t come with scripts.”
          Thursday, November 19, 2015

          Wu to Step Down as UC Hastings Chancellor and Dean

          Joint announcement from the UC Hastings Board of Directors and Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu
          Wednesday, November 18, 2015

          Manoj Viswanathan to Join UC Hastings Faculty

          Professor Viswanathan's research focuses on tax policy, economic development, and the regulation of tax-exempt organizations.
          Wednesday, November 18, 2015

          Thinkers & Doers: Nov. 18, 2015

          UC Hastings community members in the news and making moves.
          Tuesday, November 17, 2015

          Can more stable work schedules help employees and businesses thrive?

          A groundbreaking study launches in 30 Gap stores this month to pilot best practices aimed at promoting schedule stability for hourly workers.
          Go to News Archive