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

          Friday, July 14, 2017

          Silicon Valley Star: Jonathan Runyan '06 is Helping Startups Succeed

          After representing hundreds of tech firms and venture funds, Runyan decided to join one.
          Friday, July 07, 2017

          When Irish Eyes are Advocating: Rising 3L interns at the Adoption Authority of Ireland

          Gracie Wright assists with inter-country adoptions, researches 'mother and baby home,' and learns to balance the emotional and legal aspects of people searching for their families.
          Thursday, July 06, 2017

          Annual Research Roundup - 2016

          Message from Professor Scott Dodson, Associate Dean for Research, Harry & Lillian Hastings Research Chair
          Wednesday, July 05, 2017

          Thinkers & Doers: June 2017

          Sherlock Holmes Syndrome -- Clara Foltz lounge is the new (temporary) KQED TV studio -- Professor Joan C. Williams on a talk radio tour -- Why Do We Work for Justice? -- Politico says Trump Hearings Launch Kamala Harris -- #SummerOfLaw -- Was alum a potential running mate for President John F. Kennedy? -- and much more
          Tuesday, June 27, 2017

          Message from Dean Faigman: Celebrating Justice on the 4th

          As we head into the Fourth of July weekend, a time when we celebrate the victory of law over tyranny, it is worth contemplating the role of the modern law school.
          Go to News Archive