PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Should Parents Be Liable If Unvaccinated Children Sicken Others?

A registered nurse, Michele Pereira is among the growing number of parents questioning the government's schedule of mandatory vaccinations for children. She poses at a park in Ashland, Ore., holding her daughter Genevieve, 2, as her daughter Evangeline, 6, plays in the background. (Jeff Barnard/AP)

A registered nurse, Michele Pereira is among the growing number of parents questioning the government’s schedule of mandatory vaccinations for children. She poses at a park in Ashland, Ore., holding her daughter Genevieve, 2, as her daughter Evangeline, 6, plays in the background. (Jeff Barnard/AP)

A measles outbreak in the New York is prompting bioethicist Art Caplan to wonder about the consequences of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.

He argues that parents should have the right to not vaccinate, but they should also expect to be sued if their child gets someone else sick.

He writes in Harvard Law School’s Bill of Health blog:

If your kid gets the measles, and remember public health officials are getting very very good at tracing outbreaks to their source, and makes my kid sick (can happen since vaccine is not 100% effective), my newborn baby die (newborns can’t benefit from vaccines) or my wife miscarry (fetuses are at especially high risk), then shouldn’t I be able to sue you for the harm you have done?

Caplan says providing a legal avenue to hold an unvaccinated person accountable for sickening someone serves two goals.

First, it provides a measure of justice for a family that is affected by an unvaccinated person’s choice. Second, the possibility of a lawsuit would encourage individuals to get vaccinated.

Ultimately, Caplan said, this is a question about balancing individual choice with responsibility to the community.

While Caplan concedes that 100 percent compliance is impossible, he said, “to protect the population, we don’t need 100 percent, we just need 90 percent.”

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

June 6 Comment

Introducing A New Here & Now Website

Coming June 9, 2016, Here & Now listeners and visitors will experience our stories and journalism online in a whole new way.

June 3 Comment

Teenagers Create Impromptu Exhibit At San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art

As the pair toured the museum, they wondered if they could do better. So 16-year-old Kevin Nguyen decided to get creative.

June 3 3 Comments

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Author Explores Conformity, Mental Health In New Teen Novel

Matthew Quick published his fourth young adult book, "Every Exquisite Thing," this week.

June 2 13 Comments

Do Meal Kits Provide Great Taste Along With Convenience?

Resident chef Kathy Gunst tested a multitude of meal kits, and gives co-host Jeremy Hobson the inside scoop.