Brown v. Smith and the legal implications of unvaccinated children


The legal realm of the medical field is an ever changing industry with continual arguments being heard by courts and sometimes argued by a medical malpractice lawyer in order to determine the most ethical approaches. A newer argument that has recently sparked larger debate in the medical field regarding the legalities of the situation are the requirements behind vaccinating children. The public continues to argue whether or not vaccines should be legally required, although the small portion of people who are claiming to be part of the anti vaccination revolution are constantly under extreme scrutiny by scientists, researchers, and parents who actually choose to vaccinate their children.

Parents who are strong supporters continually argue that the parents who are choosing to not vaccinate their children are putting the lives of other children in danger. That is an understandable concern because for those unvaccinated children, they could actually get tuberculosis, polio, the measles, mumps, rubella, or even smallpox. There are so many diseases that previously wiped out mass populations of people. In order to combat the tragedy that these diseases brought, scientists and researchers got to work innovating vaccinations that would help keep humans alive longer and build resistance to these diseases. Eventually, these diseases began to fade from the public and were virtually wiped out. A large concern is starting to circulate as unvaccinated children today are diagnosed with some of these diseases which can cause a great public health debate. As scientists and medical vaccination researchers step into the picture to discuss the legal implications of not making children in public schools vaccinated, many plaintiffs begin to surface in the courts arguing that requiring a vaccinations prior to entering an education institution infringes on religious freedoms protected in the the first amendment. This argument is first and foremost, a logical fallacy that proves more damage and harm that any good at all. First, the understanding behind vaccination arguments must first be explained throughout the large scare that the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine caused in the 1990s.

A fraudulent research paper was published in 1998 that made inaccurate claims linking the MMR vaccine to colitis and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). The information in claims were widespread reported throughout the world leading to a severe drop in vaccination rates and an extreme increase in recorded Measles and Mumps cases. These cases unfortunately resulted in deaths and permanent injuries. After the publication many centers and research groups went to work doing their own research that would eventually disprove the original claims making the reported information false. Some of the groups that conducted their own research included: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Institute of Medicine of the US Academy of Sciences. All of these groups recorded results that found no link between the MMR vaccination and ASD. Correlation does not mean causation. The evidence in the first study had manipulated evidence, many conflicts of interest, and also broke ethical codes of research. The Lancet paper was fully retracted in 2010 after further investigative journalism and editor reviews deemed it “utterly false.” Essentially the paper was an extreme medical hoax that convinced many media illiterate individuals to not vaccinate their children. The medical harm that was done by the publication is still seeing lasting issues and effects today.

This past year, the Second Appellate District Courts of Appeal heard the case Brown v. Smith. The case concerned a previous decision that took out a section of a vaccination law that include the Personal Belief Exemption. SB277 became a law 2015 after a substantial breakout of Measles at Disneyland in the state. The vaccine requirement simply states a child must provide medical history of vaccinations before entering an education institution, provide medical evidence as to why that child cannot be vaccinated, or keep the child at home doing home school or an independent study. This law showed to be effective as the immunization rates in California continued to rise after the law was enacted. With the medical exemption clause state in SB277, suddenly the rates of medical exemptions in schools began to rise at the same time vaccination rates were increasing. The law was introduced gradually so as not to inhibit the education of students currently enrolled. For example, if a student was already enrolled and had not previously been vaccinated, they were required to be vaccinated by the next grade span, but could stay in good standing until then.

Vaccines required by law can be highly beneficial to overall positive public health. The appellate court this year heard Brown v. Smith and the plaintiff claims removing the Personal Belief Exemption infringes on the first amendment of the constitution that includes personal freedom as well as claiming that a state cannot legally require unavoidable unsafe products. The plaintiffs strongly believed that vaccines were under this umbrella term. After reviewing set precedents on this same subject and deliberating within the appellate court, it was decided to uphold California law and the plaintiffs lost the case as they had previously done as well. Public safety and the well-being of all persons should be a top priority for governments, medical industries, and public health professionals alike. Not vaccinating a child due to a fraudulent research paper published twenty years ago is highly illogical and can be considered by some an act of child negligence in the face of ignorance and child/public endangerment.

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