Should You Be Able to Sue Parents Who Won’t Vaccinate Their Kids?

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With measles cases on the rise in the United States, there’s a growing controversy over whether vaccines should be made mandatory. And this morning “The Today Show” tackled this question: Should you be able to sue parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?

A 2006 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a higher number of measles cases in states with liberal personal belief exemptions. In California, for example, where a measles outbreak started in Disneyland and then quickly spread to other states,  the number of families taking this exemption has doubled in just the past seven years. An outbreak of whooping cough this past December in Grand Traverse County, Michigan spread quickly, with public health officials there reporting that the state made it very easy for parents to decline the vaccine, thus sending the state waiver rate to three times the national average.

Those who say parents should be held liable for refusing to vaccinate their children argue that parental choice shouldn’t be unrestricted, and that liberty regarding vaccinations ends at the “start of a vulnerable person’s body.” They believe that parents should pay damages for death and disability resulting from a disease outbreak. The other side says that the issue is complicated, but argues that life is full of risk and feels that imposing legal liability implies that all vaccinations are safe and effective. They say that vaccines are not perfect, and sometimes they don’t take. The ability to sue would open up many complicated legal issues.

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Photo: Getty