In Michigan where I practice family law, we have a concept known as joint legal custody. This is where the parents are to share major decisions affecting the health and welfare of their children after a divorce. Examples include decisions on religious upbringing, extracurricular activities, and summer camps as well as medical, dental, and psychological treatment.
An issue that I have seen is the immunization of children. For some reason, there are people that believe immunizations can be dangerous and not in the best interests of our children. There have even been movements to this effect, which have been debunked by pediatricians and other medical professionals. There have been groups claiming that vaccinations can cause autism, which has been proven to be totally unfounded.
Some uninformed parents believe that since the majority of our society has been vaccinated against diseases, this will provide protection to their children. This is also totally false.
Today, parents have to take a class about vaccinations in order to waive them for schools in Michigan. Schools also have the right to refuse to admit a child who does not have a current vaccination record. Some camps will not allow children to register and attend without an updated immunization record.
If you talk to any pediatrician, you will be informed that it is important to immunize your children against diseases that in the past had been pretty well eliminated here in the western world. Examples of these diseases are measles, mumps, chickenpox, smallpox, whooping cough, and polio. We live in a society where, without proper immunization, many of our medical advances can break down and people can be exposed to serious illnesses unnecessarily.
I have had cases where this has been an issue between parents. When these issues are raised in court, it seems to me that the approach should be to look at the best interests of the child and seek the opinion of a competent pediatrician. A letter from a physician that vaccinations/immunizations are in the best interests of the child should be decisive. If necessary, the court can request its own medical opinion from a competent pediatrician. I believe that the Court can and should order immunizations in a dispute between parents, just as a Court can order other medical treatments.
When we are dealing with the health of a child, we should not cater to the whims of a parent who opposes immunization and subjects the child to, for lack of a better word, Russian roulette. Remember, it is not only the child who is not vaccinated but all of the other children who can be exposed to diseases unnecessarily.
These are my thoughts. What are yours?