Free to Choose but Liable for the Consequences: Should Non-Vaccinators Be Penalized for the Harm They Do?
Article first published online: 12 OCT 2012
© 2012 American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Inc.
The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Special Issue: SYMPOSIUM 1: Conflicts of Interest in the Practice of Medicine
Volume 40, Issue 3, pages 606–611, Fall 2012
How to Cite
Caplan, A. L., Hoke, D., Diamond, N. J. and Karshenboyem, V. (2012), Free to Choose but Liable for the Consequences: Should Non-Vaccinators Be Penalized for the Harm They Do?. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 40: 606–611. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2012.00693.x
- Issue published online: 12 OCT 2012
- Article first published online: 12 OCT 2012
Can parents who choose not to vaccinate their children be held legally liable for any harm that results? The state of laboratory and epidemiological understanding of a disease such as measles makes it likely that a persuasive causal link can be established between a decision to not vaccinate, a failure to take appropriate precautions to isolate a non-vaccinated child who may have been exposed to measles from highly vulnerable persons, and a death. This paper argues that, even if a parent chooses to not vaccinate a child under a state law permitting exemptions, that decision does not create complete protection against liability for the adverse consequences of that choice.