General Question

Staalesen's avatar

Can somebdy refuse medical treatment when it comes to a pandemic ?

Asked by Staalesen (2722points) May 3rd, 2009

Many religious communitis refuse some sort of medical treatment, or blood transfusions and such…
Can a person refuse to be vaccinated against a extremely contagious disease?
Like smallpox or such ?
and if not, how would the goverment handle it?

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26 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes. Any competent person can refuse treatment. The only way a government can force someone to have treatment is to prove they are not competent in a court of law (not always that easy) and section (or whatever the local term is) them under mental health laws.

Staalesen's avatar

So if they potentially could infect the rast of the world over and over, nothing could be done ?

HeroicZach's avatar

You probably could refuse vaccination, but then you would likely be forcibly isolated. Also, I’m sure there’s a protocol in place for this – I’m willing to bet (I have nothing to base it on) that the government will force-vaccinate you. Just a thought.

basp's avatar

I don’t know what the law is but I do know our local law enforcement kept a person isolated under guard because he was non compliant with his polio treatment. I don’t know if they could force the treatment on him, but they kept him isolated so he could not spread the disease.

benjaminlevi's avatar

I think allowing a person to infect and possibly kill people might be taking individualism a little too far.

casheroo's avatar

Small pox? That would suck. Only one way for that to happen :(

I found this on Wiki:
In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1905 case Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts that the state could require individuals to be vaccinated for the common good. Common contemporary vaccination policies require, subject to exemptions, that children receive common vaccinations before entering school.

Staalesen's avatar

In norway atleast you can get crimminally charged if you are the reason for infecting another person with uncurable diseases, if you knew you had it beforehand..
Only time I ever heard it used vere agains a person that kniwingly slept with other people, and knew he had aids..
But I am not sure if it would apply if it were a pandemic illness..

fundevogel's avatar

Vaccines while not universally compulsory are compulsory in specific situations. Immigrants are legally required to get certain vaccines when they enter the US and children are required to have certain vaccines before they can enter school.

Not all vaccines are mandatory, and contrary to what you might expect in a medically advanced society, in some ways we are more vulnerable to certain contagious diseases today than we were a few decades ago. Because the rate of vaccination is dropping. In the past it was poor folks that weren’t vaccinated, now it is overwhelmingly well to do families opting out.

I listened to an episode of This American Life where a measles outbreak struck a California town and an old school quarantine was required. The disease, which is very contagious, was introduced when a family that didn’t believe in vaccines traveled abroad where their young, uninnoculated son became sick. They brought the disease back to their home where other children were rapidly infected. This didn’t just effect children whose parents opposed vaccines. It also hit children too young to be vaccinated.

I wouldn’t refrain from a recommended vaccine unless there was a medical condition predisposing the recipient to a dangerous reaction.

SeventhSense's avatar

As @basp mentioned, I think said person could be forcibly quarantined in the USA if it was a deadly strain of something but it depends on the severity of the disease.

bea2345's avatar

In many parts of the world children cannot be registered for school until they have been vaccinated. The argument goes like this: the risk of death or permanent disability from diptheria, measles or polio, is greater than the risk of ill effects from the vaccine. I am inclined to share that view.

justwannaknow's avatar

Yes, As long as you are concious you can refuse medical teatment but on the other hand they can quarintene (sp) you.

Darwin's avatar

The government can and will quarantine someone who refuses treatment and by so doing becomes a public health risk. A recent example was the lawyer with TB Of course, he is now suing the CDC, but that doesn’t mean he will win necessarily.

aidje's avatar

Forced immunizations can have drawbacks. The government can be wrong, believe it or not.

fundevogel's avatar

@aidje well considering the current swine flu is estimated to only have a 1–2% fatality rate I wouldn’t think it should be a candidate for mandatory vaccination at all. Frankly I don’t understand why people bother with the regular flu shot either.

aidje's avatar

@fundevogel That doesn’t change the fact that this is an example of a mandatory vaccination—one that backfired terribly. I think I made it clear that I think the government was wrong in that situation, so we are in agreement on that point.

To answer your last sentence, flu shots are important for people who would be at high risk if they were to get the flu, such as young children and the elderly. It’s also important for anyone who could carry it to those same high risk people. Others may opt to get it if, for example, they work in an environment were they are likely to be exposed to it, and they simply don’t want to deal with taking time out of their lives to be sick.

fundevogel's avatar

@aidje I’m not arguing with that. Health care shouldn’t be dictated by the politicians over the heads of the medical community. If that hadn’t happened there wouldn’t have been a mandatory vaccine.

If the risk posed by flu is significant it would make sense like you say. Certainly for old people if they’re concerned, but it seems like a lot of people just don’t want to get the flu. Not because it poses much of a risk to them.

bea2345's avatar

@aidjeforced immunizations – when my daughter was in elementary school, there was a short, but intense campaign to innoculate every child under a certain age (it affected everyone under 7, I believe). The vaccine was for measles. Later, I learned from a friend in the health service that a batch of vaccine had proved useless, so an entire cohort had to be re-vaccinated. Now, what was impressive was the speed of the authorities’ reaction: there were few, if any, reports of measles. In theory I could have refused permission for the procedure; – I had to give consent – but then, I would have had to take my daughter out of school. She came home that day with a sticker on her dress saying, “I was very brave at school today.”

The present response to the swine flu, – I beg your pardon, the H1N1 virus – is more understated. The necessary drugs have been stockpiled and we are being urged to be more cleanly in our habits.

casheroo's avatar

People have rights, to refuse vaccination. There are certain rules about this, from state to state, for children. Here is a simple map of which states allow which exemption. Mine apparently does personal belief exemption…which we will have to use when it’s time for my son to go to school, because he does not receive all vaccinations.

fundevogel's avatar

@casheroo – That’s messed up that you can opt out every where if your god doesn’t approve but only in some places if you don’t approve.

mattbrowne's avatar

Probably not when it comes to children. The state can overrule the parents. Quarantines can be enforced to all.

casheroo's avatar

@mattbrowne The state can overrule the parents? I’ve never heard of that.

Darwin's avatar

Yes, indeed the state can overrule parents. That is what things like CPS are all about, and that is why the state can remove your parental rights without your permission. The law says the state can act to protect minor children so if the state determines the parents aren’t protecting them the state can and will take your kids away.

You either have to do what the state wants you to do, or go get yourself a lawyer while your kids are in foster care.

The other key area of the law is public health – if what you are doing or not doing is ajudged to be a risk to the public health the state has the authority to step in.

It is about protecting the whole from the actions of a few, and protecting minor children from perceived neglect.

casheroo's avatar

@Darwin I didn’t even think of CPS (duh!)
I still think mandatory vaccination is silly. If people believe in mandatory vaccination, then they mustn’t believe in herd immuniziation…and isn’t the whole point of vaccination to effardicate the disease? If you get vaccinated don’t you feel protected? If you freak out over one kid not being vaccinated, then you mustn’t trust the vaccine to protect you (which it won’t) I just don’t understand the logic around it sometimes.

mattbrowne's avatar

@casheroo – Maybe the situation is different in some US states. In Germany when parents refuse necessary medical treatment and thereby clearly endanger the life of a child, authorities will take away the parents’ right of custody. A very clear example would be if parents refuse the treatment with insulin, for example because of religious reasons.

Darwin's avatar

@mattbrowne – No, it is not different in the US. If parents are seen to be endangering the life of a child by refusing medial treatment the state steps in and takes over. If parents manage to avoid treatment for the child and the child subsequently dies, the parents are put on trial for neglect and in some cases even manslaughter or murder.

Recent examples include this and this . And then there was a protracted fight over a girl in my town whose parents refused treatment for her Hodgkin’s Disease, which generally is considered a very curable cancer.

As one article states, the US legal view is that “most courts have held the right of adults to refuse medical treatment, if they are judged mentally competent, on the basis of religious reasons. He notes, however, that refusing to give child medical treatment is a different issue. The court has maintained that the child isn’t the property of the parents but is included in the protection of the state on matters of health, and parents cannot deny medical care so long as that care is not expected to provide serious injury to the child.”

mattbrowne's avatar

@Darwin – Thanks for sharing this!

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