UCHastings Instagram

Big reunion coming up for the fours and nines! #Repost from @uchastingsalumni --- #party #celebrate #reminisce #thepalacehotel
Instagram Photo Likes e_monster, haefelejesica, mnamnam and 2 others like this.
Thursday, September 12, 2013

Professor Dorit Reiss on the Legal Duties of Parents Who Choose Not to Vaccinate

"If you choose to reject expert opinion and believe you know more than the majority of doctors, scientists, and health officials, you should not roll the costs of that choice onto others. The legal system can, and should, hold those responsible for harm if it is determined that their actions led to another person’s suffering."
Professor Dorit R. Reiss

Professor Dorit R. Reiss

A German boy named Micha died last June after several years of agony from a rare but fatal complication of measles called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). 

While still too young to be vaccinated himself, he contracted measles from an unvaccinated child in a pediatrician’s waiting room. Years later, SSPE erupted. One family’s choice not to vaccinate their child effectively destroyed another family.

In the United States, where health insurance coverage is more limited than in Germany, Micha’s parents could have incurred substantial medical costs on top of their incredible heartache and suffering. The question is, would it be reasonable to hold the unvaccinated parents liable for those costs?

In a recent blog post, Bioethicist Arthur Caplan suggested that in cases similar to Micha’s, the non-vaccinating parents should be held responsible. 

There are two arguments that can be used to support Caplan’s points and justify tort liability.  The first focuses on compensation for the victims. The medical and scientific consensus is that the risks of vaccinating are significantly smaller than the risks of not vaccinating.  Therefore, those that do not vaccinate are choosing the larger risk: an unreasonable choice. Since the tort of negligence was created specifically to compensate those harmed because of another’s unreasonable choice, the conditions of tort liability apply.

The second argument focuses on preventing externalities observed when parents roll the cost of their decisions onto others.  Several studies have shown that unvaccinated children are at increased risk of vaccine preventable diseases, and therefore more likely to transmit those diseases and cause others harm.  If parents are not held responsible and forced to pay when their unvaccinated child infects another, they will not consider those costs when deciding whether or not to vaccinate. However, assigning liability in these cases will encourage parents to include those costs into their calculation.

Read the complete blog post from Professor Reiss from Shot of Prevention here.

Go to News Archive

Share this Story

Share via Facebook
Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

Other Recent Stories/ RSS

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rising 2L Evelina Chang: Effortless Networking 101

Rising 2L and Ms. JD 2014 Summer Public Interest Scholarship Winner Evelina Chang answers the question: “What's the best advice you never got when it comes to law school, lawyering, or public interest law?"
Monday, July 14, 2014

New EEOC Guidance “Significant Victory” for Pregnant Workers

Enforcement guidelines cite and adopt theories from expert Professor Joan C. Williams, Center for WorkLife Law.
Friday, July 11, 2014

Thinkers & Doers: July 11, 2014

UC Hastings people in the news and making moves.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Jill Simeone ’93 on Mentorship: "It's the Gift that Keeps on Giving"

“I see UC Hastings as a national school with a national network.” --Jill Simeone '93, General Counsel, KCAP Financial, New York
Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A New Civic Rite of Passage?

Lawyers for America partners with Aspen Institute, rolls out program with Vermont Law School, helping fill the "justice gap."
Go to News Archive