Share this Story

Should doctors refuse to treat unvaccinated kids?

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. She has one more published book under her belt and is currently a freelance writer for SheKnows, Pregnancy and B...

"Firing" patients becoming common

Vaccine researchers have discovered that more and more physicians are releasing patients from their practice who refuse to vaccinate. How ethical is this practice, and how do you feel about it?
Healthcare

While it isn't endorsed by any medical association, more physicians are dropping families who don't immunize their children from their practices. The numbers have increased dramatically over the last 10 years, with studies showing around a 6 percent dismissal rate a decade ago, compared to as high as a 30 percent dismissal rate within the last year.

No vaccination, no care

Why do doctors refuse to keep unvaccinated patients in their practice? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, federal law mandates that doctors discuss the risks and benefits of routine vaccination at each visit and that parents sign a vaccine refusal form, but there is no mention of dismissing a patient from their practice if they don't comply.

A major factor doctors give for the "firings" is the fear that an unvaccinated child will present in the office with a vaccine-preventable disease and expose the others in the waiting room, including children too young or ill to have received the immunization themselves.

Unethical, moms say

Some moms feel that this behavior is unethical. Heather, mom of two, doesn't care for the assumption that all vaccine refusers do so out of fear of autism. "I find it very unethical that a doctor refuse to treat a child because that child is not up to their standards," she shared. "Either these doctors are funded by (or affiliated with) a vaccine-producing company, or they didn't get the skills needed to treat illnesses considered 'vaccine preventable.'"

Angelica from Oklahoma agrees. "I think it's wrong," she explained. "A doctor's job is to treat patients, not demand that they prevent diseases. Everyone should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves."

Docs have the right

Others felt that it really is up to an individual doctor who they decide to keep on their roster. Angela, mother of four, said, "You made a decision and the doctor made a decision. They are not required by law to provide you a service. If you are committed to your choice, then it would be in your best interest to find a supportive doctor."

Danielle, mother of two, also felt that a doctor would be within his right to dismiss a non-vaccinating family. "From my understanding, most doctors follow the convention, keep up with the Joneses, and recommend, advocate and prescribe despite evidence," she reported. "All of this is to keep themselves in business. I think it's cowardly, but I believe they are well within their rights.

Who loses?

Parents refuse vaccines for a number of reasons, from the idea that a child is born with a perfect immune system to concerns over the high number of immunizations given at a time to a young baby and the number of chemicals and other ingredients in the vaccines themselves.

And for those who don't (or selectively) vaccinate, it can leave their little one on the outside looking in when it comes to routine medical care. "I selectively vaccinate and I can't find a pediatrician in my area to accept us," shared one mother. "As a result, we have to go to the ER every time she gets sick."

Tell Us

Do you think doctors who refuse to treat unvaccinated kids are right? Or are they violating their oath of "First, do no harm"?

More on vaccines

No parental consent necessary: 12 and over can get HPV vaccine in California
The great vaccine debate
Doctors debate the benefits of vaccine cocooning

Recommended for You
Comments
Hot
New in Parenting
Close

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!