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Does refusing vaccines make you an unfit parent?

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Baby kept from parents for over a day

A premature birth changed the home birth plans of a couple, but after having their baby in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, the newborn was allegedly taken away from the parents for questioning the hepatitis B vaccine.

Scott and Jodi Ferris from Pennsylvania were surprised, then horrified, when hospital staff kept them away from their newborn daughter, booted them from the hospital and restricted access to their baby when they questioned a hepatitis B vaccine.

It took a judge's actions to get their baby returned to them 24 hours later, and a lawsuit is currently pending. How could this happen, and does vaccine refusal really mean you are an unfit parent?

How it unfolded

The couple had planned a home birth, but premature labor sent them to the hospital in an ambulance. Hospital personnel were light with details in the beginning, giving Jodi an injection of oxytocin without making sure she wasn't allergic to it first. Once the new mom and dad began to question the shots the staff wanted to give the baby, it went downhill from there. Hepatitis B is a routine vaccine in many U.S. hospitals, but the Ferrises, like many parents, questioned the need for it.

Jodi contends that soon after, a social worker came into her room, questioned her willingness to sign a safety document, and when Jodi mentioned she'd need to see what that entailed, the worker called the police, hospital staff took her newborn baby and escorted her from the hospital.

What the ... ?

Most moms we talked to were mystified at the hospital's treatment of the new parents. "I can't even find the proper words to comment on that," said Becky, mom of two. "Truly disgusting." Kayla from Alaska agreed. "I'm speechless as well," she shared. "I don't know what I would have done in that situation."

Kay, mother of one, felt the hospital violated the parents' rights in this case, although she didn't feel there was enough information to really know what happened. "However, I think taking a baby away from its parents after birth is terrible," she told us. "Parental rights, and choices parents make surrounding their child's care, need to be respected and protected at all times (barring obvious abuse or neglect)."

Vaccines are important

Other parents felt differently. "I think the hospital went too far in this case," said Rachel, mother of three. "But honestly, I feel that every child needs to be vaccinated. The immunization schedule is there for a reason, and not following it, to me, means that you aren't being a good parent and meeting your child's medical needs."

David from Kansas agreed -- and went a step further. "Those who refuse vaccines are putting everyone else at risk," he explained. "Maybe a case like this will help cut down on vaccine refusal if parents think this can happen to them, too."

Their day in court

A lawsuit has been filed and a court will decide whether Hershey Medical Center and its staff were in the wrong. It is scary, however, that such strong actions can come about from a parent simply questioning a single vaccine.

More on vaccines

Can vaccination hurt your kids?
Should doctors refuse to treat unvaccinated kids?
Doctors debate the benefits of vaccine cocooning

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