Thursday, July 16, 2015

Who Chooses? Parents' vs. Children's Rights

There's a topic that I've touched on a few times over the years here, but I've never really delved into it. It's something that comes up pretty frequently in discussions of children's health, particularly when talking about vaccines or so-called alternative medicine. It's even something that arises around issues of which real treatment a child should receive. I've mentioned it in passing in posts about vaccines (e.g., when talking about why it actually does matter to others if you vaccinate your child, how anti-vaccine people want to change legislation, or how they oppose what they see as government interference), as well as my discussion about a case involving controversy over competing diagnoses. Others have also written about it in the context of cancer treatment. A common element in all of these topics is autonomy: the right to make decisions about one's own healthcare. More specifically, do parents own their children? Do parents have the freedom and the right to do with their children as they please? Or are parents merely guardians and stewards for their children until they are mature enough to make decisions on their own? Where do parental rights end and the child's rights begin?

Recently, this notion came up again in response to a post on Reddit, in which a mother, who is opposed to vaccines and did not vaccinate any of her children, relates how she discovered her eldest daughter got herself vaccinated in secret, much to the mother's chagrin. She asks if she can take any legal action.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jim Carrey's The Bad Tweet

Did you learn nothing from this movie, Jim?
[Update 7/2/15 at 6:30pm: Jim Carrey has removed the tweets mentioned below and replaced them with text-only tweets. He has not tweeted any apologies.]
Oh, Jim Carrey. Not content to be a fool on screen, you decide to (continue) to be a fool on Twitter. After the passage and signing of California's SB277, a new law that removes non-medical exemptions to school immunization requirements, Carrey went on a bit of a rant on Twitter, declaring the law fascist (it's not), playing the Pharma Shill Gambit, the toxin gambit, and, like so many other anti-vaccine activists, declaring he's not anti-vaccine. In short, he's just following the anti-vaccine handbook. But he wasn't content to keep it to just being mildly unhinged. But I'll get to that in a bit.

I first became aware of Carrey's anti-vaccine nonsense back in 2009, when Carrey was with anti-vaccine spokesperson Jenny McCarthy. For a while, Phil Plait, aka the Bad Astronomer, had occasionally written about the anti-vaccine movement. Like clockwork, anti-vaccine activists would show up in the comments spouting the same tired tropes over and over. It prompted me to write up a summary addressing the more common myths around vaccines. It's helped some learn the truth and facts about vaccines and exposed many of the lies told about them.

Apparently Jim Carrey didn't bother reading it, or, if he did, he didn't learn a thing. So what has he done this time around that went beyond merely making a fool of himself and showed that he is an opportunistic and insensitive ass that doesn't really care about those affected by autism?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SB277 Signed! Congratulations, California!

June 30, 2015 - A happy day for California children!
This is just a very brief post to celebrate the triumph of science and public health over the fear and lies of the anti-vaccine movement. On June 30, 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB277 into law. As I mentioned briefly before, SB277 ensures that only medical exemptions will be allowed for school immunization requirements. California has joined Mississippi and West Virginia as the only three states in the country that put children's health above misguided personal and superstitious beliefs.

In his signing statement (PDF), Gov. Brown noted the importance of vaccines and the science that supports their use:
The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community...

...Thus, SB277, while requiring that school children be vaccinated, explicitly provides an exception when a physician believes that circumstances - in the judgement and sound discretion of the physician - so warrant.
My thanks go out to Senators Pan and Allen for shepherding this bill through the California legislature, to all of the senators and assembly members who voted for this bill, the parents and activists who supported their efforts, and Gov. Brown for signing it. You have all done an amazing thing to protect the health of California's most vulnerable population.