Thursday, January 29, 2015

Family court grapples with vaccine dispute

Here is a Michigan case where a judge was asked to resolve a vaccination disagreement:
Following the parties’ divorce, defendant Richard Kagen discovered that plaintiff Lenore Kagen had discontinued their children’s vaccinations several years earlier [long before the divorce]. The pair could not agree on whether the children’s vaccinations should be updated and brought their dispute before the Oakland Circuit Court.

The circuit court failed to describe the applicable burden of proof and made no consideration of any statutory best interest factor in deciding the matter as required by [precedent]. The court also abused its discretion in excluding from evidence government-issued statements about the safety, potential risks, and benefits of childhood vaccinations. We therefore vacate the circuit court’s June 27, 2013 opinion and order rejecting Mr. Kagen’s bid to vaccinate the children and remand for a continued hearing….

Mrs. Kagen asserted that she maintains religious objections to employing vaccinations that contain poisonous ingredients. She further contended that Mr. Kagen previously shared her concerns and joined her decision to forego further inoculations. Mr. Kagen, on the other hand, claimed that he was blindsided by his ex-wife’s religious reformation and was completely unaware of the cessation of vaccinations until five years later.
There are a couple of easy ways to resolve this. One would be to order the parents to follow the CDC recommendations. Another would be to order the parents to stick to what they did when they were married. Judges often do either of these, and claim it is the BIOTCh (best interest of the child).

A sneakier strategy is for the judge to tell the lawyers that if a parent objects to a scheduled vaccination, then he will reconsider whether that parent is deserving of child custody. The lawyer then persuades the parent to back off.

All of these are surely legally wrong. The state could require everyone to get the vaccinations, but no law says that the requirement is only effective on kids of divorced parents. And surely parents should be able to change their minds.

Examples like these are frequently given as showing the necessity of family court intervention when parents do not agree. How else to resolve the dispute, they say.

To me, it shows just the opposite. The US FDA and CDC spend many millions of dollars on data gathering, research, and expert opinions on vaccination. Even they cannot be sure what is best. So how can some judge possibly decide what is best?

He cannot. He will just show his prejudices.

Some will say that the judge is better even if he is arbitrary, because he is objective and neutral. But that is false, and even if it were true, the kid should reared by the parents, not the judge.

In my view, the dispute is completely unnecessary. Just let each parent do what he or she wants on their own time.

This case is about like two Jewish divorced parents fighting over one possibly letting the other eat bacon. Sometimes judges intervene on such cases also, and rule that because the couple agreed at one time to keep kosher, they can ordered to continue that because a consistent parenting policy is in the BIOTCh. But that would mean that no parent could change his mind.

Admittedly, my rule would say that the parents who like vaccination and bacon are going to get their way. Well, I don't think that a parent sharing custody should be able to tell the other parent what to do or not do, unless it is something objectively harmful. Vaccinations and bacon are well-accepted by the vast majority of the population, and are legal and safe.

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