The recent mass outbreak of measles in Swansea is a reminder of the great debate that surrounds the MMR jab and the inoculation of children. It is, in fact, an issue in respect of which I have been consulted on a number of times during my time in practice.
My colleague, Cara Nuttall, wrote a blog earlier this week about Parental Rights and Responsibilities, and when they will be removed from a parent. The issue of whether a child should have particular medical treatment, such as the MMR jab, is a classic example of an issue in respect of which both parents (if they both have PR) need to agree and provide their consent. If they can’t agree, then it is usually necessary for the court to make a decision on whether or not the treatment should be undertaken.
Even on issues such as this, where the MMR jab is now widespread and commonly used, the court will consider each case on its own facts and take into account the particular background and lifestyle of the family involved, along with the benefits and risks posed to the Child by each parent’s suggested course of action. By way of example, I have seen cases where the Judge has ordered the child receive the MMR jab, and cases where an alternative system of separate vaccinations has been allowed.
The court’s main concern in such cases is not the wishes of the parents, but the welfare of the child involved and how best to protect his/her long term health and wellbeing. It will be interesting to see whether the recent outbreak of measles in Swansea is used by litigating parents to support their respective views on such matters and whether it leads to an increase in parents falling into dispute over what is right for their children, and whether or not they should be vaccinated.
By Family Law Solicitor Louise Liu.