Saturday, October 7, 2017

Michigan Mother Jailed Over Vaccination Refusal

People have differing beliefs about the efficacy of some scientific or medical procedures. We have, within some very wide parameters, the ability to make these decisions for ourselves. Your body. Your choice. There are limits. You can't legally decide that ingesting cocaine and meth is the best way to spend your weekend. You can, however, eat and drink yourself into a stupor. An adult can refuse medical treatment for conditions or diseases that everyone knows require immediate treatment. The state or concerned family or friends face a high barrier trying to force an adult to accept medical treatment or drugs that he or she opposes. I know some doctors and lawyers who are frustrated by this. They snark that someone has spent a few hours on Google or WebMD and now considers themselves a doggone legal/medical expert. I've had discussions with friends and relatives who have what I consider to be conspiratorial paranoid mindsets. I know how irritating it can be when someone refuses to see reason. But this is our system. An adult doesn't have to justify his or her bad decisions. The state or other adults have to justify why they wish to substitute their judgment for someone else's.  

But children are a little different. With children the state has an independent interest, separate from the parents, in ensuring the child's health and life. When the parents disagree with the state or disagree with each other things can get messy. Rebecca Bredow, a local Southeast Michigan woman, shares joint custody of her son with her ex-husband, James Horne. Horne wanted his son vaccinated. Bredow disagreed, citing health and religious beliefs. The judge presiding over the case was unconvinced

The judge ordered Bredow to have her son vaccinated. Bredow refused. Telling a judge what you're not going to do usually doesn't end well. The judge ordered Bredow to jail for seven days. The judge gave temporary custody to Horne, who said that he would have the vaccinations done.

An Oakland County Circuit Court judge sentenced a woman Wednesday to seven days in jail for refusing to comply with a court order to vaccinate her child. Rebecca Bredow of Ferndale was given a week in jail for refusing the order to vaccinate her 9-year-old son. A judge previously ordered Bredow to have the boy vaccinated by Wednesday.

“It’s clear to me you don’t care about (court) orders, even if you agree to them,” Judge Karen McDonald told Bredow during her contempt of court hearing Wednesday in Pontiac. “You’ve repeatedly stated over the past several days publicly that you will not follow this court order, so I’m sentencing you to seven days in jail.”



McDonald also awarded the father of Bredow’s son temporary custody of the boy while she is incarcerated and until all of the child’s vaccinations are up to date. It’s a new twist in an ongoing debate over vaccinations in Michigan and across the country. Some parents fear vaccinations could cause autism in children, a theory that’s been debunked by scientists. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute of Medicine have concluded there is no relationship between vaccines and autism rates in children.

Public health officials blame the the anti-vaccination movement for a rise in U.S. cases of whooping cough, measles and other communicable diseases. The CDC said declining vaccination rates played a role in a 2015 measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and spread to 14 states, including Michigan. “You agreed in a consent order to vaccinate your child,” the judge said. “I understand you love your children, but what I don’t think you understand is that your son has two parents and dad gets a say.”
Michigan has reported 504 cases of pertussis this year. Also known as whooping cough, the infection can cause serious illness in babies, children, teens and adults. About half of cases in babies under age 1 require hospitalization, according to the CDC.

There also have been two cases of measles, 37 confirmed or suspected cases of mumps, and 353 cases of chicken pox this year, according to state health officials. All can be prevented with vaccinations.


Fewer parents are obtaining waivers to exempt their children from vaccinations since the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services adopted a new educational requirement in 2015. Parents who want a waiver have to report to their local health department for an informational session about vaccines. Waivers decreased from 20,554 in 2014, the year before the rule was adopted, to 12,887 in 2015, and 13,207 in 2016, according to state data.

This is not just about vaccinations. Because the parents disagree on the vaccinations, apparently that gave the state leverage? I think vaccinations are a good thing. We could of course run an experiment. We could not vaccinate anyone for about forty years and see what happens to the rates of diseases like measles, whooping cough, mumps and even more horrible diseases like polio and smallpox. Maybe then some folks would see the light. It wouldn't be a very moral experiment of course because we'd be rolling the dice with people's health and life. Arguably though that is what we do when we don't vaccinate. I don't mind people getting waivers against vaccination. But I think schools would be within their rights to prevent unvaccinated kids from attending. I would not put anyone in jail or prison for not vaccinating themselves or their child. I would just do my best to explain why herd immunity is a thing.
I have friends with strong opinions on both sides of this debate. But strictly speaking Bredow isn't going to jail for refusing to vaccinate. She's going to jail because there's a custody dispute which she lost. If she had sole custody then her ex's opinion or even the judge's opinion wouldn't matter. Did her ex change his opinion just to mess with her? Possible. I wasn't privy to their private conversations. I can respect someone standing on conviction even if I believe they're wrong.

What's your take?  

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