The American Medical Association (AMA) voted recently to support state efforts designed to weaken parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions affecting their children. In light of recent outbreaks of illnesses for which vaccines are readily available (such as the recent measles outbreak), the AMA supports state efforts to provide children the opportunity to “override” their parents’ wishes when the parents have decided not to vaccinate their children. In these situations – and, curiously, not necessarily in situations where children do not want to be vaccinated despite their parents’ wishes – the AMA wants to provide children with “veto power” over their parents’ decision not to vaccinate them, thereby permitting children to be vaccinated against their parents’ wishes.
Authority and Responsibility for Medical Decisions in Ohio
It has been a longstanding legal principle in Ohio and elsewhere that parenting a child involves certain rights, including the right to make decisions that can affect the child’s health such as deciding whether to vaccinate the child. These rights continue after a divorce: the parents will generally have some right to participate in helping to make healthcare-related decisions that affect the child. Only in cases where one parent has demonstrated an inability to cooperate or make joint decisions with the other parent, in cases of an emergency, or where one parent has acted in ways that are contrary to his or her child’s best interests will the court give one parent complete control over all of the decisions affecting the child’s healthcare decisions.
What If My Child’s Other Parent and I Do Not Agree on Vaccinations?
Problems can arise in your divorce or child custody case if you believe your child should be vaccinated and the other parent does not (or vice versa). Assuming both you and your child’s other parent have a say in medical decisions affecting the child and the two of you cannot reach a decision or compromise concerning whether to vaccinate your child, you will likely need to resolve the issue in court.
Whenever a court is called upon to make a decision that directly affects a child, the court will make such a decision by determining what is in the best interests of the child. While the parents’ wishes are important (including any reason (religious or otherwise) why a parent may not want to vaccinate their child), the court is not obligated to accept either parent’s wishes. A court may also consider the desires of the child if the child is older and the court believes the child’s decision is based on a well thought-out reason or reasons. Ultimately, though, a court will enter a decision that is likely to promote and protect the child’s physical health and wellbeing. In other words, in most cases, the parents will be directed to vaccinate the child.
What About My Religious or Other Objection to Vaccinations?
While parents do have rights to raise their children as they choose, these rights are not absolute. The courts have long recognized that the State also has an interest in helping ensure children are safe and healthy. In some cases, the State’s interests override the interests and rights of the parents.
Can an Ohio Family Law Attorney Help Me?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health and wellbeing, Dawes Legal, LLC is here to help. Our firm is experienced in handling child custody disputes and disagreements between parents over parenting decisions, and we will devote our experience and advocacy skills to helping you retain the right to make decisions for your child. Dial (614) 733-9999 to contact Dawes Legal, LLC and schedule your consultation today.