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21 April 2016

To vaccinate or not – let's look at Arranzio & Moss [2015] Fam CA 544

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The issue of vaccinating children is a hot topic currently particularly given the impact it now has on Government benefits.

The Family Court of Australia in the matter of Arranzio & Moss [2015] Fam CA 544 touched on the issue. This was a parenting dispute in relation to a 6 year old boy. The parties had diametrically opposed parenting approaches.  Issues relating to the child’s health were significantly in dispute.

At paragraph 5 of the Judgment Her Honour Justice Hogan said the parties’ disagreement touched upon many aspects of the child’s life. For example, they disagreed about whether he should be immunised or not, about what food he should eat, whether he should be subject of further testing for alleged allergies to food and whether he should be baptized.

In this case the Court had to consider, among other things, whether the child should be vaccinated in circumstances where the child’s parents had opposing positions.

The mother argued that the issue of the child’s vaccinations should be regarded as a medical procedure and she sought an order to restrain the father from having the child vaccinated without her written authorisation. The father had not sought any orders in relation to the vaccination issue.

It was the mother’s evidence that the father was likely to expose the child to a level of risk she considered unacceptable due to the father’s parenting style including allowing the child to be vaccinated and to eat certain foods.  The mother was unwilling to accept that the child does not suffer from allergies and does not suffer from any food intolerances at all or any such significant to warrant restricting his ability to experience different foods.

At paragraph 202 of the decision “the mother accepted under cross examination that, irrespective of any scientific evidence put before her, she will never consent to the child being vaccinated” and at paragraph 203 “she will never provide the father with written authorisation for this to occur”.

The mother relied upon the evidence of a “Dr J”. Dr J is not a specialist immunologist, allergist or pediatrician.

At paragraph 213, under cross examination it emerged that Dr J had not seen the child personally but relied upon the history and information provided by the mother and the maternal grandmother to make recommendations in relation to him.

Dr J’s evidence was not accepted.

The father relied on the evidence of a “Dr G”, a consultant physician in allergic diseases. Dr G’s evidence was accepted. His opinion regarding vaccinating is set out at paragraph 232 of the decision.

It was held at paragraph 258 that the consequences for the child of contracting a disease against which he may be vaccinated are so significant that they significantly weigh against the grant of an injunction prohibiting the administration of vaccine.

Justice Hogan was not persuaded that an order restraining the father from having the child vaccinated is appropriate for the child’s welfare or in his best interests.

It was also held that the child live with the father.

Click here for more information in relation to immunisation.

If you would like to obtain advice about your parenting matter, please make an appointment with one of our solicitors.

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