Pediatricians and the Un-immunized: The Moral Question
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states their members "dedicate their efforts and resources to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults," and lists immunizations as one of its strategic priorities.
The AAP strongly recommends vaccinating children and believes that pediatricians are a powerful resource for educating parents as to the benefits of vaccination. For this reason, the AAP is at odds with physicians who are turning away unvaccinated patients. Rather, the AAP asks physicians to educate parents regarding the benefits of having a child immunized and encourage vaccination.
But what's a physician to do when their efforts to educate and encourage vaccination go unheeded?
Certainly a physician has the right to refuse to accept any individual as their patient. The news is replete with pediatricians who have chosen this path. The reasoning is that anyone who comes into a doctor's waiting room who has not been immunized by choice creates risks for others–some of whom may be unable to be immunized because they're too young, have health conditions which preclude them from being immunized, or whose immune system may be diminished due to illness.
Some physicians feel they have a moral obligation to request that those who choose not to be immunized not come to their practice, to lessen the risk to others who may, by necessity, be un-immunized or otherwise vulnerable. While the AAP and certain physicians may be at odds about how to handle the issue of unvaccinated persons, what is clear is that they all strongly agree that vaccination is a vital step in ensuring a child's health.
We at Murphy, Falcon and Murphy agree, of course, and urge all parents to follow the advice of their pediatricians when it comes to immunization.