The Right to Refuse

My kids and I like to role play. Sometimes I pretend to be a bad guy and I drive by them in my “car,” slowing down and crying out, “Hey kids! Come with me! My dog had puppies and they’re really cute. I’ll take you to go see them. Get in…”

Etani, who’s six, shouts “NO WAY! GET AWAY FROM ME!” and runs in the other direction.

Saying no is a lot harder for Athena, who’s nine. She stops walking and politely declines, “No thank you, sir. I do not want to see a puppy right now, but thank you anyway for asking…”

We teach our children to follow directions, to “be good,” and to do what grown-ups tell them to. That’s not a bad thing. Unless the grown-up in question does not have our child’s best interests in mind.

We teach ourselves to do the same. Most of us are rule followers. We don’t want to be noticed. We don’t want to make waves. We want people to like us. We want to say yes and do as we are told.

So when an authority figure tells us how to take care of our children, we try to follow their advice. That means when a hospital includes Pamper diapers in their gift bag, that is the brand we will use. And when a dentist gives our child fluoride, we accept it.

As adults, we are expected to follow our doctor’s recommendations without question. Healthcare practitioners are often busy and overworked. Most do not have the time to talk to you and when they do they do not expect to have a discussion: they expect you to listen to them and do as they tell you. Even if we intuit that what the doctor’s suggesting is not in our best interests, usually we say little or nothing. We leave the office and seek a second opinion. Or we follow their directions even though it niggles at us, giving in to their authority over our bodies, our health, and our children.

But what if what the doctor recommends is not in the best interest of our child? Last year Harvard University medical students realized they were being duped by their professors, who belittled them in class when they asked about the side effects of different drugs. When a little digging revealed that many of the Harvard Medical School professors were actually working for major drug manufacturers and had a conflict of interest, the students began protesting. (Read the New York Times article on this subject here.) Gone are the days of the American doctor who makes house calls, has dinner with you, and cares deeply about your health and your child’s health, not only because you are paying him but because he knows your family in a personal way. Though I would like to believe that most doctors care about their patients, I also think our healthcare practitioners are more often swayed by financial and political interests, including a huge amount of pressure from drug companies and their peers.

Which brings us back to vaccines. Some of the vaccines given today should not be on the CDC schedule. You cannot keep loading up children with new vaccines, continue giving them the old (and now obsolete) vaccines, and expect this overload of vaccinations to be safe.

With all due respect to the readers who commented yesterday on this blog, it’s ridiculous to argue that it is unethical to do a scientific study with unvaccinated children as a control group. There is nothing unethical about it. These studies absolutely can be done because the unvaccinated or very selectively vaccinated children are already out there. Dr. Jay Gordon, whose interview was deleted from the PBS Frontline documentary, has noticed after thirty years practicing medicine, that it is these unvaccinated children who are the healthiest and most robust.

We don’t know exactly why or exactly how, and the debate about autism is still very much on the table, but I think it is clear that the current CDC vaccine schedule is making our children sick. If you don’t think so, fine. Keep vaccinating your children the way the government has told you to. Since you believe that the vaccines are safe and effective, you can sleep easily at night knowing that following the CDC will keep your child protected and healthy. (At the same time, I invite you to submit yourself to the same schedule as your infant and start going to the doctor every few months to get loaded up on vaccines. Do it as an experiment and see how it makes you feel in both the short term and the long-term.)

But if you have concerns about the vaccine schedule and you believe in the right to refuse having your child injected with a pharmaceutical product that makes drug companies very wealthy, you are not alone.

Despite the way it was depicted on PBS, this is not a fringe movement of hippie dippie woo woo Ashlanders and flighty celebrities. There’s a groundswell of parents in the United States who want to see the guidelines changed, though most of them prefer to stay safely in the closet (which is where I wish I were when people attack me on the Internet and send me hate mail) and keep their choices private.

One such parent is Louise Kuo Habakus, founder of Life Health Choices, who is organizing the American Rally for Personal Rights.Picture 9

When: May 26, 2010 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Where: Grant Park, downtown Chicago

What: A rally with an impressive line-up of speakers to champion vaccination choice and parental consent

For more information: American Rally for Personal Rights

Louise called me yesterday after watching Frontline. There are satellite rallies being planned in several other cities. If you care about the vaccine debate, consider hosting a party or a rally on May 26 in your town.

“Athena,” I say. “Try again. You can say ‘thank you’ but you need to be more forceful. ‘NO! I will NOT go with you.’”

Grown-ups need to learn this lesson as much as children: we all have the right to refuse.

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on Thursday, April 29th, 2010 at 11:28 am and is filed under rejecting modern medicine.
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