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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7 thoughts on “The Right to Refuse”

  1. This debate caused me to ask my young hairdresser what she had experienced with her kids, and she told me she had decided not to do all the vaccines, and this is not in your “hippy” town but mainstream Orleans, MA. She also said that the family dog, no longer alive, had a really bad reaction to his shots as a puppy, which caused her to decide that the new puppy would not receive several shots at once and would be given time to recover from each shot in between. Of course, she pays for the extra vet visits. It made me wonder if the insurance companies play a role in having babies and children receive so many shots at once?
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..The White Balloon =-.

  2. My kids are way past the age for vaccinations but I will tell you this from personal experience.

    I took my chocolate Labrador to the vet a couple of weeks ago for her scheduled vaccination. Before the shot she was her typical hyper chocolate Lab self. But during the night she had a couple of accidents (which she never does as she sleeps with me on the bed) and the next day she was NOT herself. Took her back to the vets. But what I think, vaccinations can be very dicey for children AND dogs. Next time I will simply decline to have her vaccinated. It was a terrible experience for her that scared her. She wasn’t the same dog for a full week after that vaccination. Just glad she recovered finally.
    .-= Judy Stock´s last blog ..Happy Earth Day… =-.

  3. I am very grateful now that I am not a rule follower. I am one of those people that always asks too many questions, always tries to figure out a better or different way for things to work, and all my life it has driven people crazy.

    Now, as an adult, I find out that we live in a time when this MUST be the way we live. We have to research, poke, prod and pester to get any real truth about anything.

    I love my doctor. She is also our pediatrician. But, I can see that as wonderful as she is, she is still working within a system that is more focused on numbers than people. I’m sure she is just as frustrated as I am sometimes. And, as wonderful as she is, I take what she says with a grain of salt, I do my own homework and I end up doing what I determine to be the best course for my individual child.

    Given the state of our healthcare system, the medical/pharmaceutical/industrial complex, the level of monetary gain to be had in any corner of this industry, the only proper protection we could possibly have is to have the right to refuse treatment on an individual basis, for ourselves and our children.

  4. I think this begs an even bigger question of the role government should or should not play in our health. I realize that vaccines are only a government issue because of public schools. I suppose if you home school, the government can’t tell you one way or the other which shots your kids need to get. At the same time, it seems like an abuse of power for the government to require non-necessary vaccines for entrance into public school. By unnecessary, I’m talking about the vaccines for diseases that are not spread through saliva or air and that are not lethal. It should not be a requirement, for instance, for a kid to have the chicken pox vaccine in order to get into school, and parents should not be forced to lie and say that they did not vaccinate for “religious reasons” in these cases.

    More important, for these newer unproven vaccines (chicken pox, HPV etc), parents should have the choice of whether or not they want their kids to serve as guinea pigs.

    I understand the public health issues with deadly, easily spreadable diseases, but that does not describe the vast majority of vaccines that our kids get.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..What are your turn offs and turn ons? =-.

  5. Great clarification. I am so frustrated with people missing the point as a result of the PBS broadcast. As if it boils down to saying “yes” to 16 injections in an hour for your little child or “no” completely, to immunization.

    We ARE a society of people pleasers. But,we not only have rights, we have choices. I was raised to respect my elders. That meant to obey all people older than I. How shocking it was for me to see priests and policemen and the “nice ” old man down the street exposed as deviates and perverts.

    We have to allow that instinct and safeguarding alert in our brains to have a voice. But, first we have to challenge what has been established as gospel and get that information out to to people. Then, let everyone know it is okay to disagree and have a personal stance. A spirited, informative debate, not a fight. As a result of the exposure of this topic, those around me who never questioned it, are. That’s a start.

  6. This is an important and difficult lesson because our kids are taught that those who obey are those who are rewarded in school. It’s very hard to teach them how to turn that on and off.

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