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Immunisation and the Family Law Courts

By 27 March 2014Parenting matters

Immunising a child is often a very personal, and for some, a very difficult decision. The Family Law Courts are routinely faced with parental dispute around whether a child should be immunised against some or all of the diseases the subject of the National Immunisation Schedule. This dispute, like any other pertaining to a child in this jurisdiction, is to be determined in accordance with the best interests of the subject child.

The nature in which a child has been parented, and decisions made early in the child’s life, may bear upon the attitude taken to a parent that is now voicing an objection to immunisation.

In many instances these cases have involved detailed evidence from a range of health practitioners, often culminating in the need for a Court to assess the risk to a child of immunisation as opposed to the risk of not immunising a child (both to that child and any children reasonably affected by the failure to immunise).

In many instances the birth of a new half-sibling will prompt an insistence upon immunisation.

In a number of cases the Court has heard from specialists in homeopathic and natural medicine in considering the evidence of Immunologists. The Court has previously allowed for testing to determine natural immunity before imposing immunisation in some instances. Similarly, where concerns arise for a parent in the imposition of multiple immunisations on one day, the Court has allowed for some restructuring of same, assuming there is credible medical evidence to support such an approach.

Similarly, and whilst making no findings as to the benefit of same, the Court has indicated a willingness to allow a parent to couch immunisation dates in care from alternative health practitioners, including chiropractic and naturopathic care. Where immunisations have been rendered medically invalid by the child’s age, the Court will similarly show a preference for avoiding unnecessary medical intervention.

There appears to be a very genuine concern from the bench in relation to the risk of an adverse reaction in a child, the understandable fears of a parent and the repercussions of such an adverse reaction for a family. This risk though has been considered in many instances to be outweighed by the risk posed by the failure to immunise. A brief survey of the published decisions relevant to this issue reflects a clear preference for immunisation, but a willingness to consider each case on its own unique facts. The most important consideration in preparing your opposition to immunisation is to ensure that your concerns and proposed orders are premised in valid medical evidence.