Measles outbreak worries some doctors
Los Angeles – — With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won’t get them vaccinated.
“Parents who choose not to give measles shots, they’re not just putting their kids at risk, but they’re also putting other kids at risk — especially kids in my waiting room,” the Los Angeles pediatrician said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by a small number of doctors who in recent years have “fired” patients who continue to believe debunked research linking vaccines to autism. They hope the strategy will lead parents to change their minds; if that fails, they hope it will at least reduce the risk to other children in the office.
The tough-love approach — which comes amid the nation’s second-biggest measles outbreak in at least 15 years, with at least 98 cases reported since last month — raises questions about doctors’ ethical responsibilities. Most of the measles cases have been traced directly or indirectly to Disneyland in Southern California. The others are in Michigan, Arizona, Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Nebraska and Mexico.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors should bring up the importance of vaccinations during visits but should respect a parent’s wishes unless there’s a significant risk to the child.
“In general, pediatricians should avoid discharging patients from their practices solely because a parent refuses to immunize his or her child,” according to guidelines issued by the group.
However, if the relationship between patient and doctor becomes unworkable, the pediatrics academy says, the doctor may want to encourage the vaccine refuser to go to another physician.
Some mothers who have been dropped by their doctors feel “betrayed and upset,” said Dotty Hagmier, founder of the support group Moms in Charge. She said these parents made up their minds about vaccines after “careful research and diligence to understand the risks versus the benefits for their own children’s circumstances.”
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