If you refuse to vaccinate your children, does your pediatrician have the right to refuse to treat your kid?
That’s the key question underlying a growing trend among pediatricians fed up with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children because of misconceptions that they can cause autism or other problems.
Recent studies, highlighted in a report this week by the Wall Street Journal, found a growing trend among doctors who are "firing" such families from their practices. Medical associations don't recommend such policies, but the practice appears to be growing.
One new study of Connecticut pediatricians, published last year, found 30 percent of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice because they refused recommended vaccines.
A second study, of 909 Midwestern pediatricians, found 21 percent reported refusing treatment for families because of vaccination refusals.
That compares to about 6 percent of doctors, in 2001 and 2006, who said they “routinely” stopped treating families after parents refused vaccine refusal and 16 percent who said they "sometimes" dismissed them, according to surveys by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Lower immunization rates have been blamed in U.S. outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years. Some parents have voiced concerns about autism or immune system problems caused by vaccines, even though numerous scientific studies have have dispelled such concerns. Many scientists believe it is likely that autism symptoms begin showing up around the same age children are vaccinated, which may link the two in some parents’ minds.