Tags: MidPoint | Arthur Caplan | measles parties | child abuse | vaccinations

Medical Ethicist: Measles Parties Are 'Child Abuse'

By    |   Wednesday, 11 February 2015 04:43 PM

A medical ethicist appearing on Newsmax TV Wednesday took a hard line against doctors and parents who shun child vaccinations, calling the former unfit to practice and the latter parties in some instances to cult-like child abuse.

So-called measles parties are "a form of child abuse" that warrants intervention by child protective service agencies, Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center's Department of Population Health, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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"Child Protective Services should get involved," Caplan said of the trend, in which unvaccinated children are exposed to a measles carrier in order to get the illness over with, and create future immunity without the shots that some parents fear as a health risk.

"Why would you ever give your kid a disease that could cause them to be hospitalized, could cause them to get pneumonia, could cause them to die?" said Caplan. "It's rare but it happens from the measles due to encephalitis. That is the height of parental irresponsibility. It's like belonging to a nutty cult."

With the U.S. experiencing a surge in measles cases, Caplan was equally direct toward "irresponsible" medical professionals who are "out on the edge of reason."

Caplan said that physicians in any field should be reported to their state medical boards if they encourage parents to spurn preventive shots for measles, mumps and the like, either by fanning overblown fears of complications or by hawking debunked links to autism.

"Somebody says to you as a physician, 'Better to get the disease than it is to take the vaccine,' call the medical board," said Caplan. "They're in the phone book. They're online. You can find them easily and you can say, 'Dr. X said this to me; you should go check him out, her out.' They're not fit to practice."

Parting company with peers who advocate persuasion over career-ending punishment, Caplan reiterated a call he made last week in a column for The Washington Post to strip such doctors of their licenses.

"And the reason you lose your license is, if I come with my child and say, 'Should I vaccinate my child?' And you say, 'No, you don't need to,' or 'The vaccines are so dangerous that it doesn't make any sense to,' or as one or two doctors have said, 'Better to get the diseases than to get the vaccine,' then I don't have informed consent," said Caplan. "I can't make sound decisions based on the real facts."

"That's where these physicians who are anti-vaccine get themselves in trouble," he said. "And that's why their licenses should be in jeopardy, because they're not informing patients properly."

Caplan noted that some of the "deluded" anti-vaccine physicians he referred to in his column "aren't in the infection disease field — they're not vaccine experts."

The list includes Phoenix cardiologist Jack Wolfson, who famously told CNN, "It's a very unfortunate thing that people die but … I'm not gonna put my child at risk to save another child," and who is now under investigation by the Arizona Medical Board.

Any patient encountering a doctor who goes on about the dangers of chemicals in vaccines and in the environment generally should "move on to another doctor," said Caplan.

"I mean literally just get up, walk out, [and] say, 'Thanks, I've got to go find somebody else,' " he said.

Caplan said that the measles is "way more infectious than Ebola," and that anyone who knowingly exposes others to the virus ought to face penalties.

"Traveling around with measles, if you really know you have the measles and you make others sick, you're liable for the harm you cause," he said. "The state and the city should show up and say, 'You know what? We need to track down all your contacts. It was pretty expensive; here's a bill for a couple hundred thousand dollars, you idiot.'"

He also described as idiocy the claim that illegal immigrants are bringing the measles to the United States.

"It's the stupidest thing I've heard in a long series of stupid things that have accompanied the measles epidemic," said Caplan. "Look, the vaccination rate for measles in Mexico is higher than it is in the United States. They have more of a chance of getting the measles by coming to the United States than they do bringing us the measles. The whole thing is ludicrous."

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A medical ethicist appearing on Newsmax TV Wednesday took a hard line against doctors and parents who shun child vaccinations, calling the former unfit to practice and the latter parties in some instances to cult-like child abuse.
Arthur Caplan, measles parties, child abuse, vaccinations
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 04:43 PM
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