Your doctor firing you?

Uh, yes, and it’s not a joke. It has nothing to do with a disagreement about treating an illness. It has to do with preventive procedures – namely, routine childhood vaccinations.

As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about.

It’s hard enough finding a competent doctor these days, with all the restrictions of health plans. Now some pediatricians are laying down the law: If you don’t do what they say about vaccines for your children, they will fire you!

Tough luck, lady; do as I say or hit the road.

The reality became public when the results of a nationwide survey of randomly selected pediatricians were published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The purpose of the survey was to look at the attitudes of pediatricians concerning parents who refuse some, or all, of the vaccinations recommended for children.

The results showed that 54 percent of the physicians faced total vaccine refusal by parents during a one-year period.

How would they handle it?

Thirty-nine percent said they would dismiss the parents for total refusal.

If a family refused certain selected vaccines, 28 percent said they would dismiss the family.

“We didn’t expect this high a number,” said Dr. Erin A. Flanagan-Klygis. She’s assistant professor of pediatrics at Rush Medical College in Chicago and was the leader of the study. According to her, this reflects the issue of trust between doctor and patient.

She interprets the decision of the physicians to dismiss patients as reflecting that they didn’t think “they would be able to forge a relationship with a family like that. They felt they would not have the trust they needed to have to move forward.”

I don’t know – why do I think that the threat of lawsuits is more in their mind than “trust”?

Remember, at the recent White House meeting about flu vaccine, one of the provisos wanted by the drug companies is immunity from lawsuits. Physicians worry about that, too. Ask them about malpractice insurance costs.

There’s no doubt there are parents who refuse shots for their children. Some refusals are based in religion but more and more, doctors find those refusals are based on questions about the efficacy, safety and even necessity of the shots. Why give hepatitis B to an infant when the disease only affects the sexually promiscuous or drug users?

These parents must deal with school-entry requirements for their children, and while there are opt-out provisions, it isn’t easy to accomplish and the system works against them.

Autism is rampant, as are the variety of attention-deficit disorders and auto-immune diseases. There are many questions about the connection to vaccines, and while the “official” stance of doctors is that there’s no relationship, the truth is we – and they – really don’t know for certain. Parents don’t like playing Russian roulette with their child’s health.

Even the study results address the uncertainty. Standing out among the conclusions: “This willingness to dismiss refusing families is inconsistent with an apparent ambivalence about newer, yet recommended, vaccines.” (my emphasis)

So the next time you’re told flatly, “It’s safe,” remember that even medical people have doubts about the new and recommended shots. Ask yourself, who’s recommending and why?

There can be violent reactions to vaccines. Some children have suffered brain and nervous system damage; some have died. The Centers for Disease Control has a reporting system for adverse vaccine reactions – a voluntary reporting by doctors who encounter such reactions.

That parents are concerned is understandable. That they need full education as to the vaccines being recommended (note: recommended, not required) should go without question.

We’re told to “trust” our doctor. Yet we’re advised to seek a second and third opinion in diagnoses. Does that show a lack of trust in the first physician, or does it show that ultimately patients should have a hand in their medical care? It is their body, their health, their life and their money paying for it all.

Doctors firing their children patients. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious. The whole issue of vaccines is rife with questions and doubts and ultimately, politics, money and government control.

So, what else is new — except at the heart of this is parental rights concerning the health and care of their children, individual rights over one’s own body, and the heavy hand of the state, influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, and ultimately, the United Nations.

If it sounds like a can of worms, it is. With all those big guns aimed at families, their position — our position — is not enviable.

Remember when the administration raised the issue of the military being involved in a possible quarantine due to avian flu? Not the health department – the military.

Would a vaccine be voluntary for adults and children, or mandatory? Who would enforce it?

Research is being done for an AIDS vaccine because of worldwide contagion. How better to support providing that vaccine to poor countries than to require richer countries to mandate it?

The United Nations last week released a report on worldwide vaccinations. Dr. Peter Salama, chief of immunizations for UNICEF, says more money is needed to insure that 90 percent of children under 1 year of age worldwide are immunized against childhood diseases by 2010.

We’re told the $1 billion now spent on the effort isn’t enough. Dr. Salama says $1 billion more is needed and that donor nations must renew their efforts and provide more.

The core issue may be protecting children, but it boils down to rich countries, primarily the United States, giving more cash and product. But nothing is free. When pharmaceutical firms “donate” vaccines to third world countries, they need to make up those costs. It’s done by having a secure market at home. And they do.

Here comes government. Under the guise of public health, citizens are required to use the vaccines. Every baby born is a new customer and, as the number of vaccines grows, so does the market need. What happens when they develop one vaccine for 20 or 30 diseases? It’s in the works. How soon before it’s mandated? What happens if doctors won’t treat you unless you comply? What happens if you refuse?

This is not science fiction.

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