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Child Neglect: Failure To Seek Medical Care During An Emergency Creates Charges Of Neglect And Abuse

Police broke down the door of the home of an Arizona family when the parents repeatedly refused to take their two-year-old son with a high fever to the hospital emergency room.

In February, the mother brought her son to a naturopathic doctor. Her son was running a 105-degree fever. The doctor checked with area hospitals and told the mother that her son was showing possible signs of meningitis and should be taken to the emergency room for testing.

The mother was reluctant to bring her son to the hospital because she had refused to allow the child to be vaccinated for childhood diseases, and she was afraid that she would be reported to authorities. The doctor assured the mother would not be arrested and told her to bring her son to the hospital.

When the mother failed to bring her baby to the hospital, the doctor called the Department of Child Safety (DCS) and this led police and department officials to come to the family's residence for a welfare check. The officials brought a court order that allowed them to take custody of the child.

However, after approximately three hours at the home, spent knocking on the door and talking to the child's father on the phone while he was inside the home, and being refused entry several times, the police broke down the door.

The police took all three children of the couple to the hospital. The two-year-old was diagnosed with a respiratory virus. It is not yet known when the parents can regain custody of their children and under what conditions. Ed Payne "Parents charged with child abuse after they refuse to take their sick and unvaccinated child to the hospital" www.wtap.com (Apr. 01, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require students to be vaccinated to attend school. However, each state and the District of Columbia allow children to forego vaccinations for medical reasons. In addition, as of July 2016, 46 states allowed exemptions based on religious beliefs, and 17 states allowed philosophical exemptions for people who object to vaccination on personal or moral grounds.

Despite these exemptions, however, 82 percent of Americans or approximately eight-in-ten Americans support a school-based vaccine requirement. Only about 17 percent of Americans believe that "parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children, even if that may create health risks for other children and adults."

Failing to provide a vaccine is not considered neglect under the law if the parents are within their statutory right to not provide the vaccine. We do not know if these parents were entitled to an exemption recognized under the law.

In any event, the neglect and abuse in the above matter was the failure of the parents to take the seriously ill child to see a medical professional when he was in medical need.

Although 17 percent of parents consider vaccines controversial, here are the some of the reasons why the vast majority of parents vaccinate their children:

  • Vaccination is the best way to make sure that children are healthy and protected from preventable diseases.
  • Vaccination protects children from serious illness and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough are resurging as serious health threats in the U.S. Some children in the U.S. have been infected, and this resulted in hospitalizations and death.
  • Measles, for example, can cause pneumonia and encephalitis in children, which can kill them or cause permanent brain damage. Whooping cough can kill an infant or cause seizures and brain damage.
  • Outbreaks of preventable diseases are occurring and will occur if some parents continue to decide not to vaccinate their children.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the safety monitoring of all vaccines. Currently, the U.S. has the safest vaccine supply in its history.
  • Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all strongly support protecting children with recommended vaccinations.
  • Everyone has a public health commitment to all communities to protect each other and each other's children by having all family members vaccinated.
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