Challenge to son’s vaccination fails

Court says mother does not have superior rights to father, who wants son vaccinated

Mr Justice Mac Menamin noted constitutional issues of some significance had been raised by the case, resulting in the Attorney General being joined as a notice party. Photograph: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

Mr Justice Mac Menamin noted constitutional issues of some significance had been raised by the case, resulting in the Attorney General being joined as a notice party. Photograph: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 01:02

A mother who objects to her son receiving his MMR and 4-in-1 booster injections has lost a Supreme Court constitutional challenge aimed at preventing the shots being administered.

She is estranged from the father of the child who wants the child to have the injections.

The ruling said that the welfare of the child was the paramount consideration of the courts.

The mother is strongly opposed to the vaccines on grounds of the substances involved.

The MMR is administered to protect against measles, mumps and rubella while the 4-in-1 relates to diphtheria, whooping cough, polio and tetanus. The five-judge court unanimously ruled that the mother, who was not married to the child’s father from whom she is estranged, does not have superior constitutional rights requiring that her opposition to the injections take priority over the father’s support for them.

Her claim of an effective “veto” over vaccination would, if upheld, set at naught the father’s rights and status as his son’s legal guardian appointed by the District Court, Mr Justice John Mac Menamim said.

The mother also had no veto on grounds of the constitutional protection afforded to a “family” because such protection is based on the family “as established by marriage”. In the circumstances of this case, where both parents were actively involved in the child’s life, neither had some predetermined constitutionally protected veto in applications of this type.

The dispute was between two unmarried guardians and the central issue was the welfare of the child, he stressed. The courts were not required to give way to the wishes of either married or unmarried parents and the welfare of the child is their “first and paramount consideration”.

She had appealed to the Supreme Court against court orders, made in accordance with the father’s wishes, directing the vaccinations should proceed.

The boy, born in 2007, is now aged six. His parents had a nine-year relationship before becoming estranged in 2009.

The child received some vaccinations after birth without dispute and no adverse reactions, it was previously stated.

The District Court, on the father’s application, had in 2012 ordered the vaccinations be administered on grounds they were in the best interests of the child. After the Circuit Court rejected the mother’s appeal against that order, she appealed to the High Court which, in dismissing her appeal, relied on the principle of the best interests of the child.

 

She represented herself in the High Court but was legally represented for her appeal to the Supreme Court which yesterday unanimously dismissed her appeal but made no order for costs.

Giving the court’s judgment, Mr Justice Mac Menamin noted constitutional issues of some significance had been raised, resulting in the Attorney General being joined as a notice party.

 

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