Estranged parents in court over vaccination
The estranged parents of a five-year-old boy have clashed in the High Court on whether their child should have his MMR and four-in-one booster vaccination injections.
The mother is opposed to the vaccines being administered to her son on the grounds of concerns about the substances involved. She has appealed to the High Court against orders, made in accordance with the father’s wishes, directing the vaccination should speedily proceed.
The MMR vaccine is administered to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, while the four-in-one relates to diphtheria, whooping cough, polio and tetanus.
Yesterday Mr Justice Michael Moriarty said he was aware of the urgency of the case but, given the important constitutional issues involved and the sides not being legally represented, he concluded he could not give a “snap judgment” and must involve the Attorney General.
It was necessary to involve the Attorney General for a just and adequate determination of this “unfortunate” but “highly significant” matter, he believed.
The judge noted that neither the mother nor father were legally represented and there had been only brief argument relating to the right to bodily integrity and other rights arising under article 40 of the Constitution. Issues were also raised by the judges in the District and Circuit Courts as to their entitlement to make orders directing inoculations.
The judge further noted, that while the father had said he would abide by any order the court made, the mother was firmly against inoculation and was determined to take the matter further.
He added that he was “acutely conscious” of the delay factor and “can only give my best assurance to the parties that I will do all possible on my part to expedite a just conclusion”. Outlining the background, Mr Justice Moriarty said the child was born in 2007 when he was immunised without dispute and no adverse reactions were reported. The parents relationship later broke down.
Last February, the child was to receive the two injections provided for under the HSE programme to children in junior infants. At that stage, the differences between the parents had extended to the desirability and safety of those procedures, the judge said.
The mother had concerns about the substances in the injections and was reluctant to accept what she regarded as the “blind faith” of local doctors that the procedures were favourable to her son. The mother had by then acquired “much knowledge of holistic therapy” and her orientation was “markedly in favour of natural methods”, he said. An impasse was “rapidly reached” and the District Court ruled it was in the best interests of the child for the injections to be administered.
The mother appealed to the Circuit Court, which, after “a careful and considered hearing”, also decided the injections were in the child’s best interests.
On the day the vaccination was to be administered, the mother applied to the High Court for leave to bring judicial review proceedings challenging that decision.
Mr Justice Moriarty said the father had indicated that although he felt strongly his son should have the injections, he would accept a court verdict contrary to his wishes. The father acknowledged the child’s mother, like him, was a caring parent and wanted only what was best for the child.