There's a lot of controversy among doctors about immunizations. While there are many physicians who are surprised that the anti-vaccination movement has ever gained ground, given the role that immunizations have played in eradicating polio and other deadly diseases, there are other doctors who are equally convinced that vaccines put children at unnecessary risk. Other doctors face increasing pressure from some parents who—worried about their child's safety—want their child to get a medical exemption from required vaccines. However, whether you believe that vaccines may, in fact, be dangerous or are simply wanting to allow your patient's parents that choice whether or not to immunize, you could be risking your professional license. This is what you should know.
The current acceptable medical practice is to vaccinate.
Because the majority of doctors and the American Medical Association (AMA) believe that the benefits of immunizations far outweigh the risks, there's been a hard push lately against those who are "anti-vax" altogether. The AMA has also taken a hardline stance toward religious exemptions for required vaccines and has endorsed putting an end to that altogether. The AMA has also stated that the only immunization exemptions should be given for medical reasons, such as if the child has a known allergy to one of the components of the vaccine or has severe medical problems and would be endangered by any vaccine that carries even a small amount of a live virus.
Any dissenting physician can be accused of endangering the public's health
This puts doctors who don't believe vaccinations are healthy or safe at odds with the AMA and the government. It also puts several other groups of physicians in the spotlight as well:
- doctors who believe that parents, not the government, should have the final say on whether or not their children are vaccinated
- doctors who think that the majority of vaccines are good but have legitimate concerns about the safety of one or two vaccines
- doctors who think that vaccines are risky when too many are administered at the same time and want to delay their delivery (instead of giving a child as many as six different vaccines in a single office visit)
This means that if you harbor serious professional doubts about the wisdom of how required immunizations are administered, don't want to force a parent to inoculate their child against their will, or even simply want to space out the vaccines for safety's sake, you run the risk of losing your license. If you genuinely believe that vaccinations are doing more harm than good, speaking out puts you at risk of having your medical reputation ruined and your license revoked simply for doing what you should be doing as a doctor—looking out for the welfare of your patients.
For example, a Tennessee physician has announced that his clinic will no longer give vaccines over concern that they may lead to autism. He now faces losing his license to practice for endangering the public's health even though he is willing to back his position with sound medical science, research, and clinical observations. Another doctor, Bob Spears, who is a known critic of vaccination laws, may face losing his license for "improperly" excusing a child from a required immunization. The child's mother stated that the child had gone limp and lost urinary function after receiving a prior vaccination. The medical board has accused the doctor of failing to maintain adequate and accurate records because of a lack of documentation about the incident.
If your experiences, research, medical knowledge, and personal conscience have put you at risk of losing your license over the way you handle vaccinations in your practice, contact an attorney that specializes in helping professionals who are in danger of losing their license to practice. You do not want to handle this situation on your own. The loss of your professional license can be devastating to your reputation and career in a way that you may never fully recover from.