A judge in Australia has ordered a couple to immunize their eight-year-old daughter according to government health guidelines over the protest of her mother, who believes that vaccines are dangerous.
According to a news story in The Sydney Morning Herald,
The girl's mother had refused to vaccinate her, and she contracted whooping cough (pertussis) at the age of five — a painful and potentially deadly disease preventable by vaccination. In fact, in May of this year an outbreak of pertussis in American children was attributed to parents refusing to vaccinate their children.
Testifying on behalf of the mother, "A doctor in homeopathic medicine told the court that homeopathic vaccination was safe and effective, whereas traditional vaccination had short — and long-term risks, including a link to ADHD and autism. But Justice Bennett accepted the evidence of a doctor at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, who said there was insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathic immunization to justify its replacement of traditional immunization."
The claim that vaccines cause autism has been thoroughly investigated and conclusively proven false.
Much of the concern came from a flawed study by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who published a small-scale 1998 case report involving 12 children suggesting a link between vaccines and childhood autism. Later large-scale studies have found no evidence of any link between vaccines and autism, and the journal that originally published Wakefield’s research retracted it after most of his co-authors repudiated the study.
In 2010, Wakefield was found guilty of dishonesty and misleading conduct. Still, many parents remain concerned.
Homeopathy was invented around 1796 by a doctor named Samuel Hahnemann. He believed (contrary to the principles of physics) that homeopathic medicines become more effective the more they are diluted. Homeopathic medicines have not been shown to work better than placebos, yet many people use and endorse homeopathy. In 2009 the British Science and Technology Select Committee conducted a comprehensive study into whether homeopathy has any scientific validity.
The report was devastating: "homeopathy is not efficacious, and explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible." Even professional homeopathic practitioners admitted that basic claims made about homeopathy have never been tested nor proven.
Courts in Australia and the United States have traditionally viewed parents who deny their children basic health care in favor of unproven and ineffective medical treatments (such as prayer or homeopathy) as being guilty of neglect. In some cases parents have tried to frame the issue as a religious one (for example Christian Scientists, who believe that disease can only be cured through prayer), though courts have often rejected that argument.