Case Study: Should guardians be given the right to refuse the MMR vaccine? October 17, 2012 Case Study: Should guardians be given the right to refuse the MMR vaccine? When one attempts to differentiate between what would be considered a good or bad action it involves many unique factors. Several philosophers have come up with different theories in order to analyze how we could potentially make what would be considered the “best” decision. Some decisions are easier to evaluate as the better choice where as some would come into conflict with ethics and morals.
Looking at the case study at hand, which talks about whether or not a guardian has the ethical right to refuse the MMR vaccination for their child, and using two theories known as Act Utilitarianism and Ethical Pluralism, one can prove that it is not ethically permissible for a guardian to refuse the MMR vaccine for their child and contribute to the spread of measles. The first theory that one can use to analyze the case study is Act Utilitarianism. The theory of Act Utilitarianism determines whether an action can be considered right or wrong based on the consequential outcome.
It also focuses on the fact that an act is right only if it results in maximizing utility in comparison to disutility. In context to the case study questioning whether childhood MMR vaccinations should be compulsory or not, a good act utilitarian would prove that it is in fact not ethically permissible for a guardian to refuse the MMR vaccine that prevents the spread of measles for their child. A good act utilitarian would state that a guardian refusing the MMR vaccine for their child only maximizes disutility for society in both the short and long term spectrum and this goes against the goals of act utilitarianism.
By refusing the MMR vaccine for their children, parents or guardians are maximizing disutility by promoting the spread of measles which is a contagious and extremely harmful disease and their child not only has a high risk of catching measles; which could result in either being severely ill or even death, but also has a high chance of spreading the disease once he or she catches it to others who have not received the vaccine either. This has already occurred in the past, “by the end of April 2000, though, doctors and the hospital had seen 313 children and babies with the disease, with 8 needing intensive care. This is proof that disutility was already maximized when parents and guardians prevented their children from receiving the vaccine and resulted in illness that could have been prevented. The case study suggested that most of the severe illnesses and/or deaths were in babies that were too young to receive the vaccination and the reason they caught measles was because the older children that transferred it down to them had not been immunized.
This type of spread of disease is inconsistent with maximizing utility in a society therefore an act utilitarian would go against it. In the case study, since several doctors retracted their claims that the MMR vaccine is connected to Autism and bowel disorders and studies have now shown that there is in fact no connection between the two, then receiving the vaccine would do nothing but maximize utility within a society and there should be no reason for guardians to refuse their child the MMR vaccine.
The vaccine was developed in order to maximize utility in two ways, in the short term; to prevent this generation from suffering from measles and stopping them from functioning usefully in their daily lives, as well as in the long term to ensure that the disease isn’t spread throughout generations as people start forgetting how severe the illness actually is and thinks that the vaccine is either dangerous through false media advertising or unnecessary. The vaccine benefits everyone by preventing people from suffering bad consequences that result from the spread of measles.
An Act Utilitarian also promotes the concept of autonomy that in relevance to this case study would require the child to decide for himself/herself if they would like to receive the vaccination, however in this case it is like making the best of a bad situation where we are “damned if we do or damned if we don’t” and a person cant have it both ways. In this context making the best of this situation is to realize that having the vaccination will only benefit you and a mass number of other people and this maximizing of utility trumps the concept of autonomy. The second theory that one can use to evaluate the case study at hand is
Ethical Pluralism. Ethical Pluralism is a form of deontology ethics and was produced by Ross. It states that Utilitarian theories failed to see the importance of relationships as well as simplified them when determining what the right course of action would be. Ethical pluralism argues that we have certain moral obligations or prima facie duties that have to be accounted for when choosing the right action. These are duties that must be fulfilled regardless of any circumstances unless it is in conflict with another duty and then best judgment should be used.
In relation to the case study, ethical pluralists would however agree with Act Utilitarian’s decision stating that it is not ethically permissible for guardians or parents to refuse the MMR vaccine for their children. Ethical Pluralists would say that parents and/or guardians do not have the right to refuse the MMR vaccine because of particular prima facie duties or moral obligations that they have to both their children and society. Their decision can be backed up by many of the prima facie duties we have such but two in particular will be analyzed in regards to the case study.
The first prima facie duty that ethical pluralists would state defending the idea that guardians should not be allowed to refuse the vaccine for their children is the duty to improve the condition of others; duties of beneficence. By refusing guardians the right to not give their children the MMR vaccine, people are improving the conditions of others through avoiding the spread of measles that could cause a person to become severely ill as well as improving the condition of their own child since the vaccine prevents them from attaining the disease.
If guardians did in fact have the right to refuse the vaccine, then a spread of measles would occur impairing the lives of many. In a way it is our moral duty to have the vaccine and prevent measles from transferring to other people and worsening their lives. The second prima facie duty that defends this concept is the duty of non-malificence. Society has the moral duty to not cause harm to others. If guardians had the right to refuse the vaccine then the only thing it would result in, is harm. Harm to the child who now has a chance to suffer from this serious disease as well as harm to society from the transference and spread of it.
It weakens the lives of individuals and to some extent can even cause death and ethical pluralists would argue that it is our prima facie duty to prevent this harm from occurring in the first place. Analyzing the case study from an Act Utilitarian and Ethical Pluralist perspective to determine whether or not guardians have the right of refusal, one can see that even though Ross developed ethical pluralism as a response to the absence of moral relationships in utilitarianism theories, both perspectives based on different criteria respond to this ethical issue in the same way.
The result is that the guardian of the child should not permit the refusal of the MMR vaccine as doing so would result in both disutility and immoral conduct. Works Cited Thomas, J. , and W. Waluchow. Well and Good. 3rd ed. Broadview, 2002. Print. BBC News. 2000. Measles Outbreak Feared. May 30. Available online at http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/health/769381. stm McBrien, J. , J. Murphy, D. Gill, M. Cronin, C. O’Donovan, M. T. Cafferkey. 2003 July. Measles outbreak in Dublin.
Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 22(7): 579. The Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety. 2002, April 26. News Release: Measles can kill. MMR vaccine is safe and vital for children’s health. Word Count: 1276 ——————————————– [ 1 ]. BBC News. 2000. Measles Outbreak Feared. May 30. Available online at http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/health/769381. stm [ 2 ]. BBC News. 2000. Measles Outbreak Feared. May 30. Available online at http://news. bbc. co. k/1/hi/health/769381. stm [ 3 ]. BBC News. 2000. Measles Outbreak Feared. May 30. Available online at http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/health/769381. stm [ 4 ]. Thomas, J. , and W. Waluchow. Well and Good. 3rd ed. Broadview, 2002. Print. Pg. 19 [ 5 ]. Thomas, J. , and W. Waluchow. Well and Good. 3rd ed. Broadview, 2002. Print. Pg. 34 [ 6 ]. Thomas, J. , and W. Waluchow. Well and Good. 3rd ed. Broadview, 2002. Print. Pg. 35 [ 7 ]. Thomas, J. , and W. Waluchow. Well and Good. 3rd ed. Broadview, 2002. Print. Pg. 35