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01 December 2011

A Plague of Antivaxxers

The Winnipeg Skeptics' own Richelle McCullough has written an excellent piece for Skeptic North. You should go read it!

Here's an excerpt:

Habakus and Holland dramatically assert “vaccination choice is a fundamental human right,” not as the first sentence in their book, but the first chapter’s title. You can’t miss it. Autonomy, the idea that we have the right to choose what is best for ourselves, is a fundamental human right, they argue, and therefore the right to choose whether we vaccinate is also a fundamental human right. And, although I find their shock tactics distasteful, I can’t argue with them. I agree that lining up the entire population of the world and giving them a shot in the arm without ever telling them what or why or obtaining their permission would be morally wrong.

But that exact same argument can be used to utterly defeat their position.

Allow me to explain. Autonomy hinges on two words that most people have heard but few truly understand: informed consent. It’s the idea not just that you agree, but that you grasp the entirety of the situation, its consequences, the different options you can choose, the risks of the scenario with actual context for what those risks mean, as well as a complete understanding of the benefits. Informed consent ensures everybody is on the same page and knows where things are heading and why. It’s something that is rather unique to medicine – typically when you sit down in a restaurant, your server doesn’t inform you that there is a 1 in 2,000 chance that your food has come into direct contact with rats or that it’s possible but unlikely that you could be fatally wounded by a falling serving tray over the course of your meal, or that, if you wanted, you could put off your meal to another time when you were more hungry.

Well said, Richelle!

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