ABKLaw BLOG: Vaccines and the 4th Amendment

ABKLaw BLOG: Vaccines and the 4th Amendment

BLOG from our #ABKLaw Partner Michael Jaccarino, Esq.:  Vaccines and the 4th Amendment

When can vaccines affect an individuals’ right to privacy in their own home?

A recent situation in Arizona has raised these legal issues.  

In Phoenix, police officers with guns drawn broke down the door of a suburban home. Their target – an unvaccinated 2-year-old boy, who was immediately taken to a local hospital.

Why did this happen? Authorities say that they became concerned about the child after the child’s doctor notified them that he believed that the child had meningitis, a potential life threatening illness, and had not received the vaccine or necessary emergency care.

While this seems like an extreme scenario, a recent measles outbreak in Rockland County could bring this issue close to home.  The measles outbreak, which has sickened scores of people, and which may be a harbinger of the anti-vaccine movement, has already resulted in legal action.  Last week, Rockland County officials took the extraordinary step of announcing a state of emergency, barring unvaccinated children from public places, including restaurants, shopping centers, schools and houses of worship.  Should a scenario similar to the one in Arizona arise, a host of search and seizure issues will be implicated. Generally, authorities cannot override the rights of parents to make decisions for their children’s health. They also cannot enter a person’s home without a search warrant.  However, in rare cases, parents can be stripped of their ability to make these health care decisions, under a theory of “parens patriae,” where the state is empowered to look after the interests of children who are unable to care for themselves.

In Arizona, the parents have not only had their privacy rights violated, they had their children removed from their home and have been charged with child abuse.  

While the matter is pending, it will be interesting to see if authorities in New York are willing to take similar actions.

Contact our office today to find out more about how this can impact you. 212-486-0011

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