Police Arrested Twelve Year Old Boy for Refusing Vaccine at School

A child of twelve was charged with ‘threatening behaviour’ at his school in Bowmanville, East of Toronto last week. The arrest happened when the boy (who cannot be named for legal reasons) threw a tantrum refusing the Hepatitis B vaccine. The National Post reported (http://news.nationalpost.com/2010…) that police were brought into Ross Tilley Public School because the boy had threatened to damage the school. Unfortunately, the report failed to give the reason why the child was refusing the vaccine or what made him so angry.

The National Post said:

“Officers consulted with the Crown attorney’s office and charged the boy with threatening, a criminal charge police said was justified: “due to the age of the child and concerns over public safety.”

This may or may not be true; however, at no time did there appear to be any concern for this child’s welfare. There may have been many reasons why the twelve year old did not want to be vaccinated. These range from being afraid of the needle to being worried about the possible side effects.  It could be that Hepatitis B is in fact a disease that is mainly transmitted through sexual intercourse or sharing dirty drug needles!

For the side effects for more information on the Hep B vaccine please read – Drugs.Com,  Side Effects of Hepatitis B vaccine – for the Consumer (http://www.drugs.com/sfx/…)

It appears from the report that it is perfectly OK to give this vaccine to the children at school but it is clearly not an option for any child to refuse to have it. Having the police brought into the school sends out the message to the other children that they must not refuse the vaccine. Clearly this child did not want to have the vaccine and was subsequently treated like a criminal/animal as a result.

But is it perfectly OK to force vaccinate a child if that child refuses the vaccine?

Hospitals and schools are supposed to use a law called the Gillick law to establish whether a child is competent enough to decide whether they want/do not want a medical procedure.

When a parent does not want their child to have a vaccine a child has the right to decide that they want the vaccine and overrule their parents wishes by using the Gillick law. A recent document entitled The Royal College of Nursing Signpost Guide: Nurse-led Immunisation of School Aged Children explains the Gillick law as follows:

“…even if a child is under 16, she or he might be able to give consent to medical treatment providing that they have sufficient understanding of the proposed procedure.” (http://www.rcn.org.uk/…)

However, a child may also refuse medical treatment even if the treatment is life-saving.

Although the Gillick law originally was approved for use in England it is now used worldwide.

The following article explains how this law has been applied  to cases in Canada (http://www.highbeam.com/doc…) or in full here (http://www.allbusiness.com/legal…):

When children refuse medical treatment: role of government and assessments; a standardized test to assess a child’s maturity and understanding would help judges in their Solomonic roles to render more uniform decisions.(Canada)

To determine the law in Canada they use the Medical Consent of Minors Act, R.S.N.B. 1976, c. M-6.I.

CHILDREN, ADOLESCENTS, AND HEALTH CARE – Canadian law and Policy (http://library.athabascau.ca…) by Julie Gilmore explains the act in full. She says: “Treating without consent can give rise to tort, criminal and professional disciplinary liability.”

We have to consider at this point whether arresting the 12 year old was protecting him while respecting his wishes to refuse medical treatment.

Can a 12 year old be mature and competent enough to understand the consequences of not having a vaccine? If he is deemed competent and mature enough to be arrested then one would pressume that he was.

In the UK the Gillick law was used in the case of Hannah Jones. This was a young lady aged 13 who required a life saving heart transplant as a result of treament for leukemia. Hannah felt that she had had enough, she felt tired and wanted to go home and spend the rest of days there. She said: “I am not a normal 13 year old. I am a very deep thinker. I have had to be, with my illness. It’s hard to know I’m going to die, but I also know what is best for me.”

However, the hospital decided that Hannah was too young to make this decision.  Hannah’s parents wanted to honour Hannah’s wishes to stop the treatment and allow their daughter to return home. The hospital used the Gilliack law saying that the girl did not know her own mind and took the case case to court asking for police to be sent in to Hannah’s home and to temporarily remove Hannah from her parents so that the transplant could go ahead. The hospital accused her parents of being ‘bad parents’ for preventing Hannah’s treatment.

Fortunately the court decided to uphold the girls wishes. See the full story (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail…)

The case in the National Post only gave the public a one sided version of the story. It seems neither the boy nor his parents were interviewed. Therefore, reading between the lines, one can only assume that this lad was being forcibly vaccinated. If this was the case, then we should ask ourselves, “Was the correct person arrested in this instance?” If the child was old enough and competent enough to be arrested, then according to the Medical Consent of Minors Act, R.S.N.B. 1976, c. M-6.I., he was well within his rights to refuse this vaccine.

It is stated here (http://www.allbusiness.com/legal) that a doctor may not agree with a patient’s decision to reject medical attention including vaccines, but as long as the child is capable of making that decision, the doctor must respect it. It is clear that the 12 year should have been tested to establish whether he was Gillick competent. If this did not happen then according to the Canadian Act it was the school who broke the law regardless to what this child did or did not threaten. Since when have schools become doctors?

In conclusion, it is clear that the 12 year should have been tested to establish whether he was Gillick competent. If this did not happen, then according to the Canadian Law it was the school officials that the police should have arrested because the school officials violated this young man’s freedom of choice.

About the author

Christina England, BA Hons