Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Meds and non-meds

Glenn Reynolds notes here
Drugmakers get sued for defective products; 'activists' and sensational journalists do not. If I were to start a drug company, and peddle a drug with no more evidence of its safety and efficacy than anti-vaccine activists and their media allies had to peddle their approach, and if as many people were made sick, or killed, as a result, I'd probably be in jail now.
Reynolds is a Libertarian. Perhaps he could discuss this with Colorado's Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, Dawn Winkler.


Anonymous Brad Finlay said...

I'm trying to understand what you're driving at, goyishekop.

I think the libertarian position on medicine -- and also the ethical position on medicine, in general -- is that the informed consent of the patient is needed before the doctor commences any course of treatment. This of course includes the administration of any vaccine.

Since children are incapable of giving their informed consent, someone else must perform this action for them. Traditionally, the parents have been considered to be the guardians of their children, and to have the legal and moral authority to give consent for their children's medical treatment, in general.

Are you suggesting that vaccines are different from other kinds of medicine, somehow? That the government (or its agent, the CDC) should stand in loco parentis?

Isn't that an awful lot like "it takes a village to raise a child"?

3:42 PM  
Blogger goyishekop said...

I'm not a Libertarian, so I'm not qualified to speak on the libertarian position on medicine.

Me, I doubt that the Libertarian party would excommunicate Glenn Reynolds for believing that mandatory vaccination is a good thing, but in the loony world of party politics, who the hell can tell? And no, I don't just mean Libertarian Party politics. :-)

I also don't know *any* doctor who believes that mandatory childhood vaccinations are bad. If you have an argument that medical ethics precludes such a mandate, argue with the community of practitioners that defines those ethics.

WWHD (What would Hillary do?) arguments are always emotionally appealing (well, okay, to me :-), but Hitler's love for dogs and small children don't prove dogs and small children are bad.

Some medical questions are, historically, considered public-health issues. Disease quarantines are an example. If you have smallpox, walking around spreading it isn't considered a reasonable, personal choice.

If you're a parent, you don't have the right to decide about whether your children can, either. Public sanitation and fluoridation fall under public health as well. Vaccination has long been another member of this array.

Vaccination, like quarantine, is recognition that a single, infected individual for a fatal disease, like pertussis or measles, is a community health hazard. It's not, "Should parents decide whether to operate on Johnny's brain tumor or let God cure him?" It's, "Should parents decide whether to let Brittany infect the neighbors with polio?"

Here there is, I'll pause to acknowledge, an alternative approach. We could make vaccination an individual choice, have the police investigate deaths from each infectious disease, and try, imprison, and execute the party from whom the corpse caught it. In the casee of child-as-carrier, we'd prosecute the parents.

Reynolds, however, doesn't bother to address these. His position is that the efficacy of vaccines is so well-established, and the well-studied risks -- though real -- are so much lower, that someone arguing the opposite is in the same category as Breatharians, who hold we should be able to subsist on air.

To wit:

(a) They're nutcases,


(b) To the extent that they *do* persuade people and cause deaths, they should be held legally liable.

I agree.

Does that help clarify what I'm trying to say?

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Brad Finlay said...

Does that help clarify what I'm trying to say?
Completely. I think it's very clear, now.

While I agree that Dawn Winkler and Rick Randall sound a little paranoid about vaccines, I'm not quite sure I'm ready to label either of them a nut case.

One of the great things about America, in general, and about Colorado, in particular, is that the laws generally protect the individual's freedom of choice, especially when one knows where to look. Out of curiosity, I searched the Colorado Revised Statutes for the word "vaccination", and this is what I found.

-- There are two sections of the law that "require" vaccination / immunization of human beings: Sections 25-4-901 et seq., relating to requirements for admission to the public schools; and Sections 25-4-1701 et seq., relating to the immunization of infants.

-- Both of these sections contain an exemption for parents who have a religious or personal objection to the administration of vaccines. For instance, 25-4-903 reads, in relevant part, as follows:

A student shall be exempted from receiving the required immunizations in the following manner: ...
(b) By submitting to the student's school a statement of exemption signed by one parent or guardian or the emancipated student or student eighteen years of age or older that the parent, guardian, or student is an adherent to a religious belief whose teachings are opposed to immunizations or that the parent or guardian or the emancipated student or student eighteen years of age or older has a personal belief that is opposed to immunizations.

So that's all there is to "mandatory" vaccinations in Colorado -- if someone just signs a piece of paper saying he opposes vaccinations, then he doesn't have to get the shot. (I should mention that in the event of an epidemic, the state department of health can bar unimmunized children from attending the public schools. But if there's no epidemic, then there really are no legal penalties associated with the lack of an immunization.)

Realizing this much, I took a closer look at . I noticed two things. First, your link was to a single position she has taken. Second, the bill (HR 5887) she supports is primarily concerned with imposing new reporting requirements on the manufacturers of vaccines.

As a Libertarian, I wouldn't join Dawn in calling for support of HR 5887. I think the national government is spending far too much money already, and I'm really loath to advocate the creation of even one additional federal agency. On the other hand, I've also listened to the news about Merck, and Vioxx, and the (apparently) selective reporting of the results of clinical trials. So I can understand why some parents would want to have access to more information from the pharmaceutical companies before giving their informed consent to vaccinations for their children. They don't have to be nut cases to want that. They just have to love their children.

7:17 PM  
Blogger goyishekop said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:32 AM  
Blogger goyishekop said...

Brad Finlay's asked me to post a link to Dawn Winkler's web site.

He tried once and failed. I tried once and failed (the preceding, removed comment). Here's try 3. If it doesn't work, I'm cancelling the hang-gliding lesson tomorrow morning.

The Dawn Winkler website.

The preview looks good. We shall see what the end product looks like.

12:39 AM  

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