independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Mother loses court bid to prevent son's MMR vaccination

A MOTHER who objects to her son receiving his MMR and 4-in-1 booster injections has lost a Supreme Court challenge aimed at preventing the shots being administered.

The five-judge court  unanimously ruled the mother, who was not married to the child's father from whom she is now estranged, does not have superior constitutional rights requiring that her opposition to the injections take priority over the father's support for them.

Her claim of an effective "veto" over vaccination would, if upheld, set at naught the father's rights and status as his son's legal guardian appointed by a court, Mr Justice John MacMenamim said.

The mother also had no veto on grounds of the constitutional protection afforded to a "family" because such protection is based on the family "as established by marriage".

In the circumstances of this case, where both parents were actively involved in the child's life, neither had some pre-determined constitutionally protected veto in applications of this type.

The dispute was between two unmarried guardians and the central issue was the welfare of the child, he stressed. The courts were not required to give way to the wishes of either married or unmarried parents and the welfare of the child is their "first and paramount consideration".

The mother is strongly opposed to the vaccines on grounds of the substances involved. The MMR is administered to protect against measles, mumps and rubella  while the 4-in1 relates to diphteria, whooping cough, polio and tetanus.

She had appealed to the Supreme Court against court orders, made in accordance with the father's wishes, directing the vaccinations should proceed.

The boy, born in 2007, is now aged six. His parents had a nine year relationship before becoming estranged in 2009.

The child received some vaccinations after birth without dispute and no adverse reactions, it was previously stated.

The District Court, on the father's application, had in 2012 ordered the vaccinations be administered on grounds they were in the best interests of the child.

After the Circuit Court rejected the mother's appeal against that order, she appealed to the High Court which, in dismissing her appeal, relied on the principle of the best interests of the child.

She represented herself in the High Court but was legally represented for her appeal to the Supreme Court which yesterday unanimously dismissed her appeal but made no order for costs.

Giving the court's judgment, Mr Justice MacMenamim noted constitutional issues of some significance had been raised, resulting in the Attorney General being joined as a notice party.

The nub of the appeal was the mother's argument she could stop the vaccinations because of her unenumerated rights as a mother under Article 40.3 of the Constitution.

That point, whatever its merits, was central to the case but was not adequately pleaded, he said.  However, having analysed the arguments advanced, he dismissed that claim.

 

 

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