The issue of whether or not to immunise your child is one that
raises many concerns and divided opinions for parents. Regrettably,
this is even further heightened when parents are separated and
unable to communicate effectively around the topic.
The conundrum of reconciling immunisation with parental
responsibility was expounded in the recent Family Court judgment of
Duke –Randall & Randall  FamCA 126.
Although this is not the first time in which the issue of
immunisation has been addressed by the Family Court, it is an
increasing area of dispute between separated parents and their
competing notions of what is in their child's best
In this particular case, after protracted litigation spanning
close to three years, Justice Foster of the Family Court sitting in
Parramatta was asked to consider whether two children aged 12 and
10 years should be routinely vaccinated. At the time of the
three-day trial on this discreet issue, the father, who was in
favour of the immunisation, had sole parental responsibility for
the children and they resided with him for the majority of time.
However, there was an injunction in place restraining both parents
from allowing the children to undergo any medical procedure save
for in an emergency.
Expert medical evidence was relied upon by the father in support
of his application together with arguments that the children were
forced to be excluded from extra-curricular activities and school
events on account of not being immunised. The mother argued that
there were more natural methods of treatment available instead of
vaccinating the children and sought to adjourn and delay the matter
until the issue of immunisation was no longer relevant.
Justice Foster agreed with the evidence of the medical expert
and the father in finding that it was in the children's best
interests to be vaccinated and made orders that the father be at
liberty to immunise the children and allow them to undertake a
catch up vaccination regime.
Ultimately, this matter exemplifies the manner in which parental
responsibility has far-reaching consequences for children and can
be the subject of costly debate.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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