Ontario Civil

Family Law

Child should be vaccinated in her best interests

Parties had one child, who was now 10 years old. Parties had dispute over whether or not to vaccinate child. Mother chose naturopathic health regimen that required children not to participate in immunization process while father wanted child to be immunized. Consent order provided parties with joint custody and included term that parties agreed to not vaccinate child until she reached 12 years of age and then she could decide for herself whether to be vaccinated. Mother planned to travel with child to Germany. While father agreed trip was in best interests of child, he would only give his consent for child to travel if she was vaccinated for certain diseases, including measles. This was motion to determine whether child should be vaccinated. Motion granted. Pursuant to parens patriae jurisdiction, amicus curiae was appointed to represent child. Amicus was needed not only to make legal submissions, but also to ensure that proper and complete evidence was before court in order to make important decision that had implications beyond this family. Best interests of child had to be considered and fact that parties entered into agreement that was incorporated into court order on consent was only one consideration. Court was not bound by terms of consent order in deciding what was in child’s best interests. Absolute prohibition on vaccinations for child prior to age 12 was not in child’s best interests. Agreement did not reflect any reasoned analysis or consideration of issues that was required in order to decide whether to vaccinate child. Parents arbitrarily set age of 12 as when child could make own decisions. Child was not in position that would allow her to consider and understand all relevant information and appreciate consequences of decision to vaccinate. Child was in conflict of loyalty between parents and she should not be placed in such position. Medical decision-making was incident of custody. Evidence of mother’s expert witnesses was not neutral and objective and it was not helpful. Public policy expressed in legislation favoured vaccinations of children. There was sufficient evidence, on balance of probabilities, that child should be vaccinated in her best interests. Benefits far outweighed minimal risk of side effects. Father was granted decision-making ability with respect to vaccinations and child should receive vaccination prior to travelling to Germany.

G. (C.M.) v. S. (D.W.) (.Apr. 10, 2015, Ont. S.C.J., R.J. Harper J., File No. FS-809-13) 252 A.C.W.S. (3d) 288.

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