Editorial: Metcalfe’s vaccine bill quarantines free speech | TribLIVE.com

Editorial: Metcalfe’s vaccine bill quarantines free speech


We can vaccinate against many things.

We can take a shot to prevent smallpox, and that worked so well the disease only exists in little vials.

We can inoculate ourselves against everything from the tetanus we could get from a bad cut to the chicken pox that spreads like fire in a first grade classroom. We are finding new ones all the time, like the malaria vaccine set to be given in Ghana and Kenya.

But we can’t immunize ourselves against information. More to the point, we shouldn’t try.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, has introduced a bill ironically entitled the Informed Consent Protection Act which treats medical information like something to be quarantined.

Under the proposed law, medical professionals could not advise patients that they or their children should receive vaccinations. Insurance companies could not encourage something that has eliminated dangerous, life-threatening and costly diseases.

It comes on the heels of some doctors — often people who have their own private practices — from declining to accept as patients children whose parents will not allow vaccination. It comes at the same time that the United States is experiencing a 25-year high in cases of measles, a disease that had been believed to be eliminated here.

A case of measles was announced in Allegheny County this week, making Pennsylvania the 23rd state to see the disease this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are calling vaccine hesitancy a major problem, both in America and abroad. The Pennsylvania Department of Health might run afoul of Metcalfe’s proposal as it recently stressed the importance of vaccines.

“Whether they are choosing to vaccinate on a different schedule or limit the number of vaccines, or refuse some of the vaccines, it’s a parent’s right to make that decision for their child,” Metcalfe said.

It is. But that right is not restricted by the doctor who offers information, or even the one who declines to treat a child. The parent has every right to find a doctor who is a better fit. The doctor is not marking anyone with a scarlet A for “anti- vaxxer.”

The medical professionals, however, would have constitutionally protected speech restricted. Informed speech. Scientifically supported speech.

And if we are to make informed consent about medical care, we can’t use a law to vaccinate ourselves against facts.

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