The recent decision made by the High Court in the controversial case of F v F hit the headlines over the weekend in light of the on-going debate that has ensued. The court was asked to determine whether two children, now aged 11 and 15, should receive the MMR Jab against the wishes of themselves and their parents. It was established by the court that the welfare test must be carefully applied in this situation in that it is the welfare of the child that is the first and paramount consideration.
The parents of the children married in 1996. They had two children, referred to as L and M for the purpose of the proceedings, before divorcing in January 2013. The children have since lived with their mother and had regular contact with their father.
Shortly after her birth the eldest child, L, received the initial MMR vaccination. Her parents decided against providing her with the booster vaccination and vaccinating the younger child after medical research, which was released in 1998, questioned the safety of the vaccine and the risks that it posed. Although this evidence has since been discredited, both children remained unvaccinated.
Since becoming aware of the recent outbreak of measles in Wales the father expressed a wish for both children to be vaccinated fully. However, the mother remained against vaccination. The father applied to the court for a Specific Issue Order, used to resolve certain areas of dispute in regard to children. The case was heard in September by Mrs Justice Theis in the High Court.
Mrs Justice Theis agreed with the father that the medical evidence raising concerns about the safety and risks of the vaccination had been discredited and could not, therefore, continue to form the basis of objections to the vaccination. Evidence was provided by the NHS, the General Medical Council, the Chief Medical Officer and the World Health Organisation to assist the court during the proceedings with regard to the position on the safety of the MMR vaccination. All of the evidence was in favour of the vaccine.
The welfare checklist (s.1 (3) of the Children Act 1989) was applied in order to establish that it was in the children’s best interests to be treated with the vaccination despite their mother’s position and their wishes. Mrs Justice Theis respected that both children had expressed their wish not to be vaccinated (especially L who is vegan and was concerned that the vaccine contained animal produce). However, it was felt that the influence of the mother affected the children’s views and was likely to have left them unable to balance their concerns with other advantages to the vaccine.
In her judgement, Mrs Justice Theis identified that there may well be emotional repercussions for the children being vaccinated against their will, but that this was not to be used by the court as a reason to depart from the decision to provide the vaccination. She said:
“I know this issue is felt deeply by the parents and L and M, but now the court has made the decision I have every confidence, that despite their differences, these parents will be able to manage their parental responsibility in such a way that will ensure the strong and secure relationships that exist between each parent and both children will remain in place.’
It was ordered that both children receive the vaccine before the 11th October 2013. However it has since been reported that neither children has presented for the vaccination, and that the mother is contemplating an appeal on behalf of both children.
If you would like advice regarding a Specific Issue Order or need advice in relation to any dispute regarding your children, our team of family law solicitors can provide the advice and support you need. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.