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03/04/2011

Caplan’s Legal Liability for Lax Vaccination

This week Arthur Caplan has made a highly provocative argument in his MSNBC Breaking Bioethics column: Anyone harmed by the New Mexico woman who had measles while traveling on an airplane should sue her for damages. Why? Because her infectious disease could have been easily prevented had she opted for a vaccine.

Ultimately, I’m not sure whether Caplan is advocating a simple “duty to vaccinate” argument or whether there is something special about measles that would not apply to influenza, meningitis, varicella, or even HPV vaccines. If this is a broad sweeping argument, the duty to vaccinate against all infectious diseases is likely to meet with considerable criticism from the anti-vaccination crowd.

But i’m also not sure that Caplan is wrong. Particularly for highly infectious diseases like measles, this seems right. Plus, he’s going to make a lot of lawyers very very rich if they heed his arguments.

To read the column, click here.

Summer Johnson McGee, PhD

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