PONTIAC (WWJ/AP) – A judge could decide whether to order four children in a Michigan family to get the measles vaccine against the wishes of their parents.
Child protective service workers were seeking to terminate the parental rights of Brian and Amy Kenny of Oakland County’s Highland Township when they learned the children, ages 10 and under, hadn’t been vaccinated, according to a report in The Detroit Free Press.
“I feel strongly about the health and welfare of my clients,” said H. Elliot Parnes, the children’s attorney. Court records show the children have been repeatedly removed from the home because of the couple’s drug use and domestic violence.
Parnes told The Associated Press he filed the motion Wednesday. The children – three girls and one boy – are temporary wards of the court but living with their grandparents while the Kennys fight to retain their parental rights. Parnes declined to say whether the request was his or came on behalf of the grandparents.
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11.
Attorney Daniel Bagdade, representing Brian Kenny in the parental rights case, says Kenny was adamantly opposed to inoculations after researching the matter.
“He feels he has done his due diligence and is adamant about his position and feels that the court making him do this is a violation of his rights,” Bagdade told the newspaper. “No court, to my knowledge has ever ruled that it is illegal or neglectful to not get your kids immunized. We’re moving into some new territory here.”
Michigan Department of Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton said he couldn’t cite specifics, but that there were likely previous cases involving parents who’ve had their children placed in foster care not wanting them vaccinated. But he noted that state law prevents the department from removing a child or terminating parental rights “solely based on a parent decision not to immunize.”
Measles easily spreads through the air and in enclosed spaces. In some cases, particularly among babies, it can be fatal. Infection can also cause miscarriages and premature births.
The Michigan case comes amid the nation’s second-biggest measles outbreak in at least 15 years. The illness has sickened more than 100 people in 14 states so far this year, most linked to an outbreak that started over the holidays at Disneyland.
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