A growing number of pediatricians are refusing to treat families who choose not to vaccinate their children, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics don't recommend that doctors "fire" families who opt out of vaccines. Instead they encourage pediatricians to bring the topic up at multiple visits but continue to work with families. Yet research shows that it's increasingly common for practices to push these patients out.
In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, some 30% of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21% reported discharging families for the same reason.
By comparison, in 2001 and 2006 about 6% of physicians said they "routinely" stopped working with families due to parents' continued vaccine refusal and 16% "sometimes" dismissed them, according to surveys conducted then by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Many pediatricians see administering vaccines as one of their main duties in keeping children healthy, and say it's difficult to work with families when parents and doctors don't see eye-to-eye on this key issue.
"You feel badly about losing a nice family from the practice," [said] Dr. LaReau, but families who refused to vaccinate their kids were told that "this is going to be a difficult relationship without this core part of pediatrics." Some families chose to go elsewhere while others agreed to have their kids inoculated.
Pamela Felice, an Atlanta mom whose family was dismissed by their pediatrician for refusing vaccines says it's been difficult to find another doctor. One of her children has gastrointestinal problems and regressed development that she believes is related to immunizations. At least four practices have denied them a first appointment when Felice explains her opposition to vaccines.
What do you think? Do doctors have a responsibility to treat patients even if they refuse vaccines?
Image: Doctor, baby and mom via Shutterstock.