Thursday, August 06, 2020

In re S.P. (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 6, 2020)

Yeah, this is a really hard one.  *Sarcasm Alert*

Father and Mother don't want to get their children vaccinated.  Both children have been declared dependents of the court, and for good reason.  Among other things:  "DSS filed a juvenile dependency petition (§ 300, subd. (b)(1)), alleging Father and A.P. (Mother) neglected and failed to protect their children. Mother had a history of substance abuse and mental illness. She had recently given birth to E.P. Both Mother and E.P. had tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. DSS alleged Father had a history of substance abuse and mental illness and was recently incarcerated."

Given this history, I'll be honest and say that I'm at least slightly inclined to not give the parent's desires on this issue a massive amount of weight.  (*Understatement Alert*)

As to whether the children should be vaccinated, the trial court has to weigh the testimony of two medical professionals.  On the one hand, there's the physician who's currently treating the children.  She says they should be vaccinated.  "[T]he DSS social worker testified that both S.P.’s and F.P.’s 'pediatricians are recommending that they receive their vaccinations.' DSS also submitted letters from Dr. Kronstad, a current treating doctor of the children. She was a board-certified pediatrician. She stated, '[N]o medical condition currently exists that would prevent [the children] from receiving vaccinations as recommended by the [American Academy of Pediatrics] and CDC.' She described the specific vaccinations that S.P. and F.P. needed to bring them “up to date” on their vaccines. She set forth a timetable for the specific types of shots they needed and the time periods during which they had to be administered. This was strong evidence to support findings that the children needed vaccinations and the exemptions were not currently valid. There is usually 'no better evidence of the state of one’s health” than the medical opinions from the patient’s current treating doctor.' (Gunn v. Employment Development Dept. (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 658, 664, fn. 6.)"

On the other hand, there's a letter from Dr. Johnnie Ham. Here's what the opinion says about him:

"Father told DSS that on March 11, 2018, Dr. Johnnie Ham had issued letters stating his determination the children were exempt from vaccinations. Ham wrote that the children have 'a medical reason not to vaccinate,' but did not state what that medical reason was. . . . Ham testified he saw the children once in March 2018 for 45 to 60 minutes. He said he is not a pediatrician and did not have medical records from the children’s other doctors. His examination was 'very brief.' He checked the children’s temperatures and their eyes and had them move their arms. . . . 

Ham was asked what was the medical condition that supported the exemptions but did not describe that condition. He said, “The law does not require that the child have a medical condition. . . . [It] allows us to consider both the individual’s medical history as well as family history.” In response to a question about the children’s medical condition that supported an exemption, Ham responded, “I did not see a medical condition directly with either child.” The parents said members of the family have had “allergies,” “asthma,” “autoimmune disease,” and “mental disorders, including autism.” One family member had “a negative vaccine reaction.”

Ham was asked, “Are you aware that the safety for vaccinations is considered reliable?” Ham: “No, I’m not aware of that.” In 2018, Ham issued 350 exemptions. For two children, he charges a $290 fee for an exemption examination. . . .

The juvenile court said, “The reality is that Dr. Ham issued the exemption on March 11, 2018, after receiving a request for an exemption supported solely by an uncorroborated or unverified family history provided by the parents, and without anything resembling a medical evaluation or examination of the minors.” (Italics added.) “[Ham] does not take any blood or tissue samples or anything of that nature. He does not conduct any neurological exam. . . . He testified that neither child had an existing medical condition at the time of his examination.” (Italics added.) The court concluded, “To rely solely on the information provided by a parent (the ‘family history’) without any rudimentary medical evaluation is simply ripe for abuse and patently wrong.” . . . .

Ham testified that he had been disciplined by the Medical Board of California for 'providing false documentation' and that he was on probation for 10 years."

Hmmm.  Which one would I find more credible?  The board certified pediatrician who's the children's treating physician?  Or the exemption-writing hack who's not even a pediatrician and is on disciplinary probation?

Boy.  What a toughie.