Published March 28, 2016
In a 3 to 0 decision, a court of appeals in Michigan has upheld a decision by Judge Paul Denenfeld...
— William Wilberforce
In a 3 to 0 decision, a court of appeals in Michigan has upheld a decision by Judge Paul Denenfeld of Kent County, MI who last year ordered physician-recommended vaccinations for four foster care children, over the mother’s objection. Judge Denenfeld ruled that the childrens’ mother, who had objected to vaccinations based on her religious beliefs, had forfeited the legal right to make health care decisions for her children. The judge based his ruling on his belief that the vaccinations would benefit and be in the best interest of both the children and society as a whole.1
According to Michigan Radio, the parents of the children had been declared to be “unfit” by government officials because of periods of homelessness and unstable housing, failure to provide adequate financial support and food or proper supervision of the children, and officials also cited the mother’s mental health and substance abuse problems.2
The four children had been removed from their home and placed in foster care, so technically they were wards of the state at the time of the lower court decision. Because the parents were declared unfit by the state, the appeals court ruled that they “lose the right to make medical decisions for their children, including immunization, until the final disposition of their case.”2
According to Michigan Radio, the appeals court stated:
That responsibility now rests with the trial court, and the trial court did not exceed its authority by ordering immunization of the children over the (mother’s) objections given that the facts proven and ascertained demonstrate that immunization is appropriate for the welfare of the children and society.2
The issue of vaccinating the children was initially raised by the state-employed foster care worker assigned to the children after they had been removed from their home. Judge Denenfeld’s order was essentially an approval of a request made by the foster care worker to vaccinate the children.1
There have been a number of court cases in Michigan and other state involving placement of children in foster care or state institutions when government officials and parents disagree about vaccination and other medical decisions for a child. One case made national headlines in 2011 when a Detroit mother disagreed with administration of the highly reactive anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal, to her vaccine injured daughter and social service workers disagreed.
On Mar. 24, 2011, Maryanne Godboldo defended herself and her daughter, Ariana, in their apartment during a 10-hour standoff with Michigan police and a SWAT team with a tank attempting to remove Ariana from her mother’s care in order to administer Risperdal.3 Ariana had suffered brain inflammation (encephalitis) after a round of vaccinations in 2009 when she was 11 years old and was left with chronic health and behavior problems. After her health deteriorated following prescription of Risperdal by a psychiatrist, her mother wanted the controversial drug treatment stopped.
Because Maryanne refused to turn her daughter over to state officials, Ariana was removed from her mother’s custody and placed in a state-run juvenile psychiatric facility for six months, where she was given Risperdal. Her mother was charged with child neglect and felony counts for the standoff with police and jailed briefly before, eventually, a court challenge ended with child neglect charges being dropped and Ariana returned to her custody.
According to Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International, a mental health watchdog group,
The police and CPS negotiated with Maryanne and assured her that they would not take her daughter to a psychiatric ward, or administer drugs to her. They lied… The truth is any parent could be targeted by the mental health system via CPS and lose their rights as a parent.
Read a timeline of what happened to Maryanne and her daughter in Michigan here.References:
1 Court: Parents found unfit can’t stop vaccines for kids. Fox 17 News (Associated Press release) Mar. 24, 2016.
2 Gordan V. Mich. appeals court rules “unfit” parent can’t block kids’ vaccination. Michigan Radio Mar. 24, 2016.
3 Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHC) International. Maryanne Godboldo’s Story: Timeline of Events Leading to Armed Assault on Her and Her Daughter.