October 25, 1999
Dr. Samuel L. Katz
Dear Dr. Katz:
Last night I received a phone call from Barbara Alexander Mullarkey, who was present at the recent meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. She tells me that you stated that I wrongfully accused the CDC of threatening to remove children from the custody of their parents if they failed to receive a recommended vaccine. You stated that the CDC did no such thing. Moreover, you stated (according to Mrs. Mullarkey) that the ABC Nightline program had been taped and that portion of my remark had been edited out taped. Mrs. Mullarkey asked me to verify these statements.
I told her that the program had been taped, but the remark in question had not been edited. I did not accuse the CDC, but merely stated that parents had reported to me that such events were happening.
It appeared to me that you felt that it was outrageous for a parent to be threatened in this way, and that vaccines were always a matter of informed consent. The very concept of consent, of course, implies that one may withhold such consent.
Do you see it as your duty as a physician to try to persuade patients and their parents to follow your recommended course of treatment? Or do you see it as your role as a protector of the public health to use the required degree of coercion to get them to comply, even if they for some reason believe that it is not in their own best interest to do so?
Returning to the question that I did ask you on Nightline, which was indeed edited out of the tape, would you take any action if you discovered that parents were being threatened with the loss of their children (and children were being threatened with the loss of their parents, perhaps the most frightening possibility that a child ever faces)? I realize that neither you nor the CDC has any jurisdiction over Child Protective Services. However, I believe that you are extremely influential. Would you be willing to write and sign a statement to the effect that immunizations are strongly recommended, but they are given with informed consent, and that refusal of consent does not constitute child abuse or neglect?
I understand that Nightline has received quite a number of statements from parents who have been threatened by Child Protective Services. Contact with CPS, as you certainly know, is a very intimidating experience for any parent. At the very least, it may mean emotional upheaval, and it is quite likely to mean thousands of dollars in legal expenses and a cloud of suspicion that may never be fully dispelled.
I believe that you are in a position to be extremely helpful to parents who are threatened by heavy-handed government enforcement in an area that should be a matter of private decisionmaking in the jurisdiction of the family. I believe that millions of parents are waiting for you to speak out.
By the way, I am sure that you are also aware that the proponents of vaccines are certainly losing credibility, as parents learn that the vaccines are, in effect, being imposed by force. Evidently, the proponents have not been successful in persuading all parents that the benefits of all vaccines outweigh the risks. In other words, the successes of smallpox and polio vaccine in the past do not convince them that every single vaccine that is being given to their child is of equal merit. They suspect that some of them may be like rotavirus vaccine. And if you will not stand up for the truth in the matter of harassment by CPS, why should parents believe you on any other subject?
I look forward to your prompt and responsive reply.
Jane M. Orient, M.D.
pc: Mrs. Barbara Alexander-Mullarkey
Ted Koppel ABC Nightline