When minor children disagree with their parents’ opposition to vaccination, they must look to statutes or case law for assistance, and may find it lacking.
As of 2021, roughly one-third of U.S. states have passed laws establishing the “mature minor doctrine”: a legal framework allowing minors to independently obtain health care without parental consent, within specified limitations. Some, but not all, specifically include vaccination.
In other states, minors may still be able to make their own medical decisions thanks to state court rulings establishing the mature minor doctrine.
The 1928 Mississippi case of Gulf & S.I.R. Co. v. Sullivan is one of the earliest of these rulings. In this case, the parents of a 17-year-old railroad employee sued his employer, alleging that a smallpox vaccination administered by the company physician had injured the teen. The parents had neither consented nor objected to his employment by the railroad or the vaccination, but later claimed that their consent was needed for the smallpox shot.
The Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed, finding that in possessing the intellectual maturity to get the railroad job, the teen also “was of sufficient intelligence to understand and appreciate the consequences of the vaccination.”
Originally Appeared Here