Judge orders hep B mum to vaccinate

A judge who ordered an infected mother to vaccinate her newborn child against hepatitis B has reignited debate about the rights of parents.

Brisbane Supreme Court Justice Jean Dalton made the order despite the mother and father opposing vaccination on religious and other grounds.

The order was made after doctors made an urgent application to give the baby, who was 40 hours old, two preventative injections.

Justice Dalton made the order last year but only published her reasons yesterday.

During the application the court was told the newborn had a 20 per cent chance of being infected by her mother. If the baby was infected, it was almost certain to develop a chronic infection and would be at risk of cancer and liver disease, the court heard.

The parents opposed the application on the grounds they did not agree with vaccination because of religious beliefs. The father also had philosophical concerns about the financial agendas of pharmaceutical companies.


However, Justice Dalton said the immediate welfare of the child outweighed the parents' concerns, and ordered they take the baby to hospital immediately. But Justice Dalton refused to make orders about a future vaccination schedule for the virus, advising the parents to seek legal assistance if they wished to continue their dispute against treatment.

Civil libertarian Terry O'Gorman QC, said the court had acted appropriately on ordering the parents to treat the child. It had also respected the rights of the parents by not ruling on treatment beyond the injections that needed to be administered quickly.

''When there is a clash between the parents' beliefs and the health and wellbeing of a just-born child, it is appropriate the court takes the side of the child,'' he said.

But the Australian Vaccination Network - which campaigns about the risks of vaccination - said the order violated the rights of the parents to decide if their child should be vaccinated.

''I believe this is starting down a very dangerous path and hopefully one that will stop right here,'' president Meryl Dorey said.AAP