Lawson v Pugh [2019] NZFC 5092

Published 14 December 2020

Guardianship — vaccination — immunisation — MMR — measles — mumps — rubella — medical procedure — health risks — welfare and best interests of child — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5, 6, 15, 16, 46 & 133 — Stone v Reader [2016] NZFC 6130 — Victor v Emmerson [2015] FAM-2012-004-003268. The parties were in a guardianship dispute about whether their young child should receive the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination. The applicant father believed not immunising their child was a risk to the child's health, as well as the health of others. The respondent mother believed vaccines caused health issues. Both parties provided general medical evidence, although the father's came from the Department of Health and doctors. The Judge referred to case law, noting that New Zealand had not seen a judgment ordering that a child must be prevented from having a vaccination. The Judge also noted that there is no blanket law in New Zealand requiring that all children are always vaccinated, it is a guardianship decision for parents to make. The Family Court only has jurisdiction to make a decision in specific circumstances when parents cannot agree, and the welfare and best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration in making the decision. Therefore, the Judge determined that a s 133 medical report must be obtained from a specialist immunologist providing an opinion on risks and benefits of vaccinating the child. This would ensure the best decision for this specific child would be able to be made. Judgment Date: 5 July 2019. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *