Sudworth v Lovell [2019] NZFC 2584

Published 02 October 2020

Guardianship — vaccination — immunisation — booster shots — measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) — diptheria — tetanus — whooping cough — diet — gluten — medical evidence — circumcision of young boy — welfare and best interests of child — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5, 6 & 133 — Kacem v Bashir [2010] NZSC 112 — Stone v Reader [2016] NZFC 6130. The parties appeared in the Family Court for help resolving several guardianship issues. Firstly, whether their six-year-old son should be circumcised, whether all of the children should continue to be immunised and whether the children should eat a gluten-free diet. The respondent mother submitted their son should be circumcised in line with her religious beliefs and for medical reasons. However, a pastor from her church gave evidence that their faith had no specific requirements or practices around circumcision, rather it was a decision for parents to make. A doctor also gave evidence that she would not recommend circumcising the child at his age and there was no medical basis for doing so. The application to have the child circumcised was declined. In terms of vaccinations, the children were partially immunised. Their mother submitted that this had caused the eldest child to develop Celiac disease and would likely do the same for the other children. There was no medical information to support this. The applicant father sought a direction that the children all be immunised in line with the National Standards immunisation programme, which reflects acceptable medical standards, advice and practice in New Zealand. It was found that, in the absence of any evidence contra-indicating vaccination of the children, it was in the welfare and best interests of the children to be immunised. The two injections were to happen in one sitting to minimise any stress the vaccinations may cause the children. While the mother had not made a formal application relating to the children's diet, she submitted they should eat a gluten free diet. The father said he fed them gluten but only occasionally. The Judge noted that one of the children was allergic to gluten and the others had family history of gluten intolerance. No formal order was made but the Judge recommended the father be cautious about what the children eat. Judgment Date: 8 April 2019. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *