Townsend v Poole [2022] NZFC 2773

Published 05 May 2022

Dispute between guardians — vaccinations — Covid-19 vaccination — Covid-19 pandemic — Gillick-competence — right to refuse medical treatment — New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990, ss 10 & 11 — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 6, 16, 36 & 46R — United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, art 12 — Hawthorne v Cox [2008] 1 NZLR 409 — Long v Steine [2022] NZFC 251 — Gillick v West Northwick & Wisbech Health Authority [1986] AC 112 — S v N Manukau FC, CRI-2007-055-000321, 30 April 2018 — Moore v Moore [2014] NZHC 3213 — S v S HC Nelson M 12/94 28 July 1994 — SL v SLN [2012] NZFC 7195, [2013] NZFLR 1000 — Coates v Bowden (2007) 26 FRNZ 210 — Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children v AW and LC [2020] NZFC 4629 — R.S.L. v A.C.L. 2022 BCPC 9 (January 24, 2022) — A.C. v L.L. [2021] OJ NO 4992; 2021 ONSc 6530 — Holloway v Parsons [2022] NZFC 805 — MKD v Ministry of Health [2022] NZHC 67 — Nora Colburn: How can we know the COVID-19 vaccine won’t have long-term side-effects? 14 September 2021. The applicant in this case sought for the parties' two children to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The respondent preferred to wait until the children reached the age of 12 and then let them decide for themselves; or alternatively, to wait until clinical trials for the vaccine were completed. The Court found that the children seemed to oppose being vaccinated but also that they were too young to be Gillick-competent, i.e. able to make this decision for themselves. The respondent's argument that to require the children to be vaccinated would breach their right to not be subject to medical experimentation failed, because the Care of Children Act gives parents the statutory authority to make these types of decisions on behalf of their children. Further, the Court found that the vaccine was not "experimental" but had been fully tested and found to be safe and effective; by contrast, Covid-19 posed serious potential dangers to children and their families. The Court found that it was in the welfare and best interests of the children to be vaccinated, and ordered that this occur immediately. Judgment Date: 25 March 2022. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *