Childhood tetanus in Australia: ethical issues for a should-be-forgotten preventable disease

Paul N Goldwater, Richard G Power, Paul H Henning, Terence G Donald, Jon N Jureidini, Christine F Finlay, Annette J Braunack-Mayer and Mike S Gold
Med J Aust 2003; 178 (4): 175-177.


  • Refusal of a parent to have a child vaccinated against tetanus raised ethical issues for the treating clinicians.

  • The clinicians felt their duty to the child was compromised, but recognised that our society leaves the authority for such decisions with the parents.

  • As there was no reason, other than different beliefs about vaccination, to doubt the parent's care for the child, the clinicians limited their response to providing strong recommendations in favour of vaccination.

  • Other issues raised by this case include community protection, and the costs to the community of treating a vaccine-preventable disease.

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  • Paul N Goldwater1
  • Richard G Power2
  • Paul H Henning3
  • Terence G Donald4
  • Jon N Jureidini5
  • Christine F Finlay6
  • Annette J Braunack-Mayer7
  • Mike S Gold8

  • 1 Women's and Children's Hospital, North Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 Departments of Public Health and Paediatrics, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.
  • 3 South Australian Immunisation Coordination Unit, Adelaide, SA.


Competing interests:

None identified.

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