Today medical science can through vaccines prevent many childhood diseases from breaking out. In the western world infant mortality has decreased significantly during the last century thanks to the wonders of medical research in immunology. Illnesses which were dangerous to children in the past centuries are now almost extinct or harmless – or at least under control through vaccines. However, modern medical technologies also raise a number of ethical issues and dilemmas that can be difficult to navigate by the contemporary citizen of the modern world.
For example, what happens if parents refuse to let their children become vaccinated against certain diseases and thereby indirectly cause a weakening of the effect of the vaccines? Should those parents be forced to immunise their children? Or does the free choice of the individual stand above the common wellbeing of the community? It is indeed a very difficult philosophical question.
On the one hand, to protect the individual’s right to make decisions is very important in our contemporary world. The freedom to choose how you want to live is a right under constant pressure from fundamentalism and radicalism of health discourses in today’s society. Health ideals have developed to a point where they actually restrict the freedom of the individual; you can’t be fat, you are not allowed to smoke, you must not eat meat, you should not drink alcohol, especially if you are pregnant, you should always eat organic food or spelled wheat, you can’t do this and that – and you should always let your children be immunised against childhood diseases for the general sake of the population. There are many agendas concerning health that you are supposed to follow in modern society if you want to be a good citizen. However, many of these are not based only on science but also on political ideology. And it can be difficult to distinguish between what is political ideas and what is scientific fact? So it must be important to ask oneself what is common sense in the dilemmas of vaccines? Maybe, children can easily survive without all the vaccines that medical treatment offers today? I am inclined to follow those who are critical of the fundamentalism of vaccines – and medical ideology in general in our society.
On the other hand, one can also argue: is it not always the most rational choice if we always do what is best for the greatest common good in our society? We should always follow today’s medical research since it will lead to the greatest amount of wellbeing of the population in general. Why do something that will eventually harm you or your children according to science? Why not follow expertise even though it might go against your personal freedom of choice? Maybe we just have to acknowledge that today’s science has become cleverer at solving dilemmas of everyday life than man’s private rationality. Indeed, today’s science has surpassed common sense as a guideline in life, it seems.
As a parent, I have faithfully taken my children to the general practitioner who vaccinated them according to best practice in the art of medicine. And I did it in order to feel safe in the knowledge that my children will not suffer from any unnecessary harm, and in order not to be accused of being a bad parent. But was it common sense? I don’t know. I just know that sometimes you just have to follow what the authorities say is the right thing to do and what research highly recommends, and that is the most rational thing to do as an individual, I think. Common sense must always stand above your personal right to chose how to live. The right to freedom of choice should not fought at the expense of common sense, especially not when we are dealing with the general health of our children. It is quite simply over the top if you think that you are smarter than the majority of the world’s scientists, isn’t it?