Many people think that Roe vs. Wade is about a woman’s “right to choose.” Well, not exactly, Roe vs. Wade ended up being decided that a woman had the right to due process clause of the 14th amendment. Ultimately what was decided is that a woman had the right to PRIVACY.
The 14th amendment to the US Constitution says this:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Due process guarantees a person’s right to life, liberty, or property, and that the government can not encroach or infringe on this.
I used Roe vs. Wade for this because I wish to make a point about the right to choose and ultimately, about privacy.
Our members at NAMV may decide that vaccination is not for them. They may vaccinate, but they don’t wish to be forced into doing so in order to be employed, attend school, or volunteer. Or they may have religious or medical reasons that prohibit them from vaccinating. Whatever their reason, it is completely private, and is a personal thing. It should remain private.
There are many out there who want to deny our members, and even members of the general public, this freedom of choice. They feel that a person should be vaccinated, or not work in healthcare- we strongly disagree with this. Mainly, because an individual’s healthcare is the business of the individual and their doctor- no one else. What will be next? Forced bariatric surgery for obese workers? Plastic surgery for those who aren’t attractive enough? Where will the forced healthcare demands end? (I use these as extremes and with sarcasm, but the point remains.)
Many of these same people, however, shout from the rooftops that a woman should have the right to medical privacy such as free birth control from her employer (and that it’s none of her employer’s business if she has this!), and even the free choice to have an abortion if, when and where she chooses. Apparently it is acceptable to have the freedom to choose what type of healthcare that you want only in certain circumstances. The question that I pose here today, is what makes it acceptable for a woman to choose what goes out of her body (ie via abortion) but not choose what she puts into her body? It seems that there is a strong level of the want and willingness to allow one, but not tolerate the other. I am very sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. It simply does not work that way. The hypocrisy in this is overwhelming.
Pro-vaxxers use the case of Jacobson vs. Massachusetts when they decide that they want everyone in the world to have a vaccine. Let’s talk a little about Jacobson vs. Massachusetts.
In 1905 Jacobson vs. Massachusetts was decided by the Supreme Court. The court, in 1905 mind you, said that during an episode of smallpox, Jacobson was required to get a vaccine (though he claimed that it made him ill as a child) or face a fine of $5.00. He instead, took the state to court. While the court ultimately ruled against him, the court did say that “that if the state targeted specific individuals or populations to unnecessary restrictions the court may have to step in to protect them.”
(Interestingly enough, due to the scar that would have been present, the state could have easily verified that he had been vaccinated previously!)
In 1905, we had a cess pool of filth and disease in this country. People were living in slums, the average life expectancy was around 50 years old, and children died daily from disease due to the filth and squalor that we lived in. This has radically changed in the last 110 years.
Smallpox has been all but eradicated. Mind you, it was a nasty disease. It caused deformity, brain damage, and even death in some cases. The smallpox vaccine was no small feat either. Essentially your upper arm would be scratched with a large needle, and the vaccine administered into the open areas. You would have to wait for a pustule to form over several days (sometimes weeks) and then allow this to heal and you would have a nice scar formed there to show the world that you had been inoculated. It was not always successful.
Keep in mind what I mentioned earlier- the early 1900s was a cesspool of germs, filth, and bacteria. Many of these early vaccines were heavily contaminated. They did not have the education or means to keep them free of bacteria and germs in those days. People died from the infections that they received during inoculations. Smallpox vaccines were successful, and many say that we don’t need to worry about this today.
So there’s a little history about the argument that some use to say that all persons should be forced to vaccinate. It’s really a case that was decided in another time, another place in history, and it has no place now in the year 2014. I believe that if Jacobson vs. Massachusetts were to go before the Supreme Court today, there would be a much different outcome. It’s a bit more gray than the black and white that is usually presented. I would strongly consider healthcare workers of all kinds to be under the umbrella of “targeted specific individuals or populations.”
Ok, moving on to privacy. We talked about this briefly the other day. Let’s really delve into this. HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (not HIPPA as some like to call it) covers some of this, but what other types of privacy laws may come in to play here?
As nurses, we are told HIPAA means that you keep your mouth shut and don’t release anyone’s information to anyone who doesn’t need it. Point blank. That’s a bit more blunt than some people say, but it’s basically what it boils down to. HIPAA doesn’t necessarily protect employees. It protects patients, however, and when a nurse is receiving a medical procedure- of any kind- he or she is no longer just an employee, but is now also a patient. Your employer is also required under federal and state law to protect all of your health information. This includes if you are out on medical leave. The employer may say you are out on leave, but to disclose that it is for medical reasons, then they may be in trouble. This website offers some great tips on privacy laws: http://www.workplacefairness.org/medicalprivacy
Interestingly enough, healthcare workers privacy is violated frequently. This is done in several ways. This can be the requirement of wearing a mask while on the floor. Or a sticker indicating that you had a shot. It may be a health or wellness program that you “must “participate in and they have a bulletin board listing success stories
If a patient were required to have these scarlet letter items during their stay in the hospital, all hell would break loose. Lawsuits would be filed, and the hospital would go down in flames. Why then are their employees not treated with the same respect? Their employees health status is no one’s business. They are still entitled to the same privacy as the patient’s that they treat. If a nurse has had a reaction to a medication and she can no longer receive said medication, why embarrass and humiliate that person when they are suffering already?
And I would like to conclude with discussing the Patient Bill of Rights.Many organizations have a copy of their own. In 2010 it became a part of the Affordable Care Act. It was unofficially adopted in 1998, but some go back as far as the 80’s when the AIDS crisis was rampant. It spells out what rights are given to patients under treatment. Most include the following:
Right to refuse treatment.
Right to informed consent.
Right to be treated respectfully.
Right to be treated in regard to your religious or spiritual customs.
Right to privacy/confidentiality.
Nurses and healthcare workers are legally allowed to have the right to choose, and the right to privacy just as any other individual in this country is also. We are parents, pet lovers, liberals, conservatives, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews. Above all else, we are human beings too and we deserve respect. And we deserve the right to free choice.