Informed Consent Overview
In the United States, the informed consent law requires that physicians advise patients of any significant risks involved in a procedure or with a medication. Adults are generally considered competent to receive the information and make their own informed decisions. Children are not believed to be competent and a parent or guardian receives the consent. In the case of immunizations, an adult relative that is not the legal guardian may also give informed consent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides fact sheets for all vaccines available to patients and are generally provided automatically by the health care provider. Whether or not the parties involved need to document the consent in written form varies among jurisdictions. One exception is in the case of HIV testing. Since health care workers are required to report positive results, anyone requesting testing must sign an informed consent form acknowledging they understand the reporting requirements.
Kansas Immunization Requirements
Most states require a basic set of immunizations for all children, and additional immunizations for special situations. Kansas is no exception. Since 2009, Kansas requires that children provide proof of immunization from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio and varicella prior to enrolling in public schools. Families are also ineligible for public assistance if they refuse to immunize their children. Kansas statutes KSA 38-136 and KSA 38-137 state the requirement that health care workers obtain written informed consent from a parent or other competent adult using a vaccine documentation consent form .
There are exemptions to the vaccination requirements in Kansas. The main exemption is an exemption for religious beliefs. Parents must provide a written declaration that they are active members of a denomination that opposes vaccinations. Simply stating that a family's private beliefs prohibit immunizations is not sufficient. This is currently being challenged under the First Amendment's freedom of religion provision. Kansas House Bill 2094 Conscientious Exemption to Kansas-Required Immunizations was introduced in January 2011 to provide parents more options to opt out of immunizations for children.
There has always been controversy involved in immunization programs, but the controversy was reinvigorated with the introduction of the vaccine Gardasil, which immunizes girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV). Some states are adding the vaccine to the list of required vaccines. The fact that this vaccine immunizes against a sexually transmitted disease adds fuel to the debate. Opponents argue that the vaccine did dot undergo sufficient testing. Another controversy is the simple fact that many believe medical treatment is a personal decision which the government should not mandate. Opponents argue that infectious disease is a matter of public health that can affect the general public, unlike a disease such as cancer.