I’ve just run across a post in a Facebook group that epitomizes my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:
“There is a cult of ignorance […] nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.”
Here’s the post, from a group known as Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines:
Let’s concentrate on the highlighted portion: If you are a nurse or other health care provider in direct contact with patients, not only is it your employer’s right to know which medical diagnoses and/or vaccinations you’ve had, it is the patient’s right to know.
You see, like bad advice, diseases can be passed along from person to person. In the case of a medical provider who comes into contact with a lot of infectious disease, the odds of passing along the disease increases– much in the same way the odds of receiving bad advice increase for those coming into more frequent contact with the bad advice found in the Nurses Against Bad Vaccines forum.
Perhaps the nurse who wrote this gem of a post has never heard of contagious diseases such as Ebola. If I’m a patient and my nurse has Ebola, he is carrying with him a near-certain death sentence (1) — a highly contagious death-sentence during certain stages of the disease. Certain death for him; very likely certain death for me. I don’t have a right to know? Really?
There’s a word for this idea, and that word describes the material that comes out of the back ends of male cattle after a long day of feeding. (To prevent offending the delicate sensibilities of my readers, I don’t want to say the word “bullshit” in my blog.)
Back to the subject…
If my medical care provider has been diagnosed with an infectious disease, I have a right to know his/her medical condition. Going back to the Isaac Asimov quote: the nurse may feel that he/she has a democratic right to keep this information secret. However, not realizing the danger he/she poses to me is scientific ignorance on the nurse’s part, and it does not trump the patient’s scientific knowledge. Come to think of it, it doesn’t trump the patient’s rights either.
But What if the Nurse Isn’t Infected Yet?
Maybe an already-infected Ebola patient is an unfair example. In the spirit of sincerity and fairness, let’s look at pre-infection cases involving more common infectious diseases that are preventable by safe and effective vaccines which are readily available: Influenza, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Chickenpox (2). (Of these, Measles is particularly deadly in children (3), and Chickenpox can cause extreme complications (and even death) in adults (4).)
What the author of this Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines post is really campaigning against is getting vaccinated and/or making their vaccination status known. Do I as a patient have a right to know if my nurse has been vaccinated, and/or demand removal from the doctor’s office of nurses who haven’t?
Pseudoscience groups have yet to come up with a shred of evidence that any vaccine I’ve mentioned here is dangerous, while study after study has shown that vaccinations are key to preventing the spread of these diseases. I’ve blogged on this twice with exhaustive lists of references (5) (6).
If my nurse has not been vaccinated against infectious diseases, I have a right to know. Because of herd immunity (7) and the fact that no vaccine provides a 100% guarantee, it’s especially important that an unvaccinated health care provider doesn’t come anywhere near myself or a loved one. To be blunt, I have a right to know if my nurse is a potential Typhoid Mary (8).
Health care workers are exposed to more potential virus carriers than you or I. That’s a fact of life in the hospital or doctor’s office. There’s a reason that experts recommended that the first people to receive the first Ebola vaccines be healthcare providers (9) — not only were they most at risk — they were the most likely to become breeding grounds for the virus and pass it on to other people.
Because a health care worker’s first priority is the care of the patient, and vaccines do not place the health care worker at risk, patients have a right to know if their health care provider is an unvaccinated breeding ground for a highly infectious disease.
But is there a legal precedent for this? Are there any other professions where both the employer and the consumer have a legal expectation to know the health status of the employee?
Well, yes. As a matter of fact, there is.
Have you ever flown on a commercial airliner? The health requirements for airline pilots are quite strict (10). When an anti-vaccine nurse steps onto her flight from Dallas to Miami, she knows for a fact that the pilot in the cockpit is certifiably free of nearly two dozen serious medical conditions (11). Why? Because the health and safety of others are directly affected by the pilot.
If the pilot has a problem in flight, it very quickly becomes a problem for every passenger on the plane.
Sounds a lot like vaccinations, doesn’t it? Any anti-vaccine nurses out there willing to fly on a Delta Airlines flight piloted by a woman suffering from angina pectoris, epilepsy, or substance abuse? I didn’t think so.
So, no, a person whose work directly involves the safety of others does not have a right to expectation of privacy concerning health matters that would adversely and directly affect others, and/or engage in health behavior that would adversely and directly affect others. Nurses, get your vaccinations.
In an upcoming article, I’ll be taking down some specific, dangerously false information being put out by anti-vaccine groups, including the hilarious claim that your best defense against the Shingles infection is repeated exposure to/infection by Chickenpox. Until then, I’ll leave you with a photo of myself getting the 45th flu shot of my life, and encourage you to talk to your doctor and get one for yourself and your children as well.
I’m not dead yet!
(1) Medline Plus, Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
(3) Vaccines to Prevent Measles
(4) CDC – Chickenpox Complications
(5) The state With the Highest Vaccination Rate Has the Highest Infant Mortality Rate
(6) Uneducated Chiropractor and Nurse Endanger Life of Three Month Old Child
(7) Herd Immunity
(8) Typhoid Mary
(9) A looming problem: How to ration Ebola vaccines and medicines
(10) FAA: Pilot Medical Certification Questions and Answers
(11) FAA: Disqualifying Conditions for Pilot Certification