Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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September 22, 2003

Italy: Tetanus shots may violate constitutional rights says Venice court

After a London High Court in July ordered two girls to receive a series of vaccinations over the objections of their mothers, who believe that vaccines are not proven safe, an Italian appeals court in Venice has made a different decision. On 19 September, the juvenile section of the Venice court made it clear that it would not force vaccination and suspended all pending cases that regard refusal to submit to obligatory tetanus shots. But more importantly, the court agreed with the defense lawyer Luca Ventaloro from Rimini, representing the Dal Santo family, that imposing the vaccination may be a violation of constitutional rights and has transmitted the case to the Italian Constitutional Court for deciding the point, reports the Giornale di Vicenza (translation of the article follows here):

Vaccinations - historical decision of Italian court in Venice

Article published in Il Giornale di Vicenza, 20 September 2003

Vaccines no longer a must

A family from the Thiene district has won their legal battle

by Marialuisa Duso

From this point onward, those who do not wish to vaccinate their children should no longer be obliged to move to a foreign country, a course a couple from Valdagno had threatened to take. A court order of the Venice appeals court, which concerns some tens of couples of parents, has not only suspended all court proceedings involving parents objecting to vaccination, but has taken the step of putting the matter before the Constitutional Court, which will have to decide about the legitimacy of the laws that mandate anti-tetanus vaccinations.

An unexpected piece of news for the tens of families, many of them from this area, who have chosen the dificult path of objecting. A victory on all fronts for Rimini lawyer Luca Ventaloro, expert of minor and family laws and legal council for the "Comilva" the association which assists these couples. A great contribution also comes from "Corvelva", another association with similar goals.

"This decision is of historical importance", says the lawyer, "and it opens a very interesting scenario. The minors section of the Venice appeals court not only has confirmed what for years has been common practice in the Emilia Romagna region, it has taken a futher step ahead. For the first time, in fact, not only has a medical opinion been asked about the minors, but also on the components of the vaccine, and this morning (yesterday) after receiving the medical opinions, the court has suspended all pending proceedings regarding the tetanus shots and has raised the question of constitutionality with regard to the law that imposes them."

What are the motivations?
"One is a medical motive: it is known that mercury-containing vaccines must be removed from the market because they are dangerous - the parents are asking themselves why their children should be subjected to them. The second motive regards tetanus: it is not a virus but a spore and as such it is not contageous. The decision reminds us that the anti-tetanus shot became obligatory when children were playing in the streets and fields. Today, living in apartments, it is unlikely that they would get in contact with the tetanus spores. The thought that the risk of contracting tetanus is much lower now has also occurred to Parliament which, even without taking a clear stance in the matter, has prohibited the forced administration of the vaccination.

What does this decision mean?
"First of all, suspension of all court cases pending. Not only: all of the courts' juvenile sections will be waiting for decision of the Constitutional Court. But the Venice Appeals Court has taken clear position that is independent of whatever may be the decision of the Constitutional Court - it does not want to persecute the parents who object."

And what happened in the past?
"The parents who did not want to vaccinate their children were subject to administrative fines imposed by the Communes. Then they had to justify their position in front of a juvenile court which, normally, decided to limit the parents' rights to decide for their sons and daughters. At that point, many of the families gave up. For years I have searched for a couple which would go all the way. Now, thanks to the Dal Santo family and some others, we arrived at this decision. I am asking myself now what public health service will have the courage to order this vaccination, after the decision of the Appeals Court."

The lawyer, Mr. Ventaloro, will be speaking at a conference being organized in Thiene on 24 October: He will talk about "Vaccinations and more - legal aspects and eipdemiology".

The original article in Italian is also here and some more information (in Italian) is available here.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Monday September 22 2003
updated on Thursday December 2 2010

URL of this article:


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