Doctors May 'Fire' Parents Who Don't Vaccinate Children

Some parents fear autism, but doctors say disease outbreak is worse.

ByABC News
October 22, 2009, 7:16 PM

Oct. 23, 2009— -- When Cathlene Echan walked into her pediatrician's office two weeks after giving birth, she was nervous about discussing her recent decision not to vaccinate her second baby.

But Echan, of Orange County, Calif., did not expect to be asked to leave.

"The doctor said it was too much of a liability to have us as patients," said Echan, a 28-year-old stay at home mom. Echan's oldest child, Josiah, now 5, had just been diagnosed with autism around the same time her second son Torren, now 2, was born.

Echan said she did research and read articles online about autism, she talked with other parents and then came to the pediatrician's office with doubts about vaccines.

"I hadn't come to a conclusion at that point when I saw the doctor, but I was so nervous because they're brothers, and I thought there could be a predisposition for it," said Echan. "As a mom, I can't knowingly do something to my second child when I believe it played a role in causing my older child's neurological disorder.

"She was very nice at first, but when I asked her to give him [Torren] a checkup, she said, 'you need to leave,'" said Echan.

Echan's situation is a growing problem for parents and pediatricians alike. Despite adamant statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers of Disease Control that vaccines have no link to autism, an anti-vaccination movement is growing online, from parent to parent, and through activist celebrities, such as actress Jenny McCarthy.

Now, more and more doctors are feeling compelled to say "no" back to these parents. The issue was raised Wednesday at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Gary Marshall, a presenter at the meeting, said there are some cases when it's ethical and legal to refuse to continue to see, or treat, a child.

"In the middle of treatment, you can't just say, I'm done," Marshall, of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, said during a session that addressed parental concerns about vaccinations and how pediatricians can respond.