Am I Wrong to Believe My Friend Is Innocent of Rape?

The magazine’s Ethicist columnist on believing a friend is innocent of rape and assessing the role of grandparents in their grandchildren’s vaccinations.

Comments: 87

  1. For an ethics column, why does it default to society norms or laws so often. Why is it acceptable to deny vaccines for life threatening diseases? If a child fell in the water, should the parent on the boat have the right to throw a life preserver. Yes, we default to parent to make best decision for child, but if they deny vaccines, have they not shown their incapacity at that role?

  2. @John h Excellent question! And for an ethics column, why do so few of the questions we se each time truly present issues of ethics?

  3. I think the Ethicist thinks that he is writing Social Qs sometimes! There is (or should be’ a difference.

  4. @Mom 500 Actually I think Social Q's has dealt with some issues of ethics. The columnist gives direct and no-nonsense responses.

  5. I am an infectious diseases physician. The writer's friend definitely did NOT get ill from the sick child. Two weeks is exceptionally long for influenza incubation. The writer also doesn't state whether her friend was vaccinated for influenza! That was on her friend. It is disheartening to see the non-vaccine cult (and it IS a cult) have the traction it does. But adults who do know that vaccines are safe and effective also have a responsibility to get their vaccines, too.

  6. I'm a grandparent. And my children are rational when it comes to vaccinating my grandchildren. When my daughter's son was a newborn, she stipulated that anyone visiting him had to renew their rubella vaccination before they were allowed access. My wife and I willingly complied as did her and her husband's relatives and friends. I didn't have to directly state my opinion about the value of vaccines to my children. They were already aware of my own history of nearly dying from measles when I was five years old and contracting mumps on my eleventh birthday. No parent wants to endure the death of a child, at any age, be it through sickness or accident. A neighbor nearly lost their teenage daughter to the H1N1 flu epidemic, but she suffered some permanent disabilities. If parents choose to ignore the advice of physicians, grandparents and others, and refuse to have their children vaccinated against the flu and a myriad of childhood diseases, then they increase the chances of mourning the death of their child for the rest of their lives.

  7. LW1 "know[s] nothing about the woman" and thus the actual basis of the allegation. The term "rape" has been ridiculously stretched and mangled, usually as "sexual assault", which, depending on the case at hand ranges from traditional legal definitions of penetrative assault to unwanted kisses or gropes. While the issue of false reports remains contentious citing one study is hardly dispositive, and many others show far different (higher) data. Further, one must again wrangle with the definition of what actually happened and when "rape" is actually rape. Since nothing legally - or apparently administratively - happened, and the writer's friend maintains his innocence it would be unfair to judge or condemn his friend for a mere unsupported allegation. Indeed, LW1 has not seen anything evident in the friend's character to make such an allegation plausible. Perhaps the writer should think for a moment how he/she would react to being judged guilty and unfriended for a mere allegation, especially by citing one study as a basis.

  8. I work in this field (in an office that generates and relies on data-based studies) and there are many studies that show the rate of false sexual assault accusations falls well below 10% and is no higher than any other crime. Far more such studies, indeed, than any that suggest the opposite. Moreover, “rape” is a type of sexual assault, and a far cry from unwanted kissing or groping. If this person was accused of rape, then he was accused of non-consensually penetrating another person’s body, which is both a very serious crime and ethical transgression indeed. Finally, “character” is the least scientifically-supported argument you offer and yet it is your biggest point. We should believe people based on their “character.” By the way, the vast majority of perpetrators are charming, functional members of society. That’s how they get away with it - they’re deemed “trustworthy.” So yes, we all hope that if we would be believed if falsely accused. However, you’re suggesting that the ethical response would be to believe it’s a false accusation from the get-go. The very point of the writer’s inquiry is whether making such an assumption - believing a false accusation in light of plentiful evidence to the contrary - is an unethical stance.

  9. @E. W. Ray There is no "plentiful evidence" in this case. I am a female therapist. I have had clients reveal to me that they "felt raped" because the guy they slept with "didn't really love me." One said she "felt raped" after the guy broke up with her. I don't deny what they "felt." But I also don't "believe women" all the time - I just can't. I can support how they feel. I don't feel that we can always know...it's unfortunate but true, at least in my experience...and I have "worked in this field", as well.

  10. @jlb. I It's one thing for a person to state that they "felt raped" as a feeling. Your client was not reporting an actual rape and presumably did not file a police report. It's like someone saying they "almost died" due to a romantic breakup-they did not really almost die, nor did they file a report that they almost died, due to someone else's actions. It doesn't count as a true or false reporting until it's actually reported to the police for an investigation and determined to be false vs having validity.

  11. Is it possible to get a breakdown in the 79,000 who died last year of those who were not vaccinated and those who were vaccinated against the wrong strain?

  12. Most unlikely. This would require an expensive, special investigation. It would be easier and cheaper to investigate living people who survived a diagnosed flu and have had blood samples taken before and after. Doesn't seem like there is much point.

  13. The flu vaccine is reformulated yearly and doesn't come in different varieties. If the projections are incorrect about which strains to include the vaccine won't offer full protection. Your study can only be vaccinated verses unvaccinated. The best medical advice is to be vaccinated even if the vaccine only offers partial protection.

  14. Why do people want other people -- children -- to get sick? Why has the anti-vaccine cult been given this power? Why are all children no longer required to provide proof of vaccinations before being allowed to enroll in school?

  15. @Liberty Because people are ignorant and stupid. They know nothing of history. They don't read novels from the days when every parent lived with the tragic knowledge that he or she would have to endure the loss of one or more children due to measles, smallpox, polio, or diphtheria. They know nothing about biology, nothing about chemistry, nothing about statistics. They think they know, however.

  16. @Liberty "Why do people want other people -- children -- to get sick?" It has religious roots; the power of suffering to atone for sin and all that.

  17. sometimes the roots are religious but it doesn't have much if anything to do with suffering as atonement and even then those claiming exemptions on religious grounds are far fewer than those who fear rare complications and/or autism.

  18. "Innocent until proven guilty" still has strength. There is no evidence presented in the letter except what the friend has recounted, and the bare accusation. If LW#1 doesn't have the opportunity to speak with the accuser, let it go.

  19. @Marilyn Sue Michel Innocent until proven guilty is a legal standard. It is not meant to be a guiding life pholosophy, though many seem to (selectively) treat it as such.

  20. @J The premise of innocent until proven guilty is a societal reflection of fairness, that you should on,y condemn others when they are actuallly guilty of something, especially a serious charge or allegation. That is a moral ideation as well as a legal one, and not a bad philosophy to practice.

  21. 'Innocent until proven guilty' is not a principle that the legal system faithfully adheres to, or no one would ever be imprisoned on remand for the protection of others. Just as pre-trial custody is a balance between the rights of the person accused and the potential threat to others should they be guilty, so we all have to balance the same issues when we decide how to interact with someone accused but not convicted of an offence. It would be ethically wrong to persecute them for an crime they are not proved to have done but it would not be ethically wrong to politely decline their offer to babysit your children.

  22. There is no way you can absolutely know whether your friend committed the crime. And certainly no way we can. You're right that false reports are rarer than assaults are. But that does not give you the certainty you seek. Nothing will, short of a confession or clear evidence often lacking in cases of rape and other sexual assaults. A hard situation, one of many without a fix. You already have reasoned as well as possible without us. Use your best judgement.

  23. Odds and percentages of false accusations apply to populations, but have no bearing on individual cases, which are always 100% true - OR false. If no charges were brought, or no guilty verdict was found, unless you other compelling reasons to disbelieve him, you should assume he is innocent, true?

  24. @Roger, that would be a legal assumption; but in ordinary life we do not always proceed on that basis. Even some people who have repeatedly been charged are not convicted in each case due to lack of hard evidence, yet we might hesitate to declare them innocent out of court. This person is not asking whether he should vote guilty in court or arrange imprisonment for the friend. Of course not. But I am not sure I would want to set my daughter or sister up on a date with this man, to tell you the truth, or tell a woman who asks me if he's a good man that he is, on no more evidence than I really have of that. The percentages, and the fact that it takes a great deal of perjury, malice, effort, and willingness to be investigated oneself to bring a charge like this, have some weight with me. Not as a punishment of the friend, but as a protective matter of others who also do deserve my care.

  25. @jb "Other compelling reasons", which the LW claimed he didn't have.

  26. @Roger, Why would he? Many sociopaths and other criminals seem just fine to their friends, family--even spouses. They may attain good jobs, honors, and even positions of authority over others. Those who see them in ordinary life don't see the façade drop suddenly, the snarl, the bared teeth of an attacker, and are often shocked when and if the truth comes out.

  27. I think the Ethicist made the problem of the friend who may have committed a rape at the same time too complicated and too simple. The ethical question posed was simple: Is the writer "wrong" to believe his friend? No. Beliefs aren't wrong morally (though they may be incorrect, or even malevolent); but you can believe whatever you want, it's that simple. Actions are what count ethically. But there's lots of things the LW could do proactively. For instance, he could speak openly and enthusiastically of his support for the #metoo movement, donate to rape crisis services, become politically active in supporting victims, etc. These are ethical things to do, and one could argue at this moment in time they are ethical imperatives. It might also lead the friend to bring out more details about whatever happened with the alleged rape, and give the LW some more sense of whether to believe his version of the story, or possibly the alleged victim's. But whether he ends up believing his friend's version of events or not, and regardless of what he decides to do about the friendship - keep it and decide to believe his friend, or press the matter and possibly lose the friend - he'll know he's doing what's right where it counts. He's not ethically obliged to NOT believe his friend, but he's not ethically obliged to believe him either. He IS ethically obliged to take a stand against rape.

  28. As a doctor who is old enough to have seen diptheria, once seen, never forgotten. Vaccines have changed the world for the better. Grandparents cannot override parents except in certain circumstances and then through child safety or police notifications. I wish a refusal to vaccinate children was a good enough reason. It is completely irrational not to vaccinate.

  29. It's hard for me to accept the proposition that one should "play the percentages" in deciding whether to believe one's friend about any important matter. A friend who was never criminally charged, never civilly sued, never even administratively adjudicated by some school tribunal presents our inquirer with an ethical dilemma because of some weird application of principles of statistical analysis concerning the general veracity of rape charges. Just feed the facts into "HAL" who will decide the question for you. Is this inquiry even real? For what it's worth I wouldn't want this inquirer as my friend.

  30. @Ben I think you miss the point. The person wrote because there is something about that history that is troubling him, personally. Citing the stats - meh - for people who don;t know, it might be helpful to put the concerns into a larger context, but doesn't address the ethics issues.

  31. @cheryl Nowhere does the writer point to ANY factor other than statistical analysis. You are making up the "something about the history" part. There is no point in commenting if we add our own facts, unless we are just trying to make ourselves feel better.

  32. LW1 seems to be looking for a reason to disbelieve his friend. But accusations of rape exist on a continuum from violent assault to simple buyer's remorse. Since the friend denies it even happened, there were never any charges, and nothing of the same nature has apparently ever happened again, it would appear that the writer may be making more of this than anyone else. In any case, there certainly isn't any ethical issue involved in his belief that his friend is likely innocent. LW2 - I strongly disagree with the Ethicist that it's up to the parents whether they want to ignore established science in order to subject their children to unnecessary risk for the parents' beliefs. This is the same garbage argument that's used to justify refusal of life-saving medical interventions, or genital mutilations, or any number of other forms of abuse.

  33. @MichaelB, I disagree with your "continuum". If you were raped by a "date", someone you trusted and to whom you allowed yourself to be vulnerable, the impact could be more severe than "violent assault". Psychological wounds are often deeper and more profound.

  34. False accusations are relatively uncommon, sure, but the fact is that they do indeed happen. If the friend was in college when this happened, then it is likely he would have been investigated by both the police and the school administration. LW says he was never charged with anything, suspended, expelled, etc. because schools use preponderance of the evidence to investigate such cases, then I am inclined to believe the friend. This standard of evidence essentially says that if there is any chance he committed rape - that the two individuals were alone in a room together one night, for example - then he will be punished. The people who disprove false accusations do so when, for example, they were in a different state when the alleged incident happened, or the accuser keeps making significant changes to key points of the accusation. So yes, these false accusations are rare but they do happen and I am inclined to believe that if the friend was investigated and faced no disciplinary action or criminal proceeding that he is in fact innocent.

  35. @alex, you are then believing that the woman (who might be your friend instead, and is surely a real person too) is guilty of false accusations, perjury in court, false statements to police, being probed and photographed in order to continue the deception, having her own past raked through in public, all on a chance of some revenge on a fellow. That's quite a bit of assumed guilt to lay on the woman in such a case--who might under other circumstances be your friend--or on a woman you don't happen to know. And who may already have been harmed severely, as you do note may most likely be the case. Holding her guilty of that is not any more just than holding the man guilty. One of them is. You don't know, and your insistence on the man's innocence is because your friend as such gets your "vote" or because you choose to believe the male in such cases.

  36. @Alex We don't know what happened in that incident. But you are assuming that the law and universities have a history of effective, unprejudiced investigation of rapes, which is far from the reality. Many sources show that universities have often chosen to avoid or discourage investigation of campus rapes or attempted rapes. They also have chosen to not turn over investigations to local police. We also know that even rapes that are reported often do not result in trials. The reasons are many, from lack of evidence, to misogyny to suppressing crime statistics to avoid negative publicity. Given all that, I would have doubts at the very least and would want to find out more information.

  37. @alex The likelihood that the friend was investigated may be very slim. The article doesn't state the age of the friend, but if it happened many years ago, the chances are very high that nothing was reported at the time.

  38. The notion that we have a moral responsibility to "stay out of" other people's childrearing decisions is one of the most destructive American cultural norms we insist on. As someone who was NOT vaccinated as a child, I implore literally everyone in the position to do so to pleas, please, PLEASE have these thoughtful conversations with everyone you know who hasn't vaccinated their kids. "You do your thing and I'll do mine" can have its benefits, to be sure, but when we're talking about the health of children, American individualism should have no place. That's not tolerance or open-mindedness, it's moral recklessness.

  39. @Sarah I agree with you and am curious if you had specific repercussions from not being vaccinated. It’s never occurred to me before that of course unvaccinated children who aren’t able to choose them grow up to be adults without immunity.

  40. @Karen I can't speak for Sarah, but as a very young child before the availability of measles vaccine, I contracted measles and suffered significant hearing loss. Vaccination is one of the greatest gifts of modern medicine!

  41. @Melo in Ohio My aunt, who had polio as a teenager, would agree.

  42. Childhood vaccination is not a choice. It is a public health requirement unless you have no immune system or no scruples about endangering others.

  43. I travel a lot and I’m in my 60s. I’ve gotten the annual flu shot for about 25 years. During these years I’ve never gotten the flu, or any reaction to the vaccine. I work in public health. It’s really important and a safe vaccine. Those of us over 65 should get the super vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine. Ask your health advisor. It’s not too late to get this year’s protection. Most insurance and Medicare cover this at your local pharmacy.

  44. @Andrew B. And the fantastic new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, which can be given when you are only 50 now. I've had a mortal fear of shingles ever since I contracted a severe case of chicken pox in my early twenties. I was first in line at the pharmacy when Shingrix was released.

  45. I, too was excited to get the new Shingrex vaccine, having had shingles in the past. However, in spite of having Medicare and supplement insurance, each of the two required shots cost me $160. I wonder how many people have difficulty affording that? There is also a shortage of the vaccine and I had to wait much longer than the required two months to find a pharmacy that had a few doses.

  46. "What people believe is not under their voluntary control." I'm puzzled by this assertion by the Ethicist. I'm puzzled indeed by the 'case.' Does LW1 believe his/her friend to be guilty? Does s/he believe that that belief has moral implications, and if so for whom? And if we believe what we believe, regardless of volition (e g "people believe what they want to believe") then we can't ever "change our minds"? Really?

  47. Am I missing something here? Why wasn’t the elderly friend vaccinated?

  48. I think you are missing something, The writer did not say that the elderly woman was not vaccinated. Yes, people who are vaccinated can get the flu because it is not 100% effective. Scientists have to guess which strains will be most common in advance of flu season in order to have large quantities of vaccine produced and available. But even if you get the flu after vaccination, it will usually be a milder case. Two years ago, I gave my husband the flu after both of us (and our daughter) were vaccinated. A few years prior to that, a neighbor’s child was sick with the flu for two weeks after vaccination. In each case, the doctors said it would have been much worse if we hadn’t been vaccinated.

  49. @Barbara B., elderly people are fairly often unable to receive vaccinations due to immune system weaknesses or other problems, as are people with immune system diseases or undergoing chemo. The very people who most need protection, and the rest of us do have a responsibility to see to it. We may well be there someday, or a loved one.

  50. I recently saw a cartoon in an off-beat publication I receive -- It shows a Leprechaun - a mermaid - Big Foot - and a Unicorn -- all sitting on chairs in a group meeting together -- On the fifth chair is a tiny vial - a little nondescript bottle -- The mermaid is gesturing to the little bottle - while she cheerily says to the rest of the group -- "I'd like to introduce our newest member -- The Vaccine that Causes Autism" ...

  51. I think it needs to be pointed out that there is a difference - a huge difference - between a parent who doesn't vaccinate their child against the flu and one who skips the required childhood vaccinations against MMR, whooping cough, etc. The flu vaccine isn't required and it's only effective 20 - 60 percent of the time. There is no herd immunity to be gained at those percentages.

  52. It’s amazing that seemingly sensible people refuse to get annual flu shots for themselves or their children. The flu can spread quickly in school environments. Last school year, schools in multiple states closed down temporarily because the flu was widespread among students. Each year, children die of the flu. Does the lower effectiveness of the flu shot (compared to other immunizations) make the parent of a dead child (or the the child’s friend who had the flu a few days earlier) feel any better? Many organizations that hire healthcare workers require them to get an annual flu shot. Do you think that is plain silliness on the employers’s part?

  53. @Mom 500 I had my flu and pneumonia shots last year because I'm getting to the age where it could be dangerous not to. Three weeks later was I was in the hospital with the flu and pneumonia! When asked by my Dr. this fall if I wanted to have my shots, I resisted and told her I didn't want to go through what I had last winter. Her answer was "you can't go by what happened last year because they were administering a effectively useless vaccine". I rest my case. If the medical community can't get it right, why should we take the chance? More than 80,000 people died of flu last year - more than any previous flu outbreak since immunizations were offered. Who says they won't make a mistake again?

  54. What chance are you taking. So one year the vaccine was maybe 10% effective. What about all the years it is effective? You’re forgoing that for one inconsequential year? Btw. From a timing point of view, the vaccine you got was not fully effective by the time you were infected.

  55. The column doesn't say whether Name Withheld (NW) in Question One is male or female but the illustration has it that NW is also a male. Fine The column doesn't say how many years ago this purported rape is said to have taken place. Not fine. Where are we? In the realm of Christine Blasey Ford about something alleged to have happened 36 years ago? Re statistics to sort this out, has neither NW not the Ethicist heard of Columbia's mattress girl and her bogus claim of rape that ended up with the accused getting a nice bundle of cash from Columbia. NW says "one of my closest friends." With a " close friend" like NW, the purported rapist, or not, doesn't need enemies. My instincts tell me there is far more behind the question than NW is letting on in his navel-gazing, something the Ethicist let pass in service of a long. literate analysis that the navel-gazing didn't merit. Re Question Two, the Ethicist is aware of chapter and verse demonstrating that the anti-vaccination position is as phony as a three-dollar bill, meanwhile putting the whole population at risk for flu and everything else. In the end the decision is up to the parents but there should be a lot more ethically from caring grandparents that just "offer[ing] their best advice."

  56. @Donald Nawi There is a great hole in LW1's account where the details lie.

  57. @Donald Nawi I recall that story, but never heard how it was resolved (if at all). Did not know at all that the claims were false. Was that the case, or was the accused found not guilty?

  58. It may seem trite but whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I realize this seems to be a cliche now and we try people outside of a court of law but to think a person, forget the fact that they are a friend, is guilty just because of an accusation that was just that, seems to be a stretch. As the Pope said, who are we to just. Believe your friend and let it drop. He knows the real truth. That’s all that’s necessary.

  59. @Douglas Ritter...Nice quoting the Pope, public enemy number one in rape denials.

  60. @Douglas Ritter Innocent until proven guilty is a standard that is applied to crimes: much of what anyone does that could be unethical, wrong or damaging to someone else isn't criminal. It has zero to do with what a court of law does. This is not about whether a jury of your peers would find you guilty, or even if there might be sufficient evidence to investigate. The philosophical issues include: what do I believe is wrong? What am I basing that judgement on? Am I biased one way or another? Am I open to the evidence, one way or another? If this was so long ago, what is it about it that is bothering me today? [It maybe simply that this has become a huge topic triggering many of us to think about past events in a different light.] THEN: what if I do come to believe a friend has done something heinous? How does it change the relationship? Can I remain a friend? Do I owe a friend support in a situation like this one seems to be, where the details will always be foggy? Has his friendship and behavior over the years shown that he is a good and decent person? Do I have the right to bring this up today?

  61. Not only are the anti-vaxxers a danger to those in their immediate proximity, they are truly public enemies. The Disney measles outbreak is a miniature example of the public health disaster that could arise from their maleficent cult. It should be noted that nothing on the internet ever disappears, and that in a crisis the anti-vaxxers will be identifiable and remembered. They would not be wise to face the parents of an immune-compromised child killed by a preventable infectious disease

  62. The Ethicist's commentary about vaccinations is unconscionable and irresponsible even more so than the irresponsibility of the parent who did not inform the baby sitter. What if the baby sitter was immunocompromised? His wishy-washy answer to the question only emboldens those in the anti-vaccine community. Vaccination should never be a choice unless and only if there is a MEDICAL reason not to do so.

  63. Anyone who is immunocompromised presumably has the good sense not to volunteer to babysit young children, who are notorious germ carriers.

  64. Agreed. The Ethicist after gives wishy washy answers. He also should have noted that the unvaccinated family members place the (possibly) elderly grandparents at risk.

  65. @Max Greco What if.......the parent did not know the child had the flu. It is often difficult to know if it is the flu or a cold. Also three days is the usual period after contact to get the flu.

  66. You repeat the oft-quoted 2% as the fraction of sexual assault claims that are false. Numbers like this should raise a red flag. How can anybody know? It turns out the 2% basically appeared out of thin air. The origin of the 2% was uncovered by Edward Greer in 2000. (The citation is "The Truth behind Legal Dominance Feminism's Two Percent False Rape Claim Figure". You can find the paper online by googling the title.) This research was quoted by Laura Kipnis in "Unwanted Advances", which is where I saw it. Susan Brownmiller first published the 2%, which she obtained from a dubious source. The number then went viral.

  67. @Richard Brandshaft The 6% number cited in the article is based on a 2010 article entitled "False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases" in a publication called Violence Against Women. I found it and read it. It is an utterly fraudulent piece of politicized social science that deliberately manipulates definitions and data to produce as low a number for false rape claims as possible (e.g., cases without sufficient information to categorize were included in the denominator to reduce the percentage of false rape reports). False reports are defined to consist exclusively of "thoroughly investigated" cases where the allegation was disproved by third party witnesses or forensic evidence. A complete sham of a report.

  68. @Richard Brandshaft it’s worse than that. I’m coming across more and more suggestions in the media, like this one, that because it’s statistically unlikely (and as you point out, it’s not) that a rape accuser is lying, it’s appropriate to assume that any specific accuser is truthful. Determining guilt is not a question for statistical analysis - it is a process that requires analysis of the specfics of a particular case entirely without reference to other cases. Moreover, after succeeding in getting the news media to accepet the “2-10% false” statistic as established fact simply by endlessly repeating it and never substatiating it, the carceral feminist movement is now trying to persuade us that it’s inconsequential. 2%, in fact, represents crisis-level danger requiring urgent action. If we learned tomorrow that 2% of aircraft in service had a mechanical flaw that could cause them to crash, we would ground every aircraft, cancel every flight, and close every airport until every last plane had been inspected and confirmed clear of the flaw. A 2% risk of false conviction and imprisonment is so severe that it should lead us to suspend all prosecutions for rape until we can figure out why this is happening and put measures in place that ensure no innocents suffer, not shrug our shoulders and declare all is fine because it’s “only” 2%.

  69. @Gregory Smith Other crimes are also falsely reported. I assume you don't want to stop investigating and protecting the public against burglaries, for instance because there are also false claims there. But if allwomen are at all guilty, then all women should not be protected. I detect some serious sexism here...

  70. Re LW#1: Why is he questioning himself now? There is something more that the writer knows that is causing conflict. Re LW#2: There should be a greater consequence of not vaccinating children than, "Tsk tsk, but it's the parents' right to choose." The craziness of accepting excuses for irrational parents in order to get their children into school has to stop. For some parents, it's almost a cult thing to be able to say, "I beat the system." I had whooping cough as a child even though I had been vaccinated. It almost killed me, despite the doctor having said the vaccine kept the disease a notch lower. My father lost a little brother to it. We got it from someone, it just doesn't show up. I wish I had an answer, but there is no cure for stupid. Perhaps schools that accept excuses for not vaccinating pursue a policy of admitting the students on the condition that parents of the rest of the students be notified. I'd prefer no admission. It's a parent's right to know what risks a child faces in school.

  71. @Patricia/Florida I liked the analogy to drunk driving. Some risks are unavoidable but some risks are unacceptable. Why not require that all students be vaccinated against all communicable diseases. OR, have a letter from a medical provider stating that there are objective reasons not to require it for a particular child. Just because there is no excuse for individual stupidity doesn't me we should excuse a public policy which enables it! Getting an education shouldn't require that students risk death by preventable diseases. A solid public education program could do wonders. If TV marketers can create markets for nutritionally empty junk cereals they shouldn't have too much trouble motivating parents to save their kids lives.

  72. thanks, Mark, I appreciate the support. your friend, Brett

  73. @runaway. No prob, bro. Though long time no see. How about a brewski?

  74. Timely question about vaccinations as there’s currently an epidemic measles outbreak in Asheville, NC., because a large percentage of children attending a private school weren’t vaccinated due to the exemption policy. I find the ignorance of many parents to be utterly frightening.

  75. @Kathrine It's not measles, it's Chicken Pox.

  76. Chicken pox, not measles.

  77. I think there is a pretty large distinction to be made between choosing not to vaccinate one's child against the flu, and choosing not to vaccinate against other, more serious diseases. I almost never get a flu vaccine, but am vaccinated against all the other 'major' illnesses.

  78. @Richard The flu is a serious disease. It kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, and it causes many more hospitalizations, putting great stress on our hospitals. I agree that there is a distinction between vaccinating against the flu and vaccinating against a disease like measles, but that's because the measles vaccine is both very effective and long lasting, while the flu vaccine, which must be developed anew every year as new flu strains appear, is of relatively limited efficacy. Nonetheless, it is irresponsible not to get the vaccine.

  79. @Richard The 2017 flu season killed 80,000 Americans. That's one year; deaths from 10,000 up occur ever.y single. year. That's a pretty serious disease.

  80. Not vaccinating your child is like driving drunk. Most of the time you don’t kill anyone, but with enough people drinking and driving, enough times you do. We don’t allow people to drive drunk. Choosing to not vaccinate your children is equally irresponsible.

  81. Good grief. We can’t get paranoid about every person we come in contact with. I’ve gotten a cold or flu from the person behind me on an airplane and the person in the cubicle next to me. Flu vaccines help but they’re not a guarantee. If you’re sick, stay home. If you can, get the flu shot every year. If you’re a vulnerable person, avoid contact with children. You can’t live in a bubble, you just do the best you can.

  82. Whether to believe or not believe a friend often distills down to a “gut feeling.” You weren’t there, nobody else was there and it’s one of those usually unknowable “he said, she said” conundrums. Gut feeling situations are not uncommon in life. I realize when I have a gut feeling it may, in the end, prove wrong. I can live with that. I don’t have much choice!

  83. Besides being uneducated, being anti vax gives people an enjoyable feeling of superiority- of being smarter and more knowledgeable than doctors, healthcare workers and the general public. Just like some of the anti choicers get off on an easily earned mantel of moral superiority- without having to do the hard work of improving maternal healthcare, leave, or childcare.

  84. @Nancy Anti-vaxxers. They're smarter than the generals.

  85. Parents: be aware that those with compromised immune systems cannot be vaccinated - but if healthy children are not, and become ill, they are putting vulnerable others at grave risk. It should not be a choice - if healthy, do the right thing and protect the weak. Common scientific sense.

  86. Wait, so you're telling me that your friend CHOSE to babysit a sick child and now she's upset that she got sick? Seriously?

  87. @Confused, when parents don't get kids vaccinated, you don't have to babysit them to get sick. Handling something at a store, opening a door, visiting with your own grandchild, being near an adult in the incubation stage who got it while teaching can do it. Not being vaccinated increases the general spread and risk to other people who don't "deserve" it, as you seem to assume this babysitter does.