News and Insights
15 February 2023
Minister for Health and Community Services v B & Others JRC008
The Royal Court has addressed the complex issue of vaccination of an adult (“B”) who was unable to make his own decision as to whether or not to be vaccinated. Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk, Viberts Dispute Resolution Partner, appeared for B.
The case was brought by the Minister for Health and Community Services, seeking authorisation from the Royal Court to arrange for B to be vaccinated against Covid and influenza. B had disabilities and was unable to give (or refuse) consent to vaccination. In legal terms he lacked capacity to make the necessary decision. The Capacity and Self-Determination (Jersey) Law 2016 explains the term “lack of capacity” as follows:
“…a person lacks capacity in relation to a matter if, at the material time –
(a) the person is unable to make his or her own decision in relation to the matter …; because
(b) he or she suffers from an impairment or a disturbance in the functioning of his or her mind or brain.”
B’s parents (the “Parents”) believed strongly that B’s disabilities were the result of an MMR vaccine delivered to B when he was about 16 months old. They were advised that this was so by Dr Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who made claims about the MMR vaccine which were published in The Lancet in 1997. Those claims were discredited. Dr Wakefield was found to have acted against his patients’ best interests and to have mistreated developmentally delayed children. He was struck off the UK medical register in or about 2010. However the Parents believed that even if Dr Wakefield may have been wrong about some cases he was not wrong about B. They were very fearful of the potential side-effects of vaccination for B.
B lived in residential care alongside a number of other residents, each of whom had considerable disabilities and each of whom had been vaccinated. B had not been vaccinated as his Parents objected to it. As Covid levels in the community increased, the fact that B was not vaccinated meant that social interaction had to be significantly restricted, in order to shield him. He had not been taken out to see the Christmas lights or to the Mencap Christmas disco, he could not receive assessments from speech and language therapists or interact with other residents at the residential home. Aside from the medical risks of not being vaccinated, the lack of vaccination meant that B lived in a “shrunken world”.
The Royal Court expressed sympathy for the Parents, who loved B deeply and were motivated by the best of intentions for their son. The Royal Court’s judgment was that B was entitled to the best quality of life that could reasonably be arranged for him saying:
“…we have no doubt that the right best interests decision is that [B] be vaccinated against Covid 19 and influenza.”
The full judgment can be found using the judgments search facility at: www.jerseylaw.je/judgments
Read more about Rebecca Morley-Kirk: Rebecca Morley-Kirk (viberts.com)
Viberts can provide legal advice and representation in a range of matters connected with capacity and mental disability, including in litigation and delegations and wills, trust and company matters in which a person is no longer able to make a decision for him or herself.