16 July 2011

Guilt and Fear and Decision-Making

One of my pet peeves is when people use guilt and fear to try to achieve a certain outcome or decision.  I was thinking of this specifically in regards to vaccines, because that's what's come up in conversation recently.  During the swine flu scare, I succumbed to the fear and got the jab, even though I'd probably already had swine flu (I'd had flu, but wasn't tested for strain).  I doubt I'd have gotten the jab had I just been allowed to look at the facts and make a decision after weighing the pros and cons, without pressure or guilt.

At the latest HV appointment, they tried to get me to agree to the MMR based on fear.  There's a measles outbreak at the moment, and the HV told me there had been deaths from it.  Well, I can't find anything about deaths in the UK from measles, but even so that alone wouldn't give me the whole picture.  I'd want to know the ages and vaccination status of those who died, as well as whether they were breastfed and for how long, and whether they had any underlying health problems when they contracted measles.  It's not fair to anyone to try to achieve a decision through coercion/guilt/fear, nor does it allow for a truly informed choice (in case you hadn't noticed, I'm rather opinionated about informed choice).

As I've mentioned before, medical decisions should only be made after looking at all the facts, weighing the relative risks and benefits, and then making an informed decision that is best for that family in that situation.  Not that we shouldn't take others into account when making these decisions, since we don't live in a vacuum and therefore our actions affect others, but we need to take everything into account, inasmuch as possible.

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