A judge in northwest Spain overturned the family’s objections and decided to allow health authorities to administer a coronavirus vaccine to an incapacitated woman in a nursing home.
The case appears to be the first known case of a court in Europe asking someone to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The Spanish government has repeatedly stressed that the shots will be voluntary, as authorities in other European countries have done.
In a ruling seen by The Associated Press on Wednesday, a court judge in the autonomous region of Galicia in the northwest recently ruled in favor of a nursing home application to override the refusal of the elderly elderly family and go ahead with the vaccination.
The medical staff at the nursing home considered that the resident suffers from a cognitive loss to the extent that she “was unable to provide valid consent,” according to the ruling.
Judge Javier Fraga Mandian said the court has a legal obligation to intervene to protect the women’s health. He said that his decision was not based on the well-being of other residents, but “the presence of tens of thousands of deaths” from the virus in Spain provided what he considered compelling evidence that not taking the vaccine was more dangerous than any possible side effects. .
The company that runs the nursing home, DomusVi, told the AP through its PR agency that of all the homes it ran across all over Spain, this was the only case of a family not wanting to vaccinate a resident who was deemed unable to do so. So. Personal health decisions.
Domosy said that 98% of the 15,000 residents of nursing homes in the country have agreed to receive the vaccine. She said that the remaining 2% refused to be vaccinated, but unlike women, she is considered suitable for making her health decisions.
DomusVi said it has requested court intervention for the health of all workers, residents of the nursing home, and workers at the Galicia facility.
Spain has given more than 581,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine since it was approved by the European Union in late December. Spain is also preparing to launch its first batch of Moderna vaccine.
Health Minister Salvador Illa said Thursday that Spain is experiencing “very low, almost fictional, vaccine rejection”.
Coronavirus has ravaged nursing homes in Spain and across Europe, which is spreading rapidly among the elderly and individuals weakened by pre-existing medical conditions. It is estimated that more than 25,000 people infected with COVID-19 have died in Spanish nursing homes since the start of the pandemic.
Other lawsuits related to the involuntary administration of vaccines may loom on the horizon.
In southern Spain, the public prosecutor recently said that any family member who acts as legal guardians of homes for the disabled may lose their guardianship if he refuses to give permission to vaccinate their relatives.
The Italian government approved a decree last week to explicitly allow hospital heads and individual physicians to express consent to vaccination on behalf of patients who cannot do it themselves, including those in incapacitated nursing homes and without a guardian to give them consent.
The procedure requires doctors to present written documents to the judge, who has 48 hours to approve or reject the request.
Although nearly a dozen European countries have mandatory vaccination laws for diseases including polio, measles and diphtheria. Laws are rarely enforced by the courts, although a Belgian court in 2008 fined two groups of parents and sentenced them to five months in prison for failing to vaccinate their children against polio.
Unlike the COVID-19 vaccines, which are still technically considered experimental, the vaccines required by law in Europe are well established vaccines that have been in use for decades.
The World Health Organization said earlier that it does not recommend making vaccination against the Coronavirus mandatory, fearing that this would undermine public confidence in available vaccines.
At a press conference last month, Dr. Kate O’Brien, chief of vaccines at the World Health Organization, said she believed it would be better for countries to create a “positive environment” for immunization rather than mandates. But O’Brien acknowledged that it might make sense in some high-risk settings, such as hospitals, to require staff and patients to receive vaccinations.
Some ethicists have said that the court’s decision to vaccinate the woman was likely justified due to her high risk of contracting COVID-19, given that she lives in a nursing home.
“The court has to look at the balance of probabilities,” said Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uhiro Center. “If a woman is elderly, she is more at risk of dying from COVID compared to a low-probability adverse event.” Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford.
Even in countries that do not have mandatory vaccination laws, he said, the state has an obligation to protect people when those who make decisions on their behalf are not acting in their best interests.
Savulescu said: “If you don’t vaccinate this woman and she dies of COVID, people will say, ‘Why didn’t you protect her?’
Reported by Maria Cheng from Toronto. Nicole Winfield from Rome and Ariitz Barra from Madrid contributed to this story.
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