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F v F: MMR vaccine - welfare need or welfare norm?

Macfarlane, Lesley-Anne Barnes


Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane


Notwithstanding extensive media coverage and commentary, the recent judgment of
the High Court Family Division in F v F1 is not one that tells us very much about
children’s rights or, indeed, their welfare. Instead, the case reveals the complexities
surrounding medical decision-making and the power that the media (and the state)
have over us all, particularly anxious parents. F v F also sends an implicit but
important warning to those acting in family disputes about medical treatment: never
litigate without leading current evidence from an appropriately qualified expert about
the child concerned.
The proceedings in F v F began on 5 April 2013 when Mr F, the father of two
girls (L, aged 15, and M, aged 11), issued an application seeking a “specific issue order”2 requiring that both children receive the MMR vaccination. Mr F and the
girls’ mother, Mrs F, had separated in 2009 and were divorced in January 2013.
Mrs F opposed her ex-husband’s application for vaccination. The children, who lived
with their mother, also opposed their father’s application. L and M were interviewed
twice by a CAFCASS reporter,3 Ms Vivian, and both children met with the presiding
judge, Mrs Justice Theis, to express their wishes. Neither child was a party to the

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date May 1, 2014
Publication Date 2014-05
Deposit Date Jun 2, 2014
Journal Edinburgh Law Review
Print ISSN 1364-9809
Electronic ISSN 1755-1692
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 2
Pages 284-289
Keywords MMR vaccine; children's rights; children's welfare; medical litigation;
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