05/17/2005 09:21 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Parents’ Right To Choose

HIV positive pregnant woman. We know that giving AZT during pregnancy and then giving AZT to the newborn for six weeks reduces the transmission rate of the virus from mother to baby by as much as two thirds. We do not know the long term affects of this medication on the developing fetus or the newborn but most experts agree that there is no controversy: The known benefits to the baby far outweigh the possible risks. I have known many parents who disagree.

Should the parents, the doctors or the government make the final decision?

Vaccination has reduced polio to non-existence in the United States. We have had no wild polio in America since 1979. Vaccines have also greatly decreased the number of cases of measles, (35 cases/year in the US) German Measles, (declared eradicated last month) and many kinds of meningitis are no longer a large problem in the pediatric community because of certain shots.

Very few experts agree with the only partially proven hypothesis that vaccines have contributed to the huge increase in autism and related disorders. Vaccines remain a public health triumph but still worry many parents. They worry me, too.

Should parents have the right to refuse vaccines for their children?

We know that we can cure 90% of children with certain types of leukemia and other childhood malignancies. We also know that many of these patients are developing second cancers later in life which are probably related to the drugs and radiation they received.

Should parents have the right to decide to seek alternative medical care far outside the mainstream in an effort to treat and cure without the possible side effects of conventional treatment?

Late night ruminations, here. Unfortunately, very relevant to my day.