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Consent is a charity supporting parental healthcare decisions. We aim to be a balanced voice for parents, facilitating and promoting better understanding between parents and healthcare professionals.

Most parents are not medically trained and rely on doctors for accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations. However, it is also now common for parents to form their own opinions and to make decisions on behalf of their child which may be contrary to the medical advice they have received.

The supreme court in the case of Montgomery said in 2015:

“The social and legal developments which we have mentioned point away from a model of the relationship between the doctor and the patient based upon medical paternalism. they also point away from a model based upon a view of the patient as being entirely dependent on information provided by the doctor. What they point towards is an approach to the law which, instead of treating patients as placing themselves in the hands of their doctors (and then being prone to sue their doctors in the event of a disappointing outcome), treats them so far as possible as adults who are capable of understanding that medical treatment is uncertain of success and may involve risks, accepting responsibility for the taking of risks affecting their own lives, and living with the consequences of their choices.”

This statement sums up well the change in attitude among patients over recent decades, as acknowledged by the courts.
 Parents have a duty to make decisions in the best interest of their child. In extreme cases doctors can ask a court to override a parental decision. They cannot, however, override it themselves.
The clinical Manual of Fever in children describes the excessive fear of fever among both parents and doctors as “fever phobia” and finds such fears “unfounded”.
It points out that:

    There is considerable evidence that fever promotes host defence against infection, i.e. is an important defence mechanism.
    Complications and mortality are closely related to severity of underlying disease, not level of fever.
    Fever does not climb up relentlessly and does not normally exceed 42 C.
    Temperature above 42C suggest hyperthermia (different causes, symptoms and 
management to fever).
    Febrile seizures only occur in genetically susceptible children and are not usually 
dangerous.
    Fever does not damage the central nervous system.
    The principle complication of fever is dehydration, which can be prevented by providing 
extra fluid to the child.
    Antipyretics do not prevent febrile seizures.
    Antipyretics have no positive influence on the underlying disease and may be counterproductive.
    The analgesic effect of the drug makes the child feel better. This does not mean we have reduced the severity of the disease. However it may encourage the child to take more fluids.

NICE guidelines broadly confirm this position:

    Antipyretic agents do not prevent febrile convulsions and should not be used specifically 
for this purpose.
    Do not use antipyretic agents with the sole aim of reducing body temperature in children 
with fever.
    Consider using either paracetamol or ibuprofen in children with fever who appear 
distressed.
    When using paracetamol or ibuprofen in children with fever:
 continue only as long as the child appears distressed
, consider changing to the other agent if the child’s distress is not alleviated
; do not give both agents simultaneously
; only consider alternating these agents if the distress persists or recurs before the 
next dose is due.

It is important to note that these guidelines are, in effect, asking doctors to use paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen as analgesics, not as fever lowering agents.
Many parents may feel that the benefits of fever as a defence against infection outweigh the use of paracetamol and ibuprofen to relieve distress.
Medical professionals should not confuse the refusal of antipyretics with the refusal of antibiotics in case of a diagnosed serious bacterial infection. Here an antibiotic may save lives while an antipyretic will often lead to a higher chance of adverse outcomes. Refusing antipyretic medication is therefore usually reasonable and can be as a sign of a well-informed parent. Much re-education is still needed in correcting our society’s view on fever and these parents should therefore be welcomed. However they rely on doctors and their expertise to quickly diagnose and treat serious underlying conditions.

Heinz Eichenwald, professor of paediatrics at the South Western Medical School, University of Texas – Bulletin of the World Health organization 2003, 81 (5):
“Fever represents a universal, ancient, and usually beneficial response to infection, and its suppression under most circumstances has few, if any, demonstrable benefits. On the other hand, some harmful effects have been shown to occur as a result of suppressing fever: in most individuals, these are slight, but when translated to millions of people, they may result in an increase in morbidity and perhaps the occurrence of occasional mortality. it is clear, therefore, that widespread use of antipyretics should not be encouraged either in developing countries or in industrial societies.”

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To Whom It May Concern
Subj. parental vaccination decisions

Consent is a charity supporting parental healthcare decisions. We aim to be a balanced voice for parents, facilitating and promoting better understanding between parents and healthcare professionals.

Our charity is being contacted by many parents who tell us they feel pressured or even harassed by their GP surgery for declining, delaying or selectively accepting vaccinations for their children.

The vast majority of healthcare professionals respect parental vaccination decision just as their professional standards require. We are making the following points only because a small minority do not.

Professional Standards
The General Medical Council requires doctors to treat patients with respect and to be polite and considerate. These requirements still apply, even if staff fundamentally disagree with a parent’s decision.
It is unprofessional to accuse parents of neglect, exert pressure by inducing fear or guilt, label them selfish, suggest their decision will result in financial loss to the practice or to repeatedly raise the matter at unrelated appointments and/or through unwanted phone calls and messages. Unfortunately all the above continue to be reported to us.

Safeguarding
Non-vaccination in the absence of any other concerns does not and never has constituted a safeguarding issue. It is therefore inappropriate to threaten a parent with referral to the Local Authority on safeguarding grounds for this reason alone. It causes stress and resentment among patients and diverts social service resources away from real safeguarding issues.

Removal of Patients
Parents have reported being told they will be removed from the surgery’s list and refused further treatment should they continue to decline vaccinations. Such action is only justifiable if the doctor-patient relationship has permanently broken down, despite real efforts from the surgery to restore it. Justifying such a measure on grounds of non-vaccination is against General Medical Council and British Medical Association guidelines.