PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A court-appointed attorney for four children removed from their parents' care asked a Michigan judge on Wednesday to order measles vaccinations for the children against the wishes of their parents, who are trying to regain custody in an ongoing child neglect case.
Child protective services workers were trying to terminate the parental rights of Brian and Amy Kenny when they learned the couple's children, ages 10 and under, hadn't been vaccinated, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/1HZB3x4 ). Court records show the children have been repeatedly removed from the home because of the couple's drug use and domestic violence.
"I feel strongly about the health and welfare of my clients," said H. Elliot Parnes, the children's attorney.
Parnes told The Associated Press he filed the motion Wednesday. The children — three girls and one boy — are temporary wards of the court but living with their grandparents while the Kennys fight to retain their parental rights. Parnes declined to say whether the request was his or came on behalf of the grandparents.
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11.
Michigan Department of Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton said he couldn't cite specifics, but that there were likely previous cases involving parents who've had their children placed in foster care not wanting them vaccinated. But he noted that state law prevents the department from removing a child or terminating parental rights "solely based on a parent decision not to immunize."
Lee Somerville, an attorney who has practiced in probate court since the 1990s, said the vaccination request seems rare.
"I've never seen one," Somerville told the newspaper, noting that the Kennys haven't had their parental rights terminated. "It's not like this is a life-saving situation."
Brian Kenny's attorney, Daniel Bagdade, said the father opposes inoculations based on his own research and speaking with parents who believe vaccinations led to their children's autism. Scientific evidence has disproved any such link.
"He feels he has done his due diligence and is adamant about his position and feels that the court making him do this is a violation of his rights," Bagdade said.
Measles easily spreads through the air and in enclosed spaces. In some cases, particularly among babies, it can be fatal. Infection can also cause miscarriages and premature births.
The Michigan case comes amid the nation's second-biggest measles outbreak in at least 15 years. The illness has sickened more than 100 people in 14 states so far this year, most linked to an outbreak that started over the holidays at Disneyland.
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com