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HomeCOVID-19The government’s war on vaccine opponents could be a legal own goal

The government’s war on vaccine opponents could be a legal own goal

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BELOW is the letter I wrote to Suella Braverman, our largely invisible Attorney General, last November (which received an electronic acknowledgment and no more). To be clear, I am neither a doctor nor a lawyer but it seemed to me the government’s legal position rested on informed consent and presenting balanced and detailed information, without any pressure to accept the intervention (citing particularly the Appeal Court ruling in the case of Montgomery versus Lanarkshire in 2015, paras 89-92). And it might be if the government failed to meet this high (and proper) standard it would be compromised.

What happened, of course, was beyond my and many other people’s worst nightmare as the government made no attempt to outline the risks of the products while declaring all-out war against anyone who had reservations – it was if the vaccines had become the new state religion with Jonathan Van-Tam as its high priest (the gentleman who was appointed in 2017 to oversee ‘emergency preparedness and pandemic planning’ and maybe one of the greatest failures in British history). It was, of course, the people who hung on the words of various media bullies – without the slightest clinical responsibility – who had abandoned rationality rather than those who questioned.

By now the government is left with no more than a fig-leaf as it seeks to roll out for children a product which, so far from being safe and effective, entails potential net harm even on the assessment of some of the world’s most enthusiastic vaccinators (BMJ Webinars: Covid vaccination: Evidence, Ethics and Equity, 10 September 2021). 

This is my letter to the Attorney General with my letter to the online British Medical Journal which I appended at the time. I do not believe that my contention that the way the government was acting was thoroughly illegal has ever been contradicted.

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For the attention of the Attorney General the Rt Hon Suella Braverman, November 17, 2020

Dear Mrs Braverman,

The political attack on vaccine criticism compromises informed consent

I am forwarding you my letter published in the online British Medical Journal yesterday [November 16, 2020]. I am concerned not only about the xenophobic rhetoric involved in labelling people with a variety of concerns as ‘anti-vaxxers’ but also that it subverts rational discussion of the safety of products, and undermines informed consent. As I understand it the concept of informed consent underpins the government’s present vaccine policy, leaving the decision ultimately with the citizen, but this could be compromised in an atmosphere of stoked-up hatred against anyone who has reservations or dissents. It is certain that informed consent is a personal choice based on making all the information about any medical intervention available, and this is a legal requirement underlined by the Appeal Court ruling of Montgomery vs. Lanarkshire (2015). There is also the historic warning of the Nuremberg Code. Furthermore, if the public assault against ‘anti-vaxxers’, whoever they are, subverts rational discussion of safety issues – and even ends up disguising them – this too will compromise informed consent.

I believe you urgently need to look at the issues involved here.

Yours sincerely,

John Stone

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From the BMJ online, November 16, 2020

Informed Consent and the Government’s Legal Position 

Dear Editor

As I understand it the British government’s legal position over vaccination presently hinges on informed consent [1]. The citizen or patient makes a decision on what should be a full disclosure of the benefits and risks [2], and while the patient may theoretically be able to sue if something goes wrong the risk in the first place lies with the patient rather than state or the manufacturer.

But surely the government will put itself in an invidious position and undermine its own legal defence if it seeks to limit public discussion about products and promotes a public hue and cry over citizens accepting them [3,4,5]. I am not for a second suggesting that anyone ought to be able to promote false information about products, only that they must be allowed to discuss them publicly in a normal, civilised way like anything else [6].

Otherwise the legal condition for informed consent will not exist, and the government may nullify its position, particularly if relevant information was prevented from coming to public light by its actions.

[1] John Stone, ‘Re: We can change practice—can we also change culture?‘, 13 August 2020. 

[2] Daniel Sokol, ‘New guidance from the GMC: what constitutes meaningful dialogue?’, BMJ 2020; 371 doi:  (Published 12 October 2020).

[3] ‘ Social media giants agree package of measures with UK Government to tackle vaccine disinformation’ GOV.UK, 8 November 2020.  

[4] Danyel  Hussain, ‘GCHQ spies launch cyber counter-attack against anti-vaccine propaganda being spread by Russia’ , Daily Mail 9 November 2020. 

[5] Jon (sic) Stone, ‘Coronavirus vaccine: Labour calls for emergency censorship laws for anti-vax content‘, Independent 15 November 2020. 

[6] John Stone, ‘Re: New guidance from the GMC: what constitutes meaningful dialogue? (Coercive atmosphere over vaccination)‘, 13 November 2020. 

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John Stone
John Stone is British editor of Age of Autism and a veteran observer of the interactions of government bureaucracies with the pharmaceutical industry.

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