Patients are generally offered the flu shot by their doctors and the patient has the right to refuse. However, there is a question as to whether doctors and nurses have the right to refuse as well. Hospitals in the United States sometimes have trouble having an entirely immunized staff since some refuse. Some workers have lost their jobs over their refusal.
With the earlier than usual flu season that is hitting harder than the more recent mild seasons hospitals are getting tougher with their measures in employees having the flu shot. More than 400 hospitals require their employees to get the flu shot and 29 of those hospitals have fired employees for not being vaccinated. While most doctors and nurses do get flu shots, in the past two months there have been at least fifteen nurses and other hospital employees across four states that have been fired for refusing the flu shot. In Chicago, one nurse was fired. In another hospital in Indiana seven employees were fired for refusing the flu shot. One nurse expressed that her decision to avoid the shot was “a personal thing.” Other hospital employees have resigned.
There are several reasons why a hospital worker, whose job is to protect sick patients, may refuse a flu shot. Such reasons are allergies to the flu vaccine, religious objections, and there may be skepticisms about whether the vaccination of health workers prevents flu in patients.
There have been some studies done on whether the vaccination of health care workers helps to prevent patients from catching the flu. The studies have shown evidence that flu vaccination does significantly decreases the number of flu cases. Some people believe that a health care workers’ obligation to protect patients supersedes their individual rights about whether to have the flu shot. Some say that patients should ask health care providers whether they have had the flu shot and possibly even demand they get flu shots.
It is important that doctors and other health care providers do not transmit diseases to patients. However if a patient contracts the flu and suffers serious injury or death, and where the patient contracted the flu was in question, it is unlikely a medical malpractice suit would arise.
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