By now, everyone has heard about this new H1N1 virus that the United States is trying hard to encourage people to take. What many folks don’t know, unless they live in New York, is that the health commissioner of this state has determined that every health care worker who has any patient contact must take the shot. It’s the only state in the nation that’s made the shot mandatory; even the federal government didn’t make it mandatory for anyone except military personnel. What they’ve done that’s sneaky is not told hospitals what they should do about those employees who won’t take the shot. This way, it absolves them of any responsibility if hospitals fire employees, which is pretty much what’s going to happen.

My wife works at one of the hospitals in this area, and it’s being very aggressive in trying to get people to take the shot. They’ve gone above and beyond in trying to comply with the state mandate. They’ve decided that everyone who works at the hospital has to take the shot, even people who don’t work directly in the hospital and never see patients. They’re sending out daily notices to those people who they see haven’t taken the shot yet, and are sending daily emails out to other people with a list of names of people who haven’t taken the shot and asking them to encourage these other people to take the shot. Also, the employee health doctor at this hospital isn’t just accepting the letters that some doctors are filling out saying their patients shouldn’t take the shot. He’s asking inappropriate questions, then telling some of these people that they have to take the shot or else they will be fired.

Oh yeah, there’s two other things I need to mention here. One, the federal government has absolved the maker of this drug from being allowed to be sued if anyone gets violently ill and passes away, and since you can’t sue the federal government, it seems somewhat suspect. And two, my wife’s hospital, though trying to force everyone to take this shot, is also making them sign a piece of paper absolving them of any liability if people get sick from being forced to take it. Once again, that’s pretty sneaky.

These last two, by the way, are a violation of patient’s rights. Telling everyone else in the hospital who hasn’t taken a shot is not only a HIPAA violation, but it’s an employment violation, since it basically tells everyone else who might be on the list to be fired, which isn’t anyone else’s business. And forcing people to do something against what their doctors have recommended is a violation of privacy, since even employee health doesn’t have the right to override what a patient’s physician has said, whether they’re a physician or not.

This issue has brought up a very interesting conversation in this state. People who aren’t in health care are saying “why don’t they just take the shot.” They see it as “if the state says they should take it, then they should take it and protect us from them.” Sorry, but life just isn’t that straight forward.

Many years ago, when states across the country began instituting the seat belt law, I remember telling some friends of mine that this was only the first step, and that there were going to be a lot more punitive laws coming after this one. They laughed at me at the time, saying I was being paranoid. I’ve always worn my seat belt, and even though I believe everyone should wear one, I’ve always believed that people should have the right to do whatever they feel like doing in something they paid for.

Now, here we are, and we have helmet laws for not only motorcycles, but for bicycles. We have smoking laws all over the place. We have cell phone laws, and many states are looking to ban cell phones in cars altogether. We have more and more locales installing hidden cameras to catch us speeding or going through stop signs without completely stopping. There are rules for how you have to dress when you’re in the car. And, going further, we now have all these punitive laws going against kids for being kids, even at ages as young as 5 years old, and mandatory suspensions for some of the stupidest stuff you’ve ever heard of.

In other words, we’ve given up our rights of self determination. I will honestly say that some of those laws above I’m happy for, but I still have somewhat of a problem with them. I believe that when one passes a law that’s for the good of a group of people, such as outlawing smoking in restaurants because one smoker pretty much impacts a single room, as well as forces employees to deal with things such as second hand smoke, which could give them lung cancer at a later time in life, that it’s a much different thing than talking to someone on a cell phone. I might be wrong about that, but it’s how I feel.

But let’s come back to these H1N1 shots. Hospitals have never forced any of their employees to get a regular flu shot. As much as the World Health Organization wants to push this thing as a pandemic, there are still more people getting the regular flu than the Swine Flu, and more people around the world dying because of the regular flu than the Swine Flu. That’s issue number one.

Issue number two, who decides that you have to be forced into getting a shot in the first place? Shots are invasive; we all should have the right to decide if we want invasive procedures done on our bodies. This flu shot concoction is new; many doctors are saying it’s safe, but it really hasn’t been tested. They said the same thing in 1976; not many people remember that one. Many doctors are also saying that other shots are mandatory and that workers have never complained about that. Actually, though it’s true now, it’s not true at the time these shots were created and workers were encouraged to take them. That, plus let’s see, how many people had been killed by a proven deadly disease called smallpox before there was a vaccine that was allowed to be distributed?

Everyone has a point at which they’ll acknowledge that they feel their rights are being violated. The funny thing is that they never see it as being an issue for anyone else until they’re personally impacted by it. Well, I’m lucky in being a consultant; I’m not taking the shot. I’ve taken two flu shots in my life, and got sick for 4 months both times; that’s not happening again. As it is, with this shot, though some of these TV doctors are saying it’s safe, some health care workers have gotten really sick behind it, and have been out of work for up to two weeks. Shouldn’t that be a choice the potential recipient deserves to make for themselves as to whether they want to be put through that or not? And, as I said, no one can be sued for forcing it; how fair is that?

As I asked up front, how ready are you to give up your rights? I’d really like to know.

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