Military Medical Ethics – Scenario Database

Mandatory vaccination (1)

ID/Number: 76
Last updated: 08 Feb, 2019
Revision: 4
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"In 1990, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the Department of Defense (DoD) requested a waiver that would permit military use of investigational drugs and vaccines without informed consent. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the request and issued a new general regulation, Rule 23(d), which permits drug-by-drug waiver of informed consent by the DoD. Pyridostigmine bromide (PB), a drug approved by the FDA for treatment of myasthenia gravis, was used under such a waiver as a “pretreatment” for the effects of nerve agents."

"The military may require immunizations, both to protect the fighting force and 'for the soldier's own good.' It is not difficult to see the need for some specific immunizations to protect the fighting force, especially in those instances where troops are deploying to an area with a known incidence of a specific disease and there is an effective, safe, FDA-approved vaccine for the disease to which the troops most likely would be exposed."

Source: Sidel, V. W. and B. S. Levy (2003). Physician-Soldier: A moral dilemma?
In: T. E. Beam and L. R. Sparacino (eds). Military Medical Ethics. Vol 1. Washington D.C., Office of The Surgeon General, United States Army: 293-329, here p. 297ff.

Questions for the discussion of this scenario

1. What do you think about these statements?
2. Under what circumstances (if any) could soldiers be ordered to use investigational drugs and vaccines without their informed consent?
3. Do soldiers have a moral right to refuse vaccinations? If so, under what circumstances?

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Military order Informed consent
Related scenarios and readings
item Mandatory vaccination (2)

This scenario is also listed in the following categories
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Dual loyalty and/or mixed obligations -> Conflicting roles