Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Liberty versus state-mandated medicine: the early years

"During the course of my examination, I have been asked questions which implied that I had taken up this subject and written on it without the full and accurate information befitting a man of science. I admit that this is, to some extent, true; but my answer is that I did not take it up as a question of pure science. If it had remained a question of medical science and practice, I should not have troubled myself about it, and certainly not have written on it. But from the moment when, through the great influence of the medical profession, a medical dogma was enforced by penal law, it became a question of politics, a question of personal liberty. When almost every week I read of men fined or imprisoned for refusing to subject their children to a surgical operation which they (and I) believed to be, not only useless, but injurious and dangerous, I felt impelled to aid, if ever so little, in obtaining a repeal of a cruel and tyrannical law. I could not wait years to study the question in all its intricacies and obscurities while men were being daily punished, as I believed, unjustly. Liberty is, in my mind, a far greater and more important thing than science . . ."

Alfred Russel Wallace, concerning testimony he gave at a Royal Commission inquiry on vaccination in 1890

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