Make the Best Decision You Can

 Published: August 11, 2021

By: Anthony L. DeWitt, JD, RRT, FAARC

 

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A frequent question I get on my YouTube channel from time to time is whether an employer can ‘force you’ to take a vaccination or any particular form of treatment. The answer, of course, is no. No employer can force you to do anything you do not wish to do. You have free will, and you can exercise that free will by electing not to take the vaccine or medication.

Of course, you are not the only one with free will. Your employer has free will also. It is the employer’s prerogative to determine whether to retain you in your position if you refuse to take a specific vaccine or medication. They can easily opt to terminate you and replace you with someone who is vaccinated. There are serious risk management issues with unvaccinated employees.

Suppose you refuse the COVID-19 vaccine and your employer allows you to work. You take care of Mrs. Doe, who is post-op from kidney surgery, and she develops COVID-19 while hospitalized. Despite your hospital’s best efforts, she succumbs to the disease. You have always tested negative, and you have never reported any signs or symptoms of the disease. But you’re unvaccinated. We know that being vaccinated does not stop a person from passing the disease on to others. But millions of people believe it does. We know that there is no nexus between you and Mrs. Doe other than a couple of aerosol treatments you gave. Despite this, your employer gets sued. Once the lawyer learns you cared for Mrs. Doe, expect to become an integral part of the lawsuit.

Most lawyers know this lawsuit won’t go anywhere. The plaintiff will not have the science to establish that you are the cause of her infection. But, it will still cost the hospital in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $10,000 to defend the lawsuit, and possibly more. The hospital is the one at risk, and they seek to mitigate their risk in these situations by mandating vaccination. Additionally, they know that vaccinated people tend to have fewer sick days if they do come down with the disease. Since, in many states, COVID-19 may very well be a workers’ compensation-related issue, the hospital would likely wish to mitigate that risk as well. The smart risk management position is to require vaccination. If I were advising your hospital, that’s what I would tell them.

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That doesn’t mean you have to agree. There are many jobs for therapists that might not require such a vaccination. Furthermore, a therapist is always free to resign rather than be vaccinated. It’s a rational choice, and if you make that choice, acting out of your own rationale and applying your own reason to the problem, no one should criticize you for that choice.

Early in my career, I had a positive test for tuberculosis. I knew I did not have an active disease. My mother had developed tuberculosis in the Philippines in 1972. Nevertheless, I was advised to take anti-tuberculosis medication. I took it for about a week before it made me deathly ill, and owing to a belief that a live, functioning worker was better than one who could barely raise his head off the pillow, I stopped taking the medication. Because there was no requirement for my physician to report the outcome of my medical examination and his course of treatment, my employer was never involved in that decision. Had my employer been involved, I would have resigned rather than take that course of medication.

Every therapist has to make personal treatment decisions for themselves. Applying the best science to the situation with COVID-19, I took the Pfizer vaccine, and I have been glad that I did. I would do it again, even though I’ve had some complications. For a guy who’s 67 and diabetic, I decided I did not want to dance with the COVID-19 monster. I made the best decision I could make based on my own research and a thorough review of the literature.

I am not opposed to vaccines or vaccinations. Nevertheless, I believe everyone should make their own decisions in this area.

Email newsroom@aarc.org with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Anthony is an attorney and a partner in the firm Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson, PC, and resides in Opelika, AL. He also published two books and numerous legal journal articles. This article is not a substitute for legal advice.

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