Frequently Asked Questions
What is informed consent?
Informed consent means being given all the facts before you make a decision. This includes being told about all the potential risks of your decision.
In medicine, informed consent is considered crucial for a patient's consent to be legally valid, so doctors in the UK are obliged to tell patients of all "material risks" (that means all risks that a reasonable person in the patient's position would consider significant) of a treatment before the patient can consent.
That includes risks that might be considered less common. That a risk is considered "rare" is not a medical, legal, or ethical reason not to inform a patient about it. 'Rare' doesn't mean 'non-existent'. Some people will still experience that consequence, so it's important the patient is fully informed in advance. This is particularly so for population-wide interventions such as vaccinations, as whilst a risk that affects 1 in 1,000 people may be labelled 'rare', in real world figures - in a population of 67 million people - that means it could affect nearly 70,000 people.
In addition, special care must be taken with vaccines, as - unlike other pharmaceutical products - they are overwhelmingly given to healthy people, and are not meant to treat any existing disease, but rather to prevent a future theoretical instance of it. Applying a risky medicine (all medicine comes with risks) to people who might not necessarily ever need it, should be expected to meet especially high ethical and safety standards, and patients should be completely clear and confident that they have evaluated all the information and decided the risk is worth it.
What is the law regarding informed consent and vaccination?
The principle of informed consent applies to all medical interventions in the UK, including vaccination, as per the terms of the Montgomery ruling. All patients should be told of all material risks of a vaccination before their consent is sought.
Sadly, this rarely happens.
Why don't doctors and other healthcare professionals disclose all the risks?
Often, because they don't know them themselves. Doctors and other health professionals are typically tremendously busy and working long hours, so don't always have the time to read the latest science, especially for very new vaccines like those developed for COVID-19. In addition, vaccine package inserts - documents where manufacturers disclose all potential risks and side effects - are often long and laborious, and few doctors read these in their entirety before beginning to inject patients.
It's also important to know that GPs are financially incentivised to vaccinate patients.
What are the consequences for doctors if they don't seek informed consent for vaccination?
Under current law, there are very few - if any - consequences for doctors. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are not financially liable if patients have a bad reaction to a vaccine, in a way they can be if another surgery or treatment goes wrong. So they don't have the same incentive to fully disclose risks.
It's important to know that, even if you or a family member are severely injured or killed by a vaccine, you cannot sue the person who administered the vaccine (nor the companies who produced it). The only option to gain monetary compensation if you are severely injured by a vaccine is via the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme, a government compensation programme that is funded by the tax-payer. This scheme has already paid out to victims of COVID-19 vaccine injury, including to families whose loved ones have been killed by the vaccine.
However, please note this payment (a maximum of £120,000) is notoriously difficult to get and comes with a number of stringent conditions, such as only being available to those "at least 60% disabled", and affecting benefit payments. So, many vaccine-injured people may choose not to apply for it, or not qualify if they do.
How can I ensure I'm giving informed consent to a vaccine?
Take the time to study all the evidence, including vaccine package inserts, peer-reviewed studies, and the opinions of independent experts, who don't have ties to pharmaceutical companies or other financial incentives to be dishonest.
Please be aware that the pharmaceutical industry is a heavy investor in the media, so things you read in newspapers or see on television, even on the news, may not be reliable or trustworthy. Always cross-reference what you see or read against credible primary sources, such as studies - and be sceptical of studies financed by those with pharmaceutical interests.
Do remember that vaccines are for-profit products that generate billions in sales for the pharmaceutical companies that produce them and their beneficiaries. Please also be aware that the pharmaceutical industry has a long history of criminal fraud, and most companies producing vaccines have been hit with heavy punitive fines for malpractice - often repeatedly.
The biggest criminal fine of all time was awarded to Pfizer, producer of one of the most widely-used COVID-19 vaccines, regarding misuse and mispromotion of one of its products. This product was linked to thousands of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and deaths, before it was finally withdrawn from the market.
A Pfizer whistleblower said at the time, "At Pfizer I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives".
Most other pharmaceutical companies have similarly chequered histories, so it's vital to remember that these for-profit companies have well-established protocols for putting profits before people, and that they don't always tell the truth about their products. These companies are typically so wealthy, that many calculate it is more in their interests to continue retailing a dangerous but lucrative product, and then paying off any future fine, than it is investing in making their products safer.
It's worth reiterating here that pharmaceutical companies have no financial liability if their COVID-19 vaccines injure or kill, which further reduces their incentive to make them optimally safe.
Aren't I taking a risk by not getting vaccinated?
No decision in life is risk-free, but the evidence suggests that the protection provided by COVID-19 vaccination is not high (nor do these intervention prevent contraction or transmission), and that it wanes quickly - hence the requirement for so many 'boosters', each of which carries with it an additional risk. Millions of people in this country - approximately 20% of the population, according to government figures - are not vaccinated against COVID-19 at all. Early reports stating that most patients in ICUs were unvaccinated turned out to be false. Actually, most ICU patients are double-vaccinated.
Do bear in mind that COVID-19 is not a life-threatening or life-altering condition for most, and there are many other steps you can take to protect your health and minimise your chances of becoming seriously ill should you contract a coronavirus. Most of these protocols are significantly less risky than the COVID-19 vaccinations.
It is critical to keep in mind that, while your doctor, the media, your employer, and your family and friends may all put huge pressure on you to receive a COVID-19 vaccination (which is unethical in itself: no medical decision should ever be a result of coercion or duress), if something goes wrong, none of these people bear any responsibility for dealing with the consequences. Only you do.
There is no guarantee you will be compensated fairly if you are injured by a vaccine (and a maximum payment of £120,000 is comparatively small, especially if you are young and have many years of working life ahead of you).
So it's critical that before proceeding with this potentially life-altering decision, you consider all the facts, and make a free, knowledgeable, and fully informed choice.
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