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Book Reviews:
Catherine Diodati: Immunization, History, Ethics, Law and Health

IMMUNIZATION: History, Ethics, Law and Health
By: Catherine Diodati, M.A.

Catherine Diodatiís book is the most important new addition to the growing body of literature that examines immunization policies. Within a broad and varied framework, the author weaves together the related issues of immunology, history, ethics and law. This meticulously researched work carries us to a new dimension of understanding about vaccine issues, and enables the reader to comprehend the extent to which universally acknowledged biomedical ethics and standards are violated by current policies.

Diodati explains the immune system response in clear and understandable language, accompanied by illustrations. She discusses the concept of "herd immunity" and how artificial immunity is meant to imitate natural infection plus differences between artificial and natural immunity. She delves into how vaccines are made, the biological and chemical ingredients and their known effects, and their ability to cause undue harm to vaccinees which violates the principal of non-maleficence (do no harm). The book takes a long term look at statistics and the effects vaccination have had on disease incidence, morbidity and mortality. She explores the history of vaccine development, accomplishments, trials, errors and disasters. Catherine Diodati presents a model compensation scheme for vaccine victims, looks at military vaccines, including Gulf War Syndrome, the anthrax vaccine controversy, new vaccines under development, and the effect on privacy from immunization tracking systems and smart cards.

Catherine Diodati maintains that informed and voluntary consent are absolutely vital in view of inherent risks associated with vaccines. Adequate information is unreasonably difficult to obtain and rarely reaches the public. She finds that current immunization policies and procedures violate the legal and ethical requirements for informed and voluntary consent. The current state of inadequate adverse reporting, results in public ignorance of the real risks associated with mass immunization programs. In Canada, no effort is made to adequately compensate vaccine-injury victims.

The book, published in March, 1999, runs approximately 325 pages. It is the most comprehensive book in its field to date and is the first book to examine Canadian immunization policies, procedures and legislation, and delves as well into international perspectives. Diodati states that "immunization is distinct from all other medical practices in that healthy individuals assume largely unknown risks, some permanently disabling or even fatal, with no goal of improving their present state of health."

The decision to accept or refuse immunization affects virtually every person world-wide. Diodati presents her findings in clear, non-technical language that will facilitate "informed choice" for all parents who agonize over the vaccination question. This book challenges the status quo that disregards fundamental ethical standards and scientific integrity. Undoubtedly, it is destined to become a classic.

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