The Scope and Limits of Legal Intervention in Controversies Involving Biomedicine: A Legal History of Vaccination and English Law (1813–1853)
Comparative Program on Health and Society Lupina Foundation Working Paper Series, 2009–2010
19 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 12, 2011
This paper examines the historical role of law and politics in the adoption of smallpox vaccination in Britain, focusing primarily on the early Victorian period, when legislation was passed to enforce compulsory infantile vaccination. The primary thesis of the study is that law, and the processes through which it is created and maintained, provide a distinct “envelope of social order” (Jasanoff 2008, 764) within which competing and duelling interests and opinions about scientific innovation find origin, expression, and debate. Consequently, the manner in which law responds to science and its impact on society is neither static nor self-evident, but subject to mutable circumstances that are historically, politically, and socially situated. The paper is divided into two main parts. The first provides a brief history of vaccination and the second focuses on events surrounding the introduction of compulsory vaccination laws in England and Wales.
Ubaka Ogbogu is a third year doctoral student in the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. His research examines the role of law in the context of vaccination controversies in 19th and early 20th century Canada, and in particular how that role compares to legal developments in the UK and US during the same period. Ubaka’s other research interests include the ethical, legal and social implications of emerging biotechnologies, health law, and the legal history of science.
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