While you may not directly represent my district, in your role as a member of the Health & Wellness Committee, you represent me as a resident of Washington State.
As such, I am writing to explain why I believe HB 2009 is a phenomenal step in the wrong direction with regard to improving public health in our state.
To begin with, wanting to force people to do the “right thing” is as understandable as it is misguided. In this case, coercing medical choices is absolutely unethical, as it prevents patients from being able to give “informed consent,” which all medical practitioners are required to obtain prior to performing a medical procedure. Consent can only occur in a non-coercive environment, and threatening individuals’ livelihoods or their access to education introduces a persistent and inherent coercive force.
From the medical perspective, we cannot avoid the fact that every vaccine is different, every disease is different, every person is different and every situation is different. This is why good medicine requires flexibility. HB 2009 will tie medical practitioners’ hands, eliminating their ability to fully engage in the practice of medicine. Fundamentally, mandates (without readily available exemption options) significantly interfere with the doctor/patient relationship and undermine the growing trend in cooperative health care.
It is true that we all have a responsibility to minimize the spread of disease within our communities, whether vaccinated or not. If you're going to legislate something, legislate paid sick leave for all workers. For most contagious illnesses, we have no vaccine. Imagine the tremendous public health benefits of making it economically possible for every resident of Washington State to stay home when sick, or to care for a sick child!
On the political side of things, HB 2009 sends a clear message that our temporarily elected officials believe doctors and patients are incapable of making good medical decisions. This is wrong and dangerous thinking.
What we have been seeing, in the past few decades, is a shift in decision-making methods. In the past, most people were Delegators. They left decision-making up to the experts. “Hey doc, tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Today, in the highly educated and well-informed state of Washington, we see a significant increase in Questioners. These are people who seek out expert advice to supplement their own research on the way to making their own decision.
Unfortunately, public health messaging hasn’t kept up with this shift. What works well for a Delegator (who is seeking someone to trust) does not work well for a Questioner (who is seeking detailed information and scientific data). In our advancing society, over-simplified public health messaging is old school and has weakened the credibility of public health authorities. Additionally, the five year plan put in place by our legislature roughly six years ago has substantially (and intentionally) increased the hostility and rancor between residents of our state, further reducing credibility.
In order to recover the good will and trust that has been lost over the past six years, we need a better education campaign, not an attack on our basic human liberties.