When your 12-year-old daughter comes back from school with the consent form for HPV vaccine in hand, and you have to make the decision on her behalf, all the issues around informed consent come sharply into focus. My older two daughters — now adults — missed the boat on this one. My youngest two daughters, however, face a new predicament — one that’s only been on offer to humans for a decade: the HPV vaccine. Should or shouldn’t they be exposed to a genetically engineered vaccine, hailed as the best shot at cervical cancer prevention? The reality is that the information my daughter was given, information that’s intended to help guide us in this very important decision, amounts to — in my personal view — a sales pitch for Merck (the vaccine’s manufacturer). It couldn’t be described as anything approaching the provision of all relevant, currently known information about the likely benefits and risks of HPV vaccination. It also gave away nothing about other options available, should we choose to not go down the vaccination route for my daughter.

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