Manufacturing (parental) consent: A critical analysis of the HPVV informed consent process in Ontario, Canada

Year: 2016

Author: Petherick, LeAnne, Rail, Genevieve, Norman, Moss

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The educational context serves as a site to question the health imperative families face as being good/bad parents, especially in relation to mass vaccination campaigns. In Canada, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine has become entrenched in the public health immunization program within schools. The HPV vaccination program is offered in elementary schools across the country but parents must sign-off on the vaccination in order for children to receive the immunization. In this process parents are asked to consent to vaccine based on the information and consent documents they receive from public health. In this chapter, we draw attention to and critically interrogate the discourses invoked by the informed consent documents. Our analysis focuses on the documents provided by eight public health agencies within the province of Ontario who work within schools to vaccinate youth in various geographical areas of the province. We argue that these documents are strategically designed to invoke parental fears about HPV, while simultaneously managing parental anxieties and in so doing manufacture parental consent. Using a Foucauldian analysis we illustrate how the documents themselves construct fears about HPV and the possibilities associated with non-vaccination. As a response to the risk and fear that is embedded in the textual information, HPV vaccination is constructed as the only “safe” strategy to distance youth from the dangers of HPV. We suggest that parents are not coerced into consent but we highlight how the information is presented in such a way as to persuade otherwise free and autonomous individuals that consent is the best and if not the only option. This presentation of information about HPV and the vaccination process within the documents obscures, erases and forecloses complicated decisions about HPV vaccination. To manufacture parental consent, these public health documents map onto larger discussions about the construction of girls’ embodied sexuality and sexual health, parental responsibilities and guilt, the tangled web of public health and school environments, and the neoliberal imperatives associated with dominant health discourse.