A Vitamin K shot has become an expected part of newborn medical care.
Though not a vaccine, most medical providers recommend the Vitamin K shot as a preventative measure. They advise it to lower the risk of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDN), more commonly called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). In extreme cases, VKDB can include intracranial bleeding. Vitamin K can be administered orally, but most medical providers recommend intramuscular injection in the newborn’s thigh.
So are parents legally required to consent to the Vitamin K shot for their newborn?
There are two answers.
The first answer is that most states do not require medical providers to administer Vitamin K to newborns. Even in states that do, the mandate is directed to the medical provider and does not override the parents’ right to refuse.
The second answer is more complicated. That is, even if a Vitamin K shot is not required by law, some medical providers may consider a refusal to constitute medical neglect, which could trigger them to make a report to child protective services.
For example, from 2015 to 2018, Illinois DCFS had a policy to treat refusal of Vitamin K as medical neglect. Illinois rescinded this policy after a lawsuit was filed challenging it.
This risk of being reported to CPS for refusing Vitamin K is highest in states that require medical providers to administer it.
Therefore, although they may refuse, parents should understand that a Vitamin K injection will be expected by most providers. To avoid confrontational situations after the birth, parents who wish to decline Vitamin K are generally advised to discuss the issue with their obstetrician or midwife in advance of the birth.
Regardless of the decision they make on Vitamin K for their newborn, we are committed to defending the rights of parents to make the decision on this issue that they believe is in the best interests of their child.
Remember that non-members can access the Law and Policy vault with a free account. Log in to see the law on Vitamin K in your state, and check out all of the other issues we cover in the vault.