Confusion continues in Michigan anti-vax case over mother's religious concerns

Further testing for child proposed over '23andMe' test

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PONTIAC, Mich. – A Metro Detroit mother was in court Tuesday fighting her divorced husband for the right to decide if their child should be vaccinated after her attorney failed to qualify an anti-vaccination doctor as an expert at a hearing last month testing a judge's patience.

Lori Ann Matheson says she has religious objections to vaccinations and does not want her 2-year-old daughter vaccinated. Her former husband, Michael Schmitt, doesn't believe she does.

The judge heard testimony last month and was forced to stop the mother from testifying about expert medical needs. The case continued a week later with testimony derailing from the focus of custody. Tuesday's hearing began in much the same way.

Further testing based on a genetic health report from '23andMe'

The hearing started with a discussion about the mother's motion to have additional testing done on her child for predispositions to adverse reactions to vaccines.

Schmitt's attorney objected to the necessity for further testing and why the testing was being done in the first place.

A genetic health report from 23andMe is the reason for the additional testing. 

Schmitt's attorney asked the court to clarify what tests would be done and who would conduct the tests. He also pointed out a disclaimer on 23andMe that says its genetic health reports should not be meant for making a medical diagnosis. Matheson's attorney objected calling it hearsay.

"But why are you trying to get out of what the website says, I don't understand, why are you objecting to that? You don't want to argue that it's used as a prognosis," Judge Karen McDonald said.

Father says Matheson’s concerns are not religious

Schmitt took the stand and told the court that during the divorce’s arbitration it was decided whatever recommendation the child’s pediatrician made would be final. The pediatrician recommended that the child be vaccinated.

“There are people around the world literally dying because they don’t have the vaccinations that we get so easily and readily available,” Schmitt said

He discussed a meeting they both had with the pediatrician where Matheson asked a series of questions about vaccines and that her concerns were unfounded.

Schmitt said that none of Matheson’s concerns were religious.

Matheson’s attorney asked Schmitt why he doesn’t believe there is any reason for further testing.

“Every doctor or medical professional I’ve talked to has agreed that there is nothing indicating any kind of autoimmune problem or any other health related thing.”

She asked Schmitt about his experience as a child having chicken pox and then asked if Schmitt would want his daughter vaccinated for chicken pox even if she was already immune. Schmitt’s attorney objected to a lack of foundation for the questions. The judge helped rephrase the question, but the line of questioning continued to derail into medical testimony about specific vaccinations and Matheson’s attorney objected to the answer Schmitt gave to her own question on the basis of lack of foundation. 

The judge asked for clarification. Watch the breakdown below:

Matheson's attorney attempted to question Schmitt about vaccination pamphlets that were not entered as exhibits. A copy was provided to Schmitt's attorney and may be discussed at a later hearing.

Judge's patience tested as attorney fails to qualify doctor as expert

Matheson’s attorney called a surprise “expert” witness to the stand, giving only 24 hours of notice.

Dr. Toni Lynn Bark took the stand and Matheson’s attorney attempted to qualify her as an expert witness in vaccine injuries and the adverse reactions of vaccines. The husband's attorney objected because she is not an immunologist. Matheson’s attorney resorted to qualifying the doctor as an expert in general medicine.

Judge Karen McDonald tried giving Matheson’s attorney opportunities to follow the proper procedures in qualifying an expert witness. She lost her patience after several attempts of laying foundation and even had to tell Bark how to behave on the stand. 

“The proper court procedure is not being followed. I can go in the back and do the research myself and I have, and it takes not a lot of time to learn how to introduce an expert witness. It hasn’t been done. Read the case law,” McDonald said. “There’s a way to do this and I can’t do your job for you.”

Watch the courtroom frustration below:

Two cases are before Michigan judges, hearing testimony from divorced parents regarding their rights to decide if their child should be vaccinated.

Rebecca Bredow and her former husband James Horne were in court Wednesday. Bredow spent nearly a week in jail for refusing a judge’s order to vaccinate her 9-year-old son and lost primary custody.

Click here for more information about vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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