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Texas Hospital Staff Says Vaccine Mandate Breaks Nuremberg Code

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 5/28/2021 Laurel Brubaker Calkins
a sign in front of a building: Houston-Area Intensive Care Units At 97% Capacity As Cases Rise © Bloomberg Houston-Area Intensive Care Units At 97% Capacity As Cases Rise

(Bloomberg) --

A Houston hospital will become the first in the U.S. to fire workers for refusing Covid-19 vaccinations starting on June 7, unless a state judge intervenes.

About 117 staffers sued Houston Methodist Hospital Friday in Texas state court, claiming the facility’s vax-or-pink-slip mandate violates World War II-era ethics codes designed to prevent medical experimentation on unwilling human subjects. The so-called Nuremberg Code was developed in response to Nazi atrocities conducted on concentration camp victims.

About 99% of the 26,000 employees of the hospital, a cornerstone of the famed Texas Medical Center, are already in compliance with its vaccination mandate, according to an email sent by Marc Boom, the hospital’s chief executive officer, to all employees and physicians. The remaining staffers were reminded they have until June 7 to get the jab or face the consequences.

Read More: Refusing the Vaccine Is Legal But Could Still Cost You Your Job

The lawsuit represents an escalation by Jennifer Bridges, an outspoken Houston nurse, who took her complaints to social media shortly after her employer’s vaccination policy was announced. Her April 17 Facebook post attracted 94 comments and encouragement to hire a lawyer. Her name is listed first among the plaintiffs in Friday’s complaint filed in Montgomery County, about an hour north of downtown Houston.

Boom’s internal email makes no mention of the hospital’s policy to exempt employees who are pregnant, have underlying medical conditions or strongly held religious convictions from vaccine mandates. “It is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu vaccine since 2009,” Boom said in his note. “The Covid-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental,” he added.

Jared Woodfill, a lawyer for the holdouts, disagrees. Covid vaccines authorized for emergency use aren’t fully approved by federal regulators, he said, and aren’t allowed to be mandatory under U.S. Centers for Disease Control current rules.

“Methodist Hospital is forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment,” Woodfill said in court papers asking a state judge to temporarily block the planned firings. “This, as a matter of fact, is a gene modification medical experiment on human beings, performed without informed consent. It is a severe and blatant violation of the Nuremberg Code and the public policy of the state of Texas.”

The holdouts also accuse Methodist of wrongful discharge and violating Texas’s at-will employment laws.

Even if the judge sides with workers refusing the shots, the concept of forcing employees to get vaccinated or lose their jobs is already spreading as fast as the virus itself among other large hospitals.

“CEOS of other health care institutions are calling nearly every day to ask how we are doing it,” Boom said in an April note to staffers. “I hope other health care systems and employers will quickly join Houston Methodist in making the vaccine mandatory for staff. The sooner we’re able to end this pandemic, the fewer lives we will continue to lose to it and the closer we can get to normal.”

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