197 U.S. 11, 25 S.Ct. 358, 3 Am.Ann.Cas. 765, 49 L.Ed. 643
Supreme Court of the United States.
Plff. in Err.
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS.
Argued December 6, 1904.
Decided February 20, 1905.
IN ERROR to the Superior Court of the State of Massachusetts for the County of
Middlesex to review a judgment entered on a verdict of guilty in a prosecution under the
compulsory vaccination law of that State, after defendant's exceptions were overruled by
the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
See same case below,
183 Mass. 242, 66 N. E. 719
The facts are stated in the opinion.
A state Legislature, in enacting a statute purporting to be for the protection of local
communities against the spread of smallpox, is entitled to choose between the theory of
those of the medical profession who think vaccination worthless for this purpose, and
believe its effect to be injurious and dangerous, and the opposite theory, which is in
accord with common belief and is maintained by high medical authority, and is not
compelled to commit a matter of this character, involving the public health and safety, to
the final decision of a court or jury.
George Fred Williams
James A. Halloran
for plaintiff in error.
Frederick H. Nash
for defendant in error.
delivered the opinion of the court:
This case involves the validity, under the Constitution of the United States, of certain
provisions in the statutes of Massachusetts relating to vaccination.
The Revised Laws of that commonwealth, chap. 75, § 137, provide that ‘the board of
health of a city or town, if, in its opinion, it is necessary for the public health or safety,
shall require and enforce the vaccination and revaccination of all the inhabitants thereof,
and shall provide them with the means of free vaccination. Whoever, being over twenty-
one years of age and not under guardianship, refuses or neglects to comply with such
requirement shall forfeit $5.'
An exception is made in favor of ‘children who present a certificate, signed by a
registered physician, that they are unfit subjects for vaccination.’ § 139.
Proceeding under the above statutes, the board of health of the city of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, on the 27th day of February, 1902, adopted the following regulation:
‘Whereas, smallpox has been prevalent to some extent in the city of Cambridge, and still
continues to increase; and whereas, it is necessary for the speedy extermination of the
disease that all persons not protected by vaccination should be vaccinated; and whereas,
in the opinion of the board, the public health and safety require the vaccination or
revaccination of all the inhabitants of Cambridge; be it ordered, that
inhabitants habitants of the city who have not been successfully vaccinated since March
1st, 1897, be vaccinated or revaccinated.'
Subsequently, the board adopted an additional regulation empowering a named physician