Minnesota statute says refusing vaccine is ‘a fundamental right’

Minnesotans are guaranteed the right to refuse vaccination, although a court can require unvaccinated individuals to quarantine during "a national security emergency or peacetime emergency."

Alachua County/Flickr

Minnesotans are guaranteed a “fundamental right” to “refuse medical treatment” including “vaccination,” according to an existing state law.

Statute 12.39 declares that even in spite of “laws, rules, or orders made or promulgated in response to a national security emergency or peacetime emergency, individuals have a fundamental right to refuse medical treatment, testing, physical or mental examination, vaccination, participation in experimental procedures and protocols, collection of specimens, and preventive treatment programs.”

The law additionally mandates that health care providers must notify their patients of their right to refuse any treatment before “performing examinations, testing, treatment, or vaccination.”

However, the state does retain the right to quarantine individuals who refuse certain medical treatments in one specific scenario. If a Minnesotan refuses a treatment he or she has been ordered to receive by the commissioner of health to combat a disease “for which [a] national security emergency or peacetime emergency was declared,” that individual can be “placed in isolation or quarantine.”

Although Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz did declare coronavirus a peacetime emergency that ended in July, the wording of the statute seems to suggest that only an emergency declared at the federal level would enable the state to quarantine those who refuse mandated medical treatments.

Forced quarantines in Minnesota are tightly regulated and must abide by statutes 144.419 and 144.4195, which guarantee the quarantined person(s) a court hearing and a number of other rights. The latter of these laws even puts limits on the permissible length of quarantines, stating that “in no case may the isolation or quarantine continue longer than 30 days from the date of the court order,” unless a court specifically re-approves the isolation.

It does not appear that Statute 12.39 prohibits private entities from requiring their patrons to be vaccinated, nor does it specify if the state may employ coercive measures aimed at increasing vaccination rates. The law only states that Minnesotans have a right to refuse any medical treatment, provided some consequences may exist during a national security or peacetime emergency.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has enacted measures that require the vast majority of U.S. employers to force their workers to get the shot.