Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When church and state collide

So there's a news story from around these parts, Minnesota specifically, that is making national headlines. It is the story of a 13 year old boy named Daniel Hauser who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in January. Daniel's parents, per religious and spiritual beliefs, have declined chemotherapy to treat his cancer based on their belief in the "do no harm" philosophy. They have decided that chemotherapy, being a poison, is harmful to their son and chose to attempt to treat his chemotherapy with holistic means.

Last year a little girl from here in Wisconsin died after her parents chose to pray for her healing rather than seek medical attention. The girl died from complications of Diabetes, more specifically diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition which is quite easily reversed medically.

I'm torn to be all honest with you. On one hand I truly beleive that if a parent does nothing to help their child recover from illness, that it most definitely constitutes medical neglect and they should be held accountable. However, the parents of these children were not doing "nothing". They were attempting to heal their children concurrent with their beliefs.

If you think about it, all current medical treatments were once questionable and unproven. Through successfull clinical trials they became proven and mainstream, but at one point they were all considered outside the normal medical definition of proper and appropriate treatment. Should parents who chose unproven medical trials be suspected of medical neglect? Should the physicians and drug manufacturers who enroll these people in clinical trials be considered to be doing just the same as these parents are/were? I just don't know the answer to that.

I don't know how I feel about it. Is it sad that the little girl with diabetes lost her life to a disease that could have been managed, allowing her to live a full life? Most definitely. Do most people think Mr Hauser should be treated for his highly curable disease with modern, proven, treatment protocols? Sure. But who are we to decide right and wrong for these individuals? God entrusts our children to us, to keep them safe from harm, to provide for them.... What does that mean?

I know many people who use alternative medicine. Who choose to treat UTI's with cranberry supplements and the like. Most of them however, I am confident, would turn to antibiotics if they needed to.... is that where the line is? At what point do you decide one treatment isn't working and move to another? I would think that line is very blurred.

Mr Hauser is currently missing, along with his mother. They flew the coop, and now this child likely isn't getting ANY treatment for his disease, holistic or otherwise. Whose fault is that? And where is the line now? Where is the line between being a team member in your/your child's medical care and having your choices removed from you? Do we all have to worry now that if we feel our doctor hasn't prescribed the best course of treatment we may be hauled into court and a judge would then decide what treatments we could or could not pursue and possibly put our children into a stranger's foster home and continue treatment you beleived with your whole heart was dangerous and wrong?

How scary is that thought? Think about that for a minute....

Where do our rights to govern our bodies and our children's begin and where do they end?

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