The Nanny State vs. The Familyby Doug Mataconis
A case currently making its way through the Virginia Court system illustrates fairly starkly the extent to which the nanny state can intrude on even the most private decisions.
RICHMOND, Va. — A teen cancer patient fighting to use alternative medical treatment for his illness said he told a juvenile court judge in a two-day, closed-door hearing what it’s like to go through chemotherapy and that he didn’t want to relive it.
“I told him my story … so he could understand where I was coming from and live through me,” 16-year-old Starchild Abraham Cherrix said.
The teen, who goes by Abraham, has Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes.
Three months of chemotherapy last year made him extremely weak. So when he learned in February that his cancer was active again, he turned _ against doctors’ advice _ to a sugar-free organic diet, herbs and visits to a clinic in Mexico.
A social worker asked a judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment.
And, at least initially, the judge agreed with the state and issued a Temporary Restraining Order calling Abraham’s parents neglectful for agreeing with their son’s decision and gave joint custody of the child to the Department of Social Services. That’s right, the Commonwealth of Virginia (well, actually Accomack County) is now officially the parent of a 16 year old boy.
Though it will no doubt be stated differently by the Court, Abraham’s father put the question before the Judge succinctly:
“What it boils down to is does the American family have the right to decide on the health of their child,” Jay Cherrix said, “or is the government allowed to come in and determine that themselves and threaten one way or the other to split our family up?”
The answer to that question will have implications far beyond Virginia.
It seems pretty clear to me, though, that the state has little, if any, right to interfere in what is essentially a private decision for the Cherrix family, and specifically for Abraham. Who is the state social worker to say that his decision is wrong ? As someone who has witnessed first-hand what happens to someone on chemotherapy, its pretty clear that modern cancer therapy is often based on the hope that the chemicals being pumped into the patient will kill the cancer cells before killing the patient. The side effects are visible, painful, and often permanent. Abraham has been through one round of chemotherapy already and, apparently it didn’t work. If he chooses not to subject himself to that again, and his parents support that, that decision should be respected.
Yes, Abraham is 16 and technically a minor, but if its clear that his decision is really his, then what right does the government have to stick a needle in his arm and pump toxic chemicals into his body ? None that I can see.
There’s a similar battle taking place on the other side of the United States, in Seattle, where a mother is facing kidnapping charges for taking her own 9 month old child out of the hospital rather than subject it to an operation.
SEATTLE — To her defenders, Tina Carlsen was a concerned mother exploring natural alternatives to surgery for her 9-month-old infant. To the state, she was a kidnapper who prompted an Amber Alert and an order restricting contact with her toddler until after her trial.
Carlsen was charged with second-degree domestic-violence kidnapping last month after she slipped baby Riley out of a hospital in a diaper bag to avoid surgery ordered by his doctors and a judge. The case has put her at the center of a battle testing the rights of parents and the roles of doctors and judges in disputes over children’s medical treatment.
State judges can override a parent’s wishes concerning such treatment, but the child’s life typically must be in imminent danger.
From the reports, it doesn’t appear that imminent danger exists in either case.
We may not always agree with the decisions that parents make when they raise their children, but that doesn’t justify the state intruding into the family to override those decisions for what it perceives to be the child’s own good.