The Nanny State vs. The Family, 2009 Edition
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge is expected to decide whether a family can refuse chemotherapy for a 13-year-boy’s cancer and treat him with natural medicine, even though doctors say it’s effectively a death sentence.
With chemotherapy, Daniel Hauser has a 90 percent chance of surviving his Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to his cancer doctor. And without it?
“It is almost certain that he will die,” said Dr. Bruce Bostrom, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota. Bostrom, who diagnosed the disease, is an ally of the legal effort in southwestern Minnesota’s Brown County to make Hauser submit to chemotherapy even though he and his parents believe it’s potentially more harmful than the cancer itself.
District Judge John Rodenberg was expected to rule Friday on Brown County’s motion.
Bostrom said Daniel’s chance of survival without chemotherapy is about 5 percent. Nevertheless, parents Colleen and Anthony Hauser are supporting what they say is their son’s decision to instead treat the disease with nutritional supplements and other alternative treatments favored by the Nemenhah Band. The Missouri-based religious group believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians.
This case is similar to one that made headlines here in Virginia, and around the country three years ago when a Chesapeake County Judge was faced with deciding whether then 16 year-old Abraham Cherrix, who was suffering form the same form of cancer as Daniel Hauser, should be forced to undergo chemotherapy. After a Court fight that lasted nearly two months, the case was settled and Cherrix was ultimately permitted to refuse the undergo chemotherapy. His case, however, led to a change in Virginia law which gives children the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment after they reach the age of 14.
Of course, Abraham’s Law, as it came to be called as it made it’s way through the Virginia Legislature, wouldn’t really apply in Hauser’s case since he’s under 14, and it’s age that is one of the major factors that distinguishes this case from the Cherrix case. Is a 13 year old really mature enough to understand the implications of a decisions that could very well result in his death ? Is he really making the decision on his own, or is he being influenced by his parent’s rather unorthodox religious beliefs:
The Hausers, who are Roman Catholic, have eight children. Colleen Hauser told the New Ulm Journal newspaper that the family’s Catholicism and adherence to the Nemenhah Band are not in conflict, and said she has treated illness with natural remedies her entire life.
Nemenhah was founded in the 1990s by Philip Cloudpiler Landis, who said Thursday that he was one-fourth American Indian. Nemenhah adherents are asked to pay $250 to be members. “We’re non-dogmatic, a very universal faith,” Landis said.
Landis said he founded the faith after facing his diagnosis of a cancer similar to Daniel Hauser. He said he treated it with diet choices, visits to a sweat lodge and other natural remedies. Landis also once served four months in prison in Idaho for fraud related to advocating natural remedies.
So, the Hauser case seems to be a much closer call that the Cherrix case was, but I think the default position should be the same as the one I stated when I first heard the name Abraham Cherrix:
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.
Replace Abraham’s name with Danie’ls, and I think those words apply just as strongly in this case. The state has no right to force someone to put chemicals in their body, not even a child.
And what ever happened to Abraham Cherrix ? Well, after initially appearing to suffer a setback in 2007, he turned 18 in June of last year showing no signs of the Hodgkin’s Disease that had been ravaging his body for years.
Update @ 4:15pm: The judge hearing Daniel’s case has issued his decision and has ruled that Daniel must undergo the chemotherapy treatments.
C/P: Below The Beltway