Healthy Distrust

I have followed only sporadically the case of Colleen Hauser and her 13-year old son Daniel who has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  This is a sad situation, and I pray for Daniel as well as his parents.  May God grant Daniel healing, and quickly.

However healing is just the first of their difficulties now.  
Colleen has disappeared with Daniel after a court ordered him to receive chemotherapy which doctors believes has an 80-95% chance of killing the tumor and allowing Daniel to live a long and healthy life.  The Hauser family (including Daniel’s father, who did not go missing with his wife and son), believes in alternative healing practices, and is part of a small native American group – Nemenhah – dedicated to such practices.  The Hausers are Roman Catholic, and not native American, but have claimed exemption from medical treatment based on their religious affiliation with this group.  Add to this the fact that Daniel is alleged to have a learning disability that authorities claim means he doesn’t understand the gravity of his illness, or the efficacy of chemotherapy as a treatment option.  Daniel insists that he will physically fight against his doctors and nurses if he is forced by the State to undergo chemotherapy treatment.  Authorities suspect that Colleen and Daniel are somewhere near San Diego, and hoping to get across the border to Mexico.
Clearly, there are some confusing things happening here.
I’m extremely ill at ease with the idea of the State forcing people to receive a specific form of medical treatment.  I believe that God gave us brains, and that those brains have come up with some amazing medical procedures that we are fully free to avail ourselves of – as long as they aren’t destroying other people’s lives in the process.  The Bible that I read doesn’t say anything about refusing medical treatment.  It does advocate prayer, but not in an exclusive fashion to any other potential remedies.  God works in many ways – directly and indirectly – and I have a big problem with people and organizations who insist that availing ourselves of ethical medical treatment is a sin of some sort, or a demonstration of a lack of faith.  That’s a pretty brutal form of the Law they’re living under, and I don’t see much grace evident in their stance.
That being said, chemo and radiation treatments are devastating treatments in and of their own right.  Yes, they can destroy cancer cells.  But they do that by destroying *all* cells within the treated area.  The side effects of these treatments are sometimes as terrible as the disease they seek to cure – and sometimes just as fatal.  Would I opt for such treatments if I’m diagnosed with cancer?  I honestly don’t know.  But what I *do* know is that I would certainly not want the State to force me into such treatments against my will.  
True, I’m a 40-year old man and not a 13-year old boy (thank God), but the issue at stake here is the same whether applied to an adult or to a child under the care of parents.
I find it interesting that other folks who have dealt with cancer through natural alternatives to chemo and radiation have voiced their support for the Hauser’s decision to forego chemo.  And I find it interesting that the media will often relate that these other folks attribute their healing to natural alternatives.  And yet the State sees fit not simply to force the Hausers to seek treatment, but to seek a specific treatment.  I’m not at all comfortable with anyone telling me that I must seek one and only one form of treatment for my sick child – a treatment that could in and of itself kill my child, and which is not guaranteed to heal my child, and which is likely to significantly reduce my child’s quality of life in the near and potentially long term.  
Does the State have the right to force me, as a parent, to seek a specific form of treatment for myself or my child – to relinquish my personal or parental rights to a third party?  Would it matter if the treatment guaranteed success?  If there were no side effects?  I don’t think that would matter.  It might make it easier for me to consider a particular line of treatment, but to force me to take it?  To demonize me for choosing another course of treatment?  That’s frightening.
Parents should be paying close attention to these sorts of cases – how they’re presented in the media, etc.  I haven’t found an article yet that provides a clear description of the Hauser’s specific objections to chemotherapy.  I’m not sure if that is because they haven’t provided one, or that it’s not conducive to the desired course of action to treat the Hauser’s stance on an equal level to the State’s.  That may sound like paranoid speech, but remember that the news you get is provided by someone, and no news is fully and completely objective.  Not only is it not possible, it’s rarely actually desired.  
You may feel that the Hausers are being negligent, and should get Daniel this treatment.  That’s another issue.  The thing you should be concerned about is that if the State deems it appropriate, the State can demand that you not only seek treatment, but seek the specific form of treatment the State feels is best.  Maybe that doesn’t make you nervous.  But it sure makes me nervous.  

One Response to “Healthy Distrust”

  1. poetecca Says:

    It would have been willing)

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