Politics

Court Rules Minor Must Seek Cancer Treatment

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The unusual case of a cancer-stricken thirteen year-old who is refusing treatment is quickly becoming one of those unusual and unfortunate legal cases that mix religion, law and the rights of the individual.

With the support of his parents, the thirteen year-old in question is refusing chemotherapy because the family believes in “natural” healing (they are Roman Catholic but also believes in the teachings of a Missouri sect which advocates healing techniques used by some American Indians). The boy has Hodgkin’s lymphoma which is considered highly treatable with chemotherapy. But he quit after one treatment and now a Minnesota district judge has ruled that the parents are being medically negligent and the boy should be placed in foster care and immediately evaluated by cancer specialists. To complicate matters more, the boy and his mother have fled and are hiding from authorities.

The questions here are: Can the state force a minor to undergo a debilitating treatment which could save his life? And, is it negligent, from a legal standpoint, to allow your child to choose to forgo treatment of a serious disease?

Mind you, I think the parents are making a terrible mistake. But I don’t think the questions above are easily answered. Do you?