Parental or Government Rights?

A disturbing case of parental neglect (or perhaps parental rights) has arisen in Minnesota; the report is in the Digital Journal.

Daniel Hauser is 13 years old, he is now in 5th grade (three years behind), but he cannot recognize the simplest written word — Daniel is illiterate. Daniel also has cancer. Daniel was diagnosed with stage IIB nodular sclerosing Hodgkin’s disease, a treatable cancer. He received one chemotherapy treatment after he was diagnosed and his cancer seemed to respond, but, according to the article, “Daniel refuses to receive additional chemotherapy.”

There were some bad effects from that first chemotherapy session, as there are in almost every case. The family consulted five doctors, and each recommended that Daniel receive additional chemotherapy, but Daniel continues to refuse further treatment.

It is, of course, Daniel’s family that is doing the refusing and the influencing of Daniel’s decisions. They believe in traditional healing practices called Nemenhah.

Where it stands right now: A Minnesota judge has found that “Daniel Hauser is a child in need of protection or service (as) has been proved by clear and convincing evidence.” Daniel has been assigned a Guardian ad Litem and has been ordered to undergo a complete X-ray exam, and the case will be back in court on May 19th.

The question also stands before the court of public opinion (on which you are a jury member): Should parents have the right to deny treatment for their child based on their religious beliefs?

I confess I am torn — at least up to a point. I violently object to the government inserting itself into health issues, but in this case the issue is a child’s health — a child whose parents have apparently withheld a good education from him, have had him (as you will read in the linked article) sign affidavits that he can’t even read, and have given the court the name of a doctor who has never even met Daniel as Daniel’s primary physician. Clearly these are parents who are either too ignorant to understand that their son may die very soon without treatment (it may already be too late) or they are so devoted to their religion that they are positive that their version of alternative medicine will cure him.

For the welfare of a child, in a case where the child needs medical treatment and is not receiving it, I would have to fall on the side of forcing the treatment on him. I, if I were the judge in this case, would also be strongly inclined to remove the child from the home unless the parents allowed a qualified doctor to recommend treatment and they then complied.

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