What are we to make of the 13-year old cancer victim who is refusing chemotherapy? After all, he is the one said to be dying. Yet somehow he's only in the background of the conversation.
The focus of the media is primarily on the parents of the dying Minnesota teen, Daniel Hauser, who fled with his mother, Colleen, on Monday. They did not show for a court hearing with his father, who claims he doesn't know their whereabouts. The focus is on the parents, as they are responsible for making the medical decisions for their child. Or so we thought.
Last week, Brown County, Minnesota District Judge John Rodenberg ruled that Daniel Hauser must receive chemotherapy despite the fact that the family claims religious reasons for refusing treatment. The Hausers belong to the Nemenhah, a quasi-American Indian group which promotes natural remedies over traditional medicine. Reports suggest that Daniel and both his parents are in agreement to decline the treatment.
CNN reports, “Medical ethicists say parents generally have a legal right to make decisions for their children, but there is a limit.” Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania stated last week, “You have a right, but not an open-ended right. You can't compromise the life of your child.”
There are many questions this case raises:
1. How do the religious rights of parents, which fuel their refusal to save the boy's life, intersect with the pro-life debate? If a parent does not have the right to take an unborn life, according to the pro-life argument, then does a parent have the right to take a born life by refusing life-saving treatment?
2. Should the government be allowed to step in and take the reins from the boy's parents? If so, where do we draw the line on government intervention? If parents choose to starve a child to discipline him or her “on religious grounds”, is that to be allowed?
3. What voice does Daniel have? Many 13-year olds charged with murder are tried as adults. But here, Daniel is considered a child. To further complicate the matter, because this teen has difficulty reading, the courts determined he is not of sound mind to make his own decisions. I wonder if that will be a new defense for the many illiterate teenage murderers in the country. “He can't read, so he really wasn't of sound mind. He didn't know any better.”
4. Who had the authority to take this to court in the first place? The courts appointed Daniel a lawyer to fight for his life on his behalf, even though Daniel didn't want legal representation. Who's paying for the legal fees? Somehow I think the taxpayer probably ends up footing this bill, and probably for the chemo, too.
Please know I am absolutely pro-life, and I do not agree with the religious views of these parents or of Daniel. With chemo, Daniel has a 90% chance of living; without it, a 95% chance of dying. The decision seems easy to me. But it's not mine. Whose do you think it should be?