Child doomed by religious faith: update

May 17, 2009 • 2:11 pm

by Greg Mayer

Jerry sent me this update on the situation of Daniel Hauser, the 13 year old Minnesota boy whose parents had stopped his treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a very treatable form of cancer) because of their adherence to some obscure religious group that claims “our religion is our medicine.” The judge, ruling that his parents had “medically neglected” Daniel, has ordered that he be evaluated by physicians to determine if it is not too late to resume treatment. Daniel had supported his parents’ failure to get treatment for him, but the judge noted that the boy had a “rudimentary understanding at best” of the issues involved in his treatment, and that Daniel’s belief that he was not ill was flatly false: “The fact is that he is very ill currently.”  Courts in the U.S. have long held that religious freedom is a freedom of belief, not action, and the free exercise clause, while providing significant protection for religiously motivated activities, does not provide carte blanche.  As well, courts have long held that certain things that may be permissible for a competent adult to choose (e.g., the witholding of medical care), may not be chosen by a child, or parents acting for a child.

7 thoughts on “Child doomed by religious faith: update

  1. Attorney Philip Elbert said:

    “I feel it’s a blow to families,” he said Friday. “It marginalizes the decisions that parents face every day in regard to their children’s medical care. It really affirms the role that big government is better at making our decisions for us.”

    Wrong, it is the lack of medical care that the judge was concerned about.

  2. Hmm, somehow I doubt this will be used in the ongoing “conservatism = freedom” framing campaign. Even by that pretend-moron Bachmann.

  3. I’ve already seen a lot of whining about how the government was limiting the parents rights to, well, I’ll paraphrase and say, kill their kid. I guess freedom means more than human life to some people.

    I think if the parents were Christians, than Bachmann would be all over it like stink on a pig, but since they are not…I don’t expect much.

  4. Teenagers and even children can often show great maturity and understanding, and should be allowed to make decisions about matters of consequence to them. Indeed, we could never prevent this unless we locked them up. E.g., they will make decisions about close friendships.

    I’m not big on infantalising teenagers, and wouldn’t want to throw out the mature minor doctrine and say that teenagers can never legally refuse medical treatment – even life-saving medical treatment.

    But when it’s a matter of life and death, as in this case, we don’t want to be too quick to find that someone is a mature minor, with sufficient understanding and clarity to make a decision to die. We need to take a very close look at it before we let a young citizen make the decision to die.

    In this case, the judge took a close look at it and came to what clearly seems to be the right conclusion.

    The views of the parents should have nothing to do with it in this case. Yes, parents can be a good safety valve to stop kids making rash decisions. Yes, in many cases that should be enough and the state should not intervene. But once the maturity of the child is in doubt and it’s a life and death situation, the court really has to make up its own mind whether it is dealing with a minor who has a clear, mature understanding. The fact that the parents might think so doesn’t make it so.

    Overall, kudos to the judge in this case.

  5. Don’t leave out that, probably by a large majority, Christians would be in favor of prosecuting in this case and preventing other parents from neglecting their children.

    You might also more profitably think about how many people get denied medical treatment because they can’t pay, and that in some cases religious charities provide free treatment to those people. Often regardless of whether or not they believe in it.

    “I’m not big on infantalising teenagers”

    I’m really big on not pretending that teenagers are adults, especially not thirteen year olds.

  6. It is contradictory, at best, for a society to frown upon assisted suicide and at the same time consider permitting parents to choose a course of actions that will kill their living child.

    It is also mind-boggling, that this faith-backed murder finds its proponents in pro-lifers, who believe that terminating a pregnancy is murder.

    am having a very difficult time figuring out how such (apparently) different actions can be motivated by the same core belief system. I’ve put apparently in brackets, because I can only guess it is not contradictory to some to use belief in the word of God to motivate killing a child AND preventing the “death” of an embryo.

    In both cases (and others), it seems that the course of action adopted by the believers is the one that makes life for the living more difficult. Has the concept of God polluted their brains so much that they are willing to forsake this life (both its quality and duration) for the promise of the next?

    If I had a child, and beat it repeatedly, it would be quickly taken away from me. But, if I play the hand of God, I am able to be the passive agent in their death.

    I am filled with disgust at these people. I will hit the next person who asks me how morality is possible without religion. I ask: how is it possible with it?

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