Parents Making Medical Decisions for Children

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This is a really hot button lately in the news, with Colleen Hauser a mom who has fled a court order with her thirteen year old son to avoid getting him chemotherapy to treat his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The family opted for a holistic approach citing religious and spiritual reasons and the mother is in direct defiance of a court order.

So here is the question and it is not so cut and dry, who should have the ultimate say in the medical care that a child needs?

On one hand you can’t have the state, or government dictating and mandating medical treatments for children, this could easily get out of hand and become an abuse of power as a result. But flip the coin and the country and government can’t let negligence happen to children, parents have no right to cause harm to their children.

In most cases I would say the parents have the absolute decision to choose what medical care their child receives, especially when the child is less than 16 years of age. I would not want any government to interfere with what medical treatment I seek for my own children should they be sick and need treatment. What if your child came down with a type of cancer and you wanted to try stem cell therapy, or gene therapy instead of chemotherapy or radiation?

On the other hand I don’t believe that medical treatment, especially in a medical condition like Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which has almost a 90% success with chemotherapy treatments should be ignored and no “realistic” alternative chosen. You can believe in religion, spirituality, and holistic therapies all you want, butlet’s face it, sweat therapies, purified water, minerals, vitamins and other natural herbs are not going to cure such illnesses. It is one thing to try these approaches for yourself; it is another thing to force them on your child when the facts show there is virtually no chance they will help.

It doesn’t matter your spiritual belief, you need to look at things from a scientific fact based perspective when it comes to disease and therapies, you do the research and you choose the therapies that are shown to be most effective. Even if painful and uncomfortable you choose them because there is a high risk you will survive and maybe even be cured. If this boy’s cancer was declared terminal and the doctor’s would have said there is only a 5% chance of success, I would have completely supported the mother’s decision to forgo treatment and at least let the child not suffer the side effects for the little time he had left.

But as long as medical doctors (which I am not saying are always competent, so you have to get second opinions) offer you a relatively high percentage a treatment will work, then you attempt whatever has the highest success rate. These are our children we are talking about, you cannot afford to let your own beliefs and values get in the way of treating and trying to heal your children. They will grow up to be adults and make their own decisions and choose their own values which may or may not follow your own.

Especially a thirteen year old should not have a say in their medical treatment as they are still minors and decisions fall on the parent, parents are responsible for making the tough decisions. Again, a child may be suffering from side effects, but if there is a high percent chance of success then it is worth the suffering.

These are my beliefs though should I ever be faced with this same situation, in the end I would choose science based facts and treatments versus holistic approaches unless science proved alternative therapies were close to equal in success rates.

With that being said I am not opposed to alternative therapies and natural healing, I myself don’t take antibiotics and use colloidal silver to treat throat infections, oil of oregano for lung problems and vitamin C and D as well as Salmon oil every day for overall health and wellness. I prefer natural therapies to drugs and I have not taken a prescription drug at all in over two years and that was only an antacid, I have never ever taken a prescription pain killer since I had surgery when I was a teenager more than fifteen years ago.

It is a very tough choice but in the end I think the government should get involved when the parent starts being irresponsible and jeopardizes the health and life of their child by choosing to avoid treatments that have high success rates.

-Justin Germino

Updated: May 21, 2009 — 10:13 pm