Discussion, Please!

I want to start up a discussion. When I was at work today, I ran across this article:

Judge Rules Family Can't Refuse Chemo for Boy

If you don't want to read the entire story, I'll give you a recap: a judge ruled that a family must seek conventional medical treatment for their son, who has Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The family was pursuing alternative medical treatments as prescribed by the Nemenhah Band, which seems to be a religious/spiritual group that advocates natural supplements and treatments to heal disease rather than conventional Western medicine. The boy is 13 years old.

I've actually seen several stories like this in the news lately: a family rejects Western medicine for their children due to spiritual or religious beliefs, are taken to court by child protection workers for abuse and "medical neglect", and are forced to seek modern medical attention.

I am appalled that the government stripped these people of their First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The government is forcing these people to go against their spiritual/religious beliefs, which is completely wrong, and completely unconstitutional. Plus, I abhor it when the government tells people how to raise their children.


In this 13-year-old boy's case, he reportedly has a 90% chance of survival with chemotherapy and radiation but only a 5% chance without those treatments. There is quite a drastic difference in those odds. I am firmly of the belief that medical advances are for our good, and, therefore, ordained of God (see my earlier post with a similar vein). I think his parents are jeopardizing his life for the sake of their religious/spiritual beliefs. Since this boy is a minor, his parents are still primarily responsible for making his medical decisions, so, in this instance, they very literally hold his life in their hands. Even if he were allowed to make his own medical decisions, he is still young and impressionable. It's not likely he would have considered other options besides the one his parents have prescribed. I don't think any child should die of a treatable disease because his/her parents make the choice for him/her to forgo medical treatment.

So on one hand, I disagree with the judge...but on the other, I completely agree.

Many people are so blindly motivated by their religious/spiritual beliefs that they abandon all logic and common sense to follow them (see the Heaven's Gate movement for an example). My question is, when should the government step in and save people from harming themselves (or their children!) due to extreme religious/spiritual beliefs? And, who declares what is harmful? After all, I'm sure many people would classify Mormonism as harmful, to a degree, and I would hate to see the government step in to "save" me. Plus, if the government starts invalidating religions for the sake of their followers, what's to say they won't prohibit religion altogether?

So, I'm having a hard time reconciling these ideas. What does everyone else think?


Natalie Sadler said...

Okay so I was totally on a roll with a comment, but when I was about finished, Copeland managed to somehow erase it all. I feel somewhat justified in saying "damnit."

So, anyway, where was I going? Oh yeah.

Presenting two sides to the situation really brings out the need for discussion. Both sides sound convincing, but I'm going to have to side with the parents. If they truly believe they are doing the right thing for their child, then they should not be questioned for their actions. Obviously, it is not in the question for the parents to abandon their religious beliefs in this case, and I entirely do not blame them. I try to base my entire style of living off my religion and its teachings, not because I'm brainwashed or whatever, but because I truly believe it's RIGHT.

Abandonment of religion in such serious cases is out of the question for most people. In religion, people find solace and comfort and often embrace it more strongly while experiencing trials. I have seen plenty of patients refuse certain treatments, especially blood transfusions, and because of their actions, they have a much more difficult time healing, end up with more problems, and even die in some cases. I'm sure these people died doing what they strongly believed was right. From my experience and understanding, some people find it immoral to "share" body parts/substances/etc. and relate it on the level of intimacy as sex--which in most religions (except the wacky offshoots) is private, and should only be shared between a married man and woman. Some people (again, from my experience) believe that such treatments are unnatural and shouldn't be introduced into the body--it's kind of like our Word of Wisdom to them. They believe we shouldn't take those things into our bodies.

I truly believe that healthcare is a blessing. But, just like most blessings in these days (such as the media), it can be abused and bad things can come out of it. I see plenty of people giving the blame for multiple problems to the healthcare system--or, rather, to their health problems--and become idle, lazy people in return. In addition, some people do not believe healthcare is a blessing, and rather view it as an invasion of their sacred bodies. I believe that healthcare--more particularly vaccinations and antibiotics--are such blessings! It was antitoxin that save many of Nome's children from a slow, painful death from the effects of diptheria. It was a vaccine that saved many, many people from polio in the middle of the 20th century. I truly believe medical advancement is a blessing; but, like all things, I believe it should be used in moderation.

Great discussion topic. Thanks for sharing!

Katie said...

Hey Jessica, sorry I haven't responded to your response to my response. :) (On one of your immunizations posts.) I just don't spend very much time browsing blogs anymore so I'm a bit slow catching up. I will try to remember everything you asked me about.

HIV? To be honest with you, I have not given as much thought/research to that disease as I have to others, and so that being said I hesitate to share too much opinion that I can't back up. All I can safely say is that the idealist in me believes that everything has a cure and a solution. Of course HIV is kind of a catch 22 in that it attacks the immune system, but perhaps if the body and the immune system were in a state of perfect health it could make sense that the HIV virus would not be able to thrive. Pathogens can only survive on weak/dead/toxic matter in the human body, and if the body has none of this then the pathogens will not cause disease (this challenges the standard Germ Theory that Westernized Medicine operates upon as far as what causes disease in the first place).

I think you also asked me about what I think constitutes a healthy immune system. It is my opinion that a healthy immune system is one that is unhampered by inorganic/toxic/dead materials that build up in the body and prevent it from functioning smoothly. Most of that accumulates from foods, substances, drugs, etc that we put into our bodies that we cannot fully use and/or eliminate (at least not easily). Again, this is rather idealistic and I'm just focusing on underlying principles of health. But still, I feel that a body that has sufficient nutrients and building blocks in order to function will be able to do so so long as it is uninhibited by those elements I mentioned above. And, as always, this is just my opinion so take it with a grain (or two) of salt. :)

Was there anything else you asked me about? I can't remember right now.

Yes, this article you cited in your post is very compelling. It definitely caught my eye and I followed it for a bit. I mostly just feel worried that the government takes such liberties to intrude into our lives and our decisions, especially as parents. Of course the opposing argument is also valuable and equally compelling. But my personal opinion (having worked for some time in oncology and just being a nurse in general) is that Western medicine operates on theory. Virtually nothing in that field is proven. When I was presented with this idea during nursing school I had a hard time accepting it initially. But working in the field has supported that notion. Doctors operate on theory. They guess ALL the time. Often they have no idea what to do. And many times even though they are "confident" or "sure" they are incorrect. This isn't a bad or evil thing, it's just how it is. It's human error combined with a field of medicine that is theoretical and inexact to begin with. So when the experts come up with statistics for survival/death, I just have to question it, because nothing is ever proven... especially when dealing with cancer (which the medical field will openly admit that it understands very little about). Sometimes people die who are told they will live, and sometimes people live who are told they will die. It is like this with cancer more than probably any other disease process. Cancer is still largely a mystery.

So, it is difficult for me to give a concrete opinion on what is right or wrong in the case of this child without looking at his case history, his medical history, the sociological aspect of his religion/culture, and also the background of the physicians/hospital treating him. And by "looking at" I mean to not just go off of what the media reports. But it is a very compelling case, and both arguments are valid. I just tend to side with the parents overall, I guess. Yikes. What a difficult position to be in. I suppose it's hard to say what you would do until it's your own child that is concerned.

Anyway, that was a gargantuan response from me! Thanks for the post. I love the topics you bring up.

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