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Difficult Questions: When Freedom and Law Collide – Parental Rights and Medical Choices

I’ve decided to start a series on complex questions that are fodder for interesting discussion and debate.  Several issues have arisen lately that raise questions about the role of government and the courts in regulating the behavior of society.  Where the lines are drawn are certainly not cut and dry.  When do our personal rights end and the ability for the government to intervene begin?  No better example of such a blurry line is the case of Daniel Hauser.  Daniel is a 13 year old boy suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  His family believed that alternative medicine and natural therapies were the best course of treatment for their son.  They believed that the recommended treatment of chemotherapy was comparable to poison and therefore refused this medical intervention.

colleen-and-daniel-hauser

Colleen Hauser and her son Daniel

The state of Minnesota charged the parents with medical neglect.  The judge ruled against the Hauser family citing two instances of medical neglect.

There were two government rulings against the family for failure to follow “their family doctor’s decision” or “instructions from a medical professional.”

This raises some interesting questions, including:

Where do individual rights end and the right of our government or the medical profession begin?  Where do parental rights end and what are the implication of being required to follow specific medical strategies when there are many to choose from? Who should have the right to decide which are the best treatments?  What about the right to avoid the side effects?

I think it’s also important to note that there are laws in Minnesota that state that prohibit parents from relying soley on herbal and alternative treatments if a child’s life is at risk; but is this law overly invasive of personal freedoms or are there sufficient social needs that support it?

Let’s have a debate.  Ignore whether you believe in alternative treatments or herbal remedies.  Focus on the questions about where societies’ needs may supercede individual rights in this case.  There is certainly no evidence that the parents were neglectful in any other area and appear to be loving and caring.

Source article: Minnesota Judge Overrides Parents’ Objections To Son’s Cancer Treatment

Rules – stick to polite, respectful debate with no name-calling.   Violators will only be warned once.  This is a chance to give your debate chops a good workout.


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